German Literature 101

German literature has to offer something for every taste – and there are plenty of genres and epochs to choose from. But if you need English translations of German books, then the variety is somewhat lessened. Here are some famous and popular German books that are available as English translations.

“Inkheart”, “Inkspell”, and “Inkdeath” by Cornelia Funke

The novels by Cornelia Funke have become very popular, especially after the release of the movie Inkheart, which was a success in many countries. The trilogy of books has been translated into English and mainly appeals to young readers, and readers who are still young at heart and love a little magic in their novels. Inkheart is the story of Mo and his daughter. Mo has the fantastic ability to bring the story he reads to life – literally.

Bernhard Schlink “The Reader”

“The Reader” is a rather short read, but definitely worth your time if you are interested in reading a story that is set in postwar Germany. This novel is about the love between young Michael and the older Hanna. One day, Hanna disappears, and Michael thinks that this was it – that he will never see her again. But some years later, he meets her again: in a court. Bit by bit he learns that his lost love has some terrible secrets.

Gottfried Keller “A Village Romeo and Juliet”

This book is often called the best work of Swiss German Gottfried Keller. He had been inspired by a true story of two young people who committed suicide together. In his book, he describes a love of two young people, and how society and their rules drove them to their death.

Goethe “Faust”

Goethe is one of the classics of German literature. Even though Faust is a few centuries old, the two part drama is a fantastic read for people of today's modern world. While Faust I is usually loved by most readers, readers find Faust II a bit harder to understand and read. In Faust I, Mephistopholes and God make a deal: God has full trust in Faust, while Mephisto is quite sure that he would be able to seduce his soul and make him stray from his path. How Mephisto influences Faust's life is rather interesting. Faust is the kind of story you read once, and then you have one kind of understanding. Then you read it again a few years later, and you see some things in a different way, because you have more life experience. It is a very valuable book.

E.T.A. Hoffmann “The Sandman”

E.T.A. Hoffmann is one of Germany's most famous, classic fantasy authors – and the Sandman has been adapted numerous times, and also has inspired many other tales based on the same idea. The main character of the book, Nathanael, enters and leaves madness – and the tale in between is definitely worth a read.

Theodor Storm “The rider on the white horse”

In most of Storm's novellas, the reader will find individuals struggling or fighting against the masses. The same is true for “The Rider on the White Horse”, which is set in a vividly described marsh landscape, and also at the sea. It is a novella for people who like reading something a little eerie and spooky.

Hermann Hesse “Siddharta”

Hermann Hesse is a German author whose works have been translated into many languages. His novels are all very philosophical, and help the readers to gain a better insight into the human heart and spirit. Siddharta, the story of a young man who leaves home and travels, but often strays from his path to enlightenment, is one of the most popular Herman Hesse books, and should definitely be on your list of German books to read.

Franz Kafka “The Metamorphosis”

Kafka has actually only become popular after his death, for a long time, nobody was interested in his rather odd books. The Metamorphosis is one example of how strange his books can be. In this story, a man called Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning and realises that he is no longer a man. Someone or something has turned him into a monstrous insect over night. The story in itself is a reflection on human emotions and thoughts. It's worth a read – but you'll surely find it odd at stages.

Erich Kästner “Lottie and Lisa”

Erich Kästner wrote some of the most beloved children books in Germany. Lottie and Lisa also has been made into a movie (“The Parent Trap”). It is the story of two twin girls who grew up in different homes, but meet in a summer camp. Apart from their hair style, they notice that they look exactly the same. In the following weeks, the swap homes, get to know each others parents, and are sometimes up to no good. It is a charming story that does not only appeal to kids.