Learning German? Here Are 10 Books I Recommend You Own
- Written byFergus O'Sullivan
- Read time10 mins
Need books to learn or improve your German?
Combined with a good German course or app, obtaining the best books can definitely help you improve your German grammar and vocab.
The real challenge is deciding which books are best for your learning style since there are so many.
Below are 10 excellent books that will help you learn German.
If I’ve missed anything vital, let me know below.
UPDATE: A lot of people ask for our best online German course recommendation. Here it is for those interested:
Best books for learning German
If you’re the kind who wants to learn German on their own, without assistance from teachers or classmates, using a book may be the best approach.
After all, people have been using books to learn foreign languages for centuries, and with accompanying audio recordings it’s become easier to pick up languages without ever setting foot in a classroom.
In this list, I’ll go over some of the best books to learn German I’ve come across.
If you already know some German and just want to brush up your skills a bit, I’ve also included four examples of accessible German-language fiction at the end.
For absolute beginners, reading may not always be the best starting point. In that case, I recommend you check out some German YouTube channels to get a handle on how German sounds before picking up a book.
🇩🇪 The “Everything” Learning German Book
The first entry, the “Everything” Learning German Book, has a pretty interesting take on learning German, emphasizing the similarities between it and English rather than its differences.
I really like how the course tries to take the foreignness out of learning a foreign language and shows you that German isn’t all that hard to learn.
It does this in several ways: for starters, it gives an overview of the development of both languages, from their common Germanic origins to the Norman invasion of England and beyond.
We really like this introduction, and we wish more language courses would do this; it’s nice to track how a language developed.
However, it’s not just a crash course in linguistics: as a course, the “Everything” Learning German Book focuses strongly on speaking German right away, using the words that are the same across both languages as anchors.
I really like this approach a lot as it gets you talking, which in my mind is the best way to truly learn a language. Even if you’re just saying hi in German, you’re making progress.
Of course, the downside to this approach is that it requires quite some self-confidence to get started, but getting speaking over with from the get-go is an effective way to combat any jitters.
🇩🇪 German Made Simple
German Made Simple takes a very different tack and offers an approach not all that different from that which most of you will know from secondary school.
Expect themed chapters, each of which offers some dialogues and a vocabulary list. The dialogue starts simple, then as you progress it gets more and more complicated.
I’m not a huge fan of this approach, mainly because most books that use it will skip details that don’t fit into themes too neatly.
In this case, though, the level of detail is impressive and the buildup in learning is gradual enough to make it easy to grasp, while fast enough to keep things interesting.
If you want a school-style book tailored for solo learners, German Made Simple is definitely worth checking out, though having a teacher to help you will make it a little easier to use.
🇩🇪 German For Dummies
My next suggestion, German for Dummies, is a mix of the previous two entries, offering practical themes and combining them with a more old-school grammar-heavy system.
The result is a book that’s part easy-going, and part very strict, a combination that may not sound like it would work, but is actually pretty effective and fun.
That said, though, it does at times devolve into some pretty heavy jargon, so I’m not entirely sure if it’s suitable for everybody, let alone the dummies from the title.
I have a feeling it’s best suited for people that, like me, enjoy the grammar heavy approach, but want something a little more light-hearted than our next three entries, which can get pretty serious.
🇩🇪 German Grammar For Beginners
We’ll kick off with German Grammar for Beginners, which makes no bones about how it will teach you German.
Each chapter has a grammatical issue as its subject, it makes you listen to a tape, read some text and then has you complete some assignments before moving on to the next chapter.
It’s extremely straightforward and punchy and it’s perfect for anybody that just wants to get the grammar down and banks on figuring out how to actually talk to people later.
That seems to be its weakness to a certain extent, though, as it moves into some pretty complicated stuff rather quickly.
Doing so in writing is a piece of cake, but applying these lessons could turn out to be a lot tougher than you think.
However, as a book to brush up on your German, German Grammar for Beginners definitely bears looking into.
🇩🇪 Speak German In 90 Days
Another solid option if you like this approach is Speak German in 90 Days, which claims to have you, well, speaking German in 90 days.
Of course, this assumes that you do one of its 90 lessons each and every day and looking at some of the subjects discussed you’d have to have the discipline of a monk to do so.
