18 Best Mafia Books

Best Mafia Books

Delve into the shadowy world of organized crime with our curated list of the best mafia books. From gripping tales of power struggles to insightful narratives of the Mafia’s influence on society, these books offer an immersive journey into a realm shrouded in secrecy and intrigue. 

Whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast or a newcomer to the genre, prepare to be captivated by the mystery of the mafia as we navigate through the pages of these compelling reads.

Best Mafia Books

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

“The Godfather” is a seminal novel that offers an immersive look into the life of the Italian-American Mafia, centered around the powerful Corleone family. 

Mario Puzo weaves a tale of power, loyalty, and betrayal, focusing on the patriarch Vito Corleone and his son Michael’s transition from reluctant outsider to ruthless mafia boss. Through its complex characters and intricate plot, the novel paints a vivid picture of the Mafia’s influence on American society and the personal costs of power.

What makes it amazing?

What sets “The Godfather” apart is its combination of gripping narrative, deep psychological insight, and a nuanced portrayal of Mafia culture. Puzo’s masterpiece has not only defined the Mafia genre but also transcended it, offering a profound exploration of themes like power, family, and the American Dream. 

Its impact on popular culture is immense, inspiring not only a critically acclaimed film series but also shaping the global perception of the Mafia.

Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano

“Gomorrah” is a groundbreaking investigative book that delves deep into the heart of the Camorra, the Mafia-type organization based in Naples, Italy. 

Saviano’s firsthand experiences and detailed research expose the vast reach of the Camorra, from high-stakes illegal drug trade to the seemingly legitimate industries like construction and fashion. The book is a harrowing account of the violence, corruption, and economic influence wielded by the Camorra, affecting not just Italy but the global economy.

What makes it amazing?

Roberto Saviano’s “Gomorrah” is remarkable for its fearless journalism and the author’s personal sacrifices to uncover the truth. 

The book’s strength lies in its detailed reporting and the compelling narrative that brings the reader face-to-face with the realities of organized crime. Saviano’s work has not only raised awareness about the Camorra’s influence but also sparked significant discussions about crime, justice, and society in Italy and around the world.

Five Families by Selwyn Raab

“Five Families” is the definitive history of the Mafia in New York City, chronicling the rise and reign of the five major families: Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Lucchese. Selwyn Raab meticulously details the operations, rituals, battles, and personalities that have shaped the Mafia’s history in America. 

Through exhaustive research and interviews, Raab provides an unparalleled insight into the Mafia’s grip on American society, from its clandestine beginnings to its status as a permanent fixture in the criminal landscape.

What makes it amazing?

“Five Families” stands out for its comprehensive detail and the authoritative voice of Selwyn Raab, a journalist who has covered organized crime for decades. 

The book is a masterclass in true crime writing, offering clarity and depth to the complex history of the Mafia in America. Raab’s work is essential reading for anyone interested in the inner workings of organized crime, its impact on American history, and the ongoing battle between the Mafia and law enforcement.

Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi

“Wiseguy” is Nicholas Pileggi’s riveting true crime masterpiece that tells the real-life story of Henry Hill, a mobster who became an FBI informant. Through Hill’s eyes, readers gain an insider’s view of the daily operations of the Mafia, from heists and shakedowns to the intricacies of mob hierarchy and the code of silence. 

Pileggi’s narrative is both captivating and informative, offering a gritty, unvarnished look at the life of a Wiseguy within the Mafia.

What makes it amazing?

Nicholas Pileggi’s “Wiseguy” is amazing for its intimate access to the Mafia’s closed world, providing a detailed, unfiltered portrayal of organized crime. 

The book’s strength lies in its ability to humanize the mobsters while not shying away from the brutality of their world. It’s a compelling study of crime, loyalty, and betrayal, offering invaluable insights into the psychology of those who live by the Mafia’s codes. The adaptation of the book into the movie “Goodfellas” further cements its place in the pantheon of Mafia lore.

The Last Don by Mario Puzo

In “The Last Don,” Mario Puzo returns to the Mafia underworld, introducing the Clericuzio family, a powerful force in both the legitimate and criminal worlds. 

The novel explores the complexities of power transitions within the Mafia, focusing on the attempts of the family’s patriarch to legitimize the family business while dealing with internal and external threats. Puzo crafts a narrative filled with drama, intrigue, and the moral dilemmas faced by those entangled in the Mafia’s web.

