The best mob books that tell it like it is

Who am I?

Growing up in Brooklyn I heard stories about local mafia figures. Now, as the author of several books that deal with crime, I am passionate about good storytelling. I believe that a novel delving into the world of crime and criminals should be fast-paced and believable. Readers have told me that they give up on a book because, in their words: 1. “It isn’t believable” and 2. “It didn’t draw me in.” God forbid that any of the books I’ve written should fall into either of those categories! The books that I recommend are tops in the genre of The Best Mob Books That Tell It Like It Is.


I wrote...

Returning to the Lion’s Den: Life in an Organized Crime Family

By Marco Manfre,

Book cover of Returning to the Lion’s Den: Life in an Organized Crime Family

What is my book about?

When Daniel Montello is 18 years old he begins working as an errand boy at the Huntington Social Club, a storefront in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, that is used by the De Luca crime family. That decision dramatically alters the trajectory of Daniel’s life, eventually propelling him to the top of the organization.

His story, Returning to the Lion’s Den, deals with family, loss, sexual entanglement, and the demands of local traditions. It overflows with gut-churning images and heart-pounding scenes of bloody violence and harsh retribution. The book also explores the boundaries of faith and loyalty, as well as questions of right and wrong. Although a work of fiction, Returning to the Lion’s Den sheds a bright light on the actual workings of modern-day crime families.

The books I picked & why

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The Godfather

By Mario Puzo,

Book cover of The Godfather

Why this book?

The Godfather, universally acknowledged to be the best novel dealing with the lives and struggles of an American organized crime family, is immensely readable. The main character, Don Corleone, vividly portrayed in the original Godfather film by Marlon Brando, is a living, breathing man who falls into a life of crime, eventually becoming capo of his own underworld family. Readers are presented with a riveting, honest, often ambivalent depiction of the American version of the Sicilian mafia, also referred to as Cosa Nostra. Each time I go back to The Godfather I am held in thrall by the fast-paced story, brilliant characterizations, and clear, lucid writing. At times, I am also stunned by the brutality of many of its scenes. The Godfather is both beautiful and harsh.

The Godfather

By Mario Puzo,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Godfather as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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The classic novel that inspired 'the greatest crime film of all time'

Tyrant, blackmailer, racketeer, murderer - his influence reaches every level of American society. Meet Don Corleone, a friendly man, a just man, a reasonable man. The deadliest lord of the Cosa Nostra. The Godfather.

But no man can stay on top forever, not when he has enemies on both sides of the law. As the ageing Vito Corleone nears the end of a long life of crime, his sons must step up to manage the family business. Sonny Corleone is an old hand, while World War II…


The Valachi Papers

By Peter Maas,

Book cover of The Valachi Papers

Why this book?

The Valachi Papers, a 1968 book written by Peter Maas, is the life story of Joe Valachi, a former member of the Genovese crime family, who testified in 1963 before a Senate committee, revealing until-then confidential information about the American mafia. The book was made into a film in 1972, starring Charles Bronson as Valachi.

Maas describes in vivid detail Joe Valachi’s initiation into and rise within a mafia family, frequently relying on Valachi’s own gutsy descriptions. Although it is a biography the book has the verve and pace of a thrilling work of fiction. In many ways better than even a well-written novel, The Valachi Papers is an edge-of-your-seat reading experience.

The Valachi Papers

By Peter Maas,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Valachi Papers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The First Inside Account of the Mafia

In the 1960s a disgruntled soldier in New York's Genovese Crime Family decided to spill his guts. His name was Joseph Valachi. Daring to break the Mob's code of silence for the first time, Valachi detailed the organization of organized crime from the capos, or bosses, of every Family, to the hit men who "clipped" rivals and turncoats. With a phenomenal memory for names, dates, addresses, phone numbers—and where the bodies were buried—Joe Valachi provided the chilling facts that led to the arrest and conviction of America's major crime figures.

The rest is…


Wise Guy

By Nicholas Pileggi,

Book cover of Wise Guy

Why this book?

This book is the biography of Henry Hill, who, at the age of eleven, began working as an assistant for a boss of the Lucchese crime family in Manhattan. The book was turned into the movie Goodfellas, with Ray Liotta playing the role of Hill.

Fast-paced and filled with brutally violent incidents, Wise Guy portrays Henry Hill’s involvement in the life of the crime organization. In 1980, twenty-five years after he began working with the Lucchese family, Hill was arrested for heroin trafficking. Knowing he would be convicted at trial and would receive a lengthy sentence, and understanding that members of the family would likely have him murdered in prison, Hill testified under oath to federal prosecutors in return for admission into the Witness Protection Program.

Wise Guy

By Nicholas Pileggi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Wise Guy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A longtime member of organized crime recounts his criminal career, his involvement in the six-million dollar Lufthansa robbery, and his decision to become a federal witness.


Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia - A True Story by FBI Agent Joseph D. Pistone

By Joseph D. Pistone,

Book cover of Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia - A True Story by FBI Agent Joseph D. Pistone

Why this book?

Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia is the autobiographical account of Joseph Pistone’s infiltration of a branch of the Colombo crime family. Pistone, an FBI Special Agent, spent six harrowing years as a member of the family, going by the name Donnie Brasco. The book was turned into the movie Donnie Brasco, starring Johnny Depp.

Unlike other books that deal with organized crime, this one is extraordinarily chilling because it is written in the words of an undercover agent, who knew that, at any given moment, his identity could have been revealed, which would have led to deadly consequences.

Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia - A True Story by FBI Agent Joseph D. Pistone

By Joseph D. Pistone,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Donnie Brasco as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1978, the US government waged a war against organised crime. One man was left behind the lines. From 1976 until 1981, Special Agent Pistone lived undercover with the Mafia. Only able to visit his young family once every few months, Pistone - under the alias Donnie Brasco - ate, drank, partied, worked and sometimes killed with the wiseguys. He got so close that his Mafia partner, Lefty Ruggiero, asked him to officiate as best man at his wedding. Pistone's eventual testimony, in such spectacular prosecutions as 'the Pizza Connection' and 'the Mafia Commission' resulted in more than 200 indictments…


Elizabeth Street

By Laurie Fabiano,

Book cover of Elizabeth Street

Why this book?

This is a novel about Italian immigrants struggling to survive in New York City’s Little Italy during the early years of the twentieth century amid the growth of the Black Hand, the precursor to the American mafia. The book is unique in that most of the characters are the author’s actual ancestors and people with whom they had come into contact during that era. Similarly, the grisly central events described in the story all occurred.

It is beautifully written and filled with fascinating historical details. The characters and the descriptions of places and events come alive on the page. Fabiano includes an extensive Glossary of Italian Terms used in the book, as well as a multi-generational family tree. Elizabeth Street makes for very good reading!

Elizabeth Street

By Laurie Fabiano,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Elizabeth Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on true events, Elizabeth Street is a multigenerational saga that opens in an Italian village in the 1900's, and crosses the ocean to New York's Lower East Side. At the heart of the novel is Giovanna, whose family is targeted by the notorious Black Hand-the precursor to the Mafia. Elizabeth Street brings to light a period in history when Italian immigrant neighborhoods lived in fear of Black Hand extortion and violence-a reality that defies the romanticized depiction of the Mafia. Here, the author reveals the merciless terror of the Black Hand-and the impact their crimes had on her family.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Italian mafia, New York State, and organized crime?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Italian mafia, New York State, and organized crime.

The Italian Mafia Explore 10 books about the Italian mafia
New York State Explore 488 books about New York State
Organized Crime Explore 34 books about organized crime

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