Donnie Brasco: My undercover life in the Mafia
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Donnie Brasco: My undercover life in the Mafia

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  3,053 ratings  ·  109 reviews
The author, Joseph D. Pistone, spent six years of his life as an undercover FBI agent working ostensibly for the mafia. He was able to testify against his mafia bosses and indict 200 of them. This is his incredible story.
Paperback, 413 pages
Published 2006 by Hodder (first published 1987)
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Thomas
I know this book is a watershed in the history of Mob literature, and that Pistone's investigatory efforts were a breaking point for the Mob. But this book of his just leaves me dozing. I don't know what it is; maybe he's just a boring guy. Everyone blathers on about how great this book is, but I don't get it. It was made into a far worse movie, incidentally. One of the things the book does have going for it is that Pistone explains at great length what undercover agents can and can't do. Sawing...more
Trish
Cool. Good. Un-romantic. Not psychologically insightful, by design. Pistone spent so many years undercover, separated from his family, working on taking the Mob down, and he categorically states that the experience didn't affect him emotionally. Just a job. I think that's a great example of compartmentalization, if I may be so bold to presume; and he sure had to be capable of it to get through this experience successfully. So the movie goes the other direction, obviously, as the drama is of the...more
Joel
One of my favorite books. It read like a movie and being a fan of Mafia history, this was informative. I often recommend this to students who are trying to get into reading, but hate reading big novels. They like the story line. The movie butchered the book.
Joe Stamber
I read this some years after seeing the excellent movie adaptation of Pistone's tale. The book is a fascinating insight into JDP's undercover life and how he became so immersed that the boundaries blurred. It's not very often that a bio keeps me rivetted, but this one did. An excellent book and an excellent movie.
Zachary Stewart
This isn't really my thing. The writing is quite poor and repetitive, which may be based on its real event sources. It does give some insight into how organized crime really works.
On a side note, it is amazing how much information on the current mafia exists on wikipedia.
Joy
Great book and the movie is faithful to the book as well. I recommend reading the book first. The movie is excellent though.
Heikki
I first ran into this book when an excerpt of it was inserted in "The Mammoth Book of the Mafia". At that time I read it as just a short peek into the life of the wiseguys, but when I bought my Kindle, I downloaded a sample of it and then bought the book.

Joe Pistone, an FBI agent, didn't really aim for six years in the Mafia, far from it. He started a six-month undercover stint into the stolen trucks business, trying to get a crack into the organized racket. What happened was that his undercover...more
Pablo Pachalian
Many people are into reading books like Hunger Games and I'm observing a big trend in the Fantasy genre. Something that the book Donnie Brasco written by FBI Agent Joseph D. Pistone isn't. This book brings the reader into the menacing life of an FBI Undercover agent, who has to infiltrate himself in the mafia. All and everything inside the book is a true story, from his connection with Tony Mirra to Milwukee mafia vending-machines. This is the type of book that only interest readers that like c...more
Rajit
Jul 20, 2014 Rajit rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: True Crime/Mafia Story Fans
Im glad I got to read this book. I thought it was boring in the beginning but I stuck with it and what do I know.. it just blew me away. Joseph Pistone a.k.a Donnie Brasco is a brave and smart man to be able to infiltrate as deeply as he did in the mafia without getting caught or killed. Pistone definitely had a great balance and he knew how to tread his way in and get his job done. However, I kinda felt bad for Lefty. I think Lefty did a lot to protect and keep Donnie under his wing. I believe...more
Justin Hebert
Great read for people who like true crime and real-life accounts of the Mafia, but not terribly accessible. Conversations often read like transcriptions, there's a real lack of narrative structure, and a lot of unnecessary details that often bog down the prose. Again, if you really like Mafia stuff, you'll probably enjoy it in spite of these shortfalls, but if you're looking for a more coherent, focused narrative, look somewhere else.
Landon
Joe Pistone spent 6 years as an undercover agent for the FBI, working to gather intelligence on the Mafia. Up to that point in time, the FBI had never done an undercover mission lasting more than a few weeks. Pistone's mission was scheduled to last 6 months, and ended up lasting 6 years. Joe Pistone, under the alias "Donnie Brasco" gathered enough evidence to put over a hundred members of the mafia behind bars with sentences ranging between 20 and 100 years. Several mafia members (the ones who w...more
Katherine
I read this book because I have something of a fascination with the mafia and, more specifically, with American law enforcement's efforts to break it up. The story of Joe Pistone, the FBI agent who went undercover as Donnie Brasco, is as good a tale of any on that front. The book itself was imperfect: it reads as though Pistone is talking into a tape recorder, so the writing isn't exactly elegant, and his story, particularly in the beginning, has the feel of law enforcement, this happened, then...more
Mark
Book about how an undercover FBI agent infiltrated the mob, later made into a movie. Interesting to say the least, the story could write itself because Pistone is not himself a very good writer. It’s basically a very good recollection of the change of events of his time in the mob, including some mob subtleties which I hadn’t realized. It should be a good recollection because he’s got the conversations on tape, and some are included in the audio book though I didn’t really like that part. In any...more
Chris
I found Donnie Brasco to be an excellent story, very entertaining and enlightening. I must admit that toward the end, he seemed to get a bit pedantic about some of the conversations, etc - but I generally found the style enjoyable. It is easy to see what Mike Newell saw in the material when he decided to make the movie. Brasco is an engaging character and Pistone's story is intense, gritty and real.
Wilde Sky
This book details the true story of an FBI agent who went undercover in the Mafia.

