Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for the list lovers among book bloggers, created and hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s theme is “Top Ten Books I’d Recommend To Someone Who Doesn’t Read X” (for example, if you are a YA blogger you might pick 10 YA books for ppl who don’t read YA or if you read classics maybe 10 classics that those who don’t typically read classics might read! Or you could get more specific).
I struggled a bit to decide what to write about: what defines me as a reader? What would I know about better than the next blogger? I am not a specialty reader, so there’s no genre I felt comfortable suggesting titles for. Then it struck me: most bloggers don’t read a lot of Italian authors… So here goes, top books by Italian authors that everyone should read (or everyone who is interested in Italian culture/literature… DISCLAIMER: this is not a list of titles devised for those who are learning Italian; some of these books may be quite complicated to read; that’s why I chose books with an existing English translation, so that anyone can enjoy them!):
- Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed: I know the Divine Comedy is usually heralded as the apex and starting point of Italian literature, but it is also a sure way to abandon all Italian literature if you are not ready for it. The Betrothed, on the other hand, is the real touchstone for modern narrative, and a fascinating reading too.
- Italo Calvino, Our Ancestors: I was in doubt as to which Calvino book to suggest. This is a good place to start, because you can see the imagination working and the clear language, while still not being so complicated as other works. But if you are game, go on and read Invisible Cities, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller (of course) and the one I love best: Cosmicomics.
- Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose: I don’t think this needs any presentation. Just one tip: don’t worry if you don’t get all the references, just read it like a detective story, and enjoy!
- Emilio Salgari, Sandokan: The Pirates of Malaysia: now this is a title that you probably have not heard about. And I agree that it may not be the best book ever, but it is important to understand many Italian inside jokes. Salgari was our own Dumas, and many generations grew up by reading his adventure novels. This is the first of the Sandokan series (the first he wrote, although not the first from the point of view of the story). If you want more, try and read the back story in its two companion books: The Mystery of the Black Jungle and Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem.
- Edmondo de Amicis, Cuore (Heart): An Italian Schoolboy’s Journal: another book that many Italians grew up with, and one of the sweetest books I read as a child. But be careful, this is not your regular children literature! Have a look at this presentation. Now, if you ask my opinion, the best Italian children book ever is another one, again only available in Italian: Streghetta mia by Bianca Pitzorno. And of course you already know that Collodi’s Pinocchio had nothing to do with his Disney alter ego, right?
- Carlo Sgorlon, The Wooden Throne: poor Sgorlon is little known in Italy and completely unknown abroad, but he was one of the authors I loved best. Apparently, only two of his novels have ever been translated in English. But if you do read Italian, don’t miss the one that in my view was his masterpiece, Il patriarcato della luna.