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In December 1983, a priest in the Italian hill town of Calcata shared shocking news with his congregation: The pride of their town, the foreskin of Jesus, had been stolen. Some postulated that it had been stolen by Satanists. Some said the priest himself was to blame. Some even pointed their fingers at the Vatican. In 2006, writer David Farley moved to Calcata, determined to find the missing foreskin, or at least find out the truth behind its disappearance. Farley recounts how the relic passed from Charlemagne to the papacy to a marauding sixteenth-century German soldier before finally ending up in Calcata, where miracles occurred that made the sleepy town a pilgrimage destination. Over the centuries, as Catholic theology evolved, the relic came to be viewed as something of an embarrassment, culminating in a 1900 papal decree that threatened excommunication on anyone who spoke of or wrote about the relic.

An Irreverent Curiosity (Penguin/Gotham Books) interweaves this history with the curious landscape of Calcata, a beautiful and untouched medieval village set atop four-hundred-fifty-foot cliffs, which now, due to the inscrutable machinations of Italian bureaucracy, is a veritable counterculture coven. Blending history, travel, and perhaps the oddest story in Christian lore, An Irreverent Curiosity is a weird and wonderful tale of conspiracy and misadventure.
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by David Farley
Praise for An Irreverent Curiosity:

Winner! "Best Travel Book of the Year," Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Awards, 2010

"One of the Best Travel Books of 2009"
--The Los Angeles Times
--WorldHum.com

"One of the Best Books of the Decade."
--Dubuque Telegraph Herald

"[Farley's] ribald detective story ... is like a cross between 'The Da Vinci Code' and 'Life of Brian' ... a charming yarn."
--The New York Times

What to read on vacation--the five most enticing reads of summer.
--New York magazine

"Required reading."
--Outside magazine

"Told with gusto, good humor, and a healthy respect for eccentricity, Farley's quixotic account is an eloquent testament to the power of travel--and travail--to entertain and illuminate."
--National Geographic Traveler

"...one of the season's most buzzed about travel books."
--Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel

"Genre bending at its best."
--Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)

"...A fine getaway for Americans stuck at home in this summer of economic discontent."
--San Francisco Chronicle

"Farley's book is too good for you not to read. Irreverent? Absolutely. Entertaining? Just as much so. Fascinating? Your mileage may vary, but such hidden nooks and crannies of the past can't help but draw me in. Farley paces everything wonderfully and delivers a gently funny travelogue and history that is both laugh out loud hysterical and stranger than just about any book of fiction you could find."
--Late Reviews and Latest Obsessions

"The reader becomes almost as obsessed as Farley in his various adventures in Italy ... humorous and irreverent ... quirky and entertaining."
--Booklist

"A great book that belongs on everyone's Everything I Wanted to Know about Jesus, But Was Afraid to Ask reading list."
--J. Maarten Troost, author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals

"This is the best book about Jesus's foreskin ever. David Farley is a very, very funny dude. He is also a very sharp one, and as a pocket history of the rise and fall of the relic within the official Catholic mind, An Irreverent Curiosity is, in its always peculiar way, gripping. Christianity has never seemed weirder to me, and it seemed plenty weird before."
--Tom Bissell, author of Chasing the Sea and Father of All Things

"I don't think I've ever read anything quite like David Farley's An Irreverent Curiosity. Were it not for the historic truth of his subject, this book would be a great comedy. Actually it is a great comedy, but the reader approaches it as one approaches a holy relic - with wonder and disbelief. And admiration. Clearly David Farley had found his subject and mined it brilliantly for all it is worth. As far as journeys go, this one is about as weird and well-done as it gets."
--Mary Morris, author of The River Queen and Nothing to Declare

"David Farley bares all in this wildly entertaining and original romp through 2,000 years of history, culminating in his personal pilgrimage to Italy's loopiest town. Hilarious and erudite -- a rare combination in non-fiction these days -- this book is a must for anyone intrigued by the strange and the arcane. I've probably been excommunicated for just reading it!"
--Tony Perrottet, author of Napoleon's Privates and Pagan Holiday

Read more about the book (plus full reviews), here.