In the years since founding his eponymous brand, Cucinelli (the designer) has become at least as well known for his impeccably made clothes as for his eye toward philosophy. Cucinelli has cited thinkers from Marcus Aurelius and Confucius to Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. as sources of inspiration, and many of their portraits line his offices. Here, the designer recommends the classics—from the ancient to the modern—that stand the test of time.

On Free Choice of the Will, by Saint Augustine
For the Roman African philosopher Augustine, free will represented the profoundly human matter of moral choice, a topic I find extremely fascinating. His depiction of Jesus, the “Supreme Reason,” and the values of love and truth animate this book’s dialogue, inspired by “good will,” which, for Augustine, is “a will by which we seek to live rightly and honestly, and to attain the highest wisdom.”

If Not Now, When?, by Primo Levi
The Holocaust is a horrible page in the history of humanity, but the Italian Jewish chemist and writer Primo Levi didn’t stop at describing the brutality and the violence of it—he also wisely observed the fundamental traits of human nature that emerged during the tragedy.

This book’s opening words are beautiful: “‘In my country, there were few clocks. There was one on the belfry, but it hasn’t been working for a very long time.… Not even the bell-ringer had a clock.’ ‘So how did he ring the bells at the right time?’ ‘He listened to the time on the radio, and he relied on the sun and the moon.… He marked the hours by shooting in the air with his hunting rifle: one, two, three, four gunshots. It went on until the Germans arrived; they took his rifle, and the village remained without hours.’”

The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni
The Betrothed is perhaps the most beautiful novel from which, with immense pleasure, we can draw eternal lessons on almost every aspect of life. There is love and there is evil, there is the abuse of power and there is hope, there is pain and there is trust in Providence—and there are the very human vices and virtues that make history.

The Betrothed needs to be read and re-read, and the hope is that young people can enjoy it beyond the worry of exams, as Manzoni’s message is so magnificently universal.