What makes it amazing?

“The Last Don” showcases Mario Puzo’s unparalleled ability to blend compelling storytelling with a deep understanding of the Mafia’s cultural and societal impact. The novel is praised for its intricate plot, well-developed characters, and exploration of themes such as power, loyalty, and redemption. 

Puzo’s insight into the Mafia’s operation and his portrayal of its influence on American life make “The Last Don” a worthy successor to “The Godfather” and a standout in the genre.

American Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power by Thomas Reppetto

“American Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power” is a comprehensive examination of the Mafia’s ascent in the United States, detailing its beginnings, its ascendancy during Prohibition, and its continued influence into the late 20th century. 

Thomas Reppetto, a former police officer and crime historian, offers readers a detailed chronicle of the major figures, events, and operations that have defined the American Mafia. 

The book delves into the complex relationships between Mafia families, their involvement in various criminal enterprises, and their interactions with law enforcement and the legal system.

What makes it amazing?

What makes “American Mafia” exceptional is its thorough research and the clarity with which Reppetto presents the complex history of the Mafia in America. 

The book is not just a collection of crime stories; it’s a nuanced exploration of the Mafia’s impact on American society and culture. 

Reppetto’s authoritative voice and his ability to contextualize the Mafia’s evolution within broader historical and social trends make this book a fascinating and informative read.

Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia by John Dickie

“Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia” by John Dickie is an authoritative and engaging history of the Sicilian Mafia, tracing its origins in the lemon groves of Sicily to its status as a powerful criminal organization. 

Dickie, a historian and expert on Italy, uses a wealth of research to explore the Mafia’s operations, rituals, and codes, as well as its influence on politics and society in Sicily and beyond. The book sheds light on the Mafia’s complex structures, the infamous bosses, and the bloody wars both within the Mafia and against the state.

What makes it amazing?

John Dickie’s “Cosa Nostra” stands out for its depth of research and engaging narrative style, making the complex history of the Sicilian Mafia accessible and compelling. 

Dickie’s insight into the cultural and societal factors that have allowed the Mafia to flourish offers readers a profound understanding of its persistence and power. This book is not only a history of a criminal organization but also a sociocultural examination of Sicily and the shadow the Mafia casts over it.

The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo

“The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer” tells the chilling story of Richard Kuklinski, a hitman who claimed to have killed over 100 people for various Mafia families. 

Philip Carlo’s biography is based on extensive interviews with Kuklinski, providing a detailed look at his life, from his troubled childhood to his career as a cold-blooded killer. 

The book offers insight into Kuklinski’s psyche, his methods of killing, and the double life he led, being a loving family man on one hand and a ruthless murderer on the other.

What makes it amazing?

Philip Carlo’s “The Ice Man” is a gripping account that delves into the dark world of organized crime through the lens of one of its most infamous figures. 

The book’s strength lies in its detailed portrayal of Kuklinski’s life and crimes, offering a stark look at the brutality of the Mafia’s enforcers. 

Carlo’s ability to humanize Kuklinski while not excusing his actions makes this biography a compelling and disturbing read, providing a unique perspective on the inner workings of Mafia hitmen.

Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano’s Story of Life in the Mafia by Peter Maas

“Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano’s Story of Life in the Mafia” is the biography of Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, once the underboss of the Gambino family, who became one of the highest-ranking members of the American Mafia to turn government witness. 

Written by Peter Maas, the book is based on Gravano’s own accounts and offers an insider’s view of the Mafia’s operations, the life of crime, and the events that led to Gravano’s decision to testify against John Gotti, the Gambino family boss.

What makes it amazing?

“Underboss” is remarkable for its intimate look at the Mafia from one of its most notorious figures. Peter Maas captures the complexities of Gravano’s character and the moral ambiguities of his life in the Mafia. 

The book’s detailed recounting of Mafia rituals, the dynamics of power within the Gambino family, and the betrayals that define the criminal organization’s history make it a compelling narrative. 

It offers a unique insight into the Mafia’s influence and the code of honor that binds its members.

Mafia Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family by John H. Davis

“Mafia Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family” explores the history and operations of one of the most powerful Mafia families in America. 

John H. Davis chronicles the Gambino family’s ascent to the pinnacle of the criminal underworld, focusing on its leaders, from the notorious Carlo Gambino to the flamboyant John Gotti. 

Through detailed research, Davis examines the family’s involvement in various criminal enterprises, its internal power struggles, and its battles with law enforcement.

