Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, David I. Kertzer's latest book, The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, was published by Random House in North America. Eleven foreign editions are either already published or in press. Using an unmatched wealth of newly available archival materials from the Vatican, The Pope and Mussolini tells the dramatic story of the relation of two men who each came to power in Rome in 1922: Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XI.  Kertzer's book Amalia's Tale, published by Houghton Mifflin in 2008, recounts the story of an illiterate Italian woman of the nineteenth century who contracted syphilis from a baby given her to nurse by the local foundling home. Amazingly, her ten year battle against the medical establishment and aristocracy led to a historic victory. A very different battle was at the heart of Kertzer’s 2004 book, Prisoner of the Vatican–the tale of two popes' efforts to retake Rome from the new Italian state in the late nineteenth century–published by Houghton Mifflin. His 2001 book, The Popes against the Jews (Knopf/Vintage), a look at the Vatican's role in the rise of modern anti-Semitism, has been published in Italian, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Brazilian, Polish, Hungarian, and British editions.

Kertzer’s The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (Knopf/Vintage) was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997, and he previously twice received the Marraro Prize from the Society for Italian Historical Studies for the best books on Italian history (1985, 1990).

Kertzer is an authority on Italian politics, society, and history; political symbolism; and anthropological demography. He is co-founder and served for many years as co-editor of the Journal of Modern Italian Studies. A play based on The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, by playwright Alfred Uhry, was performed at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in 2006. In April 2016, Steven Spielberg announced that he would be making a film based on Kertzer’s book in 2017, with a screenplay by Tony Kushner. In 2005 Kertzer was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. From 2006 to 2011, he was the Provost of Brown University where he is currently the Paul Dupee University Professor of Social Science and Professor of Anthropology and Italian Studies.