“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world” stated Voltaire in one of his famous quotes. And according to many, nothing is better than a great book. And if you are studying a new language, what if it is a foreign book?
It is a good idea to read literature in other languages. A language is not only grammar and vocabulary: it is a different lens on the world. So, you can benefit from learning a foreign idiom and its native speakers’ point of view by reading a book in a foreign language.
If you love reading in the Italian language, there is a lot of literature you can draw from, according to your level, tastes, and inclinations. Choices narrow when you are looking for the best books to learn Italian, either you are a beginner or you want to improve your knowledge about the Italian language, culture, and way of life.
There are lots of easy Italian books, Italian novels for beginners, and if you are at an intermediate level, also audiobooks to learn Italian. And (why not) comics, an easy and funny way to learn if you are a beginner.
Easy Italian Books for Beginners
Italian literature has centuries’ worth of books you can draw from.
If you are a beginner, the first couple of pages will be very slow, but don’t get frustrated: take your time and be patient, things will speed up later.
Here is a list of the best books to learn the Italian language that will get you started on your literary adventure, from easy to intermediate level.
Adriano, il Cane di Pompei (Hadrian, the Dog of Pompeii)
This is the delightful story of Adriano, a dog who lives in Pompeii, the ancient city and modern tourist destination.
Adriano loves the comings and goings of people, considering every visitor his friend, and is often fed by the generosity of the guests. But something’s about to happen, and it will drastically change things…
Adriano, il Cane di Pompei is written in simple grammar. It is written first in Italian, followed by the English translation on every page. The book also features historical asides, giving you a glimpse of the past. If you want to try to learn Italian by yourself, this is the best book.
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Italian Short Stories for Beginners: 8 Unconventional Short Stories …
Italian Short Stories for Beginners: 8 Unconventional Short Stories to Grow Your Vocabulary and Learn Italian the Fun Way! This book was written by Olly Richards, one of the better-known polyglots on the web. The advantage of reading a book from someone like him is that he’s been on the other side of the fence and can provide your perspective.
Its adventures are also uniquely engaging: a collection of eight original stories geared to build the vocabulary of beginner and low-intermediate learners. The stories are designed to give you a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of progress when reading. They don’t come with English translations, but difficult words are bolded and are defined at the end of each chapter.
If you’re learning Italian and enjoy reading, this is the book you need to take your Italian to the next level!
Le Avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
The story of Pinocchio is perhaps the most well-known work of Italian children’s literature, and it is perhaps best known as the basis for the 1940 Disney film: like most stories adapted into movies, the original story is quite different from the version we’re used to.
Pinocchio is a wooden puppet who gets tricked into running away from home. To get back home to his father Geppetto, he experiences a series of mischievous adventures aided by a kind fairy and a talking cricket who helps him distinguish right from wrong.
Through the course of the fairytale, Pinocchio finds a lot of strange people, creatures, and talking animals.
The story is a useful vocabulary developer because you encounter a range of unusual characters and situations.
Il Barone Rampante (The Baron in the Trees)
This novel by Italian author Italo Calvino blends a fictional narrative with issues of philosophy and what it truly means to live a fulfilled life. The story tells about a young boy in a noble family being bullied by his older sister and tired of his role as a young Baron, who one day, in an act of rebellion against his parents, climbs into a tree and refuses to get down. He eventually becomes self-sufficient in the tree, building his existence up there and changing the lives of everyone he meets during his unconventional existence, outside of the influence of his family and society.
Io Non Ho Paura (I’m Not Scared)
Io Non Ho Paura, by Niccolò Ammaniti, is a skillfully narrated crime novel set in Italy’s countryside in the 1970s, where nine-year-old Michele discovers a secret so terrible that he daren’t tell anyone about it. The reader witnesses a double story: the one that is seen through the boy’s eyes, and the tragedy involving the adults of this isolated community. Intended for young adult readers, its simple prose is sure to be more accessible to Italian language learners who are at the beginning or intermediate levels, while nevertheless enchanting readers with its suspenseful plot, its atmosphere reminiscent of Tom Sawyer, Stephen King’s Stand By Me and Italo Calvino’s Italian Fairy Tales.
Best audiobooks for learning Italian
Listening and reading at the same time is just a matter of habit. You will get used to it faster than you think: it looks like you will not be able to concentrate on both at once, but it is not so difficult at all.
Listening as you read improves your word-pronunciation association. You’ll begin to realize that you were pronouncing words incorrectly or that one word has more than one pronunciation.
Italian audiobooks have become an incredibly useful language-learning tool that allows you to familiarize yourself with the different sounds of the Italian idiom. As they are spoken by native speakers, you get to assimilate, uniquely, the phonetics of the language as well as the rules and the way phrases are constructed.
If you’re already at the intermediate level in Italian, here are two audiobooks that are great for learning Italian.
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Il nome della rosa” (The Name of the Rose)
This is a mystery medieval story by Italian writer Umberto Eco that takes place in Italy in a Benedictine abbey. Its plot centers on a murder investigation carried out in 1327 by an English Franciscan monk, Guillermo de Baskerville, and his disciple, Adso de Melk, who investigate a series of mysterious murders that take place in the abbey. The story is a very well written mystery novel that rigorously narrates Benedictine and Franciscan mentality, beliefs, worldview, and moral code during medieval times.
This book is for intermediate/advanced level learners; however, the story is very good and captivating, and it is perfect for those who enjoy mystery novels and want to learn vocabulary related to history.
L’amica geniale (My Brilliant Friend)
This novel by Italian writer Elena Ferrante is about the childhood of two inseparable friends, Lila and Elena, who grow in a neighborhood in Naples where the possibilities of achieving higher education are very slim. The two girls try to find a way out of their community to find better opportunities: however, the plans don’t work out for both of them. An intriguing description of a friendship, a challenging social environment that they manage to overcome, though not without some difficulty, and a rich cast of colorful characters all make for a good read.
The narrative technique is centered on events in the past, something which will help you familiarize yourself with Italian past tenses.
Read Comic Books (Pictures Aren’t Cheating!)
Eventually, here is a different kind of material to practice the Italian language with more effectiveness: comics.
Comics offer a fun way to learn. They give you the chance to read less complicated texts and find something entertaining at your reading level.
It is also well known that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. The combination of text and images allows you to figure out the meaning of the words without using a dictionary, making a comic the best book to learn Italian grammar.
Furthermore, comics are a great reservoir of informal common expressions, such as colloquial sentences, sayings, and idioms, and language is generally closer to those of native speakers.
One above all: Topolino
Topolino narrates the stories of Topolino and Paperino (the Italian versions of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck). Even if they are inspired by American cartoons, they use the characters but write Italian stories, so they are original. In Italy, there is also a superhero version of Donald Duck, Paperinik, who merges Paperino and Diabolik, a popular character of another Italian comic series.
Nowadays, Topolino comics are enjoyed weekly by readers of all ages. It contains dialogues easy to understand with very simple grammar constructions and accessible vocabulary.
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