If you’re learning German online with Lingvist, this article is for you! Lingvist uses special technology to quickly and accurately access and assess your vocabulary so that you can learn and make progress at your level. This article is dedicated to the best German books that you can read based on your Lingvist vocabulary estimate – from beginner to intermediate, to advanced and beyond!
Books to try when you hit 1,000 words
Reading is an easily accessible and fantastic tool for learning a foreign language – even if you are just starting out. Here are the best German books that will work for you as a beginner.
Bremer Stadtmusikanten (English: Town Musicians of Bremen)
The popular German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm tells us about four domestic animals who, after years of devoted service, are mistreated and neglected by their owners. They ultimately make the decision to flee and become known as the town musicians of Bremen.
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Emil und die Detektive (English: Emil and the Detectives)
Pre-war Berlin serves as the setting for Emil’s story, opening an intriguing window into German history. Erich Kästner’s books are considered classics, and several of them have been made into films.
Vom kleinen Maulwurf, der wissen wollte, wer ihm auf den Kopf gemacht hat (English: The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business)
This is a children’s book written by two German authors: Wolf Erlbruch and Werner Holzwarth. The story about the little mole with poop on his head might be a little embarrassing for adults, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a worldwide hit.
Books to read when you know more than 2,000 words
Congratulations on hitting the 2,000-word level! What’s on your reading list? Here are the literary works that are tougher than the basic books, which makes reading all the more interesting.
Tintenherz (English: Inkheart)
Tintenherz is the first book in Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart series and a 2003 young adult fantasy novel. The National Education Association included the book in its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children” list, based on an online survey conducted in 2007.
The book is about a little girl whose family brings fictional characters to life by reading aloud to them.
Tschick (English: Why We Took the Car)
Tschick is a youth novel written by Wolfgang Herrndorf. It centers on the unusual bond that develops between a young Russian repatriate and a middle-class boy.
The book won both the Clemens-Brentano-Preis and the German Children’s Literature Award. As of 2016, it had been released in over 25 countries and had sold over 2 million copies in Germany alone.
Momo (English: The Grey Gentlemen)
Awarded the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis, Momo is a fantasy novel by Michael Ende that tells the story of a mysterious girl who can control time.
Books for 3,000-word German speakers
Are you looking for books that are more advanced yet not too hard to read? Below, you will find several titles that will keep you turning the pages.
Der Richter und sein Henker (English: The Judge and His Hangman)
Der Richter und sein Henker by Friedrich Dürrenmatt centers on a terminally ill police investigator who must find the murderer of his best police officer. This novel, which is a blend of existential philosophy and the detective genre, is regarded as a classic of crime fiction.
The classic novel Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse tells the story of a young man who embarks on an exciting journey of self-discovery, paving the path for a new life, although not without suffering.
Die Verwandlung (English: The Metamorphosis)
Franz Kafka’s novella Die Verwandlung is considered one of his best works and is studied at universities all over the world. The story revolves around a wandering salesman who wakes one day only to find that he has turned into a huge insect. Since the novella ends on a cliffhanger, you can find a lot of interpretations and discussions of the book.
Challenging texts that might require study
Are you up for a bit of a challenge? Then get started with these books.
Faust. Der Tragödie zweiter Teil in fünf Akten (English: Faust: The Second Part of the Tragedy)
People only tend to read the first part of the tragic play written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as the second part requires some study and further reading – mainly due to its form and content.
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Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (English: The Man Without Qualities)
To start with, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften is an unfinished modernist novel in three volumes and several drafts by Robert Musil – the total volume of the book is well over a thousand pages.
What’s more, the plot frequently deviates into allegorical tangents on a variety of existential subjects involving being human and exploring human emotions.
Classic German novels
We reserved the best for last. In this final section, you will find the German books to read before you die!
Die Blechtrommel (English: The Tin Drum)
Die Blechtrommel is a well-known German novel by Günter Grass that tells the story of World War II through the perspective of a dwarf who intentionally stops growing at the age of three and is reminiscing about his upbringing many years later.
The idiom “to beat a tin drum” refers to creating a disturbance in order to draw attention to a cause, which is exactly what Oskar is doing banging his tin drum, in “protest against the middle-class mentality of his family and neighborhood.”
Im Westen nichts Neues (English: All Quiet on the Western Front)
Im Westen nichts Neues is a novel by Erich Maria Remarque that depicts the unfathomable physical and mental strain that German troops endure during the war, as well as what the soldiers have to go through post-war.
Notably, the author is a German veteran of World War I.
Buddenbrooks is a novel by Thomas Mann. A major literary achievement, the book is a chronicle that follows the decline of a potent North-German merchant family over four generations.
Das Parfum: Die Geschichte eines Mörders (English: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer)
Das Parfum: Die Geschichte eines Mörders is a historical fantasy novel by Patrick Süskind.
Following the story of an unwelcome orphan who is born with an exceptional sense of smell in 18th-century France, this book examines the relationship between the sense of smell and its emotional significance.
Advance Your German with Lingvist
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