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The Imperfectionists

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  49,666 ratings  ·  5,916 reviews
Set against the gorgeous backdrop of Rome, Tom Rachman’s wry, vibrant debut follows the topsy-turvy private lives of the reporters, editors, and executives of an international English language newspaper as they struggle to keep it—and themselves—afloat.

Fifty years and many changes have ensued since the paper was founded by an enigmatic millionaire, and now, amid the stain
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by The Dial Press
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Marcy Certainly tracks the decline of the newspaper biz. Also I kept wondering if it was based on the Herald Trib.

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Average rating 3.54  · 
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 ·  49,666 ratings  ·  5,916 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Jun 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: journalism

Tom Rachman - image from his site

This just in, Tom Rachman has given readers an exceptional set of stories about the birth and death of a newspaper, populated these tales with engaging characters and done so with great style and feeling.

The core here is a Rome-based English-language international newspaper. Rachman follows it from its inception in the 1950s to its 21st century demise. The story of this paper is the story of the people it touches, from founder to Obits editor, from editor in chie
Jun 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: crap
This isn't the worst thing I've read this year. Rachman, over and over again, convinced me to care about his characters and their relationships. I can't agree with Goodreads's assessment that the interspersed chapters on the history of the paper are dull; I found them warm and subtle. Neither, however, can I agree that Rachman "creates a diverse cast of fully realized characters." They may have diverse physical descriptions, but all speak with exactly the same voice. He even has one character, s ...more
Violet wells
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Eleven connected short stories each featuring a member of staff at a moment of crisis of an English-language newspaper in Rome. As is usually the case with short stories there are a couple of gems and a couple of lame ducks with the rest sitting somewhere between.

There’s no question this will be a narrative of decline and fall. The narrative begins in 1953 when idealism for the possibilities of journalism was readily accessible and ends in 2007 when cynicism was more likely to be the default se
Jan 23, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No One
Recommended to Carmen by: LTWF
Horrid, depressing book about horrid, depressing people. Completely worthless. I can't even summon the desire to write a long review with quotes and burning passion.

Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
The novel certainly arms itself with the age-old "Anxiety" plot device-- that which specifically dictates that the certain, if fated, meeting between characters A and B, once A's destiny has been discovered and B's is barely in-the-process-of... will be amazing-- it titillates beyond expectations, and these said expectations are definitely heightened. Better than Jennifer Egan's over-lauded "Goon Squad", this is yet another modern short story collection tied up neatly, thematically. & if it subs ...more
Once upon an occupationally happier time, I was an award-winning journalist. The "award-winning" part wasn’t all that important (though obviously not some unwelcome kudos) because I have loved print journalism in ways one should never love an inanimate intangible ever since the gateway drug that was my mediocre private university's labor-of-love, student-run newspaper showed me what I was meant to do with my life, a certainty that was cemented by the soaring pride I felt when our Little Paper Th ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: The New York Times 100 Best Novels of 2010
The Imperfectionists is perfect. At least for my taste. You may have a different opinion about this book, but for me, it is just way above the many other books I've read. It is entertaining. It is thought-provoking. It is heart-wrenching. It is funny. It is informative. It has everything I am looking for a contemporary fiction novel.

This book was one of the 100 Best Books in 2010 according to The New York Times. That and the very encouraging blurbs on both covers of the book made me buy and read
Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The first reviews of this book made me eager to plunge in, but I was so disappointed that I withdrew my suggestion to nominate it for our book club! I said to myself at least twice while reading this, "I hate this book." In the last 50 pages, I found some enjoyable sequences, especially the air plane ride between Abbey and the man she had just fired. Other than that story, it was not very enjoyable reading, unless perhaps one works for a newspaper and enjoys the personalities in that trade.

Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 21-ce, fiction, us
Exquisite. Newspapers have been dying in droves. The fictional newspaper here in Rome is struggling to survive. The advent of the Internet hasn’t helped matters. Author Tom Rachman once worked at The International Herald Tribune, now The New York Times International Edition. The fictional newspaper depicted here is a far less exalted endeavor. The novel’s structure is reminiscent of In Our Time except that the short italicized interstitial chapters here function as flashbacks. Hemingway’s is an ...more
Apr 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is an intriguing book though disconcerting. It’s set in the present or recent past at an English newspaper produced in Italy. As Elizabeth Strout did in “Olive Kitteridge”, last year’s Pulitzer winner, each story or chapter is seen through a different person’s viewpoint. In “Kitteridge” the theme was Olive and how others perceived her or she perceived them. In “The Imperfectionists” the paper is the common denominator. All the stories are the viewpoint of a Staffer.

