Learning languages comes in different stages, but reading is one of the best ways to expand your vocabulary and learn idiomatic language. You can carry a book with you and read anytime, anywhere, so to give you a head start with finding authors and books you’ll love, here are some of the best German novels for beginner German learners!
Die Leiden des jungen Werthers – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
‘The sorrows of young Werther’ is an all-time German classic. The tragic love story of Werther is a must-read for anyone learning German and is in very clear, easy to read German.
The Inspector Barlach Mysteries – Friedrich Dürrenmatt
If you like detective novels, you must read the Inspector Barlach Mysteries! Der Richter und sein Henker (The judge and his hangman) and Der Verdacht (Suspicion) are witty, suspenseful and will keep you up at night until you get to the end!
Das doppelte Lottchen – Erich Kästner
This is a heartwarming book about separated twins trying to reunite their families and definitely worth the read. It’s also the basis for the Parent Trap films and especially good for younger readers.
Grimms’ fairy tales – the Grimm Brothers
The Grimm Brothers wrote hundreds of these fairy tales and they’re perfect for learning German. The most popular of these have stood the test of time, including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin as well as many more.
Der Zauberberg – Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann’s ‘The magic mountain’ is one of his most acclaimed works and definitely one to sink your teeth into. If this is a bit daunting, however, you can always start with Der Tod in Venedig (Death in Venice) or his book series of Joseph und seine Brüder (Joseph and his brothers).
Die Räuber – Friedrich Schiller
The Robbers is actually a play by Friedrich Schiller and launched him into stardom at the beginning of his career. It’s easy to read and full of thought-provoking ideas and dialogue, making it ideal for a German student!
Unvollendete Geschichte – Volker Braun
Volker Braun is not the most famous author, despite writing some amazing novels such as ‘Unfinished History’. This story of an East German girl struggling with her family is a powerful criticism of socialism, making this also an ideal book for anyone studying German post-war history.
This list covers just some of the many great German works of literature and should all be approachable for beginner Germanists, though make sure you have a dictionary to hand! Reading is massively beneficial when learning a language, so if you enjoyed some of these books, be sure to read other books by the same author (the Grimm Fairy Tales especially will go on forever!). One really useful tip is to get a dual-language book, where the English translation faces opposite the original, helping you understand difficult words or phrases.
Did you like this list? Did we miss anything? Comment your favorite German books below. Or if you’re tired of reading, check out the best German films and TV shows you can watch for more immersion! Or better still, schedule a Lex and put it all to practice!