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Honor Thy Father

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,136 ratings  ·  83 reviews
A classic masterwork newly updated

The electrifying true story of the rise and fall of New York's notorious Bonanno crime family

On New York's Park Avenue on a rainy Tuesday night in October 1964, the famous Mafia chieftain Joseph Bonanno was kidnapped by two mobsters and reported by the police as dead on the following morning. More than a year later, Bonanno mysteriously re
Paperback, 592 pages
Published April 14th 2009 by Ecco (first published 1971)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,136 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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Manik Sukoco
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
What I love about Gay Talese: his purely journalistic style. Honor Thy Father (1971) told the story of Bill Bonanno, the son of Mafia boss Joe Bonanno. His "fly on the wall" approach was put to the test by the fact that during the six years Talese followed Bonanno, there were long periods when his father was in hiding and Bonanno Jr. was the target of Mafia hitmen. Mr. Talese's insight will do more to help us understand the criminal than any amount of moral recrimination.
Mar 11, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"They had all come to Sicily and done what men do when away from home, and the history of Sicily was a litany of sailor's sins."
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Reena by: Ms. Balmeo
Honor Thy Father by Gay Talese is a well written and reported literary journalism novel about the Mafia. The author has evidently collected a huge amount of research about each incident and character in the novel. The book introduces readers to the tough, exciting world of the Mafia.
Aside from the chapters in the novel, Talese has included a foreword, author's note, and glossary of characters and a couple of phrases to help the reader. There is also a set of pictures to let the reader visualiz
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I read this book back in the '70s right around the time I was reading Puzo's Fortunate Pilgrim and The Godfather. Sylvester Stallone was my hero; I wore a gold horn around my neck and had Italian Regional Cooking by Alda Boni on the shelf in the kitchen.

Sure, I was probably a great big pain in the ass back then, but it hardly mattered to me because I wasn't all that self-aware, either. The '70s were a great time to be alive...
Gay Talese is a great writer, but man, he needed an editor on this book. It's far too long for a largely personal tale of the mafia. That said, Talese's insight into the Bonanno family makes you realize that the Godfather is so accurate that it's frightening. I am glad that I read this book, but I don't think I would recommend it to anyone who isn't really interested in Talese or the mob.
Luke Johnson
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing that it's all true. How a reporter was able to get such access is simply astounding.
Peter Edwards
Made mobsters real, not cartoons. He makes reporting art.
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-books
Great book, but if you come to it expecting the Godfather, you'll be disappointment. However, I did learn quite a lot about the mafia that I didn't know before.
Cheryl Del Colliano
Gay Talese is an excellent writer. I like how he brought the Mafia to life. I would recommend this book to anyone that appreciates a real life story and not just a "made for movie" drama.
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Changed my life in that I believe what Joe Bonanno said about complicity and how the Mafia could not exist without the government tacitly allowing it to.
May 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative and compelling- a true inside look at the families historically involved in organized crime in America
Actually a 3.5 star book. The story starts off on a very interesting note with the alleged kidnapping of Mafia don Joe Bonanno in 1964 and follows the effects that this had on both his real family and his criminal "family." Later we get a history of the Mafia in both Sicily and the US, and some background on Joe's son Bill, who is the primary source for the book. However, at about the halfway point, things start to slow down. Talese (who seems to have been an eyewitness to many events) begins de ...more
Jeff Mayo
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was torn on this. Based on actual events when Gay Talese was given unprecedented access to the mafia through Bill Bonanno, the son of Joe "Bananas" Bonanno, the head of one of the five families of New York. It reads like a report, since Talese was originally a newspaper reporter, but it also reads as a slice of life. Talese tries to show how these criminals, these brutal murderers, are just like you and I. They live as boring of lives as anyone else. It is incredibly interesting and works on s ...more
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great and interesting book about Bill Bonanno during that period of time. Most books are about someone who flipped and shares his life story, but this one is told by a journalist who observed and interviewed Bill and some of his relatives for a number of years.
I really like Talese's writing. He uses long sentences but it's vidid and captivating. Smooth and natural. It reads much faster than Raab's Five Families, for example, and I didn't find it hard to follow at all. Even though some facts a
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book by Gay Talese that I have read ("Unto The Sons" was the first) and I continue to be impressed by the amount of research, honesty, and integrity that his writing style and storytelling ability exudes. The acknowledgment at the end of the book thoroughly explains how he was able to weave all of the personal information (that I originally thought was fabricated, or, at the very least, exaggerated, but Gay Talese, again, did a marvelous job of cluing in the reader and made se ...more
May 11, 2020 rated it liked it
The coronavirus pandemic Stay Home orders has me reaching for all sorts of reading material. Just for something different I pulled my husband's copy of this story of organized crime, specifically the Bonanno family. The book opens on a rainy night in 1964, when Joseph Bonanno mysteriously disappeared. The book follows the story of Bill Bonanno's search for his father and his fight with those that tried to take advantage of the chaos that followed. Those that enjoy mafia movies might enjoy this t ...more
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A study of the Bonanno family, focusing on Salvatore (Bill), and his part in the crime family. Covers his relationship with his father, and his wife and children. Talese wrote the book in cooperation with the family and dedicated it to Bill's children, and it came out just one year after Bill is sent to prison for fraudulent use of a credit card, a minor crime. Shows the rise and decline of the Italian families in their conrol of organized crime, from the early 1920's to the 1970's.
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read in my hark back to the Seventies mafia moment. Talese is proficient if somewhat circuitous writer. The Bonnano family story is fascinating in its way. It downplays the destruction these organizations did to other lives, and romanticizes their code and the suffering they faced from government persecution.
Solomiya Zahray
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
A story of a reporter who befrended the son of Bonnano, on of the top Mafia gangsters in USA mid 20th century.
Its based on real facts and depicts how it is to grow up & live in this structure and realities and the ups and downs of growing up in the father shade. A life not only applicable to criminals.)
Jack R. Baker
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting look at the life of Mafioso and how the association affected their lives.