Interspersed with the vie
Feb 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I whizzed through this highly entertaining debut by Tom Rachman wondering how on earth he'll be able to follow it. He apparently used a lot of his own experience of working for the International Herald Tribune here, so the question is where he will go for material next. The Imperfectionists is funny and tender both, Rachman's fondness for his characters with all their failings and foibles comes roaring through, and the man has an uncanny eye, oops, no, sorry that should be ear shouldn't it? for ...more
May 29, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: english-lit, fiction
So Christoper Buckley wrote this review in The New York Times which was basically, “OMG! BEST BOOK EVER! TOM PLEASE RESPOND POSITIVELY TO MY FACEBOOK FRIEND REQUEST AND MAYBE LET ME BEAR YOUR CHILDREN? <3333” Immediately, every freakin' person who came in my store was like, “Do you have...*desperate sigh* The Imperfectionists?” And then I had to tell them it was backordered because the publishers hadn't expected Christopher Buckley to propose marriage to Tom Rachman in The New York Times and the ...more
Emily Hill
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Oh for the Love of All that is Holy! Please, someone, tell me that Rachman earned more than a 3.5 from the Goodreads community on 'The Imperfectionists'!

Is it the irreverence, the flip attitude, the turn of a(n) intellectual phrase? The Washington Post calls it 'beguiling' - You're killin' me here!

This is off the charts, stratospherically (a) hilarious in its desperate pathos; (b) brilliant in its prose; (c) sinister in its cynicism. I'm hanging up my pen, I'm shredding all copies of my own de
May 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
So... I'm telling you now that my sudden and vehement dislike of Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists is totally irrational and cannot be defended with any argument that paints me as a level-headed reviewer. Up until approximately five pages from the end of the novel, I would have given this a three-and-a-half-out-of-five star review... not necessarily because I enjoyed every single moment of the novel, but because I thought it was an interesting look at the fascinating and rather endangered indus ...more
Pei Pei
I enjoyed the first two stories in this book, but as I kept reading I lost interest. The book couldn't seem to make up its mind about what it wanted to be. As separate stories, it was uneven. I enjoyed some stories and laughed and paused thoughtfully at surprising moments, but many of the stories weren't strong enough to stand alone; the dialogue was sometimes cringeworthy and actually seemed to get worse as the book progressed (the same is true, I think, of the general quality of the stories). ...more
Katie Fitzgerald
Jun 26, 2010 rated it liked it
4/3/22: 3 stars. I wrote a glowing review of this book in 2010, but I didn't feel as enthusiastic about it during my re-read. Times and my tastes have changed.

6/26/10: 5 stars. I don't read a lot of books that aren't written for teenagers, but I read the reviews and the jacket on this one, and decided it sounded too good to pass up. Just a little over 24 hours later, I have finished reading it, and I am so glad it caught my eye.

This novel is a series of interconnected stories about the staff m
Jun 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
It's strange...the author photo depicts an unassuming, modest fellow. I'd be grinning like a crazed despot if I had managed to produce such a polished and textured effort as my first novel.
The book is a series of interconnected short stories, revolving around the lives of staffers at a newspaper in Rome. Each character is fully fleshed and loaded with enough foibles, fears and frailties to easily fill a novel of his or her own. Though the book is loaded with comedic situations, an overwhelming t
Ivonne Rovira
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, of course!
Recommended to Ivonne by: K.D. Absolutely
Shelves: favorites
Tom Rachman’s perfect debut novel The Imperfectionists consists of a series of interconnected short stories about people linked by an English-language international newspaper based in Rome, each chapter neatly self-contained but simultaneously referring to previous tales and containing clues to ensuing ones. It’s one of the greatest books I’ve ever read.

Rachman once worked as an editor at The International Herald Tribune, but the fictional international newspaper — founded by enigmatic millionai
Richard Derus
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4* of five

My four-star review is, at its simplest level, an exhortation to read this very good book.


My reason for finally, four years later, writing the review is simply that it's on Kindle-sale in the US for $1.99. It's hard to find used books for that little money. It's hard to find a book I'd more strongly urge you to read for that kind of dosh.
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
You may be wondering if "The Imperfectionists" deserves the rave reviews it's been getting in certain quarters. The short answer?
Yes, yes it does.

If you like the kind of review that captures the essence of a book in a pithy soundbite, I can offer you: "the 2010 version of "Then We came to the End", this year's "Olive Kittredge", or "Scoop" for the 21st century.

It's just as easy to give you the uncoded description. "The Imperfectionists" tracks the terminal decline of a fictional English langua
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In this novel about a struggling international newspaper based in Rome, various characters tell the story through chapter-divided vignettes. You don't have to wait until the end for it to pull together, as it is loosely connected from the beginning. As you get deeper into the story, however, the connections deepen, complement, and piggyback each other. It spans about fifty years, from the first edition in 1954 until near-present time. The ineluctable end careens with humor and pathos.

