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By- Claudia Quesito

Reading a book in Italian is one of the biggest challenges for an Italian learner, but it can be an extremely enriching and empowering experience. A basic to intermediate proficiency in Italian is essential, but the most important thing is to follow one simple rule: do not try to understand (or look up) every single word. You need to focus on the big picture. Begin with individual words and sentences you do understand and then … keep reading. 

Italian has a rich literary tradition, starting with Dante—the “father” of contemporary Italian—and Boccaccio and Petrarca. The three are sometimes called the “crowns” of the Italian literature. But you might want to start with something more contemporary. One of the great masters of the twentieth century is Italo Calvino. If you are into magic realism, Calvino’s Il cavaliere inesistente will bring you back to the crusades era, and Agilulfo, the title’s “nonexistent knight,” will prompt you to think about identity, robots, rules, and protocols in our modern times.

A book that is very different in tone and language is Jack Frusciante è uscito dal Gruppo, a 1994 work from Enrico Brizzi. Brizzi was 20 years old when he wrote the story, but the book is still perfectly relevant today. Set in Bologna, it follows Alex, who struggles with the conflict between social expectations and his own desires to “leave the band,” like the real Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Finally, another engaging coming-of-age book is Due di due, from Andrea De Carlo. It features two friends, Mario and Guido, different life choices, and paints a generational portrait. The characters are so vivid that you will end up talking about Mario and Guido like old friends of yours. 

Ready? Great: keep your dictionary—meaning your phone—at a distance and … enjoy!

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