There are two types of books that will help you learn German - German textbooks for grammar and exercises, and novels for the enjoyment of reading and the overall improvement of your German. Get started below with my list of some of the most popular books for German learners to read.
There are many ways to improve your German - if you are looking for other tips and language learning advice, then also check out our guide on How to Learn German.
Now, to the books!
Here are the best textbooks for learning German. These are good for beginners, advanced and intermediates - all levels from A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 to C2. These are more instructional books, as opposed to the German novels below. Many of these have CDs or audio files that you can download, so you can test your listening comprehension as well.
Amazon Rating 4.4/5 - Link
The Mittelpunkt books are popular with language schools, which is a good sign! They cover everything from grammar, discussion topics to many exercises. The CDs and workbook must be bought separately, making it a more expensive option than some others on this list. The text book is in the German language itself - there is no English at all. They cover all levels from A1 to C2.
German Grammar for Beginners
Amazon Rating 4.3/5 - Link
If you have been doing a bit more speaking and now want to focus on your grammar, this is a good option. The explanations are direct and there are daily exercises so you can build a habit. There is also audio for listening to the pronunciation.
It has English translations as well, and the concepts are explained clearly. This is a good book for beginners, as the title suggests!
The "Everything" Learning German Book
Amazon Rating 4.5/5 - Link
This is one of the best German text books. It is suited towards beginners and early intermediates. It focuses on basic German phrases. It is very practical, and helps you with many everyday scenarios, such as with ordering food and communicating with locals.
It is written in English, and it shows the similarities between English and German, so it eases you into the language in a nice way.
With 1,532 reviewings on Amazon and an average rating of 4. 4 /5, it comes highly recommended.
Living Language German Complete Course: Beginner to Advanced
Amazon Rating 4.6/5 - Link
Many say this is the best German textbook for self study. It is appropriate for both beginners and advanced learners. It comes with 3 books - beginner, intermediate and advanced. They use the living language method which is based on linguistic science.
It comes with audio, which you can listen to in the car without using the book and still learn.
This is a great option if you want to learn German on your own and take it at your own place. Considering the amount of structured learning information they give you, it is also great value.
Hammer's German Grammar and Usage
Amazon Rating 4.6/5 - Link
This one is for more advanced German learners! You would need to have at least B1 German level for this, as it requires a base understanding of German. It greatly benefits those at B2 level for C1 level. It is considered the definitive guide to German grammar.
It offers very in-depth explanations for German grammar, and it will answer every possible question you could have about Grammar. If you like detail, this is the book for you.
German Novels and Fiction
Reading a novel in German is a bit intimidating. They can be a bit of a challenge, and it is not as relaxed as reading a book in your native language. So it is good to choose one that is not too out of your reach. You won’t learn anything if you get so frustrated you give up.
But once you fight your way through the first couple of chapters, you realise that, hey, maybe I can do this? Then when you reach a section of the book where you understand most of it, the buzz is hard to replicate!
These novels are enjoyable to read in their own right for German speakers as well. The language in them is considered more accessible to German learners than a standard German novel.
I have written a personal review of the books that I have read, and for the ones that I did not read, I have included a top review from Amazon.
1. Der Kleiner Prinz
Amazon Rating 4.7/5 - Link
This is The Little Prince - a popular children’s/teen’s book translated into many languages. I read this when I was in B1, and to be honest it was tough for me. The stories within are philosophical, not literal, and I didn’t have the vocabulary or the grammar knowledge to understand all of the nuances being discussed.
Luckily there was an English translation to go with every page, so I could follow along, but doing this too much brings you out of the flow and it can be quite time consuming. I’m glad I read it, but I read this at too early a stage. I’d recommend this more for those who are doing B2 level German, or a higher level.
2. Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen
Amazon Rating 4.8/5 - Link
The Harry Potter that kicked it all off - “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. You should (or not) note that for some reason, the cartoon of Harry on the cover is inexplicably different to the English version.
I read this when I was doing B2 in my intensive German course, and I really enjoyed it. The massive advantage of reading this is that I knew the storyline already, so a lot of the hard work was already done for me. This gave me a lot more confidence to power on, as there were always branches of hope to cling on to, where I understood a part of the story, if I ever got lost.
Some sections were tricky, but for the most part I was able to muddle through. For the first ⅓ of the book I was using the dictionary a good bit, as not knowing a word annoyed me, but then I just stopped using it and accepted that I wouldn’t understand everything. Overall this was my favourite book that I read in German, and if you were to read any from this list, make it Herr Potter and his friends.
3. Short Stories in German for Beginners
Amazon Rating - 4.6 / 5 - Link
This book was written for beginner to intermediate level learners, and contains 8 short stories of different genres. It is aimed to be fun and conversational, and uses language that is easy to understand but pushes your vocabulary level. You should get a feeling of progress from this book whilst not being overwhelmed.
Top reviews from Amazon:
The language here is exactly the one you need for everyday communication. I think even A2 level can read it. Really good book. - Diana
I am learning German and have really enjoyed this book. I like that each chapter has a short summary and questions to check if you understood, and also vocab words to help you learn and understand. I have been reading it through A2 level. - Crbuyer
4. Learn German With Stories
Amazon Rating 4.7/ 5 - Link
“Newly arrived in Berlin, a young man from Sicily is thrown headlong into an unfamiliar urban lifestyle of unkempt bachelor pads, evanescent romances and cosmopolitan encounters of the strangest kind. How does he manage the new language? Will he find work?”
There are 10 chapters, all set in Berlin, with Dino as the main character. The stories are designed to be immersive, and to give you an idea of some scenarios that you might encounter living in Germany. There are mini-quizzes at the end of the chapters to test your understanding.
Top Amazon Review
It is written in simple language that does not make you want to quit learning. It provides everyday essential vocabulary that will come handy sooner than you expect if you live in Germany.
The chapters are short and each is followed by a "dictionary" i.e. all the words and phrases are explained in English. This is perfect because then you can just take the book with you and read it without having to carry a dictionary with it around.
This is a great book for a beginner (A level for example), it will be too easy for a B1-B2 level. - Sam
5. Emil und die Detektiv
Amazon Rating 4.6/5 - Link
This is a classic German children’s book . I read parts of this during my B1 intensive course in Berlin. As it was first published in 1929, there are some older words that aren’t used anymore, which can be frustrating, but there are annotations to help you through.
It follows the journey of a boy who leaves his hometown to travel to Berlin alone to meet his grandmother. But his trip takes a turn when his money is stolen.
As I didn't read the whole book, I have included an Amazon Review:
Top Amazon Review
I am currently teaching myself German, and she thought this would be a great beginner's book to read - she was right. Although I struggled with some words and phrases (most likely due to my lack of language skills), I thoroughly enjoyed the story and would recommend it to anyone with an upper level basic grasp of German that wants to sink their teeth into something other than learning by rote.
6. Die Unendliche Geschichte
Amazon Rating 4.8 - Link
Bastian discovers a mysterious book in a bookshop (“The Neverending Story”) and soon finds himself enveloped in a magical world - one that is in great danger. It soon becomes his mission to save it. This bestseller fantasy novel is loved by millions, and is popular with German learners.
Top Amazon Review
I got this book to help me learn German, and because it's one of my favorite books of all time. It's fun to notice the differences between the English and German versions, although I think the German version is more beautiful. - Amber
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