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Tim Parks's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Tim Parks recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Tim Parks's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Garden of the Finzi Continis

This is a haunting, elegiac novel which captures the mood and atmosphere of Italy (and in particular Ferrara) in the last summers of the thirties, focusing on an aristocratic Jewish family moving imperceptibly towards its doom. Vittorio De Sica turned the book into a film in 1970, winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1974. less
Recommended by Tim Parks, Simon Mawer, and 2 others.

Tim ParksOf all the books that I have selected…this is the easiest to read as a novel and it’s the one that has the classic novel plot that will engage even the most ardent lovers of popular fiction. (Source)

Simon MawerThis is one of the greatest books that I know. It is beautifully done. There is an anonymous narrator who is clearly based on Giorgio Bassani’s own experiences. Again, it is an oblique look at the fate of European Jews. (Source)

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The Moon and the Bonfires

The nameless narrator of The Moon and the Bonfires, Cesare Pavese's last and greatest novel, returns to Italy from California after the Second World War. He has done well in America, but success hasn't taken the edge off his memories of childhood, when he was an orphan living at the mercy of a bitterly poor farmer. He wants to learn what happened in his native village over the long, terrible years of Fascism; perhaps, he even thinks, he will settle down. And yet as he uncovers a secret and savage history from the war—a tale of betrayal and reprisal, sex and death—he finds that the past... more
Recommended by Tim Parks, and 1 others.

Tim ParksPavese was a very difficult young man with all kinds of problems – above all, problems with women. He never really had a happy relationship with a woman. His notebooks are full of discussion about premature ejaculation and the difficulty of ever having a mature relationship with anybody. He became quite an important translator very early on in his life. He translated [James Joyce’s] A Portrait of... (Source)

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Arturo's Island

On a small Island in the Tyrrhenian Sea there lives a boy as innocent as a seabird. Arturo's mother is dead; his father away. Black-clad women care for him, give him the freedom to come and go as he likes. Then the father returns with a new wife, Nunziata, a girl barely older than Arturo. At first hatred and contempt are all the boy feels for his stepmother. In time, Arturo and Nunziata re-create the tragedy and passion that are as old as the history of men and women. less
Recommended by Tim Parks, and 1 others.

Tim ParksThis is Elsa Morante’s great book. (Source)

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Zeno's Conscience

This enormously engaging, strange novel is both an engrossing saga of a family and a hilarious account of addiction and failure as its helpless hero, notionally undergoing psychiatric help, manages spectacularly to fail to give up smoking, run his business or make sense of his private life.

A hymn to self-delusion and procrastination ZENO'S CONSCIENCE has provoked enormous affection in its readers both in Italian and English since its first publication in the 1920s.
Recommended by Tim Parks, and 1 others.

Tim ParksLet’s make a quick comment about Svevo. Svevo was not his real name. His real name was Schmitz and he grew up as a German speaker in the area of Trieste where there was a big linguistic mix, so Italian was his second language. He had written a number of books which he self-published, which was quite common at that time, and received no attention at all really, so he was a failure in that regard.... (Source)

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Little Novels of Sicily

First Published in a single volume in 1883, the stories collected in Little Novels of Sicily are drawn from the Sicily of Giovanni Verga's childhood, reported at the time to be the poorest place in Europe. Verga's style is swift, sure, and implacable; he plunges into his stories almost in midbreath, and tells them with a stark economy of words. There's something dark and tightly coiled at the heart of each story, an ironic, bitter resolution that is belied by the deceptive simplicity of Verga's prose, and Verga strikes just when the reader's not expecting it.

Translator D....
Recommended by Tim Parks, and 1 others.

Tim ParksVerga is simply one of the great narrators of all time and his novellas are probably among the best pieces of fiction written in Italy, ever. Given my intense admiration of this guy and my feeling that these stories cannot help but impress, then it seemed such an obvious choice to me. (Source)

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