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Best Italian Books

Delve into the heart of Italian literature with this compilation of the finest Italian books, prominently featured and recurrently praised by literary connoisseurs.

Recommendations from 15 articles, Pope Francis, Bill Clinton, Anderson Cooper and 13 others.
32 books on the list
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My Brilliant Friend book cover
My Brilliant Friend
Neapolitan Novels, Book One
Elena Ferrante - 2012-09-25 (first published in 2011)
Goodreads Rating
This modern masterpiece follows two friends, Elena and Lila, as they grow up in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples in the 1950s. Through their intertwined paths, Ferrante tells the story of a changing nation and the nature of friendship. This rich, intense, and generous-hearted book is a must-read for fans of character-driven stories.
Recommended by
Emily NussbaumLee Pace
I'm Not Scared book cover
I'm Not Scared
Niccolo Ammaniti - 2004-03-09 (first published in 2001)
Goodreads Rating
This gripping novel follows the story of nine-year-old Michele Amitrano as he and five other children explore the deserted countryside during the hottest summer of the twentieth century. Amidst the golden wheat, Michele stumbles upon a secret so terrible that he can't bring himself to tell anyone. As he comes to terms with what he has found, the reader is drawn into a dual story of tragedy involving the adults in the small and isolated hamlet. This powerful, lyrical, and skillfully narrated novel will leave a lasting impression.
The Shape of Water book cover
The Shape of Water
Andrea Camilleri - 2005-05-31 (first published in 1994)
Goodreads Rating
This Sicilian crime series follows Inspector Montalbano as he investigates the suspicious death of Silvio Luparello in the midst of drug dealers and prostitutes. Despite pressure to close the case, Montalbano is determined to uncover the truth through a maze of corruption and false clues. Enjoy this wry and captivating series, starting with The Shape of Water.
Recommended by
Bill Clinton
The Name of the Rose book cover
The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco - 1994-01-01 (first published in 1980)
Goodreads Rating
In a wealthy Italian abbey in 1327, Brother William of Baskerville is tasked with investigating suspected heresy. But when seven strange deaths occur, Brother William turns detective, using the logic of Aristotle, theology of Aquinas, and insight of Roger Bacon to solve the case. With a touch of humor and sharp curiosity, he deciphers codes, collects evidence, and navigates the eerie abbey where "the most interesting things happen at night."
Recommended by
Diane CoyleNancy Pearl
E. M. Forster - A Room with a View book cover
E. M. Forster - A Room with a View
E. M. Forster - 2005-01-01 (first published in 1908)
Goodreads Rating
In this captivating novel, Lucy's life takes an unexpected turn when she visits Florence with her rigid cousin Charlotte. Through her encounters with unconventional characters at the Pension Bertolini, Lucy's eyes are opened to a world of passion and intensity unlike anything she's experienced before. But will she have the courage to follow her heart and break free from Edwardian England's repressed morality?
Recommended by
Guy BranumJess Brammar
The Solitude of Prime Numbers book cover
The Solitude of Prime Numbers
A Novel
Paolo Giordano - 2010-03-18 (first published in 2008)
Goodreads Rating
Discover a stunning debut novel that meditates on loneliness, love, and what it means to be human. Meet Alice and Mattia, both "primes" haunted by early tragedies, who recognize a kindred, damaged spirit in each other. Years later, a chance encounter reunites them and forces a lifetime of concealed emotion to the surface. But can two prime numbers ever find a way to be together? The Solitude of Prime Numbers brilliantly captures the complexities of human connection and the universal longing for love.
The Marriage Portrait book cover
The Marriage Portrait
Maggie O'Farrell - 2022-09-06
Goodreads Rating
Travel back in time to Renaissance Italy and uncover the captivating story of Lucrezia de’ Medici, the young duchess trying to find her place in a troubled court. From the award-winning author of Hamnet comes a fictional tale brimming with luminous imagery and honest emotion. Lucrezia must navigate a foreign land, a new husband with a hidden past, the pressure to provide an heir, and the expectations of her rank. With her future on the line, she battles for survival in a world where many wish to see her fail. Discover the resilience of a determined young woman in this unforgettable story full of beauty and intrigue.
Christ Stopped at Eboli book cover
Christ Stopped at Eboli
The Story of a Year (FSG Classics)
Carlo Levi - 2006-01-10 (first published in 1945)
Goodreads Rating
Explore the desolate, yet beautiful landscape of Lucania, a southern region in Italy, through the eyes of Carlo Levi, a political prisoner who was confined there during the start of the Ethiopian war in 1935. Levi reflects on the harsh conditions and the lives of the peasants who are living in ancient traditions and feared black magic and death. Discover a place and a people living outside the boundaries of progress and time in this moving account.
The Decameron book cover
The Decameron
Giovanni Boccaccio - 2003-04-29 (first published in 1349)
Goodreads Rating
Escape the ravages of the Black Death with The Decameron. This collection of one hundred entertaining stories follows ten young noble men and women as they find refuge in a country villa outside of Florence. Boccaccio's talent as a dramatist shines in his vivid portraits of people from all walks of life, and their bewildering array of reactions to the plague's devastation. With masterful storytelling, The Decameron is a timeless classic.
Recommended by
Michael J. Knowles
The Betrothed book cover
The Betrothed
I Promessi Sposi (Penguin Classics)
Alessandro Manzoni - 1984-03-06 (first published in 1827)
Goodreads Rating
Travel back to 17th century Lombardy during the Spanish occupation in this enduring historical novel. Follow the story of Renzo and Lucia, two young lovers who are forcibly separated by a petty tyrant, Don Rodrigo, who desires Lucia for himself. Forced to flee and facing plague, famine, and imprisonment, they encounter a variety of strange characters in their struggle to be reunited. Explore themes of love, power, and faith in this great European historical classic.
Recommended by
Pope Francis
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
The Leopard by Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Arturo's Island by Elsa Morante
The Late Mattia Pascal by Luigi Pirandello
Due Amiche e Un Album di Fotografie - Learn Italian Through Simple Stories (A1-A2) by Serena Capilli
Inferno by Dante Alighieri
Acqua Alta by Donna Leon
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
Marcovaldo by Italo Calvino
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Cuore by Edmondo de Amicis
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante
Italian Neighbors by Tim Parks
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
The Silent Duchess by Dacia Maraini
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle
Still Life by Sarah Winman
I Malavoglia by Giovanni Verga
Italo Svevo by Italo Svevo