Why Should You Read Italian Books?
Reading Italian books can help you learn the language in a more natural and immersive way, as it exposes you to real-life scenarios and cultural references. Not to mention, it can help you improve your vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension skills.
Learning grammar or vocabulary within a context is the best way to learn Italian, and that’s the case with reading Italian books.
What is Most Important When Choosing a Book for Learning Italian?
There are several factors to consider when choosing a book for learning Italian. Choosing an Italian book that is suitable for your level of proficiency is the first step. For beginners, a book that is too advanced may be frustrating and difficult to follow, while a book that is too basic may not challenge you enough.
You might find it challenging to stay engaged and motivated if you don’t enjoy the topic or style of the book. The most valuable advice is to pick a genre that interests you, otherwise reading in Italian will be a complete nightmare. Because, let’s face it, reading alone in Italian will be a challenge, so why don’t make it at least enjoyable?
It is important to remember that choosing a book to learn a language is not the same as choosing a book for pleasure in your mother language.
While you may love philosophical or even political books personally, if you are a beginner, that won’t be the finest choice.
You may never think about the length of a book if it’s a topic you are drawn to, and it’s your native language. But, when a language learner, think about how much time you have to devote to one book.
Learn more about how to learn Italian through books.
Best Italian Books For Beginner Learners
It can be challenging to find Italian novels that are suitable for beginners, as they often use more complex language.
In such cases, opting for short stories or children’s books might be more effective. Nonetheless, there are some excellent Italian books for beginners that can significantly aid in the learning process, despite their level of complexity. Below are some recommendations worth exploring.
Read short stories in Italian.
Children’s Books in Italian
One should never forget the power of reading children’s books in Italian. From start to finish, these books are built on simple vocabulary, repetition, and basic grammar constructions and that’s a big plus.
Another way you can facilitate yourself is to read familiar stories we all have learned by heart in our own childhood, so when you start reading, you’ll basically know the plot, even though you don’t understand every single word in the story.
Reading fairytales and children’s stories in Italian will give you a boost of confidence in your growing language skills. And, trust me, that’s sometimes the crucial step in your language-learning journey.
When you have confidence, your brain suddenly becomes much more relaxed and open to soaking in new vocabulary and grammar.
Another great way to learn Italian for beginners and still stay in the children’s universe is by watching cartoons in Italian. With cartoons, you’ll be able to practice your oral understanding and Italian pronunciation, so include this practice as early as possible in your learning routine.
Pinnochio | Carlo Collodi
You must have read “Pinocchio” many times in the past, but never thought about reading it in Italian. Well, think again.
Usually, knowing the plot in advance is called a “spoiler”, but not in this case. If you are a beginner Italian learner, knowing what happens in advance is a huge plus.
So, whether you opt for Pinnochio or any other familiar children’s story, know it’s the right choice for a beginner.
And, if you are unfamiliar with Pinnochio, it’s a classic children’s novel written by Italian author Carlo Collodi. It tells the story of a wooden puppet named Pinocchio, who dreams of becoming a real boy. The story follows Pinocchio’s adventures as he learns about the world and encounters various challenges and obstacles on his journey toward becoming human.
Io Non ho paura (Nicolo Amaniti)
“Io non ho paura” is a novel by Italian author Niccolò Ammaniti, first published in 2001. The book tells the story of a young boy named Michele Amitrano who discovers a boy being held captive in a hole. Michele is torn between his fear and curiosity about the boy, who he learns is being kept by a group of men involved in a kidnapping ring.
Set in a small, rural Italian town in the 1970s, the novel explores themes of childhood innocence, fear, friendship, and the harsh realities of adult life.
With its simple style and first-person narrative to mimic the innocence of the boy protagonist, Ammaniti’s novel is very accessible to beginning Italian speakers.
It has since been translated into over 30 languages and is considered one of Ammaniti’s most popular works.
Best Italian Books For Intermediate Learners
Finding Italian books for intermediate learners is a bit easier than searching for pure beginner books. At this point of your Italian journey, the choice of content available gets wider.
Apart from books, you can search for magazines, comic books, and poetry, listen to Italian music, or try watching Italian movies.
Cristo si e fermato a Eboli | Carlo Levi
It’s an autobiographical work by Italian writer Carlo Levi, first published in 1945. The book recounts Levi’s experiences as a political exile during the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini.
Specifically, it details his time spent in the remote southern Italian village of Gagliano, where he was exiled from 1935 to 1936. The book offers a stark portrayal of the poverty and isolation of the region, as well as the resilience and dignity of its people.
Through his experiences in Gagliano, Levi offers a powerful critique of Italian society and politics and reflects on the broader themes of human suffering, injustice, and redemption. The book is considered a classic of Italian literature and an important historical document of the fascist era.
La solitudine dei numeri primi | Paolo Giordano
It’s a novel about the parallel lives of two troubled individuals, Alice and Mattia, who struggle with their past traumas and their present loneliness. The book explores themes of love, loss, friendship, and the search for human connection, and it was awarded the prestigious Strega Prize in 2008.
Best Italian Books For Advanced Learners
L’amica geniale | Elena Ferante
Perhaps if we mention the English title “My Brilliant Friend” it rings a bell to you. It’s a novel by Italian author Elena Ferrante, originally published in Italian as “L’amica geniale.”
