Italian middle- and high-schoolers read pretty much the same books loved by their peers around the world. From Hunger Games to the Harry Potter saga, when it comes to contemporary best-sellers, there are no relevant differences. As far as classics are concerned, while every Italian student is familiar with Il buio oltre la siepe (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Il giovane Holden (The Catcher in the Rye), Italian classics are also a must, from Calvino to Pirandello. But if we put aside classics and world-wide best-sellers, and focus on Italian books and authors, what will Italian students read in 2023?
Contemporary, Italian must-reads
Among the most beloved contemporary authors are Paolo Cognetti and Alessandro D’Avenia. Without a doubt, Cognetti’s Le otto montagne—an ode to friendship as well as to the mountains—and D’Avenia Ciò che inferno non è—a coming-of-age story about someone from a difficult background—will be on the 2023 reading lists of many young Italians, even if those books are a few years old. The same goes for Arminuta by Donatella Di Pietrantonio, a story of ultimate resilience; Un ragazzo normale by Lorenzo Marone, a book about friendship, love, and family; Non dirmi che hai paura from Giuseppe Catozzella, a touching true story about immigration, life, and hope; Nel mare ci sono i coccodrilli written by Fabio Geda. which narrates the story of Enaiatollah Akbari, a young boy fleeing from the Taliban.
Another book that is pretty recent, yet firmly among the most read, is Gli squali from Giacomo Mazzoriol, a book on becoming adults set during the summer that is the coming-of-age summer by definition for Italians: l’estate della maturità. La maturità is the final high school exam, the one every single Italian has some unbelievable anecdotes about. No one forgets the summer that follows la maturità, a time marked by freedom, friendship, and that bittersweet feeling that nothing will be the same anymore.
One of the most recent and biggest publishing sensations among young adults has been Erin Doom’s Fabbricante di lacrime. Erin Doom is the pseudonym of a (supposedly) young Italian female writer, who first published on Wattpad and then with a traditional publisher. Thanks to a strong #bookTok push, this gothic romance/coming-of-age novel, set in a Minnesota town, won young Italian readers’ hearts last year and the trend will most likely continue this current year. Doom’s debut novel has been followed by Nel modo in cui cade la neve, which also had a great success.
A 2022 book—though originally self-published in 2019—that is worth a mention is Come anima mai from Rossana Soldano, a LGBTQ+ historical romance story set in England during the 1930s.
New releases on the shelves
So, what’s new this year? A very promising title is Scheletro femmina by Francesco Cicconetti, in which the author tells their transition story while warning that Questo non è un romanzo sulla transizione di genere. (“This is not a novel on gender transition.”) It is, indeed, the author’s specific story, made up of torment, self-knowledge, and love.
Already climbing to the top of the charts is Mezzamela. La bellezza di amarsi alla pari from cartoonist Matteo Bussola. The book navigates through the teenage years from masculine, feminine, and inter-generational perspectives.
And speaking of cartoonists, no one in Italy is more popular, prolific, and able to please anyone from every age than Zerocalcare. Fresh from the huge acclaim his Netflix animated series Strappare lungo i bordi (“Tear Along the Dotted Line”) received, the Rome-based author’s production is wide and speaks to anyone with its mix of realism, disenchantment, and its sharp eye on what’s going on in our world, but also—most importantly—what is outside our comfort zone.
There’s no lack of choices and, as you can see, favorite themes are pretty much the same around the world. Curious to know more? Explore the charts of major Italian bookstores, and see for yourself what’s inspiring!
By Claudia Quesito
Also read: New Italian Words and Phrases—2022 Edition
[…] Also read: Top Italian Authors & Books to Read in 2023 […]