I am a voracious reader, and that’s why I decided to only read in Italian for the entire year of 2016. I knew that beyond helping me prepare for the CILS C1 exam, it would also increase how fluidly I engage in conversations in Italian. (Turns out, it was true and my experience mirrors language learners like Luca Lampariello and Olly Richards who swear by reading as an immensely helpful activity for increasing conversational ability).
Since I made that declaration, I had to find books from all my favorite genres in Italian that would help me get through the year. While I started out with business and productivity books by like Una cosa sola and Il magico potere del riordino, I slowly shifted into less serious life books and more fun, enjoyable literature by Italian authors. (Meno male ;])
Below are the books that I’ve read so far this year, ones I’ve read in the past that I highly recommend, and one that are on my “to-read” list.
10 Books to Read in Italian
This was the first romance book, called un romanzo rosa, in Italian that really got me into the romance genre. It was modern, relevant, just cliche enough, and also slightly reminiscent of 50 Shades of Grey (sans the BDSM).
This passage made me especially happy: <<Proprio in quel momento sento un calore propagarsi sopra la mano destra che allenta la stretta. Quella strana sensazione si espande lungo il braccio, fino ad arrivare al resto del mio corpo. Il respiro si fa regolare e stranamente anche il mio cuore smette la sua corsa affannata.>>
This book hooked me from page one, and it was probably the most dramatic one I’ve read from all of them. The story follows a young woman named Eleonora and a young man named Alessio who…you guessed it…fall in love. Despite that very underwhelming plot, there are plenty of twists and turns (both within the language and their relationship) that will keep you romance aficionados interested.
This choice is interesting because it’s by an American writer who falls in love with the Italian language and puts incredible effort into learning it to the point where she writes a full novel in it. She takes you through her journey learning Italian, which is comforting for any language learner who has experienced the highs and lows of learning such an intimately difficult skill.
Here’s my favorite quote: <<Marco e Claudia mi danno la chiave. Quando menziono di aver studiato un po’ d’Italiano, e che vorrei migliarlo, smettono di parlare con me in inglese. Passano alla loro lingua, benché io riesca a rispondere solo in modo semplicissimo. Malgrado tutti i miei errori, malgrado io non capisca completamente quello che dicono. Malgrado il fatto che loro parlano inglese molto meglio di quanto io parli italiano.>>
This was the first piece of adult literature that I ever tried to read in Italian, and I first attempted it in 2012 when my Italian was at around an A2 level. Needless to say, it was much too soon for a book of this caliber. However, now I can read it easily and appreciate the “Fabio Volo-ness” of the story. I would dare to say that Fabio Volo is like the Nicholas Sparks of Italy…but with male characters who seem to have a lot of problems. Would any Italian like to verify this for me?
Rossana Campo, as you’ll see in this recommendation and the two following, is one of my favorite Italian authors. In this book in particular, I love her super casual style of writing, her liberal use of dialect, and her exploration of female friendships.
Here’s the introductory paragraph, just to give you a taste: <<Quella paracula della mia amica, la Monica, ne ha combinata un’altra delle sue. Ore nove e tre quarti mattutine e quella tutta isterica e schizzata c’ha già una parlantina da stenderti secca. Io ancora in coma per il risveglio pessimo, bocca impastata, pensieri allucinati, e lei a urlare nella cornetta: Oè, testona, che fine hai fatto? Che stavi facendo, porcate?>>
This story is steamy and packed with antics that will gently remind you of psychological wards, so yes, it’s quite an interesting read. Per her style, she sticks with casual conversation while exploring extramarital affairs, female friendships, and inner peace.
Check out this spicy bite of literature: <<Sono rimasta un po’ a guardarlo quest’uomo che non conosco bene ma con cui sta già succedendo qualcosa e mi sono detta che la passione ti entra nel sangue come una droga e una volta che l’hai presa non puoi più farne a meno.>>
Unlike Campo’s other pieces of literature, this one focuses on her path learning about Buddhism. It’s autobiographical, short, and sewn tight with wisdom.
You might like it if you resonate with this passage: «E così una mattina mi son detta: ma quanto sono stronza! Ho sofferto per non essere stata ascoltata, capita, accetta e sto continuando a farmi esattamente questo. Io non mi ascolto, non mi apprezzo, non mi accetto come sono.[…] e di me chi si occupa di me? chi mi rispetta? chi vuole bene a me? Chi, se non io per prima?».
Books to Read
I first heard of this book in one of my Italian lessons on Italki when my tutor had me read an excerpt. It’s a story about a grandmother who writes a letter to her granddaughter where she confesses…well, a whole lot, about her past and their family. I’ve read half of her book Per sempre, and I haven’t finished it yet, so that can indirectly make this list, too.
Unlike my jaunt into the romance genre, this book is about four adult female friends who come together, in a loving & chaotic way, and as a result, come out transformed. I’ve read tidbits of it, and I can tell right away that it’s going to be a more challenging read as il passato remoto is heavily used, so looks like I’ll have to flex that grammatical muscle to fully enjoy it.
This final book, which is actually a series of books (called una collana di libri), was recommended by one of my Italki tutors. She said that it’s been a huge success in America and as a result became more popular in Italy. It follows the story of two girls from children into adulthood as they grapple with the changes and the magic that life inevitably sends each of us.
If you want to find books that could interest you and you don’t have a bookstore nearby that sells Italian books, try searching categories on Amazon.it first and then once you find one you like, search the title in the Kindle store on Amazon.com. I recommend sticking with books by Italian authors as it introduces another level of culture and language that you can’t get with translated works.
Finally, if you want to chat about books with your Italian friends, check out this article: How to Talk About That Book You Loved or Hated in Italian
Have questions or want to share other recommendations with me? Drop me a comment below!