When we talk about the author of Elena Ferrante, we talk about a global phenomenon that quickly took over the entire literature world. Elena Ferrante is the pen name of an Italian novelist who has gained international acclaim for her works. Her true identity remains unknown, as she has chosen to keep her personal life separate from her literary persona.
Ferrante’s novels often explore themes of identity, womanhood, and the complexities of human relationships, particularly in the context of Naples and Southern Italy.
The book follows the complex friendship between two girls, Elena and Lila, growing up in a poor neighborhood in Naples, Italy, in the 1950s. The story is told from Elena’s perspective and explores themes of family, poverty, education, and the changing social and political landscape of post-World War II Italy.
The novel has been widely praised for its vivid and realistic portrayal of the characters and setting, as well as its exploration of the complexities of female friendship, and it soon was turned into intriguing HBO series in until now 3 seasons.
Novecento | Alessandro Baricco
“Novecento” is a novella written by Italian author Alessandro Baricco, published in Italy in 1994.
The story is narrated by a character named Tim Tooney, a trumpet player on an ocean liner called the Virginian. He tells the story of a legendary pianist named Danny Boodmann T.D. Lemon Novecento, was born and raised on the ocean and never once set foot on land.
Novecento’s musical talent is unparalleled, and he becomes famous throughout the ship for his mesmerizing performances. However, he refuses to leave the ship and explore the world beyond it, choosing instead to remain aboard and play his piano.
The book was adapted into a play in 1994, and later into a film called “The Legend of 1900” in 1998, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. Nominated for several awards it features a stunning soundtrack by renowned Italian composer Ennio Morricone.
Marcovaldo | Italo Calvino
“Marcovaldo” is a collection of twenty short stories by the renowned Italian author Italo Calvino. The book was first published in 1963 and explores the life of a poor laborer named Marcovaldo, who lives in an industrial city and dreams of escaping to the countryside.
Interestingly, Calvino wrote the stories over a period of several years, with each story intended to be read independently.
In the end, though, it turns out that all stories created a cohesive narrative arc that highlighted urbanization, industrialization, and environmental degradation as themes in the book.
Calvino uses vivid and imaginative language to create a surreal and often humorous portrayal of everyday life, which has led many readers to describe the book as an example of magical realism. “Marcovaldo” is widely regarded as a classic of Italian literature and has been translated into several languages.
Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore| Italo Calvino
“If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler” is a postmodern novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino. The book has multiple storylines, each beginning with the first chapter of a new book.
Different storylines go in different directions, and the reader becomes increasingly frustrated as none of them seems to come to an end. However, they are drawn into a larger narrative that blurs the line between reality and fiction. The novel is a playful exploration of the act of reading and the nature of storytelling and has been praised for its inventive structure and clever metafictional devices.
Italo Calvino is considered one of the most innovative writers of the 20th century. Mostly this is due because of his experimental writing style, which pushed the boundaries of traditional narrative structures and explored new ways of storytelling.
Calvino used metafictional techniques, such as breaking the narrative and addressing the reader directly, to blur the line between fiction and reality.
I must mention that because the structure of his books is unconventional and breaks all the rules of a classic plot, it’s much more difficult to follow, especially if your Italian is not advanced.
To begin exploring Italo Calvino’s world, you might like to watch this video on his life and work.
How to Get the Most out of Your Italian Book
Now, that you have chosen the book, let’s learn ways to use the book effectively.
Below are some suggestions that can help you maximize the benefits of your newly acquired Italian book.
1. Make a vocabulary list
Get in the habit of writing down vocabulary you don’t know or that you find interesting, useful, or important. If something stands out, jot it down in a notebook!
Then, sort the words into thematic groups instead of categories. The latter refers to things like colors, animals, or plants, while the former looks more like “words used in hospitals,” “words used in banks,” and “words used in a museum.” Organizing words by themes makes it easier to create associations between them, which makes them quicker to memorize.
Lastly, review those words! Instead of relying on translations and rote memorization, we recommend you use flashcards with images, pictures, or drawings.
2. Take notes on grammar!
When you come across new grammar rules or structures in your Italian book, take the time to write them down in a notebook or on flashcards. This will help you to better remember the rules and practice them on your own. Additionally, it can be helpful to review your notes regularly to reinforce your understanding of the grammar concepts.
As you progress in your Italian learning journey, you may find it helpful to organize your notes by grammar topics, such as verb tenses or noun genders. One tense, in particular, can be important when reading, and that’s past tense or passato prossimo.
3. Summarize the Book in Your Own Words
In your own words, summarize each chapter or section you have read. This will help you to check your understanding of the content and reinforce the new vocabulary and grammar concepts you have learned.
4. Highlight the passage you don’t understand
If you don’t fully understand a passage, highlight it. You will then be able to identify areas where you need to focus your attention and seek additional resources.
You can also use these highlighted sections as a starting point for review and practice exercises.
5. Get both Italian and English-language versions of the text
Obtain both the Italian and English translations of the book if possible. Comparing the two versions will help you understand the nuances of vocabulary and grammar.
It can also provide additional context and insights into the cultural references and themes presented in the book.
To Achieve Fluency in Italian – Read
For beginners, children’s books and short stories can be a great starting point, while intermediate learners can try novels, poetry, magazines, and more.
Italian books will allow you to see words and sentences in context and to better understand the language flow.
However, if you simply want tons of short readings in Italian, already categorized into appropriate levels, you should Try out “Leggi Con Me“.
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