German Recommendations

German DVDs

I recently noticed that three of my favourite films are German.

If I was able to force people to watch one film then it would be The Lives Of Others; with the possible exception of Shrek and Jean De Florette/Manon Des Sources,  The Lives Of Others is my favourite film. It is a thought-provoking, emotional film set in Eat Berlin during the 1980s it shows how small acts of human kindness can make the world a better place. It has fantastic acting, brilliant plotting and everything else you could possibly want in a film. I highly recommend it. 

Run Lola Run is a bit like Sliding Doors in that it shows how small differences in your actions can produce several versions of events. It is fast paced, clever and amusing. I recommend it. 

Goodbye Lenin! shows how East Germany changes after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I loved the way it combined humor with serious political issues. Recommended.

Do you know any other great German films?

German Books

I tried to think of my favourite German books, but was shocked to discover that I couldn’t actually remember reading anything translated from the German. I have read lots of books set in Germany (ie WWII books) but none actually written by a German. I seem to share the German’s sense of humor, so would particularly like to read something that combines serious issues with lighter moments in a similar way to the films above.

Can you recommend any books which have been translated from the German?

71 replies on “German Recommendations”

Hi Jackie,
Nice to see you continuing your dip into the world of translated fiction, after reading The Kindly Ones. German literary recommendations? Sebald’s Austerlitz and Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. The ultimate recommendation I can give however is for anything Stefan Zweig. Although he’s actually Austrian, this is one writer who’s going to ‘float yer boat’ on so many different levels.

You probably know this already but you may also want to pay Lizzy over at Lizzy’s Literary Life, a visit. She’s has an addiction for anything ‘German lit’ so she can advise you a lot better than I ever could.
Good luck
Oh and P.S. there are two German titles in this year’s Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist which are German in origin – ‘The Blind Side of the Heart’ by Julia Franck and ‘The Dark Side of Love’ by Rafik Schami. I’ve yet to read either (starting Fists today, other one next week) so I can’t give a fully informed opinion. However, the fact that they’re on shortlist must mean something.

Rob, Thank you for the recommendations!

I have a copy of The Magic Mountain here, but it scares me! I think I will try to read it though. Setting a nice slow pace worked well for The Kindly Ones so hopefully it will work for the Magic Mountain too.

Zweig is already on my wishlist, but I haven’t managed to locate any of his books yet – hopefully one will turn up sooner or later!

I look forward to your reviews of the FFP books – I think I’ll wait to read your thoughts before adding them to the list.

Thanks for reminding me about Lizzy’s passion for German books – hopefully she’ll pop over here and let me know where the best place to start is!

Heavens! Where to start?

You’re right to be scared of “The Magic Mountain” – I’d start with Buddenbrooks or Death in Venice, if you want to read Thomas Mann.

Want some crime? Andrea Maria Schenkel does a good line – chilling!

But if you want just one recommendation from me, it’s got to be Theodor Fontane’s “Effi Briest” – though I don’t remember seeing you reading anything 19th century.

More recommendations at my place – German Literature has its own tag! As Rob said, there’s plenty to choose from!

I will be adding a review of Christoph Hein’s “Settlement” at the weekend.

Finally, re films “The Lives of Others” I agree it’s utterly brilliant but it’s set in East Germany – I got the impression it was 1960’s or 1970’s.

Lizzy, Thanks for the recommendations. I do occasionally read 19th century books, but haven’t really loved any yet so prefer to stick to more contempory writing.

I’ll be browsing your German literature tag at some point in the near future and look forward to your Settlement review.

Thanks for pointing out my Lives of Others mistake – I have WWII on the brain at the moment! I’ve corrected my post now.

You have mentioned two amazing movies, Run Lola Run and The Lives of Others! Downfall is another incredible German film that depicts the last days of Hitler’s life based on the testimony of his secretary, who was still alive when the movie was made. Not a light-hearted date movie. We own it, and every one of our friends has borrowed and watched the movie. It gives you chills. Also, there is a movie called Stalingrad that is German, telling the German side of things when they were defeated by the Russians in WWII. Also a little dark, but riveting.

You would think with all the WWII books I’ve read, that some of them would have been German. But I’m not recalling any. But it is early!

I just picked up Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks: The Decline of A Family on my recent visit to the Strand Bookstore. It’s gotten some praise from member’s of an on-line book club I belong to and appears to be less intimidating than The Magic Mountain. Hope to find out this summer whether that’s true…

JoAnn, It wouldn’t be difficult to be less intimidating than The Magic Mountain! I look forward to your review – hopefully you’ll enjoy it and persuade me that it is worth reading.

I have heard wonderful things about Alone in Berlin which I will be giving my attention after I get through the mammoth ‘The Passage’ and book group book, and maybe a few short ones in between.

I will be interested to see what other readers recommend too as I would like to try more german fiction, actually have I read any at all… oh dear!

Hi Jackie,
You can try Herman Hesse’s Siddartha or Steppenwolf which I will be reading soon. I’ll get Bina (A German blogger) to help you out.

