Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “In Other Words” as Want to Read:
In Other Words
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

In Other Words

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  10,821 ratings  ·  1,826 reviews
From the Pulitzer Prize winner, a surprising, powerful, and eloquent nonfiction debut

In Other Words is at heart a love story—of a long and sometimes difficult courtship, and a passion that verges on obsession: that of a writer for another language. For Jhumpa Lahiri, that love was for Italian, which first captivated and capsized her during a trip to Florence after college.
Hardcover, 233 pages
Published February 9th 2016 by Knopf (first published January 28th 2015)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about In Other Words, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Mary Nope. I finished it, and found this to be true throughout. I, too, speak two languages, and my second is Italian, so I really wanted to like this book…moreNope. I finished it, and found this to be true throughout. I, too, speak two languages, and my second is Italian, so I really wanted to like this book. However, I found it one long, tedious exercise in self-examination.(less)
Bonnie I used it as a dual language book. It starts easy, in her careful beginner language, pretty much just present tense, then gets more and more fluent. Y…moreI used it as a dual language book. It starts easy, in her careful beginner language, pretty much just present tense, then gets more and more fluent. You can see when she's discovered a new word or tense she likes, because she uses it a lot for a while.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,821 ratings  ·  1,826 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of In Other Words
Ahmad Sharabiani
In Altre Parole = In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri

From the Pulitzer Prize winner, a surprising, powerful and eloquent non-fiction debut. In Other Words is at heart a love story--of a long and sometimes difficult courtship, and a passion that verges on obsession: that of a writer for another language. For Jhumpa Lahiri, that love was for Italian, which first captivated and capsized her during a trip to Florence after college. And although Lahiri studied Italian for many years afterward, true mastery
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jhumpa Lahiri first entered the literary fiction scene with her Pulitzer Prize winning Interpreter of Maladies in 2000. A collection of short stories set in India and the United States, Maladies tugged at the reader's heartstrings. Since Maladies, Lahiri has gone on to write three full length novels. Yet, while grappling whether to set her stories in the United States or India, Lahiri set off to learn an additional language: Italian. In Other Words written entirely in Italian while living in Ita ...more
Elyse  Walters
Nov 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
'Holy-cow- snoopy- lupi- fluky'!!! I had 'no' idea what Lahiri
was up to since reading "Lowland", having just finished it days ago.
A bombshell just dropped from the heavens!!!

The writing is gorgeous - and intimate. I'm incredibly inspired......a little sad...( yet I'm not sure 'who' I'm sad for). Mostly, Jhumpa Lahiri rocked my boat & razzle-dazzled me!

Jhumpa Lahiri literally turned her life upside down & inside out....taking her family with her. This is a woman who is not afraid to feel 'fea
Jul 29, 2017 added it
Shelves: 2017, echoes
The most interesting character in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake is a young woman whose parents emigrated to Boston from Bengal. She speaks two languages, English and Bengali, and when she decides to study a third at university, she chooses French. Moushumi, we are told in the novel, approached French, unlike American or Indian, without guilt, or misgiving, or expectation of any kind. It was easier to turn her back on the two countries that could claim her in favour of one that had no claim whatso ...more
I realize that the wish to write in a new language derives from a kind of desperation. I feel tormented, just like Verga’s songbird. Like her, I wish for something else — something that I probably shouldn’t wish for. But I think that the need to write always comes from desperation, along with hope. Jhumpa Lahiri

Twenty-one summers ago I was finishing up one graduate degree in International Affairs and preparing to start a second one in Linguistics, moving from an inquiry into the effects women's
Iris P
In Other Words

 photo jhumpa-lahiri_zpsttcg0gmv.png
Jhumpa Lahiri was born Nilanjana Sudeshna to Bengali Indian immigrants in London, she and her family moved to the United States when she was three years old

"Here was a woman, a translator, who wanted to be another person. There was no precise reason. It had always been that way. She considered herself imperfect, like the first draft of a book. She wanted to produce another version of herself, in the same way that she could transform a text from one language into another."

When I finished this book, I immediately wondered if Jhumpa Lahiri’s next novel would be in Italian.

What a funny idea to come up with a full book solely engaged with her reasoning for wanting to learn Italian and her experiences while doing it. Granted, wanting to learn Italian on my part is why I decided to read it. The bilingual set up, (view spoiler)
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, languages, italian
Jhumpa Lahiri won a shedload of prizes and acclaim for her first three books, but in 2012, after writing The Lowland, she took a strange and drastic decision: to abandon the English language altogether. And this was not a case of returning to a smaller, more ‘authentic’ first language, like Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's rejection of English in favour of Kikuyu – no, Lahiri decided henceforth to immerse herself, as reader and writer, in Italian, a language of which she was no more than a student.

So complet
Chihoe Ho
Jan 28, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Where was the romance in learning a new language? I didn't think I'd be asking this question constantly while reading "In Other Words," and as much as I love Jhumpa Lahiri and her past works, this was a sorely disappointing bore.

