Boccaccio, Giovanni "The Decameron" (Italian: Il Decameron, cognominato Prencipe Galeotto) - 1350
I found the title of this book in Jane Smiley's "13 Ways of Looking at the Novel". It was one of the first books she quoted (since it is one of the oldest) and it sounded quite interesting. So, I had to read it.
I didn't regret my decision. It's amazing how many modern day or later stories seem to be based on "The Decameron", authors have always borrowed from each other, or so it seems.
It hasn't survived almost 700 years for no reason at all. It is still regarded as the masterpiece of storytelling.
Whether you prefer short stories or (like me) really big books, this is a book for everyone. Ten stories each told for ten days make up for 100 stories on a thousand pages.
The great thing about this book, it's a historical novel written at the time that history took place. You can more or less look into the mind of the people living at the time. And that's quite interesting, it is rather racy. But you don't just learn about their love life, you also learn about their culture, their laws, their habits, all first hand. Maybe kids would get more interested in history if they had to read these kind of stories in school (although I think some parents would then complain about the kind of literature they give their kids to read).
In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
From the back cover:
"In the summer of 1348, as the Black Death ravages their city, ten young Florentines take refuge in the countryside. They amuse themselves by each telling a story a day for the ten days they are destined to remain there - a hundred stories of love, adventure and surprising twists of fate. Less preoccupied with abstract concepts of morality or religion than with earthly values, the tales range from the bawdy Peronella hiding her lover in a tub to Ser Cepperello, who, despite his unholy effrontery, becomes a Saint. The result is a towering monument of European literature and a masterpiece of imaginative narrative."