I like Run LoLa Run too.

JoV, I have heard of those books, but don’t know anything about them. I’ll have to go and look them up.

Hopefully Bina and Susi will come and give some fantastic suggestions soon 🙂

That´s so sweet of you Jackie, thanks! Now, I have to admit that I´m a German who has mostly turned away from German lit but there are some I like of course 🙂

Films (not all amazing but the better ones, I think)
Erbsen auf halb 6 (probably: “Peas at 5:30”)
Barfuß (Barefoot)
Elementarteilchen (“The Elementary Particles”)
Die Welle (The Wave)
Vom Suchen und Finden der Liebe (you´ll either passionately love or hate this one) (“About the Looking for and the Finding of Love” )
Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (“The Edukators” )
Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum (“The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum”)
Der Fischer und seine Frau (“The Fisherman and His Wife”)
One of my favorites:
Wer früher stirbt, ist länger tot (“Grave Decisions”)
Herr Lehmann (“Berlin Blues”)
Knocking on heaven´s door

Not sure if its been translated but there´s one good tv show called Türkisch für Anfänger (Turkish for beginners)


I adore Friedrich Dürrenmatt´s works, but he´s Swiss.
Classic: E.T.A. Hoffmann: The Sandmann
The Lido Clique by Oliver Storz but I think you´ll have to wait a bit for the translation
Hans Fallada
Hermann Hesse
Herr Lehmann by Sven Regener
Measuring the world by Daniel Kehlmann
Bertolt Brecht of course
Franu Kafka ”
Emilia Galotti by Lessing
Perfume and Die Taube/ The Dove (not sure about the trnsl.)) by Patrick Süßkind
Julia Franck
Stefan Zweig

I´m out 😀 Hope you´ll find some you like!

Bina, Thank you so much for all the wonderful suggestions! Researching all of those will keep me happily occupied for a long time. I look forward to reading/watching a few in the near future.

I don’t have any personal recommendations, but one of my new reading goals is to read more translated works, and this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist has two German works listed. I hope to get to them sometime this year!

I’ve seen the last two movies on your list and really enjoyed them; The Lives of Others is on our queue, so we’ll get to it one of these days.

Maybe for something whimsical in German you could try Walter Moers? His book The City of Dreaming Books sounds just like something we book bloggers would like.

Also, maybe The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass? I have it in my pile, but haven’t read it yet so I’ve no idea if it fits the bill!

Steph, I’m sure you’ll love The Lives of Others – it is one of the best films ever made!

I hadn’t heard of Walter Moers before so just looked him up. It seems as though The City of Dreaming Books is the third in the series and you should start with The 13.5 Lives of Captain Bluebear (which I’ve just added to my wish list) Thanks for pointing it out!

I have The Tin Drum somewhere in my TBR pile, but it doesn’t really appeal – I vote that you read it first and let me know!

Jackie, this post was a nice surprise, because just the other day my husband and I were commiserating about our lack of awareness of German literature. I’ll be eagerly following the comments here.

I echo the Zweig recommendations. My introduction to Zweig was The Post-Office Girl, which I read and loved in January.

Laura, The recommendations on this post are all sounding familiar, but I haven’t read any – I need to correct that soon. I hope you find some good suggestions too.

Stu points out that Zweig is Czech below, but I still plan to read his books as soon as I find one!

I can’t really help you with the German literature or movies. I’d say read “Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Percier, but it’s not really like the things you’re asking for particularly.

Also, I love Goodbye Lenin and Run Lola Run!

Iris, I hadn’t heard of Night Train to Lisbon so just looked it up. Reviews on Amazon compare it to Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind with thriller elements. It sounds fantastic, but apparently the translation is terrible 🙁 I’ll keep an eye out for it anyway as hopefully I’ll be able to see past the translation problems.

Hm, I’ve read it and “thriller elements” doesn’t ring any bells. But if it’s similar to The Shadow of the Sun, I really have to start reading that one.

I’ve heard other people say the translation didn’t live up to the expectations. I’m not sure, as I’ve read the Dutch translation and that worked out fine, the language even made me consider reading it in German.

hi jackie ,i lived in germany and love german films herzog ,wenders films der himmel ober berlin (wings of desire ) my all time favourite as for books ,there is hertha muller ,Thomas Behrnard ,Henrich boll ,grass i love my century is a wonderful book ,as rob said sebald but i d start with rings of saturn my favourite ,robert wasler, zweig even thou czech kafka wrote in german as well

Stu, Thanks for all the recommendations! I’m going to have a lot of research to do now – I’m looking forward to enjoying lots of German books in the near future.

My knowledge of German cinema and literature is pretty limited, now that I stop and think about it. I have heard good things about Gunter Grass but haven’t gotten around to The Tin Drum yet. I love Goodbye Lenin though – it’s one of my favorite foreign films ever!

Jenny, I’m not sure why Gunter Grass doesn’t appeal – it is probably totally unfounded and so I should probably crack open my copy of Tin Drum soon!