So, talk about talking in circles! "In Other Words" felt like the same point presented in various ways, ways in which Lahiri flexed and improved upon her Italian fluency. Maybe it reads better in that language than English and was lost in translation, or maybe the very s
Jun 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
[4+] Lahiri's essays about her transformation from a writer who writes in English to one who writes in Italian, struck me on a visceral level. She writes beautifully and with vulnerability about her decision to restart her career from scratch. As Lahiri says about her book: It recounts an uprooting, a state of disorientation, a discovery. It recounts a journey that is at times exciting, at times exhausting. An absurd journey, given that the traveler never reaches her destination. For me, this is ...more
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
lingua come una marea, ora un'inondazione, ora bassa, inaccessibile

There are two writers whose stories are similar to stories I'd aspire to write: Jhumpa Lahiri and Chimamanda Adichie. They write about the immigrant experience, of characters who have overcome obstacles, of those who strive to simply find some soupçon of success in foreign lands. Writers like Lahiri reveal the immigrant's challenges and successes with assimilation in new cultures. So of course it was a delight to read the autobio
I'm an administrator in a language school. Every year I see hundreds of people struggling, just as Jhumpa Lahiri describes, with a new language. Most our students come from abroad to immerse themselves in English, but many are US citizens, serious about learning (last year alone) Chinese, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Russian, Tagalog, Thai or Urdu.

Lahiri writes of the process: the tutors, the notebooks, the many prepositions and tenses, making mistakes, misinterpreting
Jan 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a love story.

But it’s not a traditional love story. It’s the story of a Pulitzer-prize winning author – Jhumpa Lahiri – who fell in love with the Italian language.

I need to stop and own up to my biases going in to this book. My initial feeling, after hearing that Ms. Lahiri was going to write a book in Italian, translated not by herself but by Ann Goldstein, struck me as enormously self-indulgent. Worse, I felt almost betrayed; I loved Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories and hated that she no
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a lovely memoir about Jhumpa Lahiri's obsession with learning Italian. She's been studying it for years, immersing herself in Italian lessons and culture, and this book is a collection of stories about her experiences. The book itself is printed in both English and Italian, which is a nice benefit to others interested in learning the language.

"In Other Words" is a very personal story, and fans of Lahiri's novels may appreciate this glimpse into the author's real life. Recommended.

Julie Ehlers
As someone who tried to learn French at age 40, only to find that her brain was (surprise, surprise) not the absorbent sponge it was when she was 14, I was interested in how things went for Jhumpa Lahiri in her quest to learn Italian. But that's not quite what this memoir is about. Sure, it's about learning Italian, but more than that it's about the creative rejuvenation Lahiri experiences when she decides to write fiction in Italian. The new sense of discovery she experiences in that process wa ...more
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Others have referred to this book as describing Lahiri’s love affair with Italian, but I sometimes wondered if it wasn’t more of a “fatal attraction” level of obsession. I found the book oddly devoid of joy and completely lacking in humor. Her experience of the Italian language feels very interior and isolated. It’s geared to learning more about herself rather than connecting to other people. She writes of wanting to be understood, but not of understanding. There were moments when I seriously th ...more
Mariah Roze
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this book for the Goodreads' book club Diversity in All Forms! If you would like to participate in the discussion here is the link:

This book is all about the author's love for learning the language of Italian and everything she did to make that happen. She moved to Italy and wrote this book in Italian. (I read the English version).

This book had some interesting points, but probably should have ended a lot sooner. It seemed the author didn't have m
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really admire Lahiri's commitment to writing in Italian, and this was a fascinating exercise in and examination of testing one's ability to adopt a new language. Her metaphors are illuminating and helpful guides to better understand her interior state while working through the difficulties of learning said new language. Now I'm eager to read the (hopefully) eventual translation of her first novel written fully in Italian! ...more
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
My initial contact with this book of Lahiri’s came when I read “Teach Yourself Italian,” her article in the December 7, 2015 copy of The New Yorker. That article contained early versions of four of the twenty-four chapters that are contained in In Other Words. The article completely captivated me. I had already known that Lahiri was interested in learning Italian, but the depths of the process had never been so completely clarified. For me, reading that article, the real news was the final line ...more
Jan 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
My review has been Updated Mar 8, 2016; To include comments on the audio. This was a perplexing book from a favorite author of mine. She had a love affair with the Italian language! Not so much the people, the country, the food (mama Mia ), but the language. Okay that's fine. She wanted to immerse herself in it. Learn it, absorb it, think and dream in it, as if she was born to it. She became a woman obsessed with this task. So she AND her family MOVED to Italy for 2 years so she could accomplish ...more
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing

'In Other Words' is a kind of book that I love reading. It is a deep meditation on words, life, literature, and being in the world. She wrote this book in Italian. On each left page is the Italian text, and on the corresponding right page is the English translation. Any English speaking person who loves Italian, such a book might be an immense source of delight. One can read two books in one.

