10 Adrenaline Pumping Mafia Books to Knock Your Socks Off

There’s a world beyond the one we know and live in – it’s an intense world with its own hierarchy, agenda, intent, and ways of working. It has people leading a few others who follow without any questions asked. It’s a world where efficiency and honor go hand-in-hand.

It’s the world of Mafia and it’s where “Omerta” rules. Mafia is an international phenomenon from Sicily in Italy to the gates of Moscow – the dons rule with an iron fist, the efficiency of machines, and with the honor of Gods.

Here are a few books that take you into the world of Mafia, put you in the spot, make you wonder how plots unfold, and take you on a ride in the everyday workings of dons and their respective henchmen.

10. Takedown: The Fall of the Last Mafia Empire, by Rick Cowan

First Published: 2003

What It’s About:

Rick Cowan didn’t know what was coming. As a New York City detective, he is investigating a truck bombing at a garbage transfer station. But he doesn’t expect mobsters to come to the scene to further intimidate the facility’s owner. Rick Cowan is now introduced to the mob as “Cousin Danny” – a simple event that changes everything for good. Cowan goes undercover and goes deeper than a city cop ever could. Cowan shows, in full detail, how the mafia grips many businesses – small and big.

Why You Should Read It:

If you thought that your love for mob stories went dormant, you’ll probably revive it with The Takedown: The Fall of the Last Mafia Empire. The book gets deep, down, and dirty and is far better than The Sopranos. It’s a spellbinding job of masterful storytelling. This is where velocity matches fiction and you’ll be glad you got to read it.

Best Quote:

“Even the journalists working on hard-hitting pieces about the mafia for The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal could glance out their office windows and watch mobbed-up carters wheeling away the mountains of curbside trash.”

9. The Westies: Inside New York’s Irish Mob, by T. J. English

First Published: 1991

What It’s About:

The Westies were feared, a lot, even by the insiders among the mob. The New York’s West Side sees the birth of the most notorious gang in the history of organized crime, led by Jimmy Coonan and Mickey Featherstone. The Irish gang excels at loan sharking, drug peddling, extortion, murders, and more. Their specialty, however, was execution by dismemberment. The gang lasted more than 20 years although the gang itself had just about a dozen members. But the gang’s violent ways get the best of them. They’d fall just as hard and fast as they’d grown.

Why You Should Read It:

Not only is the workings of the gang explained in great detail but also individual characters of each of the top gang members. The book is like going back in time to Hell’s Kitchen – a small section of Manhattan west of Eighth Avenue to witness the workings of Irish-led ruthless and vicious hoodlums who ruled the streets.

Best Quote:

“He told himself the same thing he always did when he was having doubts. This was not the end. This was the beginning…a new beginning.”

8. The Man to See, by Evan Thomas

First Published: 1992

What It’s About:

The Man to See is an action-packed biography of a well-known trial lawyer who moves from case to case from some of the most powerful people during his time. In due course, he also exposes the true accounts of many, including “Godfather” Frank Costello. The juice is all behind the scenes where witnesses are trained, coached, and briefed. Its also where the deals are made and traps are setup.

Why You Should Read It:

This is the only book on the list that’s not exactly a novel. It’s not about mafia (except for the instance of William’s relentless attempts to defend Frank Costello. But the book exposes true power of a man who’s weapon of choice is the law. The Man to See is a true account of one the most famous lawyers and it runs non-stop as Eva Thomas takes you straight to the courtrooms where all the drama unfolds. You’ll see William come alive and actually get to see the true account of William’s greatness, his clients, and how William came to be pivotal figure he did become.

Best Quote:

“Williams saw no irony in playing both sides. He was an advocate, and he was intent on winning.”

7. The Mad Ones, by Tom Folsom

First Published: 2009

What It’s About:

We know gangs and we know that there are victims. But there are, sometimes, gangs that go against gangs. The Mad Ones is a true account of rise and fall of Gallo brothers – a three-member gang that dares to stand up against New York’s mafia. The Gallos hailed from the Red Hook neighborhood and were deemed as the toughest by the NYPD. They were expected to serve the dons of NY city’s mafia, but they don’t The Gallos brothers had a fierce ambition and manic idealism. So, they go to far against the powerful Cosa Nostra which ends with Crazy Joe’s Murder on the streets of Little Italy.

Why You Should Read It:

The Mad Ones is, for the first time ever, a complete story of the Gallos’ war against the much bigger and more powerful Cosa Nostra. A tragic end but a supremely engaging and entertaining read. Get a bit of cultural history, insider look on the workings of Mafia, and a lot more packed into its pages.

Best Quote:

“I could have worked my way up to head soda jerk at Whelan’s Drugstore, but what kind of life is that for a guy like me?”

6. The Outfit, by Gus Russo

First Published: 2002

What It’s About:

Never before was the Chicago crime family was exposed as well as The Outfit does. This true-life crime story was well-hidden. For once, the story comes out unfolded and you’ll be able to see the insides of a much-feared, secretive and organized crime cartel that started in the prohibition-era Chicago. Moving well within the underworld, The Outfit blends easily with underworld corporate heads, Hollywood moguls, and national political icons. After ruling for five long-decades before the family crumbles in the 1970s, it’s a theatre-like play of the mafia that you get to see.

