5 Must-Read Italian Books for Beginners

by Rosemarie Hardison
italian books for beginners

Among all the languages English speakers can learn, Italian is often considered one of the easiest.

Unlike Russian, Japanese, and Arabic, which take thousands of hours to learn, you only need approximately 80 to 120 hours to reach beginner fluency in Italian, and about 240 to 360 hours to reach intermediate fluency.

To help you with your journey, I’ve selected some of the best Italian books for beginners you can buy today.

How Does the Italian Grading System Work?

Depending on your level of education, Italy uses two different grading systems.

Primary and Secondary School

In primary and secondary school, a 10-point scale is used. The score table is as follows:

  • 9 to 10 – Ottimo (Excellent), A+
  • 8 to 8.99 – Distinto (With Distinction), A
  • 7 to 7.99 Buono (Good), B
  • 6 to 6.99 Sufficiente (Sufficient), C
  • 0 to 5.99 Respinto (Fail), F

If a student receives an insufficient grade average (5 or below) at the end of the year, he or she must take a reparatory exam just before the new school year begins. If the student didn’t pass the respiratory exam, he or she must repeat the same year.

Similarly, a student who has more than three insufficient subject marks must repeat the year if he or she failed the reparatory exam.

University Level

Universities follow a 30-point scale system. For the final assessment, they use a 110-point scale.

The university score table appears as follows:

  • 29 to 30 – Ottimo (Cum Laude, with honors and commendations) A+
  • 27 to 28.99 – Molto Buono (Very Good), A
  • 24 to 26.99 –Buono (Good), B
  • 19 to 23.99- Soddisfacente (Satisfactory), C
  • 18 to 18.99 – Sufficiente (Sufficient), D
  • 0 to 17.99 – Respinto (Fail), F

5 Best Italian Books for Beginners

Here are five of the best Italian books you can read as a beginner, from vocabulary books to in-depth graphic novels.

1. Practice Makes Perfect: Complete Italian All-in-One

Available in Kindle and paperback, the Complete Italian All-in-One is drawn from five of the company’s best-selling Italian workbooks.

It features everything you need to know about vocabulary, verb tenses, grammar, and much more.

The degree of difficulty in this book progresses at a comfortable pace so you’ll never get lost or confused. It also regularly touches on previously-learned topics to keep your knowledge fresh throughout the lessons.

2. Italian Short Stories for Beginners

This book features 20 interesting short stories to help you improve your Italian vocabulary.

With just under 200 pages, the book not only gives you a story to read; it also lists the most relevant vocabulary used in the lessons, as well as slang and sayings you may not have encountered in traditional beginner books.

At the end of every story, your reading comprehension will be tested through a series of questions in Italian.

All 20 stories feature realistic dialogue and day-to-day situations you’ll likely encounter on your trip to Italy. Best of all, it’s available in Audible, allowing you to study while exercising or cleaning.

3. Il Marchese Solchi

Il Marchese Solchi is a fast-paced graphic novel that uses basic everyday vocabulary to express the illustrated action and dialogue.

The summary of this book is deceptively simple: the Marquis must please the queen at any cost, regardless of the price to pay.

Although somewhat lurid, this graphic novel is easy-to-follow and understand. It’s a fantastic page-turner that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.

Do keep in mind that this book is for people aged 13 and above, as it has some scenes that aren’t suitable for young readers.

4. L’amica Geniale

L’amica Geniale, translated as “My Brilliant Friend,” is a 311-page coming-of-age novel that’ll captivate you from start to finish.

It tells the story of two friends growing up in a poor neighborhood in Naples in the 1950s. Once you have the basics of Italian down, it’s relatively easy to read and follow.

L’amica Geniale was adapted into an eight-episode drama on November 18, 2018, so you can watch the show as soon as you finish reading the novel.

5. Le Avventure di Pinocchio: Storia di un Burattino

Who hasn’t heard of The Adventures of Pinocchio?

This heartwarming and witty tale of a puppet that wants to be a real boy was originally written by Italian author Carlo Collodi. This book features the complete original text in Italian and English, and includes over 130 drawings by Enrico Mazzanti, the original illustrator of the 1883 book.

This version of Le Avventure di Pinocchio is told in side-by-side Italian and English text to make learning a simple affair.

How to Read Italian Books

Here are a few tips to help you read Italian books:

Don’t Look Up Every Unknown Word

The Italian language is filled with prepositions, connectors, and subjunctives, which sometimes makes it hard to follow. However, as a beginner, looking up every unfamiliar sentence structure or word will deprive you of the pleasure of reading Italian books.

For this reason, it’s better to make an “educated guess” at the meaning of the word as you go.

Read at Your Level

Don’t just read any Italian book you come across. Search for a book that corresponds with your reading level and go from there. If the first few pages make sense, it’s safe to pick up and read. Make sure it piques your interest, too, so you won’t abandon it after several chapters.

Learn to Pronounce Italian Letters

The English alphabet has 26 letters, but the Italian alphabet, i.e., l’alfabeto Italiano, only has 21.

Although the English and Italian alphabets share the same letters, they’re not pronounced the same way. For instance, the letter “E” is pronounced like “Ey” and the letter “H” is pronounced, “Ah-Ca.”

While reading Italian books, make sure you’re pronouncing the letters and the words correctly. If possible, search for a book that comes with a narration.


Italian is closely related to other easy-to-learn languages such as French, Portuguese, and Spanish, so anyone can learn with a bit of dedication. With the books and learning tips above, you’ll reach fluency in no time. Buona Fortuna!

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