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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Top 5 Novels for Learning German


If you are learning German, language tools such as Duolingo or Rosetta Stone can only take you so far. During my 5+ years of learning German, I have found that immersing myself in German films, TV shows, and books is a great way to improve language skills outside of the classroom.

Now, this list is not for those new to the German language. If you have been learning German for a few years now and consider yourself at the B1 level, however, then German novels can help you broaden your vocabulary, learn new phrases, and improve your overall reading comprehension. Here are my top 5 German book recommendations:

1. Liebe geht durch alle Zeiten: Rubinrot, Saphirblau, Smaragdgrün

by Kerstin Gier




Do not be fooled by the lame title -- this is not just a girly love story. Liebe geht durch alle Zeiten is actually a trilogy of young adult novels that I would consider science fiction/drama. The novels are about a 16-year-old girl named Gwendolyn Shepherd, who comes from a family in which some of the women posses a time-travelling gene. She finds out at 16-years-old that she has this gene as well, and then must deal with the consequences. The first book was even made into a decent movie for those that are looking for a low-budget German film to check out.

German Level: B2/C1

Links to Find It on Amazon.de:
Trilogy
Rubinrot - Book | Movie
Saphirblau
Smaragdgrün

If you are lazy and just want a good trilogy to read in English, there is a good translation of these books available on Amazon.com:
Trilogy
Ruby Red
Sapphire Blue
Emerald Green

2. Best Short Stories/Die schönste Erzählungen

by Franz Kafka


In 2011, just before I left to study abroad in Germany, I started freaking out about the quality of my German. I was worried I wouldn't be able to talk to anyone or that I would completely make a fool out of myself. So, I bought this book. I was around B1 level at the time, and I really loved the book's format. You can easily enjoy the short stories, and look over to opposite page, where the English translation is, whenever you do not know a word. This book in particular features five short stories by Franz Kafka, who is known as one of the greatest modern writers not only in Germany, but throughout the entire literary world. 

German Level: B1/B2

Find it on Amazon here.

3. Das Parfum

by Patrick Süskind 


I'm not going to lie-- I have only gotten through the first chapter of this book so far. This novel's English translation was pretty popular and was even turned into a film. So despite not having finished it myself yet, I feel pretty comfortable suggesting it. Since the story is set in 18th century France, I do think it uses some out-dated vocabulary, making it a little difficult for us modern non-native German-speakers. When you have a smart phone equipped with a translating app at your side, however, it is doable.

German Level: C1+

Find it on Amazon here.

4. Short Stories in German


 

Here is another short story/parallel text book that I quite enjoyed reading. It is mix of contemporary short stories by various authors, so you will probably find some stories more interesting than others. Overall, though, I liked the mix of stories in this book and recommend it to those that like having the safety net a parallel text book provides.



German Level: B1/B2

Find it on Amazon here.

5. Faust 

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Known as one of the greatest works of German literature, those really feeling up to the challenge should try tackling Goethe's most popular play. This version from Bantam Classics in particular is nice because it includes both the original text in German as well as its English translation. So, once again, you can attempt to stumble through the original text, and occasionally peek over at the English translation when there is a word that totally trips you up.

German Level: C1+

Find it on Amazon here.

Let me know if you find my list helpful, or if you have any German book recommendations for me in the comments below!

12 comments:

  1. I've seen those Kerstin Gier books in the shops but wasn't sure whether they were any good. I might give them a try - will make a change from reading only Krimis in German!

    I like Monika Feth's books (starting with "Der Erdbeerpflücker"). Depending which bookshop you go to, they're either in the crime or young adult section. Not sure what level they'd be though.

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    1. Yeah, I like Kerstin Gier's Liebe geht durch alle Zeiten trilogie. My friend just loaned me her Mütter Mafia trilogie too, but I haven't started reading it yet.

      I with make sure to check out Monika Feth next!

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  2. When I was at the B1/2 level, I really enjoyed reading "Der Vorleser" by Bernhard Schlink. If you've seen the Hollywood adaptation with Kate Winslet, you'll have a good enough understanding of the plot to be able to follow along. Plus, the grammar and vocabulary isn't terribly complicated.

    I'm making my way through a lot of Kafka's books and short stories at the moment. It's fantastic to keep my language skills up, plus it's wonderful to be able to read great works in their original language!

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    1. I've never seen the movie, but now that I know the original book is German, maybe I will check it out. Thanks! It is definitely nice to read books in their original language.

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  3. I will have to check out the first triology. I am SO bad about making myself read German, but I know how important it is for vocabulary. One of my German friends moved to Canada in HS and said he could not speak a word, so he just wnet home and read for an hour every night in English and it changed his world.

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    1. Yeah, this is the first trilogy I have read in German. I don't know if reading it in German changed my world, but I really liked it.

      Ever since writing an article complaining about how Germans speak English to me, all of my German friends (and boyfriend) only speak German to me now. Although the change was difficult at first, I would have to say that was the one thing that really changed my world.

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  4. I may have to check out that first series! I have previously read the translations of the Sookie Stackhouse series and the Shopaholic series. Because I knew the characters (and the general way the plot would unfold) it worked pretty well. I did have to learn a fair amount of useless vocab about werwolves for the Stackhouse books though...

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  5. Yeah, unfortunately every book comes with its own set of useless vocab you will inevitably have to learn. This is why I really enjoy reading German books on the kindle, though. You can easily just move the cursor to a word you don't know, and the definition pops up on the screen!

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  6. For (recent) history enthusiasts, I'd like to recommend the trilogy by Klaus Kordon which begins with "die Roten Matrosen". Each novel is a new generation of the same family living in a zweite Hinterhof in Berlin, and the first novel begins in 1918. The good thing for us German learners is that I believe the series is pegged as a "young adult" reader, so the difficulty level isn't too severe.

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  7. This is a great list, thanks! I really enjoyed reading Tonke Dragt's "Der Brief für den König".

    http://hiddeningermany.blogspot.ca/

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    1. Cool, I actually just finished a book recently and was looking for a new one in German. I will check it out!

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  8. I am interested in learning any one of the foreign languages. That time I have read your blog, your information is really helpful for learning German as a second language..Just now I have completed German language Classes in Chennai at FITA.

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