If you are learning German, language tools such as Duolingo or Rosetta Stone can only take you so far. During my 5+ years of learning German, I have found that immersing myself in German films, TV shows, and books is a great way to improve language skills outside of the classroom.

Now, this list is not for those new to the German language. If you have been learning German for a few years now and consider yourself at the B1 level, however, then German novels can help you broaden your vocabulary, learn new phrases, and improve your overall reading comprehension. Here are my top 5 German book recommendations:

1. Liebe geht durch alle Zeiten: Rubinrot, Saphirblau, Smaragdgrün

by Kerstin Gier

Do not be fooled by the lame title — this is not just a girly love story. Liebe geht durch alle Zeiten is actually a trilogy of young adult novels that I would consider science fiction/drama. The novels are about a 16-year-old girl named Gwendolyn Shepherd, who comes from a family in which some of the women posses a time-travelling gene. She finds out at 16-years-old that she has this gene as well, and then must deal with the consequences. The first book was even made into a decent movie for those that are looking for a low-budget German film to check out.
German Level: B2/C1

Links to Find It on Amazon.de:
Trilogy
Rubinrot – Book | Movie
Saphirblau
Smaragdgrün

If you are lazy and just want a good trilogy to read in English, there is a good translation of these books available on Amazon.com:
Trilogy
Ruby Red
Sapphire Blue
Emerald Green

2. Best Short Stories/Die schönste Erzählungen

by Franz Kafka

In 2011, just before I left to study abroad in Germany, I started freaking out about the quality of my German. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone or that I would completely make a fool out of myself. So, I bought this book. I was around B1 level at the time, and I really loved the book’s format. You can easily enjoy the short stories, and look over to opposite page, where the English translation is, whenever you do not know a word. This book in particular features five short stories by Franz Kafka, who is known as one of the greatest modern writers not only in Germany, but throughout the entire literary world. 


German Level: B1/B2

Find it on Amazon here.

3. Das Parfum

by Patrick Süskind 

I’m not going to lie– I have only gotten through the first chapter of this book so far. This novel’s English translation was pretty popular and was even turned into a film. So despite not having finished it myself yet, I feel pretty comfortable suggesting it. Since the story is set in 18th century France, I do think it uses some out-dated vocabulary, making it a little difficult for us modern non-native German-speakers. When you have a smart phone equipped with a translating app at your side, however, it is doable.
German Level: C1+
Find it on Amazon here.

4. Short Stories in German


 

Here is another short story/parallel text book that I quite enjoyed reading. It is mix of contemporary short stories by various authors, so you will probably find some stories more interesting than others. Overall, though, I liked the mix of stories in this book and recommend it to those that like having the safety net a parallel text book provides.

German Level: B1/B2

Find it on Amazon here.

5. Faust 

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Known as one of the greatest works of German literature, those really feeling up to the challenge should try tackling Goethe’s most popular play. This version from Bantam Classics in particular is nice because it includes both the original text in German as well as its English translation. So, once again, you can attempt to stumble through the original text, and occasionally peek over at the English translation when there is a word that totally trips you up.
German Level: C1+

Find it on Amazon here.

Let me know if you find my list helpful, or if you have any German book recommendations for me in the comments below!