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I have been learning Italian for several months now and I am looking for a book --- the genre is not important --- suitable for someone with a rather basic understanding of the language. It need not be a book; any substantial text that keeps the language simple will do. Any recommendations?

EDIT (June 21st 2015). Several people from this community have offered helpful suggestions in the form of answers and comments. Unfortunately, I can only accept a single answer and I am not sure whether it is fair to do so as all the answers are of sufficient quality and each of them deserves to be accepted.

Below is a compiled list of suggestions; it is essentially the union of the suggestions in the answers to this question.

  • Le avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi;
  • Cuore by Edmondo De Amicis (text; video);
  • several books by Emilio Salgari (especially the Malaysia cycle);
  • children's literature in general;
  • La solitudine dei numeri primi by Paolo Giordano;
  • lyrics of various pop songs or, for something older and classier, songs by cantautori like De André (lyircs 1; lyrics 2) and De Gregori (sample lyrics); beyond the cantautori there are also folk and political singers-songwriters of which Fausto Amodei is an example;
  • a particular song, Meno male che.
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    I find this question very interesting! – april Jun 20 '15 at 9:48
  • Songs have already been suggested. I have always used and still use songs for my English, but I am very careful with the choice: I generally find better English in older songs. I would like to suggest one particular song in Italian, by an unknown cantautore, which was written and accepted at the Sanremo Academy, and then voted among the best, but never got to the famous festival. The name of the song is "Menomale Che" and if you put it in Google, followed by "Francesca", you can listen to it. And if you click "Mostra Altro" you can read the full text. As it's good Italian (not the rule today, – alsa Oct 26 '15 at 16:11
  • @alsa who is the song sung by? I gather it is not by Francesca Salcioli? – user12344567 Oct 27 '15 at 9:58
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    @ blazs. Sorry, I have just seen your question. Yes, it is sung by my daughter Francesca (as you probably can still see below under "Answers"). If you liked it, you might want try another one: "Mare d'Inverno". I can send it to you (3900 KB) if you give me your e-mail adress. – alsa Feb 27 '16 at 17:19
  • I would suggest you to take a look at app store's library for this. I've found lots of good books in there to dive in. Enjoy! – Prometheus Dec 19 '16 at 13:41
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I suggest you to read books that you already read in your own language. This way is simpler to follow the story. I used this method to learn English and it helped me a lot.

In alternative, for a easy reading, you could choose Italian juvenile fiction, who has a simple language. Some example:

  • Le avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
  • Cuore by Edmondo de Amicis
  • Emilio Salgari, a lot of books

They are considered books for youths, but I think they are interesting for everyone. Further you can learn Italian language but also something about Italian culture.

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    @blazs you can download it (with other books of public domain) from liberliber.it liberliber.it/online/autori/autori-d/edmondo-de-amicis/cuore – WalterV Jun 20 '15 at 9:28
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    It should be noted that these are rather old (and old-fashioned) books. – Federico Poloni Jun 20 '15 at 10:11
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    Cuore is also available as a six-part mini-series, which could be useful ancillary material to your reading. – gbutters Jun 20 '15 at 21:04
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    PS: Pinocchio is awesome! One of the best books I have readed in italian. – m3dl Oct 5 '15 at 17:48
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I strongly recommend anything by Gianni Rodari.

"Favole al telefono" is truly a gem. Easy to read, good and small stories, perfect to learn and practice written Italian.

Il protagonista è il ragionier Bianchi, di Varese, rappresentante farmaceutico in giro per l'Italia condannato ad un settimanale pendolarismo, interrotto soltanto la domenica. Ogni sera, alle nove in punto, raccontava una favola al telefono alla figlioletta che non riusciva a dormire. Le storie toccavano tanto il cuore, che le centraliniste interrompevano il loro lavoro per ascoltarle.

Source: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Favole_al_telefono

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If you prefer to read more recent literature which is not intended for youths, I can tell you that the first book I read in Italian was La solitudine dei numeri primi by Paolo Giordano and I found it quite easy to understand. It may help if you have a translation to your own language with you: if you find something difficult to understand you can have a look to the translation. This is a method I have used whenever I started with a foreign language.

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Since you say It need not be a book; any substantial text that keeps the language simple will do; have you tried song texts?

(Sadly) the texts of most of today's pop songs are quite simple from a linguistic point of view. For something older and classier you can listen for instance to cantautori like De André or De Gregori. Some of their texts, such as the linked ones, need very little grammar to be understood, and I believe that the words are easy to discern (with the song text available).

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    @blazs: A word of caution about De Gregori: his texts may seem not to make much sense, at times. Their style is often quite poetic. Anyways, these are two giants, among the cantautori, but then there are many others. I don't want to list any of them, because everyone has his favorites, and the list would quickly get exceedingly long. Google is your friend. – Walter Tross Jun 20 '15 at 23:05
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    Beyond the cantautori there are also folk and political singers-songwriters, although they are almost forgotten nowadays. An example that comes to my mind of someone with a very clear (albeit often quick) pronunciation is Fausto Amodei. Left wing, though, so not for everyone. – Walter Tross Jun 20 '15 at 23:57
  • @FredericoPoloni, I have not; thanks for the suggestion; I will give it a try. – user12344567 Jun 21 '15 at 13:56
  • @WalterTross, thanks for pointing this out; the only cantautori I am familiar with are Lucio Battisti and Lucio Dalla. – user12344567 Jun 21 '15 at 13:59
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    @blazs: does Battisti even qualify? I thought he didn't write his own lyrics. – Tobia Tesan Jun 22 '15 at 9:16
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I'm a beginner too (Duolinguo has helped a lot). I found 2 books by Cinzia Medaglia that were good for starters. The stories & characters are a bit rudimentary, but there's a lot of dialog and action (not just description). There is some slang, which I wouldn't dare use myself, though. Pinocchio was hard! Now I'm reading the Italian translation of Harry Potter--not Italian literature, but I'm not ready for D'Annunzio (I tried & it took me 1 hr per paragraph....). Song lyrics have helped too -Adriano Celentano, Zucchero. Hope this helps.

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    Skip D'Annunzio altogether. The 20th century has way, way better, from Pirandello to Eco, from Palazzeschi to Gadda (not very beginner-friendly), Calvino (more like it) and many more. – DaG Aug 30 '16 at 20:29
  • Honestly I would need to be coerced to read D'Annunzio. I understand his poetry has its qualities, but he always seemed to me to be a very overrated author. – Denis Nardin Aug 31 '16 at 14:23
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A book that I enjoyed using as a beginner is The Berlitz Self-Teacher - Italian.

  • it has a slow, gradual approach.
  • every line of text is presented in 3 parts: Italian, how to pronounce the Italian (Doh-VEH eel seen-YOHR...), and its English translation (I like this design).
  • it was written in 1950. It uses the formal 'Lei' more often than in modern Italian. In addition, a few words here and there have fallen out of fashion, but that's not a big deal.
  • it's very much oriented towards conversational Italian.
  • it has minimal amounts of formal grammar.
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  • I believe the OP was asking about a reading book they could tackle with a basic knowledge of Italian, not a book to learn it. – DaG Sep 4 '16 at 7:51
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There are several graded reading series wiht many interesting books:

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