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The Imperfectionists


The Imperfectionists Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. How did you feel when you encountered a protagonist from one chapter in a different key somewhere else?  Did these moments ever catch you by surprise?


2. Why do you think Cyrus Ott started his newspaper?  Why do you think his family kept it going?  


3. Do you think Hardy Benjamin made the right decision to ignore the theft she uncovered? And which is more important in a relationship: love or honesty?


4. Is there a lesson to be learned in the story of Arthur Gopal's rise through the ranks?


5. What do you think kept Ruby Zaga in her job all those years?  Is her persistence admirable?  


6. At one point Herman Cohen muses: ""All this had been a most extraordinary surprise; he had expected an unhappy life, yet ended up with the opposite."  What do you think accounts for his happy fate?  Is it luck, or something else?


7. Do you think someone like the war correspondent Rich Snyder might gain fame and recognition despite his bad behavior — or because of how he behaves? Would you rather be Snyder or Winston Cheung? 

8. Do you see traits of any of the characters in people you've worked with?


9. How did the Roman setting inform the reading experience of The Imperfectionists?  What do you think it would be like to be an expatriate?  


10. What do you think the future holds for the newspaper?  How has the way you receive news day to day changed in recent years?  


What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 20 comments:

Teresa Borden, October 25, 2011 (view all comments by Teresa Borden)
I was quickly drawn in to each character's story in the chapters of this chronicle of a newspaper in Rome. Figuring out how they were all interconnected was fascinating, though I was a bit puzzled at first by the backstory in italics. I could not stop reading this book and was a bit disappointed by the last chapter but would recommend it highly to anyone interested in journalism and the human beings who inhabit the newspaper world.
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reading4years, September 30, 2011 (view all comments by reading4years)
"The Imperfectionists" portrays several people who work at an English-language international newspaper based in Rome. Each chapter features a different person. The portraits are intense, some with jaw-dropping denouements. It also chronicles the changes in the fate of printed news over the past 50 years. An excellent book!
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
lissi, September 6, 2011 (view all comments by lissi)
Totally enjoyed this story of the life of a newspaper and those who made it happen. I can say from my own experience, he got it right, from the top to the bottom.
A crazy, quirky group of characters with largely unresolved stories carry you through this paper's history and keep the pages turning.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

Rachman, Tom
Dial Press
Serber, Natalie
Literature-A to Z
fiction;rome;journalism;italy;newspapers;newspaper;novel;journalists;contemporary fiction;literature;short stories;relationships;american;europe;literary fiction;contemporary;21st century;media;publishing;canadian;paris;literary;expats;characters;vignette
fiction;rome;journalism;italy;newspapers;newspaper;novel;journalists;contemporary fiction;short stories;literature;relationships;american;literary fiction;contemporary;europe;21st century;expats;publishing;media;paris;characters;literary;canadian;vignette
fiction;rome;journalism;italy;newspapers;newspaper;novel;journalists;contemporary fiction;short stories;literature;relationships;american;literary fiction;contemporary;europe;21st century;expats;publishing;media;paris;characters;literary;canadian;vignette
short stories;collection;mothers;daughters;family;relationships;women s fiction
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
3 b/w images
8.25 x 5.5 in 0.81 lb

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The Imperfectionists Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 240 pages Dial Press Trade Paperback - English 9780385343671 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

It really is as good as you've heard it is, and if you haven't heard someone raving about it, let me be that person. A member of that burgeoning category of book that declines to be easily identifiable as either a novel or book of short stories, The Imperfectionists blurs the two forms into something wonderful. Centered around the rise and fall of an English-language daily paper based out of Rome and started on a whim by a wealthy businessman, each chapter of The Imperfectionists focuses on a different character associated with the paper. It's a hard trick to pull off, but the revolving door of protagonists introduces a cast that is fully realized and wholly human, despite the slim page-count devoted to each one. That they drift in and out of one another's stories only serves to add depth to our perception of them. Interspersed with the often hilarious, sometimes gut-wrenching glimpses into the crew's personal lives is the story of how the paper came to be — a story about an inscrutable millionaire of whom Tom Rachman gives us only a hauntingly peripheral view. With its sucker-punch of an ending and it's fizzy blend of humor, despair, love, and hate, The Imperfectionists reads like riding a Vespa top speed through Rome: glimpses of a bigger picture that add up to something beautiful.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Nobody's perfect, but Tom Rachman comes pretty damn close with his debut novel, The Imperfectionists. Through the lives of the eleven main characters (each with their own chapter), Rachman chronicles the rise and fall of a Rome-based international newspaper, which bears a striking resemblance to his former employer, the International Herald Tribune. Gossipy and fun, yet poignant and timely, The Imperfectionists marks the arrival of a wonderful new literary talent.

"Review" by , "Marvelous...a rich, thrilling book...a splendid original, filled with wit and structured so ingeniously that figuring out where the author is headed is half the reader's fun."
"Review" by , "Deftly written and sharply observed....Even if you've never set foot in a newsroom, The Imperfectionists proves a delight....It's impossible not to like — this is masterful stuff."
"Review" by , "Each chapter is so finely wrought that it could stand alone as a memorable short story. Slowly, the separate strands become entwined and the line characters have drawn between their work and home lives is erased....Funny, poignant, occasionally breathtaking."
"Review" by , "The first novel by Tom Rachman...is so good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off....[H]ilarious and heart-wrenching."
"Review" by , "This acute debut portrays the world of neurotic journalists....Rachman...paints the characters' small dramas and private disappointments with humanity and humor."
"Review" by , "Charming....The print newspaper may be an endangered species, but the newsroom — with its deadlines, quirky characters and investigative crusades — still makes for a good story."
"Review" by , "The Imperfectionists will make you laugh and cry. It's the rare novel that can shift emotional tone effortlessly....Magnificent."
"Review" by , "Laced with humor, irony and compassion....[S]ome of the chapters are absolute gems."
"Review" by , "A very strong debut. Funny, humane and artful."
"Synopsis" by , One of most acclaimed books of the year, Tom Rachman's debut novel follows the topsy-turvy private lives of the reporters and editors of an English-language newspaper in Rome.
"Synopsis" by , A collection of stories about the complicated and powerful ties between mothers and daughters.
"Synopsis" by ,
A New York Times 100 "Notable Books" of 2012

"Call it fiction, but this collection is achingly true to life when it comes to the many ways mothers and daughters grow together and apart, over and over again."

and#8212;O, the Oprah Magazine

Mothers and daughters ride the familial tide of joy, regret, loathing, and love in these stories of resilient and flawed women. In a battle between a teenage daughter and her mother, wheat bread and plain yogurt become weapons. An aimless college student, married to her much older professor, sneaks cigarettes while caring for their newborn son. On the eve of her husbandand#8217;s fiftieth birthday, a pilfered fifth of rum, an unexpected tattoo, and rogue teenagers leave a woman questioning her place. And in a suite of stories, we follow capricious, ambitious single mother Ruby and her cautious, steadfast daughter Nora through their tumultuous lifeand#8212;stray men, stray cats, and psychedelic drugsand#8212;in 1970s California.

Gimlet-eyed and emotionally generous, achingly real and beautifully written, these unforgettable stories lay bare the connection and conflict in families. Shout Her Lovely Name heralds the arrival of a powerful new writer.



"Synopsis" by , One of most acclaimed books of the year, Tom Rachman's debut novel follows the topsy-turvy private lives of the reporters and editors of an English-language newspaper in Rome.
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