Buying the right present for Christmas, or for any other occasion, is no easy matter. Especially if the budget is limited. Or if it is for someone you do not know well. I personally have problems buying things for men. Once you have already played the wine/scarf/perfume card, what do you do?
I also do not like to buy items for the house, as I think there is nothing worse than gifting something to hang in the kitchen if it is not really something your family and friends like. Picture this: you buy what you think is a beautiful decoration that ends up in your friends’ basement to eventually come back in the living room when you visit them.
A book. A book is always a good solution. It is gender free, most of the times. It is cheap (a great classic can cost even few dollars/euros). And above all, it gives your family and friends the possibility to lie. They could always say they read it, found it amazing (how will you tell they only read amazon reviews?) and forgot it in that luxury hotel when they went to Rome since they thought that book was the perfect companion for their dream travel.
So, whether your beloved ones are planning to travel to Italy or are learning Italian, you might consider to give them an Italian book. Here is my personal selection of books written by Italians and set in Italy. You will find here the Italian version and, when available, a link to the English translation. If you read them, please let me know what you think in the comments (or by sending me an email as a reply to my now and then newsletter).
1. Fosca, when love has nothing to do with beauty
Giorgio is a man divided between the love for the beautiful and rich wife Clara and Fosca, a woman described as ugly and sick. What attracts Giorgio is not her appearance but her mind. Fosca is in fact, an extremely interesting and well educated woman. With this novel, the author, Ugo Igino Tarchetti, has delievered us the most representative work of the movemenet called Scapigliatura.
Fosca is the perfect gift for men and women, but it is in the teenagehood that must be read, underlined, reread. It is a great Bildungsroman that teaches us the greatest of the lessons. We truly fall in love for a soul not for a face or a body.
Fosca has also been translated into English with the same title.
2. La Mennulara, for a journey under the sun of Sicily
Simonetta Agnello Hornby is an Italian lawyer who has lived and worked in England. Today she has the double citizenships and a new life as a marvellous story teller. La Mennulara, her first novel, tells the story of the housekeeper or a rich family. When she dies, the entire village of Roccacolomba starts talking about the hidden treasures she has collected when the woman was alive, maybe thanks to her relations with the Sicilian mafia.
What is considered a great Sicilian story, is a book full of mistery, intrigue and sensuality painted with the colours and perfumes of Sicily. The Novel has been translated into English with the title: The almond picker.
3. La scomparsa di Ettore Majorana, one of the greatest unsolved mystery of Italy
Defined by the scientist Enrico Fermi a true genius like Galileo and Newton, Ettore Majorana, was an Italian physicist On 25 March 1938 he took a ship from Palermo to Naples and suddenly disappeared. In his book, the Sicilian writer and journalist Leonardo Sciascia depicts the figure of Majorana trying to understand the possible reasons who led him to disappear.
This mystery will never find a solution, but the portrait we have is that of a man of science who maybe knew the terrible consequences his studies would have had on the entire human kind.
You can find this book together with another Sciascia’s book under the title: “The Moro Affair and the Mistery of Majorana”.
4. Torino, lungodora Napoli: the proof that Turin is like Chicago
Bruno Gambarotta is a writer, journalist and entertainer from my city, Turin. I met him several times and it was a real pleasure. Bruno is always kind and funny. Torino lungodora Napoli is a crime that describes the melting pot of cultures that you can find in a city that, with the industrial revolution has welcomed people from south Italy to work for Fiat, the car company.
The fiction is a way Gambarotta uses to depict the many facets of this city. Lungodora Napoli is close to the market of Porta Palazzo. This is definitely a must read if you come here.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an English version. But I think you can easily read it if you are learning Italian.
5. La casa di Tolkien, a tale of love
La casa di Tolkien, whose title means The House of Tolkien, is a little gem written by Andrea Pedrana and Roberta Pellegrini. In a kaleidoscope of funny characters, this novel tells the story of a neighborhood that really exists near the Church Gran Madre of Torino. And the more you read it, the more you think that also the characters exist.
It is a story of disability, of adaptation, of travel and discovery, of friendship and love. Here I found the best description of a kiss. And when I finished it, I started hoping to meet Sofia and Teo or Francesco and Benedetta. I am not telling you why the title reminds of Tolkien. You will easily understand it.
This book has never been translated into English. You shall read it in Italian, possibly sitting in a cafeteria here in Turin, drinking hot chocolate and waiting for the evening to wrap the city.