Top 10 Best Classics from the List "100 German Must-Reads"

Tags: #GermanClassics ,   #BerlinAlexanderplatz ,   #ThomasMann ,   #BabylonBerlin

Scarlett Goldstein

Scarlett Goldstein

Last updated:  2023-05-16 06:00:07

Goethe, Schiller, Kafka, Hesse, Rilke, Remarque… German literature gave us some of the greatest names in the world of culture in general. This rich language has all the ways to make a rich novel, with a deep plot and character developments that created new archetypes in literature. The famous list "100 German Must-Reads" from Deutsche Welle has 100 novels worth reading, but we've made a choice of 10 greatest. If you don't feel like researching, we've got you!

10. "Insane" by Rainald Goetz

Marc Nash discussed Goetz's popular book "Rave"

"Who is crazier: the psychiatric patients or the world in which we live?" is the controversial question this book asks immediately, even by its name. Who is insane, them or us? Or all of us together? So, yes, "Insane" is considered a psychiatric novel now. The world revolves around doctors and patients, those in a place called "madhouse…" After all, mental illnesses are stigmatized today as well.

The book is revolutionary in the linguistic sense and genre since it developed a horror story in a realistic setting. Raspe, the main hero, is stuck between his wishes and possibilities. Even though he wants, he can't help his patients and can't manage it all mentally. Who would handle a situation like this, though?  

9. "Homo Faber" by Max Frisch

Get to know him better

Unlike the previous recommendation, "Homo Faber" seems easy initially – just an ordinary story about a man who traveled on a cruise and found his love on the road. However, there's a catch, since this young lady is 30 years his junior! Faber keeps wondering who this mysterious girl is, but tragedies won't stop there.

"Homo Faber" is one of the most mature stories on this list, with a serious, intelligent plot that will take you to the road of Faber's past. Moreover, it will awaken another crucial question: are our life events just consequences of our prior decisions? You might come back to this book as you get older.

8. "The Tin Drum" by Günter Grass

Probably the best part of "The Danzig Trilogy," and surely the most read one

Here we come to the most controversial novel of the catalog that divides the audiences even today when played on stage. No one denies its brilliance in syntax and the language itself and the plot that moved the entire world, but how to love the protagonist here? Does that fact make this book so hard but so great, though?

Something is intriguing in the vow that young Oskar made when he was three – to never grow up because he sees the bad in the world. Can a child be disappointed in life that early? Together with "Dog Years" and "Cat and Mouse," this novel is a part of the Danzig trilogy, so if you feel like reading all three, it's a suggestion.

7. "Perfume" by Patrick Süskind

The movie based on the novel is outstanding, and it keeps the excitement

"Perfume" or "The Story of a Murderer" is, for some people, disturbing. Still, it's indeed one of the most brilliant narrations of a broken mind, a murderer in his development, a perfume he's trying to make. The protagonist is rather an anti-hero than a real protagonist, and his views are quite… unique, but that makes this novel inevitable on your way to the 100 must-reads!

The classic has been translated into 50 languages, and it was sold in more than 20 million copies. Furthermore, it's one of the most awarded books in history. Crime novels are extremely addictive in general, but you literally won't be able to put this one down until the end. It's a sensation that will awaken your senses like a good perfume the protagonist wanted to create! This also makes it a perfect choice if you have a reader's block.

6. "Demian" by Herman Hesse

Demian is the main character's friend, who creates a new philosophy in life for him

On this list, you've already seen that every German must-read has an existential question that sums up the book. "Why is being bad so much fun?" is probably the question of "Demian," the novel chosen for the DW catalog. Out of all Hesse's masterpieces, only this one made it to the list, even though "Steppenwolf" seems more prominent.

"Demian" is chosen probably because he's one of the most relatable young characters ever portrayed. The existential crisis of Emil, questions he asks and looking for life's meaning is something we do daily. "Morality has only ever made me suffer," says he, as he turns to the other side. Is the other direction the right way, though?

5. “Babylon Berlin” by Volker Kutscher

The glorious read that will keep you guessing, and a show is like that as well

Berlin is a city that screams "history" on every corner. Even between the two wars, in the Roaring Twenties, Berlin had the iconic, notorious history filled with dead bodies, illegal clubs, and drugs. That's not even half of this revolutionary novel's exciting moments, even better than "The Great Gatsby," an American classic!

Moreover, this book probably has the most prominent title of the whole list, thanks to the TV show based on it. Today, it's the most expensive non-English drama series ever produced! We absolutely recommend both the show (it's available on Netflix) and the book since this is one of the best German contributions to world culture.

4. "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque

If you like war movies, this one is a must!

German writers are no strangers to war themes. After all, this country has been obsessed with wars and conquering. Now, when you're in search of the greatest war novels ever, you'll stumble upon Remarque's masterpiece first, without any doubt!

"All Quiet on the Western Front" feels like a true story, and everyone who experienced war can relate to it. Nonetheless, the Nazi Party in Germany considered it "anti-war" and thought Remarque showcased his nation in a "weak" sense. The book was banned for ages, which is a sad fact. Still, nothing can stop you from reading it now!

3. “Buddenbrooks” by Thomas Mann

"Nothing quite like that sweet like rich people's misery," says TheBookchemist

Not many writers have an incredibly complex style – Mann's German is another level of structure and sentence length. However, you won't have any problems with the translation because his stories are among the best non-English novels, not only "Buddenbrooks" and their misery, but all of them!

Another novel by Mann you obviously can't miss (we see no reason why it wasn't put on the top 100 classics list) is "The Magic Mountain." While "Buddenbrooks" is a way to debut as a novelist, "The Magic Mountain" showcased his incredible style in the best way possible. It's a winter read since the tuberculosis sanatorium of the plot is set in the snowy mountains!

2. "The Trial" by Franz Kafka

He invented that fancy adjective the fans of literature use all the time

No list of German classics can go without Kafka's masterpiece that we still relate to. The irony and perfection about it are simple: "The Trial" is one of the oldest classics named on the list "100 German Must-Reads," yet it's the most relatable one, resonating to all of us today, louder than ever.

In Kafka's world, everything is loud, to the point of anxiety and depression that people feel today so often. He predicted there would be a world as afraid as ours, as lost as this one we're living in. However, this is a read to enjoy and admire while discovering why it impressed and influenced the greatest young authors worldwide.

1. “Berlin Alexanderplatz” by Alfred Döblin

You won't blink once during this trailer and during the whole film as well

Besides naming the book after one of the most prominent places in Germany, Alfred Döblin managed to be indeed one of the best in German literature for the variety of his styles and movements. "Berlin Alexanderplatz" is his magnum opus, with many outstanding adaptations and interpretations.

"Berlin Alexanderplatz" will take you on the darkest journey that will tell you a lot about the good-old recurring theme of good and bad in this world. It's an incomparable experience if you read it in German since the slang makes it very hard to translate this masterpiece, but it transmits the message in every language. How easy is it to escape the "underground" world of the crime you've already entered?

This was our editors' pick, but why wouldn't you read the whole list of these 100 worthy classics? After all, they're all here for a reason – with their serious themes and life-changing points, we're sure you'll enjoy at least a half of the list. And that's 50 new reading recommendations already – what are you waiting for? Good luck and enjoy your journey!

How well do you know all these classics that changed the game in literature? Do you speak German or you've read these in English? Let us know in the comments section!

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WayneJ Says:

We had The Trial in school, and I'm still not sure if it was appropriate for our age. It can be confusing. I think I would enjoy it more now that I'm much older.

June 23 at 01:31:42 PM

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