German Book Recommendations

January 9th, 2020


Co-op bookseller Alex recommends these German books - divided here into fiction and non-fiction. In her introduction to the selection, she writes, "Last year marked a series of anniversaries for Germany: 101 years since the end of WWI, 80 years since the beginning of WWII, and 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Join us in reflecting on the past century along with prominent German writers — revisit the memories of the Beer Hall Putsch, Kristallnacht, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in Am 9. November, read personal accounts of flight from East Germany in Wolfgang Bachkoenig's Sommer 1989, or reflect with journalist Christoph Amend on Germany's current trajectory in Wie tickt Deutschland? Spanning a wide range of years and topics, this collection serves as a sort of mirror for German society, showing the complex changes that German society has faced over the years and continues to face today."


Tyll, Daniel Kehlmann
An enchanting and fantastical reimagining of Thirty Years War history, this novel follows the colorful character of Tyll Ulenspiegel, a vagrant, actor, entertainer and provocateur born in the early 1600s. As Tyll travels throughout Germany, he encounters people of all backgrounds, from the exiled rulers of Bohemia to a young academic, a juggler, and a doctor. 

Die Vermessung der Welt, Daniel Kehlmann
Yet another magical novel by prolific German novelist Daniel Kehlmann, this one following the lives of famous scientists Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss as they competed with one another and spurred one another on in their mission to “measure the world.” A creative and entertaining spin on the lives of two of Germany’s great Enlightenment thinkers!

Sommerhaus, später, Judith Hermann
An incredible collection of short stories that I read while spending a summer in Berlin. 

Nichts als Gespenster, Judith Hermann
Hailed by many as the voice of a new German generation, Judith Hermann captures the meaning of “weltschmerz” in her short story collection, Nichts als Gespenster. Through a series of stories about love and travel, Hermann provides snapshots of a generation seeking connection, yet lost in doubt. 

Das Teemännchen, Heinz Strunk
Der Spiegel called this one of the best short story collections of 2018.


Wie geht’s dir, Deutschland?, Christoph Amend
A prominent German journalist and newspaper editor travels around the country to ask people of all different ages and backgrounds what they think the current state of the country is. They discuss migration politics, the rise of the AfD, the European Union, and other crucial topics that Germany is struggling with right now. 

Am 9. November: Innenansichten eines Jahrhunderts, Anke Hilbrenner
A fascinating book that looks at several turning points in 20th century German history that all took place on November 9. The end of WWI, the Beer Hall Putsch, Kristallnacht and the fall of the Berlin Wall (among others) have made this day one of the most important dates for Germany to grapple with its past and reflect upon its history. This past November provided a unique opportunity to look back on how Germany has changed over the past century, as it marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Wall and the 101st anniversary of the end of WWI.

Sommer 1989: durch den Eisernen Vorhang in die Freiheit, Wolfgang Bachkoenig
A book about those who fled East Germany and those along the border, whether in West Germany or neighboring countries, who helped them escape.

Funkenflug: August 1939: der Sommer, bevor der Krieg begann, Hauke Friederichs
An artistically-written and well-researched history of the summer before the beginning of WWII.

Zeitenwende 1979: Als die Welt von heute begann, Frank Bosch
An interesting look at the past 40 years that is more globally focused, while still emphasizing the effects -cultural, political, social, etc. - that these global changes had on German society. A few of the turning points that the book examines are the rise of neoliberalism with the election of Margaret Thatcher, the liberalization of China’s economy and society, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. 

Wie tickt Deutschland?: Psychologie einer aufgewuhlten Gesellschaft, Stephan Grunewald
This book aims to better understand the current state of German society, specifically the rise of radical political parties and the increase in anger on social media. Why do Germans today have the feeling that the future is only going to get worse, not better? Grunewald takes a psychological approach to try to understand the sources of fear and hatred in contemporary German society, and aims to give people a way of combatting these in their daily lives.


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