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.
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;
"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.
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.
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 DeAndré 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).
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.