The book almost feels like a shimmering river flowing in its full glory. Since I knew that the English tr
This was my first introduction to the Indian (Bengali) writer Jhumpa Lahiri (° 1967), who has already gained some fame with literature in English. In this book she describes how she made the "crossing" (literally) to Italian, a language that got under her skin for reasons that were at first unclear to her. Her obsession and passion for this new language grew so strong that she actually moved to Italy in 2011 and started writing in Italian. This difficult transition is described in detail and at ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it liked it
As a former journalist who has studied a foreign language, lived abroad, and spent considerable time in Italy, I enjoyed Jhumpa Lahiri's exploration of the themes of exile and finding a new voice in her writing through another language (in her case, a third). This slim volume, translated from her new-found Italian to English, her language of core competency, reflects the often staccato style of a foreign speaker, which felt repetitive at first. That's forgivable, because Lahiri makes you co-pilo ...more
A few months back, I began planning for a vacation to a foreign country, tentatively scheduled for March/ April. This time suited me professionally as my work commitments were a tad less tight. My brother, who generally makes it to these family vacations, was not to make it this time due to his other engagements. The trip was planned and I was all ready to take off. Just a week before I was scheduled to fly, my brother called up and with reference to the trip, asked simply this one question, “Wo ...more
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
"I identify with the imperfect [tense] because a sense of imperfection has marked my life."

1.5 stars. This is when I wish that Goodreads would show half stars in their ratings, because as much as I applaud Jhumpa Lahiri for her incredible undertaking, this book lacked serious depth for me. I read two of Lahiri's novels (Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake) a long time ago and I remember being impressed and taken in by her fiction. Her current attempt to write a memoir, translated from h
Apr 01, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle
Me and Italian language go way back. In fact, ours has become a long-lasting relationship even though I have often neglected him along the way – English has always been of greater use, and then I met German who I had to get close to. Not to forget Bulgarian who was there from the start.

I have love stories with all of the above mentioned languages. And these are some colourful and passionate stories. I could sit down and put them to paper.

But I am not called Jhumpa Lahiri.
Nobody would care. My
Stacey D.
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A book of exceptional depth and insight. I'm amazed at Lahiri's dedication to Italian, after many years and many arduous attempts at learning the language in America, she uproots her family and moves from Brooklyn to Rome in her desire to become immersed in the language. Self-indulgent? Sure. But then, to write such a deep novel in Italian after only two years of living there! While she states that it is autobiographical, the memoir is thoroughly imbued with her ongoing ambivalence and self-doub ...more
Renate Flynn
I greatly appreciated Jhumpa's (because of the intimacy and vulnerability displayed by the author in this book, I feel that we are on a first-name basis) need in this book to bare her heart and tell the story of wrestling with her identity, the Italian language, and the inter-meshing of the two. It is the best of travel missives; she shares with us and herself (for it often reads as if a journal) her need to be in Italy, her need to only write in Italian, her need to be in Italy in order to disc ...more
There was a time in my life, when I was learning Sanskrit in Class 10, I made an effort to write poetry. The decision to write poetry was not because of a sudden discovery of my (non-existent) creative prowess, but it was due to the discovery of a new language to express my thoughts in. I made a conscious effort to get those poems written using my simple and limited vocabulary and despite getting a lot of satisfaction I felt there was something key missing. I was not able to pinpoint what exactl ...more
Washington Post
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Jhumpa Lahiri lived with her family in Rome in 2012. Though she had studied Italian for 20 years, as part of her “full immersion” into the Italian language, she now kept a kind of philological notebook, full of vocabulary, phrases, rules of grammar... and now we have the memoir, “In Other Words,” which Lahiri, one of the most intellectually elegant novelists in the world, composed in Italian.

Words like “enduring” and “indispensable” should be saved for only the rarest literary achievements, and
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Diversity in All ...: In Other Words (February 2018) 4 46 Mar 05, 2018 06:32AM  
Around the Year i...: In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri 1 20 May 05, 2016 07:30AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • La mia casa è dove sono
  • Ama il tuo sogno: Vita e rivolta nella terra dell'oro rosso
  • It’s a Wonderful Life: Roads to Happiness
  • My Life as a Fake
  • Boule de Suif
  • چشم سگ
  • Second Place
  • The Measure of Our Lives: A Gathering of Wisdom
  • Let Me Tell You What I Mean
  • To the Warm Horizon
  • All You Who Sleep Tonight: Poems
  • Artemisia
  • Pasta Per Due
  • La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language
  • Une année studieuse
  • A Wave
  • Bread, Cement, Cactus: A Memoir of Belonging and Dislocation
  • دو دنیا
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Nilanjana Sudeshna "Jhumpa" Lahiri was born in London and brought up in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Brought up in America by a mother who wanted to raise her children to be Indian, she learned about her Bengali heritage from an early age.

Lahiri graduated from South Kingstown High School and later received her B.A. in English literature from Barnard College in 1989. She then received multiple d

Related Articles

  The United States of America is an awfully big place. Sensibly, we chopped it into states a long time ago. This simplifies...
616 likes · 198 comments
“The more I feel imperfect, the more I feel alive.” 51 likes
“Imperfection inspires invention, imagination, creativity. It stimulates. The more I feel imperfect, the more I feel alive.” 34 likes
More quotes…