The stories
May 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was a great collection of interconnected short stories. I loved the characters and English language Italian newspaper as a backdrop. I had a hard time putting this one down and was disappointed when it ended,
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: made-in-canada
Fine, not fantastic.

If reviewing this from a literary perspective, I can understand the cover blurbs: "Spectacular" and "Gorgeous" and "Beguiling." But reviewing this from my gut, which is how I review, I am left feeling merely content.

It was smart of Tom Rachman to write in the third person present tense; it instils a sort of quick pace into the narrative which nicely mirrors the quick pace of journalism. The writing itself is beautiful. I found myself flying naturally and effortlessly throug
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle
I did not enjoy this book at all. This is yet another entry in the category of books that are supposed to be literary fiction, but are poorly written and so clunkily plotted and presented that they barely resemble the heights of the genre. The Imperfectionists describes the staff of a barely-surviving English-language newspaper in Italy, each chapter devoted to a different person. Every character is reprehensible in some way, or else has very big, obvious unpleasant things happen to them. And th ...more
Crystal Starr Light
The story follows several members of an English-speaking newspaper based in Rome, Italy. There is some overlap and connection between the stories, especially the further you get into the novel. And between short stories about the individual employees of the paper is a main thread that tells the entire story of the paper.

I'm sorry for the unenthusiastic summary of this book. If you really want to get an idea of what this book is about, there are tons of summaries much better than mine (including,
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In an interview in the back of the book with Malcolm Gladwell, the author says: "Writing (and reading) is a sort of exercise in empathy, I think. In life, when you encounter people, you and they have separate trajectories, each person pushing in a different direction. What's remarkable about fiction is that places you in the uncommon position of having no trajectory. You stand aside, motives abandoned for the duration. The characters have the trajectories now, while you just observe. And this st ...more
Oct 06, 2011 rated it liked it
3 and 1/2 stars

I've read a few reviews that mention this novel reads like a group of interrelated short stories and I can see that, though I don't really agree, as I don't believe the chapters are fully realized enough to stand on their own, nor were they meant to be, as they are intended to be 'chapters' in the history of the newspaper first and foremost.

The fully realized people that populate the novel are the strongest element. There is sympathy for even the most unlikable characters (except
Jan 06, 2015 marked it as it-s-not-you-it-s-me
not my cup of tea. i need heart in my books. love. i need love. if you are witty and biting and cool and write with corners and edges, you are not for me. you may be a really good writer, but you are not for me. cuz me, i need love.

and now suddenly i'm unsure about whether tom rachman wrote this with wit, bitingness, corners, and edges. maybe he didn't. maybe i suck at short stories. i don't know. i just didn't feel the warmth of love -- the milk of human kindness. compassion. the author's love
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-2011
Really? I'm surprised that the average rating for this is 3.5. When I first started reading it, I wasn't aware that each chapter would chronicle one of the people working at the paper, so I was a bit confused. I caught on after the second one and got completely absorbed. I can't say I've read a book this HUMAN in a long time. Each one of the characters was whacked out in some totally believable way, yet I could relate to each of them in some weird way. I loved the inner dialogue of some of them, ...more
Feb 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Susann by: Sheila
Shelves: idlewild
**warning: somewhat spoilerish**
Interwoven stories about the staff at an English-language newspaper in Rome. At the start, I was impressed with Rachman's story-portraits and finished the first few chapters breathless for the next one. But the characters' all too human flaws gradually laid me low, until I wondered if and worried that we're all as sad-lonely-desperate-petty-conniving-selfish-cruel as these people are. I feel sorry for each character, some with sympathy and others with just pity. W
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Tom Rachman is the author of four works of fiction: his bestselling debut, The Imperfectionists (2010), which was translated into 25 languages; the critically acclaimed follow-up, The Rise & Fall of Great Powers (2014); a satirical audiobook-in-stories Basket of Deplorables (2017); and an upcoming novel set in the art world, The Italian Teacher (March 2018).

Born in London and raised in Vancouver,

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Tom Rachman, a former journalist who worked for The Associated Press as a foreign-desk editor and a correspondent in Rome, is the author of the...
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“What I really fear is time. That's the devil: whipping us on when we'd rather loll, so the present sprints by, impossible to grasp, and all is suddenly past, a past that won't hold still, that slides into these inauthentic tales. My past- it doesn't feel real in the slightest. The person who inhabited it is not me. It's as if the present me is constantly dissolving. There's that line from Heraclitus: 'No man steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.' That's quite right. We enjoy this illusion of continuity, and we call it memory. Which explains, perhaps, why our worst fear isn't the end of life but the end of memories.” 64 likes
“You know, there's that silly saying 'We're born alone and we die alone' -it's nonsense. We're surrounded at birth and surrounded at death. It is in between that we're alone.” 59 likes
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