What makes it amazing?

John H. Davis’s “Mafia Dynasty” is lauded for its exhaustive detail and the depth of its historical analysis. The book offers a comprehensive look at the Gambino family’s business operations and the personalities that led it. 

Davis’s ability to weave together the complex story of the family’s rise and fall, set against the backdrop of American history, makes this book a standout. 

It’s a definitive account of the Gambino family’s legacy, providing insight into the workings of the Mafia and its enduring impact on American society.

Blood Brotherhoods: A History of Italy’s Three Mafias by John Dickie

“Blood Brotherhoods: A History of Italy’s Three Mafias” is a comprehensive exploration of Italy’s most notorious criminal organizations: the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta, and Naples’ Camorra. 

John Dickie, an expert in Italian history and organized crime, delves into the origins, rituals, codes, and criminal activities of these groups, providing a detailed account of their influence on Italian society and beyond. 

Through meticulous research, Dickie uncovers the complex relationships and rivalries between the organizations, their impact on the Italian economy, and their connections to politics and business.

What makes it amazing?

What sets “Blood Brotherhoods” apart is John Dickie’s ability to interweave the history of these distinct organizations into a coherent narrative that sheds light on the broader phenomenon of organized crime in Italy. 

His detailed analysis of the cultural and social factors that have allowed these groups to flourish offers readers a deep understanding of their enduring power. 

The book’s comprehensive scope and engaging writing make it an essential read for anyone interested in the true breadth of Mafia influence in Italy.

The Valachi Papers by Peter Maas

“The Valachi Papers” by Peter Maas is a groundbreaking work that introduced the world to the inner workings of the American Mafia through the eyes of Joe Valachi, a soldier in the Genovese crime family who became the first Mafia member to break the organization’s code of silence, or omertà. 

Maas’s book is based on Valachi’s testimony before the United States Senate and provides detailed insights into the Mafia’s structure, operations, and codes. 

It covers the history of Valachi’s life in the Mafia, including the events that led to his decision to become a government informant.

What makes it amazing?

“The Valachi Papers” is remarkable for its historical significance and the depth of insight it provides into the American Mafia. Peter Maas’s ability to craft a compelling narrative from Valachi’s testimony changed the public’s understanding of the Mafia and had a profound impact on law enforcement’s approach to organized crime. 

The book is not only a captivating story of betrayal and survival but also a critical piece of investigative journalism that offers a rare glimpse into a secretive world.

Omertà by Mario Puzo

“Omertà,” the last novel completed by Mario Puzo before his death, dives into the Mafia’s code of silence through the story of Astorre Viola, a mafia heir being groomed to take over his uncle’s international crime empire. 

Puzo blends elements of power, loyalty, and betrayal to explore the complexities of Mafia life and the challenges Astorre faces as he navigates a world filled with danger and moral ambiguity. 

The novel is a testament to Puzo’s mastery of the genre, showcasing his deep understanding of the cultural and psychological dimensions of the Mafia.

What makes it amazing?

“Omertà” shines for its engaging storytelling and Puzo’s skill in creating complex characters and intricate plots that capture the essence of Mafia culture. The novel’s exploration of the Mafia’s code of silence and its impact on individuals and their families offers a compelling look at the sacrifices and decisions that define the lives of those within the Mafia. 

Puzo’s ability to humanize his characters and present a nuanced view of the criminal underworld makes “Omertà” a captivating and thought-provoking read.

Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia by Joseph D. Pistone

“Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia” is the true account of FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone’s six years undercover in the Bonanno crime family, one of the most powerful Mafia families in the U.S. Pistone, who infiltrated the Mafia using the alias “Donnie Brasco,” provides an unprecedented view of the day-to-day operations, rituals, and dynamics within the Mafia. 

His work led to over 100 convictions and offered invaluable insights into the workings of the Mafia, significantly impacting law enforcement’s approach to organized crime.

What makes it amazing?

Joseph D. Pistone’s account is extraordinary for its bravery, detail, and authenticity. “Donnie Brasco” offers a unique perspective from within the Mafia, highlighting the complexities of loyalty, honor, and betrayal. 

Pistone’s narrative is not just a tale of undercover work; it’s a profound exploration of identity and the personal costs of living a double life. 

The book’s impact on popular culture and its contribution to understanding the Mafia’s inner workings make it a landmark in true crime literature.

