8 must-read German books for beginners

8 must-read German books for beginners

by Andrea Byaruhanga

Updated November 7, 2022

There are lots of reasons to learn German—and if you’ve found yourself on this page, you probably already have your own motivation for studying Deutsch!

No matter why you want to learn German, it’s important to use resources that will help you start off on the right foot. So why not start with books? 

Reading is one of the best ways to learn a language because you see the syntax, word choice, spelling and vocabulary right in context.

If we’ve got you wondering how to find great German books for beginners, look no further. Below, we discuss our favorites, from easy books to read in German to useful learners’ guides.

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Novels for novices

The following novels weren’t meant to be written as German books for beginners, but they’re popular easy reads.

Das doppelte Lottchen

Written in 1949 by Erich Kästner, Das doppelte Lottchen is the story of two nine-year-old girls who meet at a summer camp. They soon realize they’re identical twins who were separated after their parents’ divorce years earlier. They decide to trade places at the end of summer to get to know their parents. 

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the movie “The Parent Trap” was based on this book!

Das doppelte Lottchen is considered youth fiction, so its language isn’t overly complex. And the fact that it’s only 72 pages makes this perfect German reading for beginners.

Das fliegende Klassenzimmer

Another Erich Kästner favorite, this 1933 novel focuses on a few days in the life of a group of friends at an all-male boarding school before the Christmas holidays. This warm, touching story depicts relatable characters and deals with familiar themes like self-esteem, loneliness and youth.

Das fliegende Klassenzimmer (The Flying Classroom), a classic in the world of children’s literature, is written in a lighthearted and humorous way. 

Though it’s aimed at young readers, it’s not overly easy. It’s the perfect book for beginners looking for a manageable challenge. You’ll be sure to learn lots of German vocabulary and expressions as you progress through this one!

Short stories for starters

Not ready for a whole novel yet? Dip your toes into these short stories!

Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten

Published in 1819 as part of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten focuses on four main characters: a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster. No longer useful to their masters, this group decides to move to Bremen to become musicians. But along the way, they encounter a lot of setbacks. 

This book is useful for beginners because it uses language that’s relatively straightforward, enabling readers to use context clues to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words. 

What’s more, it’s full of dialogue, so there are lots of opportunities to learn conversational language.

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Das Märchen von Hyazinth und Rosenblütchen

This Romantic Era short story, written in 1798 by Novalis, focuses on two happy lovers, Hyazinth and Rosenblütchen. One day, an old traveler appears and begins to tell stories of exotic places Hyazinth has never been to and things he’s never seen. Hyazinth becomes melancholic and decides he needs to go on a journey so he can return with wonderful stories of his own. 

This six-page story is full of German vocabulary dealing with emotions. You’ll also find many instances of passive voice and indirect speech in this story.

Dino lernt Deutsch

Andre Klein’s short story series tells the tale of a Sicilian man as he tries to navigate his way around Germany. In the series, Andre visits not only Germany but also Austria, Switzerland and more.

Each German A1 book in this series was written specifically for language learners, so it’s full of simple sentences and basic vocabulary. It also includes useful review resources, such as a custom dictionary after each chapter and comprehension questions. 

Great grammar guides (and more!)

If you want something a little more structured and formal, these learning resources might be exactly what you’re looking for.

English Grammar for Students of German

English Grammar for Students of German by Cecile Zorach and Charlotte Melin is a favorite of many German language students. It’s an approachable resource that covers German for beginners with short, clear explanations of often-confusing topics (like the word order of sentences, for example). The authors expertly break down topics by narrowly focusing on one grammar point per chapter. This highly rated guide is known for offering alternative explanations to what you might find in a traditional textbook.

A unique feature of this book is that it compares and contrasts English and German alongside each other so learners can see how things like syntax and vocabulary are similar or how they differ. 

German Made Simple

German Made Simple, by Eugene Jackson, is more than just a grammar book. While it does cover the foundations of German grammar, it also includes a lot of modern-day vocabulary and common expressions, pronunciation tips, reading exercises, a German-English dictionary and more. 

Aside from being thorough and easy to use, a selling point of this book is its clear explanations of accusative, dative and nominative cases—a topic that can be very confusing when not explained well. This alone makes it one of the best German books for beginners!

German Quickly: A Grammar for Reading German

Much like Jackson’s text above, this isn’t strictly a grammar book. However, we thought it was well worth mentioning. 

April Wilson’s German Quickly: A Grammar for Reading German is aimed at those who want to be able to read literary or academic texts of any level. It’s described as an introduction for beginners or a review reference for those who already know some German. Additionally, it’s a good resource for self-learning. 

Wilson’s book is well-organized, detailed and easy to read. It’s full of German quotes, proverbs and phrases to demonstrate how to use language in context. It also features tons of examples, enjoyable exercises, a lot of vocabulary and a handy dictionary at the back.

Get ready to read

By combining books with other learning resources like movies, apps, and podcasts, you’ll have all the tools you need on your journey to German fluency.

And now that we’ve gone through some of the best books to learn German, the rest is up to you!

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Andrea is a Canadian freelance writer and editor specializing in English, e-learning, EdTech, and SaaS. She has a background as an ESL teacher in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. In her free time, Andrea loves hanging out with her husband and son, creating recipes in the kitchen, and reading fiction. She also loves camping and jumping into lakes whenever possible. Learn more about Andrea on LinkedIn or check out her website.

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