I thought it was about time I shared my bookshelf with you. These are five of some of my favorite books about Italy. I’ll add another post with more in a few weeks. Don’t give up on your New Year’s reading resolutions yet, and check out some of my recommendations below.
1. The Italians by John Hooper
“John Hooper’s entertaining and perceptive new book is the ideal companion for anyone seeking to understand contemporary Italy and the unique character of the Italians.”
I read this book in two days and it left me wanting for nothing. John Hooper was a correspondent based in Rome for fifteen years. He brings a fresh, often hilarious, and insightful exploration into why Italian people are the way they are. Learn about the history, stereotypes, politics, traditions, calcio, the mafia, and the sex lives of the Italian people in this delightful read.
2. La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language by Dianne Hales
“To truly become Italian, one must learn the language. This is how Dianne Hales began her journey.”
Dianne Hales spent twenty-five years learning everything she could about the Italian language. This book will take you on a charming, fascinating, and often humorous journey through the history of the Italian language. For a crash course on the evolution of Italian — from Dante and Petrarch, to opera and love, to food and cursing–Dianne covers it all in this enjoyable read. I learned more about how the Italian language formed Italy and it’s people in this one book than I did in four semesters of Italian.
Read my tips on how to practice Italian here: 5 Easy Ways to Practice Italian Online for Free
3. The Abruzzo Trilogy: Fontamara, Bread and Wine, The Seed Beneath the Snow by Ignazio Silone
My dad turned me onto this book and I’m not sure where or when he came across it. While he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature ten times, Secondino Tranquilli (who wrote by the pseudonym Ignazio Silone), and was an Italian politician. He also was a founding member of the Communist Party of Italy. While he was a refugee hiding from the Fascist police in Switzerland, he wrote my favorite of the trilogy, Fontamara.
Because Fontamara is regarded as Silone’s most important work, I’ll single it out above the others. It provides an authentic, first-hand perspective on what living in Abruzzo in the early twentieth century was like (around the time of Mussolini, and my family emigrating from Abruzzo). The cafoni (peasants) are the protagonists, and through their eyes, you learn about how Mussolini’s Blackshirts affected the region and its’ people.
“Fontamara is a book of impassioned political propaganda. But, in it revolutionary passion attains such heights as to result in a genuinely artistic creation… In the course of some 200 pages of the book this name becomes the symbol of agricultural Italy, of all its villages and their poverty and their despair and their rebellion….This book deserves a circulation of many million copies.”– Leon Trotsky
And, read about my trip to Abruzzo, here: Villetta Barrea: the Rocky Heart of Italy.
4. Dirty Italian: Everyday Slang from “What’s Up?” to “F*% Off!” (Dirty Everyday Slang) by Gabrielle Euvino
This book will have you giggling and trying to memorize vulgar phrases on your next trip to Rome. It’s actually highly useful, and I’ve already recommended it in my post: Dirty Italian: How to Cuss Like a Local. With this book, you’ll learn how to actually speak like an Italian in all aspects of life: ordering food, flirting, talking dirty, and even talking sports (a.k.a. soccer). Complete with a pronunciation guide and sample dialogues, you’ll learn how to tell someone to f*ck off in the most local way possible!
5. Speak Italian: The Fine Art of the Gesture by Bruno Munari
Lastly, this cute book is the perfect gift. Everyone has heard that Italians speak with their hands. But, what does that actually mean? This book is a fun, entertaining read that explains to you how and why Italians gesticulate. Bruno Munari was an Italian artist and designer who is well-known in Italy. Although published in 1963, nothing has really changed. It makes a great gift for the Italophile in your life. (I gave a copy to my friend, Hailey!).
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What are your favorite books about Italy? Have your read any of the ones on my list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!