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The Italians

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  1,605 ratings  ·  195 reviews
Washington Post bestseller
Los Angeles Times bestseller

A vivid and surprising portrait of the Italian people from an admired foreign correspondent

How did a nation that spawned the Renaissance also produce the Mafia? And why does Italian have twelve words for coat hanger but none for hangover?
John Hooper’s entertaining and perceptive new book is the ideal companion for a
Paperback, 316 pages
Published January 19th 2016 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2015)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
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 ·  1,605 ratings  ·  195 reviews

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Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world
This book got off to a poor start - I didn't enjoy the first two chapters, the first which dealt with the geography of Italy. All in all I found the whole book a bit pedestrian. To be honest I got more from Tobias Jones' book "The Dark Heart of Italy"

The problem may well be me. This book was written by a correspondent for The Economist and The Guardian, who was based in Rome for 15 years. You don't get much more qualified than that. Plus it received outsta
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Since I’m Italian, I gravitated toward John Hooper’s “The Italians” and was convinced I would love it. So, I was really surprised when I didn’t. The best parts of this book were Hooper’s personal stories that took place when he was in Italy. His experience brought the “new perspective” touted on the back of the back cover of the book to life in the pages. This is why I felt that Chapter three should have been the first Chapter- the book should have started with a bang rather than the dry facts o ...more
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: traveling
After living, working and studying in Milan for 3 years I thought I knew Italians and I do, to some degree. And that is exactly why I loved this book. John Hooper does something I couldn't do while living there. I always sense so many things about Italians but I was not sure weather it was only me or there was something about them. The way they behave, relate to each other, eat, dance, talk, conspire and live their lives was quite unique. Most of the time I was upset with them, unable to unlock ...more
When I first received notification I won an ARC copy of this book from Goodreads First Reads, I was exited. I have Italian ancestry and hoped to learn more about my heritage. This book did not fulfill that goal. It serves as a commentary on the current Italian society. Historical tidbits were worked in only when it helped explain something current.

The author is not Italian, but lives in Italy as a foreign reporter. His love for Italy shines through and much of his commentary is based on his expe
Lynn Demsky
Dec 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: an one enjoying history, travelers
Recommended to Lynn by: won from goodreads
I enjoyed this book very much! I know very little about the Italians except for their love of pasta, they have or had the mob! This book taught me so much about the country, the peoples --- and I have NEVER had so much fun reading a history book! It made me smile, chuckle and I now know more then I probably will ever need about Italy and it's people --- but was a pure joy to read!

It school history had been half as much fun we'd all be a lot smarter!
Italo Italophiles
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are fascinated with modern Italy and modern Italians, you might enjoy this book. If you are more interested in the achievements of past Italians in the fields of art, architecture, literature and music, this is not the book for you. If you are a person of faith, especially of the Catholic faith, you may be offended by the author's anti-Catholic and anti-faith bias.

The author is a journalist, so the anecdotes and examples he uses to elucidate the modern Italian's generalized character ofte
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
John Hooper is a journalist who has spent many years living and working in Italy. Previously he worked and lived in Spain and wrote The New Spaniards. The Italians is similar to that book. He takes a big picture view of the country, examining its history, the system of justice, politics, crime (including the Mafia), religion, and so on. Obviously, that's a lot to take on, so it's a survey, not a deep down inspection.

As revealing and informative as I found The Italians, I also found that this br
Sep 29, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through GoodReads FirstReads.
This was an interesting read. The author has a somewhat roundabout way of discussing points, then digressing and coming back to them later, so it has a sort of meandering, professorial style. It's not really a travel guide, and it's not really a memoir, so much as the author's interpretation of various aspects of the national Italian culture (such as privacy, family, and manliness) from the perspective of a bemused but affectionate foreign coresp
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Italy correspondent for The Economist and Southern Europe editor of the Guardian and the Observer, John Hooper writes with authority about a country beset by paradox, where an obsession with bella figura (creating a good impression) goes hand in hand with dietrologia (suspicion of what lies beneath the surface).

Like all attempts to sum up the character of a nation, this one ocasionally falls into generalisations. Italian has no word for accountability, Hooper declares, with a breezy disregard fo
Oct 23, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A Goodreads Giveaway. Thank You!
“The Italians” introduces us to the geographical diversity of Italy and its history. And that is where Mr. Hooper lost me. So many facts listed, one after another. It reads almost like a textbook. The theater of the judicial system in Italy held my attention, but not much more. I may just set aside this book for now and try rereading it again at a later date.
Aug 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since a review noted that this book would explain Italian culture, I picked it up to read to better understand the Italian culture underpinnings demonstrated by my husband. I found explanations of history that explained;
Why family is important
How Catholicism is injected to Christians and non Christians in Italy
Why Italians like to dress well and present themselves in the best light
How they think of themselves as individuals but love to be part of a crowd

I skipped a lot of detail- more than
Oct 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not an Italophile, but am interested in learning about other places, and the audio sample seemed pretty good, so I decided to get this one.

Basically, it's an overview of aspects of Italian culture that have struck the expat author as ... notable: rampant cheating on exams, string resistance to eating foreign foods, wearing sunglasses on cloudy days, the mixed feelings on religion, and so forth; his section on (organized) crime near the end got a bit deep in the weeds for me, but otherwise I
Apr 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've enjoyed reading this book! I can't say I'll remember all of it, but at least my understanding of Italy and the way the country and inhabitants relate to each other and the outside world is a bit enhanced.
(My starting point were a shamefully meager collection of good food- Roman Empire-holiday country-pope-mafia - lampedusa- images)
I must say the book was a nice surprise. Sure, there's bound to be stereotypes in abundance in it, but the topics and chapters ranged to cover a very diverse vi
Apr 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to really like this book. I had traveled to Italy last summer, and really wished I’d read it before the trip. But I thought when I saw at the library, that it was never too late to learn.