Why You Should Read It:

If you’ve ever been curious about how it all started for the famous Chicago mafia family, how it rose to power, and then the fall, Gus Russo makes the most of FBI files, investigation records, and historic records to expose the outfit. It provides for a very authoritarian and thoroughly comprehensive look at the post-Capone history of organized crime.

Best Quote:

“You get more with a smile and a gun than with just a smile.”

5. Five Families, by Selwyn Raab

First Published: 2006

What It’s About:

It’s old, and it’s a classic. For more than half a century, the American mafia was at the center stage busy doing crime and also outwitting, outmaneuvering, and outgunning FBI, police, and many others. The American Mafia unleashed a damaging attack on the fabric of the American society for more than half a century. At the seat of power was the combined power of New York’s five families. Five Families by Selwyn Raab is the account of the rise and fall of New York’s top dons.

Why You Should Read It:

As one of the first accounts in the history of Mafia, Five Families gives you strong insights on the criminal juggernaut that the American Mafia has been. It brings to you the definitive history of Mafia on American soil. Learn and enjoy the twisted rise and fall of the five families that ruled American Mafia. History buffs, story aficionados, and book lovers never had it good enough.

Best Quote:

“The collective goal of the five families of New York was the pillaging of the nation’s richest city and region.”

4. The Day of the Owl, by Leonardo Sciascia

First Published: 1961

What It’s About:

When Leonardo Sciascia dared to write about the Mafia – even before the Sopranos, The Godfather, and Mario Puzo, you’d be treated to the work of literary genius with the Day of the Owl. In the Sicily Leonardo writes about, crime has no punishment and from the first page to the last, there’s just crime and the unwinding of a symbiotic relationship the Mafia had with federal powers. The book starts with the murder of a local building contractor while trying to board a bus. Captain Bellodi takes over the investigation and the captain even finds out who’s behind the murder. Knowledge does no good in Sicily, especially if the mafia is involved. How does Bellodi solve this murder case? What is he up against?

Why You Should Read It:

How would you like a book written by a Sicilian author with expert knowledge on how mafia in Sicily operates? With a multi-layered approach to narration, the book is straightforward, engaging, and terse. You’d love the story, the unfolding of events, and everything Mafia, of course.

Best Quote:

“I’ll wake you up, with a couple of years inside…”

3. Mafia Brotherhoods, by John Dickie

First Published: 2011

What It’s About:

The Sicilian Mafia isn’t the only dangerous mafia in history, there’s more. Blood brotherhoods brings some intriguing history to the fore. For instance, there’s the Comorroa and ndrangheta. These are brotherhoods and their ways only surpass those of the others with mysterious rituals and their own methods. The ferocity, corruption, and wild ambition however seems to be a common thread for each of the brotherhoods.

Why You Should Read It:

Mafia Blood Brotherhoods by John Dickie is a powerful account of the birth and rise of Italy’s most powerful, far-reaching, and fearsome mafias. It’s a passionate narration backed by deep research, passionate narrative, and it explains the criminal ecosystem that’s sure to keep you glued in.

Best Quote:

“Blood as violence. Blood as both birth and death. Blood as kinship and family.”

2. Midnight in Sicily, by Peter Robb

First Published: 1996

What It’s About:

Peter Robb tells the tale of more than fourteen years of pleasures, life, politics, art, and of course, the crimes. Midnight in Sicily Is a full account of the network of violence and corruption. It’s all about how it all started on an island that’s more beautiful than words can describe – complete with start landscapes and amazing coastlines. There’s also food, culture, art, music, history, and a lot more that Sicily has to offer. In a land like that, what does Cosa Nostra do? How does it all add up?

Why You Should Read It:

It’s Sicily in Italy that it’s claimed to have started it all – mafia, dons, and the overarching grip of crime that spread itself to the rest of the world. If you ever wondered how it all started, what’s it about Sicily’s soil that created something as enigmatic, intriguing, and as powerful as Mafia? This is the book that tells you everything, thanks to the gripping writing that covers all the underpasses of a Sicily you didn’t know.

Best Quote:

“People in Sicily moved with purpose, and the cadence when you heard it was reproachful, not protesting.”

1. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo

First Published: 1969

What It’s About:

The Corleones have seen it all. Crime, love, betrayal, and even the pitfalls of greed. There’s sworn allegiance to family, friends, and close allies. There’s bloodshed for the enemies. The Godfather is a novel that neatly encapsulates American crime fiction steeped in controversy, intrigue, enigma, and a subculture that you never knew existed, until you did.

Why You Should Read It:

There’s barely anyone who doesn’t know “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo. Originally a novel now also made into a blockbuster movie series, The Godfather is a well-told mafia story. About what goes inside a Mafia regime, about the struggle for power and the overall rise of a don, and then some. Whether or not you’ve watched the movies, the books are a real treat anyway. After you are done with the book, you can also treat yourself to more books in the series written after Puzo’s original rendition.

Best Quote:

“For justice, we must go to Don Corleone.”

Conclusion

As you read these books on Mafia, most of these are tales. Some of those books are true accounts of real families that ruled mafia extended their rule to the streets, to city blocks, and entire nations.

Mafia is more widespread, smart, and global today than it ever was and all of it started somewhere. Apart from these books being engaging reads, they also open your eyes to the otherwise hidden contours of mafia.

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