Four out of five stars. Recommended for those who'd like some insight into the Mafia and how it affected the lives of not only the members but also their familes. Slow-moving read, at times but interesting overall.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fell in love with Talese with Unto the Sons. This is so incredibly different, but wonderful in its own right. I learned a lot and found it very easy to turn page after page with his narrative journalist style.
Jan 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Beginning my new found fandom of Mr Talese, and understanding his complete journalistic nature to cover all basis, this book took me awhile to finish.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting account. Also very readable. The book came out in 1971, I believe, but it has an immediacy that makes it seem quite current.
Vicki O.
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book a long time ago. I had lost the paperback copy and decided to get a Kindle copy. Will probably read it again some day. Gay Talese is a very good writer
Jennifer Uracius
I thought the book was a little boring.
Aug 18, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mafia researches
Dishonor thy literature

If you read The Godfather and Honor Thy Father, you will understand the difference between a Story, with capital S, and a history.
Maybe Mario Puzo was inspired by Bonnano's family, the main figures of the Talese's book, so both publications share anecdotes or mafia way of work. But The Godfather has flow and climax, and you can sympathize with the family. Talese's book is a lot of information that goes to nowhere and the characters are cold. It's lineal, bored and sooooo
Mar 30, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody
Recommended to Suzanne by: Book Club
This book was very hard to get through. It was two to three times as long as it needed to be to convey the amount of information that it did. There was no apparent method of organization for the information, and the same information was often repeated in different places. It was full of tidbits that had nothing to to with the main characters and didn't move the story along. I found the way that the author wrote about the intimate emotions and viewpoints of his subjects to be very offputting, eve ...more
Aug 22, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As part of my family history research, I've read a number of books recently about New York Italians, crime, and the criminal justice system. More than any other, this one clearly describes the relationship between members of the Mafia (which I don't think my ancestors were) and members of the community who were "connected" and helped the Mafia earn money by engaging in illegal activities--which I know at least one of my ancestors did. For that reason, I appreciated this book. At the same time, I ...more
May 06, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: organized-crime
One of the mainstays in the genre of organized crime, it is a large book that says very little.

Author Gay Talese is talented in writting up oral histories. To this end, he explores the thoughts and emotions of Bill Bonanno as he sought to aide his father in running a Mafia family. However, from such an obviously biased source, the text carries some credibility issues.

Much of the book adds little or nothing to the autobiography of Joe Bonanno. Like "A Man od Honor," this book complains loudly of
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Gay Talese is an American author. He wrote for The New York Times in the early 1960s and helped to define literary journalism or "new nonfiction reportage", also known as New Journalism. His most famous articles are about Joe DiMaggio, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

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