The buildup of the chapters makes sense, but only if you already speak German: for example, you go pretty deep into how German noun cases work before getting to verbs.
I prefer to use learning methods that have you completing goals as you go — which is very motivating for me and I have a feeling most other people, too — instead of having you do a ton of coursework and only seeing at the end all you’ve achieved.
Still, for the right person setting a deadline of a certain number of days is the perfect motivator and since Speak German in 90 Days offers some excellent instruction, it may be worth checking out.
🇩🇪 Hammer’s German Grammar And Usage
The final grammar-heavy entry is German Grammar and Usage from Hammer Publishing. It’s about as heavy as a mallet, and hits like one, too.
It’s the most no-nonsense of all our entries, and should really be used more as a reference than as a complete course.
However, if you like whichever other course you’re using, but wish it would offer more insight into how German grammar works, then this book is perfect.
Each facet of German grammar is explained in detail; though it does get into the weeds a little bit here and there, you never shut this book without having become a little wiser.
I really like it, and recommend it both as a reference and, for the truly brave among you, maybe even as a course in its own right.
🇩🇪 Learn German With Stories
So far the actual courses, but what about books that can help you with reading German and maybe even get a better grasp of how it’s spoken?
There are plenty of excellent options and I’ve picked four to get you started. First up is Learn German with Stories, which is a series of books featuring several short stories each in simple German.
If you’re a more experienced language learner, you know there’s an issue you almost can’t avoid when you want to start reading: the books with more mature content are too complicated, still, while the ones you can handle are aimed at kids.
The Learn German with Stories series gets around this issue, offering mature subjects in simple German, much like some of the best German-learning podcasts.
For example, in the series’ first book, Cafe in Berlin, one story focuses on the daily woes of a young man just arrived in Germany coming to grips with the culture and language.
I really like this series and recommend it to anybody that wants to start reading more German even if they’re still learning the language.
🇩🇪 Emil Und Die Detektive
If you’re a little more knowledgeable and confident, you may want to start tackling actual German literature.
A great place to start is 1929’s Emil und die Detektive by Erich Kästner, one of Germany’s greatest writers and poets.
One of the great things about Kästner — and the reason I like him so much — is that he manages to write excellent top-shelf literature without using complicated language.
Emil und die Detektive is a great example of this, though technically a book aimed at kids (I have a feeling it would be classified as young adult if it came out now), its themes are mature enough to be read by adults and the story is entertaining at any age.
In short, it’s about Emil, a young boy from outside the city who comes to Berlin, gets robbed and then gathers a crew of street kids to help him track down the thief.
It’s a great journey through the Berlin of the 1920s and I absolutely love the story ever since I got the book as a young teen from a family member.
The language is uncomplicated, though a little dated in places, but if you’re at a reasonable level you should be able to handle it just fine.
Staying in the 20s theme, I’d like to do something unconventional and recommend a comic book series called Berlin.
Though originally in English, it’s been translated to German, which is no wonder since it’s about Germany during the Weimar Republic.
The story follows a journalist and an art student as they go through life as German democracy falls apart around them.
It’s an extremely interesting — and relevant — story, told extremely well and I figure it’s just the ticket for German learners who like comic books.
Even if you’re not into comics, Berlin is good enough you may want to make an exception, especially since the translator did an excellent job of keeping the language simple.
🇩🇪 Die Unendliche Geschichte
We’ll finish our list with a book that never ends, die Unendliche Geschichte, or The Neverending Story.
Chances are, you’re already familiar with the story because of the hit films, which came out in 1984 and 1990, respectively.
However, the writer of the original book, Michael Ende, has trashed both films, and once you’ve read his work you’ll understand why.
Overall, the book is fairly easy to read, though it’s definitely a step up from Emil und die Detektive, but the story is great, so you’ll be more than motivated to make it through.
If you liked the films, but are curious about the real The Neverending Story, then why not read it in the original German?
Though these books barely scratch the surface of all that’s available to learn German, hopefully my picks will help you either get started.
Of course, if you’re already a little further along, reading actual books should help you a little more. Though the four I selected are barely the tip of the iceberg that is German literature, they’re a good place to start.
Have fun learning German, and leave a comment if you have any questions.
Any German books or resources I should add here?