Some of you guys may have seen the recent post “10,000 Flashcards in One Month” that was sent in by a friend of mine who is learning German. After he saw that I put up reading suggestions for Japanese, he suggested that I should do it for German as well. I said that I hadn’t read enough German books yet to give many suggestions, so he ended up creating yet another guest post. Thanks dude! – Matt
So you’re learning German but having to scrounge the web for decent content is making you wish your brain had an Ethernet slot? Well have I got you covered!
Below is a list of the best books I found on my journey to Germanhood to be particularly useful and engaging to my n00b language learning brain. Each book has a difficulty rating, a brief personal description and links so you can have it all to your schön self.
1. Cafe in Berlin
Difficulty: Beginner to Easy
Possibly the first (if not then one of the first) of all the books I nabbed for learning German. This book is fantastic, although not particularly special for its storytelling, the language used is simple and whenever a more complex or unusual word is used it is emboldened and kindly referenced at the end of the chapter along with a basic English translation.
Another learning aid contained within this book is the multiple choice questions found after each chapter, these are useful in finding out how much you understood of the story and the language used. Plus no grammar questions, ausgezeichnet!
Defo must-have for an anfänger, if it’s still too hard then perhaps try getting the very basics of German with Duolingo or a beginner Anki deck (see my 10,000 flashcards post for why you shouldn’t do this in the higher stages). Or you could jump straight into native sentences 😉 – Matt
Amazon: Learn German With Stories: Café in Berlin – 10 Short Stories For Beginners (German Edition)
2. Charlie und die Schokoladenfabrik
Difficulty: Easy to Intermediate
As a child I lived on 60% sugar, 30% E-numbers and 10% food colouring, so natürlich I loved Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, along with both films (yes I know the new one was kinda trippy and Johnny Depp should just pretend it didn’t happen but I liked it) so when I found the book in glorious Deustch I grabbed it and ran for the caramel-hills.
This book is best accompanied with the audiobook found on Audible (or if you’re cheeky, Youtube) because you get to hear the wonderful emotions of the characters and you’re forced to keep up the pace with the reader, this is especially good because there are many words in there an easy-level learner will need to look up. Having the audiobook slide past these stops you getting stuck on a sentence or word too scary to navigate yourself.
If you like Roald Dahl then get this and enjoy the wundervoll illustrations by Quentin Blake, if you don’t like Mr Dahl then also get it because you’re wrong.
Amazon: Charlie Und Die Schokoladenfabrik [ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ] (German Edition)
3. Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen
Difficulty: Lower Intermediate
Everyone and their Oma knows about Harry Potter so you don’t need me to tell you what’s what story-wise, but on the language front this book is fantastisch!
The target audience for the book is young teens so you can expect the kind of language inside, once again the audiobook will certainly help you get through this and understand what’s going on.
Ravenclaw are the unrecognised heroes IMO…
Amazon: Harry Potter Und der Stein der Weisen (German Edition)
The Entire Series (1-7): Harry Potter: Die Gesamtausgabe (1-7) (German Edition)
4. Der Marsianer
Difficulty: Intermediate to Hard
Who doesn’t love Matt Damon? I mean really, he’s so likeable. So if you haven’t read the book the film was based on then why in the name of the Roman god of war haven’t you? It’s like an extended director’s cut, except with loads of stuff that should definitely have been left in the film.
Of course reading the book in German will mean a lot of the story is lost on you (depending on your competency) but having watched the film first means you can fill in many of the gaps and enjoy the story nonetheless.
I’ve rated this intermediate to hard because there are many technical terms that you certainly wouldn’t encounter in the real german-speaking world and as such will require some bilingual dictionary or translator.
I <3 Andy Weir
Amazon: Der Marsianer
5. Alice im Wunderland
This verrückt little story of a girl jumping down into a massive underground cavern, and in the process, consuming copious amounts of hallucinatory mushrooms until she somehow wakes up back in the boring reality of her life is a great read and I would recommend flicking through it in any spare downtime you have, since it’s quite short.
Clearly it’s a story for kids but it’s always more interesting if you put your own spin on it, which can help if you find the content not appealing to your particular interests.
Amazon: Alice im Wunderland: illustrierte Ausgabe (German Edition)
Despite having rated these books on their difficulty I would still 100% recommend you give them a glance at whatever level you think you are. You gain an understanding of the language regardless of the difficulty, it just all depends on how engaged you can be with the bucher.
Few Reading Top Tips for Pros
While you read through the above books (or rather any book at all) absolutely write, underline and highlight to high heavens. I know it feels wrong and it might take some tries to get rid of that feeling but once you see the benefits you’ll be doing it all the time.
Personally I like to underline particular words that piqué my interest or I figure to be important, then later on at the end of the week I briskly flick through the pages of scribbles and mess while methodically importing to Anki whatever I’ve marked.
Our favourite main-man Khatzumoto from AJATT has a great post series here if you’d like to read more about how to read properly.
Bis zum nächsten mal!
By Guest Poster
Here are some of my favorite tools and sites for learning Japanese
Thank you for reading this blog post, which I hope you found useful for learning Japanese. Here are some of the most useful websites that I’ve found for finding Japanese content to use for immersion as well as some really useful learning tools to help you through your Japanese studies. Some of these are affiliate links which just means that if you decide to use these sites by clicking the following links, then I will earn a commission. But honestly speaking, these are the sites that I use and recommend language learners, even my friends, to use anyway.
Anki Tools: To get started, I really like Migaku for Anki. By itself, Anki is already a super useful tool for language learners but Migaku allows for integration with websites like YouTube and Netflix, allowing it’s users to create flashcards from the shows and videos that they are watching, as they are watching them. If you use my link you can get an extra month for free.
Speaking Practice: For this I absolutely love iTalki. There are thousands of Japanese teachers on the platform that are available at all times of the day to have conversations with you, in Japanese. Some teachers take a more traditional approach while others are just there to chat, these are the ones I would recommend if you are looking to improve your conversational Japanese. Lessons start from just $5 and there’s no long term commitment, I highly recommend them.
Immersion: I’ve used a lot of different earphones / headphones over the years but by far the one that has come out on top is the NENRENT S570. This is a singular in-ear earphone that matches your skin tone to keep it discrete, meaning you can listen to the language you are learning while at work, or school. For a full list of tools and gadgets I recommend for maximizing your immersion time, check out this blog post.
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