The Honored Society: The Secret History of Italy’s Most Powerful Mafia by Petra Reski

“The Honored Society” by Petra Reski offers an in-depth exploration of the ‘Ndrangheta, an Italian Mafia organization that, despite being less well-known than the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, has risen to become one of the most powerful and secretive criminal groups in the world. 

Reski, a seasoned journalist with years of experience covering the Mafia, provides a compelling narrative that delves into the ‘Ndrangheta’s operations, its grip on global drug trafficking, and its insidious infiltration of Italian society and economy. 

Through interviews, historical analysis, and personal observations, Reski paints a vivid picture of an organization that operates with impunity, shielded by a strict code of silence.

What makes it amazing?

“The Honored Society” stands out for its thorough research and Reski’s ability to convey the complexities of the ‘Ndrangheta’s power structure and its impact on Italy and beyond. 

Her firsthand encounters and storytelling bring to life the human aspects of this secretive society, making it more than just a study of organized crime but a poignant commentary on the challenges of fighting corruption. 

The book’s illumination of the ‘Ndrangheta’s deep roots and widespread influence makes it a crucial read for understanding the full spectrum of Italian Mafia organizations.

Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic by Alexander Stille

“Excellent Cadavers” by Alexander Stille is a riveting account of the Mafia’s profound influence on Italian politics and the judicial system, focusing on the late 20th century. The title refers to the term used in Sicily to describe high-ranking Mafia victims. 

Stille chronicles the courageous efforts of two magistrates, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who dedicated their lives to fighting the Mafia and ultimately paid the ultimate price. 

The book details the complex web of Mafia connections within Italian politics, the judiciary, and the economy, highlighting the challenges faced by those who dare to confront this entrenched power.

What makes it amazing?

Alexander Stille’s meticulous research and compelling narrative offer an insightful look into the battle against the Mafia in Italy. 

“Excellent Cadavers” is not only a tribute to Falcone and Borsellino’s heroism but also a critical examination of how the Mafia has been able to wield such significant influence within Italian society. 

The book’s analysis of the interplay between the Mafia and the state sheds light on the broader implications for democracy and justice, making it an essential read for anyone interested in the fight against organized crime.

The Sicilian by Mario Puzo

“The Sicilian” by Mario Puzo is a captivating spin-off from “The Godfather,” focusing on the life of Salvatore Giuliano, a real-life Sicilian bandit who becomes entwined with the Mafia. 

Set during Michael Corleone’s Sicilian exile, the novel weaves Giuliano’s story with that of the Corleone family, exploring themes of power, loyalty, and rebellion. 

Puzo’s masterful storytelling brings to life the rugged landscapes of Sicily and the complex world of its Mafia, portraying Giuliano as both a Robin Hood-like figure and a ruthless outlaw.

What makes it amazing?

Mario Puzo’s ability to blend historical facts with fiction in “The Sicilian” provides a deep and engaging look into Sicilian life and the Mafia’s influence. 

The novel’s exploration of Salvatore Giuliano’s character and his impact on Sicily’s social and political landscape is both compelling and thought-provoking. 

Puzo’s vivid descriptions and rich character development make “The Sicilian” an unforgettable journey into the heart of the Mafia’s mythology, solidifying its place as a standout work in Mafia literature.

Boss of Bosses: The Fall of the Godfather- The FBI and Paul Castellano by Joseph F. O’Brien and Andris Kurins

“Boss of Bosses” delves into the FBI’s landmark investigation that led to the downfall of Paul Castellano, the formidable head of the Gambino crime family. 

Authors Joseph F. O’Brien, a former FBI agent, and Andris Kurins, who worked on the case, provide an insider’s account of the operation that exposed the inner workings and vulnerabilities of one of the most powerful Mafia families in the United States. 

The book chronicles the strategic efforts of law enforcement to infiltrate the Gambino family, offering detailed insights into the tactics used to dismantle the criminal empire.

What makes it amazing?

“Boss of Bosses” is notable for its detailed recounting of an epic chapter in the history of organized crime in America. 

The authors’ firsthand experiences and access to key figures in the investigation lend the narrative authenticity and depth, making it a thrilling read. The book not only highlights the complexities of building a case against a powerful Mafia don but also illustrates the personal risks and challenges faced by those on the front lines. 

This gripping account of strategy, perseverance, and justice is a testament to the dedication of law enforcement in the fight against organized crime.

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