I found this book really fascinating, but in some places it was difficult to follow what was going on and it felt repetitive.
Tim Hand
Initially engrossing but grew a bit monotonous. The mafia speak, especially of Lefty Guns, was fascinating at first but ultimately mind numbing.
It is interesting just how firmly embedded wise guys were in some NYC neighborhoods that are currently heavily gentrified and cleansed of that element.

Pistone's work, while related in a very dry fashion, was truly artful; develop trusting relationships with basically untrusting figures while staying, mostly, within a legal framework, ultimately used to...more
Steven Scaffardi
The term ‘blew me away’ is perhaps used far too often when it comes to book reviews, but I can safely say that this is one book that left me truly astonished and open-mouthed with every page turn. Special FBI Agent Jospeh. D Pistone spent five years working undercover as a mafia associate in the Bonnano New York crime family. A film was made in 1997 based on his life starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino, but like most films based on books, you only get half the story on the big screen.

To read the...more
Harut Musaderyan
I picked this book because I have plenty of interests in the mafia, and I learn about them. This book is about a undercover FBI agent that infiltrates the Mob. My favorite quote in the book is when the black male criminal turned to Joseph and said "you got to be eye-talian" I like this quote because it is very hilarious, when I first read it I was laughing for a while. I really liked the authors writing style because it was 1st point of view and it tells the story of how he witnessed it and it...more
Tom
Jul 19, 2007 Tom rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: goodfellas
A cracking read - wiseguys, semi-wiseguys, bums and cops all fight for Donnie Brasco's attention as he goes deep undercover to infiltrate the Mafia. he touches on the strains this put on his own family, but there is great detail in the growing sense of family as he is welcomed closer into the body of the Cosa Nostra. Throughout, he battles against the police bureaucracy that limits what he can do, get funds, take part in, report on - but he triumphs in the end, and is rewarded with life under Wi...more
English
As a fan of gangster movies, I found this book amazing. If you want an insight into the world of the Mafia, read this book. Beware though, it will shatter many illusions people have from watching too many movies, it definitely did for me! This book reveals that Mafia members are largely a group of thieves who are only interested in making money, ripping each other off and killing people with wild abandon. I simply could not believe that an undercover operative would sacrifice six years of his li...more
Devon Kotch
I read this book as some insight into what the real mafia is like and I definitely got a better picture. The thing is, though it is a real-life account, things got dull for me. Where I was expecting a high-action book (because that’s the generalized picture of the mafia), what I got was long spaces of time with just talk and absolutely no action.

The book was fairly well-written; it was one of those where the author’s diction came through but fanciful descriptions were few and far between. Not o...more
Mary Anne
Language got a bit tiring, but interesting when one considers how long he was undercover. Curious as to his situation now. Will have to Google.
Nedda
wow, I really thought this was gonna be better than this. Disappointing!
ghostlibrarian
I started reading this books some time ago after seeing the movie. It describes Joe Pistone's life as FBI undercover agent, Donnie Brasco. Now I want to see the movie again to compare the two stories. The book was pretty good but some of the conversations were hard to follow. They also got a little boring. It was interesting to see in the update at the end that Pistone thought many of his mob "conversations were mind-numbing."

In general this was a good book about real American hero, even though...more
Penny
I have no recall of how I acquired this book. I think I've had it for a long time, but just never got around to reading it till lately. The FBI agent who infiltrated the mafia was (is) an extradinarily brave man. His family went through hell too, as he was leading this double-life for years.

I'm sure it is a fascinating story - but I didn't find it in this particular volume. It seemed flat. I hate to say it was boring - the subject is anything but.

Didn't see the movie.
Brian
Not too many surprises here. It is, big surprise, different from the movie. The Al Pacino character - Lefty - is not the sad case in the movie. Pretty impressive to spend six years undercover, but the Brasco/Pistone family really got the short end of the stick.

What was really weird was reading a mass market paperback book. I can't remember the last time I read a book that size. (When I read true crime, I read hardback true crime because I'm fancy like that.)
Hannah
What can I say? This book was everything you would expect: interesting, yet not particularly well-written. I am curious to see the movie (which I always liked) again and compare; I think that some of the major players in the book were condensed for film purposes and I can't decide which I found more likeable- the real ones or the characters based on them. Either way, an interesting look at FBI undercover work and the mafia, of course.
TD
The book was "clunky" to read at times but the in depth description of agency work was fascinating. There was so much more to the story than the movie portrayed and it was good to hear it from Agent Pistone's perspective. It is a rather dry read and there wasn't too much action in the sense of a "traditional mafia book" but it kept me motivated enough to finish it. If the movie got you curious then you certainly should give this a whirl.
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