The beginning origins of Italy was dry. I skipped the early chapters about the geography as it was hard to follow for a non Italian. The middle kept my attention - lots of interesting history which I’d didn’t know about. Later, bits and bobs of social psychology regarding how and why Italians behaved.
Yury Badalian
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to The Economist background of the author the book "talked" to me the same language - the book itself is not just a list of author's feelings or thoughts but a description of certain problems and characteristics supported by respective facts and statistics. Really enjoyable study ...more
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the perfect book for me exactly now. I am an American with an Italian boyfriend, and this book discussed so many points of discussion and confusion between us, so opinions that I thought were his but turns out are quintessentially Italian. I would 1000% recommend this book for anyone like me, anyone non-Italian (specifically from the US or UK) who is either very close to or living in Italy, otherwise I imagine it would be quite boring. That said, perfect for me, I'm super glad this book ...more
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bissell
Just not my cup of tea right now, though it seems well-written.
Richard Levine
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
A pretty entertaining portrait of modern-day Italy and the "Italian character." John Hooper is the Italy correspondent for The Economist and, not unexpectedly for a book of this type, he often relies on fairly sweeping generalizations to make, or begin making, his points. (Each chapter in the book covers an issue relating to modern Italians: the Catholic church, the family, fashion and style, corruption, the Mafia, etc.) But this bothered me less than I thought it would, probably because (a) he' ...more
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Trump is a modern day Berlusconi. That’s what I took from this book.
Mar 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture
Being the son of two Italian immigrants myself, I was excited to learn more about the cultural heritage of my ancestors. I have to say I was a bit surprised halfway through at the relative depth and cutting nature of the work, very much at odds with the cute pictures of espresso, pasta and shoes that adorn the book's cover. This book has no happy-go-luck romp through the verdant pastures of Italy, nor does it contain a compilation of wise old sayings from a charming old nonno or THE perfect Sund ...more
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
Much as he did in the Spaniards/New Spaniards back in the 1990s, UK journalist Hooper looks to give an overview of the culture of modern Italy with references to its history and politics. It's engaging and easy to read, with a number of interesting asides. Hooper loves to reference, so footnotes rub shoulders with anecdotes, all duly marked, and his tastes are small-c catholic, so he is able to give a fairly broad overview of the times. This makes the book a great resource for anyone wanting a l ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read if you have a genuine interest in Italy and the Italians. There were pages that I found so insightful that I wondered how the author could pick up such subtle nuances in character and expression that the Italians themselves are not even aware of. At times I felt relief, having reached some understanding of myself and why I do or think the way I do in certain areas of life - but of course, I'm Italian! I found some of the chapters particularly entertaining and others not so much but t ...more
Naveed Qazi
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very delightful read about a country with a great cultural past.
I've been living in Italy, amongst Italians, for the past twenty-two years. I wanted to read this book for some answers as to why Italians behave the way they do (because a lot of it really makes no sense to me, even after all these years). All of the observations John Hooper makes are right on target- sorry all you Italo-Americans who might have a different idea- modern Italians are exactly the way described in this book. However, there were no really good answers as to why!! Okay, the author d ...more
Kirsten McKenzie
I read a copy from the library. I now have a library fine because it took me a while to get through it. But...that was because I was trying to absorb it. I loved it. I wanted to take in every word, and understand it fully. What a book.
If you ever felt that you wanted to understand Italy more than what you could glean from Under the Tuscan Sun or from A Room with a View, then this is the book for you.
Rich words. Evocative writing. The author set an amazing scene. If only he'd been my history tea
Elizabeth Dultz
I always try to write reviews for books I win through Goodreads. When entering the drawing for this one, I wasn't sure what to expect from the book, but I was pleasantly surprised. I'm currently taking an anthropology course, and this was a nice counterpoint: a modern 'pop' ethnography. Some evidence he cites doesn't fully substantiate the claims he goes on to make, but the book is well-organized, comprehensive, and--perhaps most important for the reading experience--the enthusiasm he has for hi ...more
James Sorensen
Oct 15, 2014 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book as part of the Goodreads First-Read program.
Holli Krusemark
I won this book as a first read. I thought it was a well researched piece with information that you won't find in a travel guide. It is a more honest Italy than what we get from movies and TV. ...more
Penny Cipolone
A nice follow-up to Luigi Barzini text of the same name. Very up-to-date. A bit slow in sections but quite fascinating in others.
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: next
Interesting analysis of Italy's history, culture, government. It's by the same author as "The New Spaniards". It's written in a mostly detached tone, what you would expect from a British journalist.

Memorable parts:

- There is a lot of nepotism in the Italian government. The government and court system are very slow, so people create workarounds via the mafia and corruption. Corruption was improving after a big sting in the 1990s but then Berlusconi really set things backwards.

- It is hard to do b
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

John Hooper is currently the Rome correspondent for the Economist and the Guardian. Born in 1950, Hooper was educated at St Benedict’s Abbey in London and St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. At the age of eighteen, he travelled to Biafra during the Nigerian civil war to make a television documentary. Since then,

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