Best German Books - top German literature of all time

German book: best German books

German books

Searching for a good German book? Here you can find the best German books based on prestigious literature prizes and expert lists of best German books. There will be an introduction of German literature through the centuries. Moreover, a closer look shall be given to Modern German books. In other words, this is a manual for finding a good German book.

German book: introduction to German literature

Most people have associations with Germany due to its negative role in the World Wars, and are not aware that Germany and German language countries have established a very impressive literature tradition. Not just with famous writers, but also when it comes to philosophers and sociologists, Germany has always been a country of great thinkers. German literature also entails books from other German speaking countries. So also authors from Austria and the German Speaking part of Switzerland are being considered to be part of German literature.

The German book throughout the centuries

German literature has in the period of the 1050 to 1350 gone through a blossoming period. From before that just to works of poetry are known, namely the Hildebrandslied en muspilli, which are probably remainders from the oral tradition. The second half of the 12th century is even referred to as a golden age for the German book. There was in this period a hightened literature activity. From this period a large amount of courtly love novels are originiated, but also novels about knights, like Parzifal. Also the German renaissance and reformation fueled the German witers with material for books. The following period, the baroque period has produced one of Germany's most famous books: Simplicius Simplicissimus by Grimmelhausen. Now we have reached what is generally considered to be the most popular. The Enlightenment. In these period two great writers came into play, namely Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. They can also be put in the Weimar Classicism period. A German book by Goethe that continues to fascinate readers is Faust, a novel in which the main character sells his soul to the devil. In the nineteenth century several influencial books were brought to live. One of them, by the Swiss Author Johanna Spyri, Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre (heidi) (1880) is one of the best selling novels of all time, with 50 million copies sold.

German books now

Also in the twentieth century German has despite (or perhaps because) the first and second World Wars and communism, produced great books. After English language and French language writers, it are the German writers that have won the most Nobel prizes for literature. A very important literature award in Germany is the Ingeborg Bachman Prize, and is annualy awarded to the best German book of that specific year. The last fifteen years the following books have won:Maja Haderlap - Im Kessel (2011)

  • Peter Wawerzinek / Rabenliebe (2010)
  • Jens Petersen / Bis dass der Tod (2009)
  • Tilman Rammstedt / Der Kaiser von China (2008)
  • Lutz Seiler / Turksib (2007)
  • Kathrin Passig / Sie befinden sich hier (2006)
  • Thomas Lang / Am Seil (2005)
  • Uwe Tellkamp / Der Schlaf in den Uhren (2004)
  • Inka Parei / Was Dunkelheit war (2003)
  • Peter Glaser / Geschichte von Nichts (2002)
  • Michael Lentz / Muttersterben (2001)
  • Georg Klein / Fragment of a long piece of prose (2000)
  • Terézia Mora / Der Fall Ophelia (1999)
  • Sibylle Lewitscharoff - PONG. (1998)
  • Norbert Niemann / Wie man's nimmt (1997)
  • Jan Peter Bremer / Der Fürst spricht (1996)


In 1999 the multinational media company Bertlsmann and Literaturhaus Munchen have complied a list of the best German books of the Century. Every german book on the list is really worth your while. A few might actually a bit heavy to read, so below the list I have made a few personal recommendations for more enjoyable lighter books.

  1. Robert Musil - Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften
  2. Franz Kafka - Der Prozess
  3. Thomas Mann: Der Zauberberg
  4. Alfred Döblin - Berlin Alexanderplatz
  5. Günter Grass - Die Blechtrommel
  6. Uwe Johnson - Jahrestage. Aus dem Leben von Gesine Cresspahl
  7. Thomas Mann - Buddenbrooks
  8. Joseph Roth - Radetzkymarsch
  9. Franz Kafka - Das Schloß
  10. Thomas Mann - Doktor Faustus

Personal tips for German books.

I would also recommend Das Parfum by Patrick Suskind, which is a book much read by students. Also Der Vorleser (The reader) is very good and had recently been made into a movie. My last suggestion is Wir Kinder Vm Bahnhof Zoo, which is also been brought to the pictures.

German Cinema

if you are interested in German Literature, you might also want to learn more about German Cinema. You can read all about the best German Films section of Europeanmovies.org.


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Comments 1 comment

mbyL profile image

mbyL 4 years ago from Switzerland, Zurich

Good choice of rather contemporary books! I personally am more into more complicated literature like Hoffmann from romanticism, Schiller and Goethe and so on. Well done! Shared!

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