Simple but interesting German literature

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    I'm looking for simple but well-known and interesting German literature to improve my reading comprehension as an intermediate learner. It should fulfill the following criteria:

    • Well-known: Either classical literature, or contemporary and popular.
    • Interesting: Should not be written for young children. Harry Potter passes, Green Eggs and Ham does not.
    • Simple: On average, the sentences should not be very long, and most words among the 4000 most common. To quantify, let's say around 70 German Flesch Reading Ease. I took some (too small) random samples and found that Schätzing's Der Schwarm scores 30, while Zweig's Schachnovelle scores 55 and the Harry Potter translation 75.
    • „Standard“: Not much deviation from Hochdeutsch, and not much slang.
    • Original: Originally written in German. Revisions that make the work conform to neue Rechtschreibung and update archaic words are welcome but not necessary.

    Please detail any other properties that make the book useful for learners. One book per answer, please.


    Please add Title, Author, short description, optional ISBN / link to database, and a note on the difficulty level if possible. Look at an example answer given further down to get an idea of a consistent formatting. You answers here may be written in German or in English.


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    So Harry Potter would be excluded considering your last point?

    @Alenanno: Exactly. Otherwise, it would be great.

    The *original* part makes it quite hard.. :P

    @thei: Thanks, I've changed my answer and the numbers. The examples became a lot easier :)

    I don't think that you will find books that qualify as classics in literature and are easier than the Schachnovelle.

  • Split up answer #2:

    Momo by Michael Ende. Very famous, a very lovely read and not too difficult as it is aimed at young readers.

    As already said before the split: +1 for Momo, heroine of my childhood.

    +1 my childhood and early manhood hero! : o)

    I read this amazing book in English as a kid, and only recently found out it's originally German. I must try to get a German copy!

  • Split up answer #3:

    Die unendliche Geschichte by Michael Ende. Very famous and cool story. Aimed at young readers, but also longer and more complex than Momo.

    Why splitting the answers?

    just see the comments to #1. :)

    I'm currently reading "Die Unendliche Geschichte". It contains a lot of unusual, outdated or dialectal structures.

    • Franz Kafka. Anything. Everything.
      Kafka wasn't German, but member of a native German speaking minority in Prag. His excellence isn't based on difficult words or sentences.

    +1 for Kafka. His stories are great, they're easy to understand as far as language is concerned, but the meaning/intention is a whole other story.

    Kafka was not German? He was a German living in Prag, what use to be part of the Hungaro-Austrian Empire, became later CSR, than Germany, then CSSR and now Czech Republic.

    That's not for beginners for sure. Any of his works.

    @Bor: Why isn't it?

    I've tried "Die Verwandlung" but it was more like upper intermediate - advanced. Some other non-native speakers shared my opinion about it. When you don't get the meaning/intention of the text it's just too much as a language.

    Kafka was the first German I tried reading, I had Der Proceß recommended to me (by someone who read the English version). I thoroughly enjoyed stumbling through the first 7 pages. I would not say it is easy, nor do the only people I know who speak German (includes native speakers). (My German is terrible, I wanted a challenge, and it defeated me)

  • I recommend Die Vermessung der Welt. It's a recent novel about Gauss and Alexander von Humboldt, both trying to measure the world with different methods. I found it very fluent and fun to read, though it may not be really simple. It's all written in indirect speech.

    I think that's too complicated language because of the indirect speech in which it is written.

  • If literature in this case also includes humor, I'd recommend trying some books by Loriot and Heinz Erhardt. They're some of greatest German language artists ever. Heinz Erhardt's books are actually mostly poetry, while Loriot has written a mixture of humorous texts.

    +1 Noch'n Gedicht :-)

    @Jan: Genau. Ein Scherz jagt denselben.

    The problem might be that those are so witty ("Sprachwitz") that one understands less than half of the jokes.

    @Hendrik Vogt: Might be still worth a try, especially if you're more advanced. I'm looking forward to questions asking for an explanation of one of the *Vierzeiler* by Heinz Erhardt ;)

    Yep, good idea for advanced learners. Try it yourself and ask here if you don't succeed.

  • Split up answer #1:

    Tintenherz books by Cornelia Funke. If Harry Potter passes, you could try this. I haven't read them myself, but from watching movie it sounded interesting. Also, it's pretty famous.

    +1 for Momo. Heroine of my childhood.

    +1 for Die unendliche Geschichte :P

    @ladybug: Great suggestions. Would you mind splitting the answer up to one book per post? That way, we could vote for specific books.

    Now that each of the proposals has one vote by comment, it should really be split up, shouldn't it? ;)

    Did it, now you have to update your comments and votes. ;)

    @ladybug: Updated. Didn't read Tintenherz so far, though I got it from my sister some time ago. Should maybe try :)

    Tintenherz is absolutely brilliant. I felt a bit let down with the eventual payoff in the final volume, though. The movie is complete rubbish and has only very little to do with the books.

    I guessed so. That's what everybody says after watching a movie based on a book he loves. ;) The only good film adaptions I know are from rather average books like Fight Club. ^^

    -5 Cornelia Funke is highly overrated.

    @bot47: the point is: is it a suitable for a not too advanced non-native german speaker?

    Yes, it should, it's 12-year-old-girls literature.

    @MaxRied wow.. so much negativity.. i personally enjoyed reading these Books, simply for the complexity of the story, which is so multilayered, that it is downright simple. these books are in the same league as the Narnia series, concerning allegories and hidden meanings...

    @Vogel612 Ist halt ziemlich flache Literatur. Man kann auch in in asiatische, kreativ übersetzte Bedienungsanleitungen Tiefsinn hineininterpretieren.

    The Tintenherz-Trilogie is very easy to read, but quite interesting and fun :) Please don't watch the movie. The movie is so bad that they can't even continue with the second part.

  • Dürrenmatt's Der Richter und sein Henker is a short book with an interesting story about how an old and dying police officer solves one last difficult murder case. I'm actually not quite sure about its complexity as I haven't got it at home to look, but it should be rather simple.

  • I want to add Krabat - Otfried Preußler, great book and it should fit all your needs.

    Krabat is, unfortunately, a bit on the old-fashioned side with regards to language.

  • I don't see any mention of Erich Kaestner (sorry, no umlauts on this keyboard) yet. I'm pretty sure a lot of his books should be suitable. I've only read one myself: Drei Maenner im Schnee, which I guess is less of a kid's book than his more famous ones. I thought it was very funny, and I don't think it was all that difficult, although I read it in a third year university German course, so the language might be more complex than I'm remembering.

    I'm currently reading *Der Gang vor die Hunde*, and although it's a brilliant book, it does contain a lot of vocabulary well beyond the first 4000 words (example from memory: *die Megäre*, or *Fabian war zweiunddreißig Jahre alt, er hatte sich fleißig umgetan, auch diese Abend begann ihn zu reizen*)

  • "Die 13 1/2 Leben des Käptn Blaubär" - Walter Moers

    Well-known: Walter Moers is quite known and the book was/is quite popular

    Interesting: The Protagonist is a new Age/fantasy "Münchausen", which is well known due to his long participation in "Sendung mit der Maus". But in contrary to "his" TV-Show the book is written for both, young and adult, reader. You even got some pictures.

    Simple: Didn't do the Math, but the book isn't good due to his sophisticated use of language but the universe the author designs to its smallest and most wacky details.

    „Standard“: It is written by Walter Moers, a well know Author, and not as old as some other books mentioned.

    one could place the whole bunch of Zamonien-Romane here

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM