Reading through the pages of any book can be an exciting journey, and when the book is in German, it becomes not just an escape but a bridge to mastering a new language! And books are an excellent motivation to learn German, along with these 6 tips Denisa from Spring German (a project I co-founded) tells you about in this video:
For beginners to intermediate learners, easy German books present the opportunity to immerse themselves in the German language as it’s authentically used, picking up on vocabulary, chunks and grammatical structures naturally.
This method of learning, often more engaging than traditional study, leverages the context of stories to help the brain make connections in a meaningful and memorable way. The technique known as ‘Conversation Based Chunking method‘ takes this to the next level: it allows the learners to understand and use German in chunks – groups of words that naturally go together – thereby conversational skills are enhanced alongside reading comprehension.
In this blog post, you’ll discover a curated list of 15 excellent German books suitable for beginners and intermediate learners. Plus, you’ll learn how to apply Conversation Based Chunking to accelerate your German learning journey.
Read on to transform your language skills through the power of reading.
1. How reading in German can help learning German?
For those beginning their language journey, German books crafted for beginners, which include tales written in easy German, can serve as welcoming gateways to the German culture. A beginner starting with German reading materials will not only learn German grammar more naturally but also absorb everyday vocabulary organically.
As learners transition to intermediate German, the complexity of the texts grows. German novels, written by renowned German writers, expose intermediate learners to modern German, used in a variety of contexts. Such reading shows a profound connection with the language, as the joy from a well-told story or the intrigue from a complex character in a German book is remembered as much as the words themselves!
Effective reading in German involves a mix of systematic strategies.
One might start with a straightforward German book and gradually move to more complicated works. Alternatively, with the latest technological advancements, one can use summaries or analyses in simple German to solidify comprehension.
Let’s see what are the best German books for your level!
2. Best German books for beginners
#1 Graded German Reader: Erste Stufe by Hannelore Crossgrove & William Crossgrove
This text is a comprehensive resource for beginner-level students studying German: it introduces a wide range of cultural and literary materials.
The first five sections are specifically composed or edited for this book, while the final short story is an original piece by Doris Dorrie. The text places big emphasis on the consistent use of similar words and basic vocabulary with the most common German phrase.
A variety of activities focused on reading comprehension, vocabulary expansion, and methods in word formation are also included. Graded German Reader also has a spectrum of reading passages with varying difficulties and provides footnotes as explanations. A comprehensive list of verbs and a collection of exercises are also included for further study.
This reader provides an array of cultural and literary material for students in their first year of German. The first five sections were written or edited specifically for the text, while authentic material is presented in concluding short stories.
#2 German Short Stories For Beginners by Lingo Mastery
This book was specifically designed to provide appropriate reading material that is easy to handle!
It’s not uncommon for educators to assign complex, professional-level texts to their learners. Such books can present difficulties for the reader, requiring the constant need for a dictionary. This is neither pleasant, nor motivational for the student, with many deciding to stop learning as a result.
In this specific book by Lingo Mastery, they have compiled 20 easy, captivating, and enjoyable tales. These German Short Stories are designed to help you expand your vocabulary and boost your comprehension of the stunning German language.
Each story is interesting and entertaining with realistic dialogues and day-to-day situations. The summaries follow a synopsis in German and in English of what you just read, both to review the lesson and for you to see if you understood what the tale was about.
#3 Emil und die Detektive by Erich Kästner: A classic children’s book with simple language, perfect for beginners
The creation of this book is precisely intended to provide manageable and suitable reading material.
If Emil’s mother, Mrs. Tischbein, knew about the extraordinary series of events that Emil would face in Berlin, she would never have granted him permission to leave. Sadly, Emil’s determination only make it harder when his seven pounds vanish during his train journey. He goes on a quest to recover the lost money, beginning with his unexpected alliance with the inspectors he meets in Berlin.
The story of Emil and the Detectives remains an evergreen and a great narrative. This book contains 20 uncomplicated, captivating, and enjoyable tales that will help expand vocabulary and boost understanding of the mesmerizing German language.
If Mrs Tischbein had known the amazing adventures her son Emil would have in Berlin, she'd never have let him go...
#4 Der kleine Prinz by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A stranded pilot in the desert awakens one morning to see a remarkably unique small being before him.
Who isn’t familiar with this classic story?
“If you please–draw me a sheep!” – the little voice said.
At that moment, the pilot understands that when life’s circumstances become overly complicated to understand, the only choice is to submit to their puzzles.
He retrieves his pencil and paper…
So begins this heartwarming and enchanting tale that, by uncovering the core of what is genuinely important in life, has eternally altered the world for those who have read it.
Der kleine Prinz (The little Prince), a story beloved and widely read worldwide by both adults and children alike, is reintroduced here in a stunning new translation, accompanied by carefully restored illustrations. This ultimate representation of a universally recognized masterpiece is sure to mesmerize readers across all ages.
The story follows a young prince who visits various planets, including Earth, and addresses different themes...
#5 Café in Berlin by André Klein
Tired of monotonous German study materials and oversimplified practice phrases that don’t make sense?
Check the narrative adventure of Dino, traverse through Berlin, and learn the essence of spoken German organically!
Having just relocated to Berlin, a young man from Sicily is suddenly thrown into a cosmopolitan lifestyle characterized by messy bachelor pads, transient love affairs, and diverse global exchanges. How is he going to cope with the new language? Can he secure employment?
Experience everyday life in Germany’s capital city through the eyes of a newcomer, learn about Berlin and its inhabitants, and improve your German language skills effectively and swiftly.
These simple German short stories will give you a taste of German culture, food, and language without leaving your home. Take your German to the next level and boost your vocabulary, reading comprehension and grammar sense with episode 1 of our short story series for beginners!
3. Easy German books for early intermediate learners
#6 Momo by Michael Ende
On the edge of the big city, a small impoverished girl named Momo lives among the ruins of an old amphitheatre.
Momo has a special ability she uses to help all her friends who interact with her. But, another day arrives when eerie men in grey outfits stealthily take over the town.
Momo is the only one who has the potential to resist them. With help from Professor Hora and his interesting tortoise, Cassiopeia, she goes on a journey beyond the boundaries of time to unmask their hidden, malevolent plans.
Momo, also known as The Grey Gentlemen or The Men in Grey, is a fantasy novel by Michael Ende on the concept of time.
#7 Kurzgeschichten by Franz Kafka (abridged versions): Simplified versions of Kafka’s stories, introducing more complex themes and vocabulary
Kafka’s stories often incorporate elements of the fantastical and surreal, placing ordinary individuals in extraordinary situations that highlight the arbitrary nature of existence.
These tales are written in a distinct style of ambiguity, characterized by symbolism and a narrative technique that leaves much open to interpretation.
Franz Kafka, a game-changing author in 20th-century literature, authored an extraordinary anthology of short stories that have drawn and fascinated both regular readers and literary critics.
Kafka’s short narratives are acclaimed for introducing us into intricate themes including existential dread, the nonsensical aspects of contemporary life, and the perplexity linked to bureaucracy. Read Kafka’s short stories to learn German naturally!
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired. Franz Kafka.
#8 Why We Took The Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf
The renowned German author presents a whimsically disquieting story about coming of age in America.
Mike Klingenberg seems to be oblivious to how others see him as boring. While it may be true that Mike lacks a social network, in fact, he doesn’t have any friends, his presentations in class invite mockery instead of applause and he never receives invitations to any social events, including the year’s most anticipated party thrown by the attractive Tatiana.
Tschick, a new student at school, is also quite the social pariah. He comes across as if he’s just made it through a physical encounter, his wardrobe is anything but stylish, and he rarely engages with others.
On a surprising day, Tschick shows up at Mike’s home. He, too, was overlooked for Tatiana’s party and is set on changing that.
Thus begins the unplanned road trip of these improbable friends. As they go on an adventure with no parental supervision, no map, and no known destination, it remains uncertain whether they will stray off course into unfamiliar territory.
Why We Took the Car is a youth novel by Wolfgang Herrndorf first published in German by Rowohlt Verlag in 2010.
#9 Andorra by Max Frisch
The renowned Swiss dramatist, Max Frisch, wrote the play Andorra in 1961.
This masterpiece was originally inspired by a prose outline, named Der andorranische Jude (The Andorran Jew), that Frisch previously recorded in his personal diary.
Interestingly, the Andorra portrayed in his play does not aim to reflect the real Andorra located between France and Spain.
Frisch clarified that he intended the Andorra reference to simply be a provisional name, however, he took pleasure in using the term “Andorrans“, and thus it endured.
In Germany, Andorra holds the reputation of being one of the most illustrious plays written by Frisch.
Andorra is a play written by the Swiss dramatist Max Frisch in 1961. The original text came from a prose sketch Frisch had written in his diary titled Der andorranische Jude.
#10 Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
This accomplished and goal-driven narrative shows the intricacies of the human journey, delivering a breathtaking viewpoint on existence, affection, and the fundamental nature of literature. It is a captivating piece highlighting the exploration into human consciousness, the capacity to genuinely comprehend another person, and the influence of language in shaping our identities.
The plot revolves around Raimund Gregorius, a Latin educator at a Swiss institution, whose life takes an unexpected turn stimulated by a mysterious encounter with an enigmatic Portuguese lady.
This instigates a massive transformation in his life as he abandons his previous lifestyle to commence a fresh expedition. He hops on the evening train bound for Lisbon, taking along a novel penned by Amadeu de Prado, a Portuguese doctor-turned-author, who deeply reflects on themes such as loneliness, the inevitability of death, friendship, and love in his writings.
Intrigued by the book, Gregorius becomes engrossed in it, relentlessly trying to comprehend the author’s existence. His pursuit of understanding leads him to various corners of Lisbon, sketching a representation of a man—a medical practitioner and poet who stood up against Salazar’s tyranny.
4. Reading German literature as an intermediate language learner
#11 The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
Praised for its intricate erotic scenes and moral dilemmas presented to the reader, this enthralling novel unravels a story of passion, mystery, fear, and sympathy, set in the haunting landscape of post-World War II Germany.
Michael Berg, a 15-year-old boy, falls ill on his way home from school and is rescued by Hanna, a woman who is twice his age. In time, she turns into his romantic partner before she disappears without a trace.
When Michael stumbles upon her again, he is an aspiring law student, and she is on trial for a terrifying crime. Witnessing her refusal to defend her innocence, Michael slowly realizes that Hannah might be guarding a secret that she considers more shameful than murder.
#12 The Invention of Curried Sausage by Uwe Timm
The Invention of Curried Sausage is an intelligently crafted, perceptive, and endearing narrative which explores the origin of a beloved German street delicacy.
Uwe Timm reminisces about his experiences consuming currywurst in Hamburg during his formative years, from a vendor owned by Lena Brücker.
This is despite the common claim that it was first created in Berlin in the 1950s. Intrigued, he goes on a quest for the truth.
While the novel does eventually reveal the genesis of the curried sausage, it is the preceding events – particularly the tale of Lena Brücker’s encounter, allure, and capture of a runaway German in Hamburg around April 1945, just as World War II was drawing to a close – that are most compelling.
Timm masterfully paints a picture full of the vibrant reminiscences of Lena, and it is the joy these recollections bring to both her and the reader, that truly captivate throughout the story.
The Invention of Curried Sausage is a novella by German author Uwe Timm detailing the fictionalized invention of currywurst, a popular dish of sausage in curry ketchup in Germany.
#13 Bad Wolf by Nele Neuhaus
On a hot day in June, the corpse of a teenage girl surfaces on a riverbank just outside Frankfurt.
She has suffered a horrific murder and bears evidence of prolonged maltreatment.
However, no clues regarding her identity have come out. Even after several weeks, the local law enforcement cannot determine who she is. Then, a case involving a beloved TV presenter occurs.
She is assaulted, sexually abused and confined in the trunk of her own vehicle. Miraculously, she survives but can only provide the police with certain nebulous clues, related to her recent investigations surrounding an organization, the members of which hail from society’s highest ranks.
They’re potentially hiding a scandalous past they’d rather keep hidden from the public.
When both cases intertwine, Detective Inspectors Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein start to deep dive into the history. Time is almost up for a person very dear to Pia before Pia and Oliver finally apprehend the mastermind.
She looked at herself in the mirror, touched her fingertips to the little red hood on her head, and laughed...
#14 The Wave by Morton Rhue (Todd Strasser)
The Wave is a narrative inspired by real events that took place in a high school history class in Palo Alto, California, in 1969.
The overwhelming power of group influence, which has characterized many historical movements such as Nazism, is meticulously recreated in the classroom when Burt Ross, a history teacher, introduces an innovative system to his students.
In no time, The Wave, built on the principles of “strength through discipline, unity, and action”, rapidly spreads throughout the entire school. As the majority of the students get swept up in the movement, two discerning students, Laurie Saunders and David Collins, identify the alarming acceleration of The Wave.
They come to realize that they must intervene and put an end to this movement before it spirals out of control.
#15 Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
A globally applauded bestseller, Patrick Suskind’s renowned novel triggers a chilling exploration into the horrifying consequences when a man’s indulgence in his most profound passion—his olfactory sense—results in homicide.
In the poverty-stricken areas of 18th century France, an infant named Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born, blessed with an extraordinary gift—a magnificent sense of smell. As a child, he dedicates his life to unravel the aromas of Paris, and positions himself under the guidance of a notable perfumer who imparts him with the ancient knowledge of blending valuable oils and herbs.
Yet, Grenouille’s talent is of such magnitude that he is not content with just that, and develops an obsession with encapsulating the scents of items like brass doorknobs and raw cut wood. One day, a trace of a fragrance piques his interest, leading him on an increasingly terrifying pursuit to craft the “ultimate perfume”—the scent of a young, beautiful virgin.
Narrated with resplendent storytelling prowess, Perfume is a gripping narrative of murder and sensual corruption.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a 1985 literary historical fantasy novel by German writer Patrick Süskind.
5. Learn German with stories and Conversation Based Chunking
When learning German through stories, the strategy of Conversation Based Chunking is particularly valuable. It involves concentrating on common phrases or ‘chunks’ that are often used together. Noticing these patterns in the context of a story helps you to understand how the language is pieced together in everyday conversation.
Keep an eye out for these chunks as you read. They’re pivotal in making your German sound more authentic and fluent. For example, familiarize yourself with phrases like “Ich würde gerne” or “Ich habe vor” and practice incorporating them into your own sentences.
By actively looking for and using these word groupings – chunks, your understanding of the language will deepen, and you’ll begin to think in German naturally. This method is far more effective than memorizing vocabulary in isolation, as it connects words to their practical use in real-life scenarios.