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10 Contemporary Italian Books to Add to Your Library

When it comes to ways to explore and connect with Italian culture, our minds often go straight to travel. However, we can discover Italy without even leaving our homes. Great books act like portals, taking us to a different time and place. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the best books by contemporary Italian writers that you can add to your reading list today. 

Each of these excellent reads by prominent Italian writers has been translated into English so non-Italian speaking people can enjoy the gifts of modern Italian literature.

My Brilliant Friend

Elena Ferrante

The first of Elena Ferrante’s four Neapolitan Novels, My Beautiful Friend introduces us to Lila and Elena, two friends who navigate the challenges of leaving girlhood behind to become women, wives, and mothers. Their friendship is a complex one, and this is evident even in their earliest days growing up in working-class Naples. Ferrante’s prose is captivating, and you’ll devour this entire series.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers: A Novel

Paolo Giordano

In his remarkable book, Paolo Giordano contemplates both solitude and wholeness. He wonders if the two things may ever reconcile. This conflict is embodied by his two characters, Alice and Mattia, both of whom have endured tortured pasts. Mattia, however, carries the burden of a shame-inducing secret that is eventually brought to the surface. Still, there is room for love – the only question is what form it will take in Mattia’s life.

Vita: A Novel

Melania Mazzucco

Readers who love historical fiction will be enamored by Melania Mazzucco’s tale of the immigrant experience. Inspired by her own family, Mazzucco introduces us to Diamante and Vita. By today's standards, they are children, but in 1903 they came to America to make their way and rise above the poverty they knew in Italy. Vita is both heartbreaking and inspiring as it swells with the full scope of the immigrant journey.

I'm Not Scared

Nicolò Ammaniti

Nicolò Ammaniti's I'm Not Scared is a modern Italian classic. Ammaniti’s novel is both a thriller and a parable, taking us through the fall of innocence. In rural Italy, six children take to exploring the outskirts of their village. However, in the process, nine-year-old Michele Amitrano makes a horrifying discovery that he is barely able to comprehend. It’s a discovery that changes his understanding of his very world.

Twenty Days of Turin

Giorgio De Maria

Giorgio De Maria wrote Twenty Days of Turin during the height of Italy’s domestic terrorism. The fear of the times is hugely present in De Maria’s prose and with it, the author crafts a startling allegory. Though the novel was born in a different era, it deeply resonates with social issues today. Plus, its bone-chilling prose is riveting.

The Girl with the Leica

Helena Janeczek

If you love reading about the lives of remarkable historical women, then The Girl with the Leica is a must-read. The novel is based on the true story of Gerda Taro, a German-Jewish war photographer who, with her partner, was one half of the alias Robert Capa – perhaps the greatest war photographer of the twentieth century. Taro was killed on the battlefield and, through a constellation of her associates, the novel considers how many different versions of Taro there were to mourn.

The Silent Duchess

Dacia Maraini

The Silent Duchess is an International Man Booker Prize Finalist novel. Set in eighteenth-century Sicily, the novel follows Marianna Ucrìa, a young noblewoman left deaf and mute from unspeakable trauma. Ucrìa’s fate has not been an easy one, and she is married to a particularly lecherous uncle. Despite her circumstances, Ucrìa is determined to educate herself. Maraini’s novel is a portrait of an unbreakable spirit.


Valeria Parrella

Published in 2021, Valeria Parrella’s Almarina is a truly poetic novella that explores the depth of compassion. Elisabetta is a mathematics teacher who leads a solitary life teaching at a nearby prison. However, her life changes when Almarina, a Romanian girl who has survived great trauma, shows up at the detention center. In an unlikely place, the women find connection and the ability to start over.

The Lying Life of Adults

Elena Ferrante

Like the Neapolitan Novels, The Lying Life of Adults is equally concerned with childhood’s transition into adulthood. However, in this 2021 novel, Ferrante introduces us to a new cast of characters: fourteen-year-old Giovanna and her Aunt Vittoria. In this story, Giovanna is wrestling with two different sides of Naples: the refinement of the heights and then the city’s underbelly. Her journey through these worlds is a gripping one.

The Crossroads

Nicolò Ammaniti 

The theme of lost innocence also rears its head in Ammanti’s novel, The Crossroads. This time, we meet Cristiano, a young boy who leads a gritty life together with his alcoholic father. When his father details a plan to rob a bank, Cristiano sees a chance at a better life. However, the perfect storm rears, and as it does, so does the perfect crime. Consequences are plenty and, of course, childhood is over.

Natalli Marie Amato

Natalli Amato is a music and lifestyle journalist from Sackets Harbor, New York.  Her bylines include Rolling Stone, Vice, and The Boot. She is also the author of several collections of poetry.