Ive watched run lola run and goodbye lenin (which was a werid film in many ways) I can recommend Downfall (completely riviting film) Starlingrad and the best, Das Boot. I also have a film called White Ribbon which I purchased a few days ago which looks good and is german.

Oh oh and I nearly forgot Wing of desire which another poster has mentioned which is a beautiful film and has Nick cave and the bad seeds in and the guy from columbo (yes really) They remade that into Wings of desire with Nick cage which was pants.

I didnt realise how many german films I had seen actually LOL

Jessica, It does seem that the Germans make a lot of really good films! All the ones you mention sound great. I think my husband might be a bit annoyed by the number of German films I’ve just added to our film rental queue 🙂

Great topic Jackie – I also loved The Lives of Others and Goodbye Lenin. It’s very old now and quite harrowing but one of my all time favourite films is Christiane F (especially if you happen to like David Bowie as well) and there is a wonderful German version of the Valkyrie story – I think the lead actor in that is the same as in The Lives of Others.

Bookwise for something quite edgy, The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr was a good read and I absolutely recommend Alone in Berlin as well.

Tracey, I’m a little bit young to be a Bowie fan, but I’ll look into Christiane F as I do like powerful films like that. Thanks for all the recommendations!

I love all of these films! I only wish I had more to recommend. As for books, Thomas Mann and Gunter Grass, to echo everyone else…I’m going to sift back through the comments and take notes, though. There are some great suggestions here.

Priscilla, I’m busy taking notes too! The suggestions here are wonderful and I can safely say that I will be able to say I’ve read a lot of German literature by the end of the year!

Hi jackie
I completely agree with you on the Lives of Others and Run,Lola,Run my recommendation for you which my husband and I watched just 2 weeks ago is The Baader-Meinhof Complex. 10/10.Let me know what you think please

I LOVED Goodbye Lenin. They really did manage to make it both whimsical and serious. It’s so entertaining to see their world change so dramatically. The story was also a bit close to my heart, since I lived in a very similar apartment complex in Riga, Latvia, shortly after communism fell.

The Lives of Others is just amazing. I really must watch that again. And I remember really enjoying Run Lola Run, I watched it in my German class in high school. I haven’t seen Goodbye Lenin, must watch that!!

Elise, I can see that Run Lola Run is a great film for a german class – all that repitition makes it fairly easy to understand. I wish I had watched films in my german classes – all we did was study boring text books. 🙁

Gosh … I saw “Run Lola Run” ages ago (back when I used to see all the movies that came out … now I’m lucky if I see one or two a year). I barely remember the details but I do remember that girl!

Jenners, I used to watch loads of films as they came out too! Now I manage about 2 or 3 a month, so slightly more than you, but I’ll still have trouble trying to squeeze in all these wonderful German recommendations!

Great movies. As for German books, the only one that comes to mind that I’ve read is Goethe’s Faust, which is a classic and has some humor mixed into it’s tragedy. I’m not sure that really matches any of your favorite movies, though. I think I need to read more German authors, too!

Mome Roth, Thanks for the recommendation! At least you’ve read one more than me! Let’s try and read a few more German books this year – let me know if you find some good ones!

Just to add to the German book recommendations, Christa Wolf (A Model Childhood probably best known) is amazing, as is Heinrich Boll (I talked about The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum on my site just the other day). And there’s also Bernhard Schlink, The Reader, which is on my tbr pile.

I simply don’t get the fuss about “The Reader”. Schlink also wrote a crime trilogy featuring an ex-Nazi lawyer. I read the first and promptly bought books 2 and 3 – which I really must get round to reading. Thanks for the reminder.

Thanks for the recommendations! The Reader doesn’t really appeal, but I do plan to watch the DVD at some point.

It sounds as though Katharina Blum might be an author I’d like *heads off to read your review*

Some wonderful films there – Run Lola Run is SOO much better than Sliding Doors.

I’m currently reading Herta Mueller’s The Land of Green Plums, which is utterly wonderful.

I know she’s Austrian rather than German, but Elfriede Jelinek is another Nobel Laureate who writes the most incredible, unique prose – The Piano Teacher is just magical.

It’s nice to see that German films and books are appreciated.I have to say, despite being German, I don’t really like German films or books. Does that make me a bad German? Although I have to say that ‘The Lives of Others’ was pretty brilliant. I love Ulrich Mühe and it’s a pity he died so soon after the film was released, he was a very good actor. I’ve got ‘Goodbye Lenin’ on DVD, it’s not that bad either. And don’t worry about the German books – I can’t even recommend any good ones… A shame, I know.

Ooh, I loved both Run Lola Run and Good bye Lenin. My parents were really impressed with The Lives of Others, but I didn’t have time to watch it when I was at home. Like you, I really need to get stuck into some translated European fiction. I seem to be focussing on the French (even if it’s just a little). One of my friends praised Wim Wenders ‘Wings of Desire’ but I couldn’t finish the film (I think I was in the wrong mood…)

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