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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.

Note for Amazon book links: Amazon links will automatically be converted to Stackexchange affiliate links with the following syntax:

  • So Harry Potter would be excluded considering your last point?
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 11:54
  • @Alenanno: Exactly. Otherwise, it would be great.
    – Tim
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 11:55
  • 1
    The original part makes it quite hard.. :P
    – poke
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 12:00
  • 1
    You should use the adapted scale for German texts: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesbarkeitsindex#Flesch_Reading_Ease
    – Phira
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 12:05
  • @thei: Thanks, I've changed my answer and the numbers. The examples became a lot easier :)
    – Tim
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 12:33

41 Answers 41


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. Commented May 30, 2011 at 13:31
  • +1 my childhood and early manhood hero! : o) Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 20:07
  • 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!
    – Tara B
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 19:04

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?
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 14:05
  • just see the comments to #1. :)
    – ladybug
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 15:28
  • I'm currently reading "Die Unendliche Geschichte". It contains a lot of unusual, outdated or dialectal structures.
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 11:28
  • 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.
  • 3
    +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.
    – Jemus42
    Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 21:43
  • 3
    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. Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 19:02
  • That's not for beginners for sure. Any of his works.
    – Bor
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 10:02
  • @Bor: Why isn't it? Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 11:18
  • 2
    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) Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 21:26

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. Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 2:12

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.

  • 4
    +1 Noch'n Gedicht :-)
    – Jan
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 13:58
  • 1
    @Jan: Genau. Ein Scherz jagt denselben. Commented May 30, 2011 at 14:14
  • 1
    The problem might be that those are so witty ("Sprachwitz") that one understands less than half of the jokes. Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 9:57
  • @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 ;) Commented Jun 12, 2011 at 10:54
  • 1
    Yep, good idea for advanced learners. Try it yourself and ask here if you don't succeed. Commented Jun 13, 2011 at 15:22

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. Commented May 30, 2011 at 12:08
  • +1 for Die unendliche Geschichte :P
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 12:18
  • 2
    -5 Cornelia Funke is highly overrated.
    – bot47
    Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 10:48
  • 3
    @bot47: the point is: is it a suitable for a not too advanced non-native german speaker?
    – ogerard
    Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 13:37
  • 1
    @Vogel612 Ist halt ziemlich flache Literatur. Man kann auch in in asiatische, kreativ übersetzte Bedienungsanleitungen Tiefsinn hineininterpretieren.
    – bot47
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 9:23

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.
    – tofro
    Commented Feb 20, 2016 at 18:57

"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.


I don't see any mention of Erich Kästner yet. I'm pretty sure a lot of his books should be suitable. I've only read one myself: Drei Männer 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)
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 14:54

Daniel Glattauer's Gut Gegen Nordwind

I haven't finished reading this, but the most valuable thing about this novel from the perspective of a language learner is that it is written as a series of emails. The protagonists become interested in each other and initiate a long lasting email correspondence after one of them sends an incorrectly addressed mail to the other by accident.

The most useful thing for me as a learner was to see how real live people communicate by email, formally, informally, funnily, emotionally, etc. Also unlike many other books this is written in the first person present, which lends the language extra usefulness in terms of everyday use (as compared to say Als ich fünfzehn war, hatte ich Gelbsucht).

Another plus is that these are older people, and therefore avoid smilies, and capitalise and spell correctly unlike what one might expect of an email. The short length, and back and forth of individual emails also adds to the clarity.


I would recommend Russendisko by Wladimir Kaminer. It is pretty interesting/funny and the thing that I liked about it as a beginner was that you don't have to follow a plot through the whole book since each chapter is its own little episode...

  • 1
    That's a cool one! You'll also learn some interesting stuff about German/Russian culture in there.
    – ladybug
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 7:57
  • I just wanted to add the books of Wladimir Kaminer to the list. I am a native German speaker, yet I find the German of Wladimir Kaminer to be quite easy to understand. I recommended the books to some of my non-German speaking colleagues at work as an easy way to get into reading German texts.
    – Dohn Joe
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 15:13

There's a "Parallel Text" series by PenguinBooks. The first German book in the series is

German Short Stories 1 - Deutsche Kurzgeschichten 1

Much maligned in pre-war Germany, the short story enjoyed a creative rebirth in 1945. Initially imported by the Allies, the form also matched perfectly the prevailing mood of irony, objectivity and mistrust of the didactic.

With the original German text running alongside English translations, this collection features stories from eight outstanding post-war authors including Heinrich Boll, Ilse Aichinger and Reinhard Lettau which students will find both educational and engrossing.


I'm a bit surprised to see nobody suggesting the famous Kinder- und Hausmärchen by Brüder Grimm. Sure they might be a bit old and a bit children-oriented but they still have high literary values and are not very difficult to comprehend?

Furthermore it's available for free both as an ebook on US Amazon (or on German Amazon) as well as an audiobook on librivox. You may also find a paid version read by professional readers on Audible


Splitted up answer #4:

Mephisto by Klaus Mann. Very interesting, counts as classical literature. Although it is aimed at adult readers, it has a very clear and straight forward language. I remember it being an easy, but fascinating read.


Käthe Recheis: Unser Dorf und der Krieg

A book about an Austrian village during World War II told from the point of view of a child. The book is aimed at 12-14 year-olds, but quite suitable to be read by adults. Obviously, this is not a fun book for the beach and you have to gauge your own comfort level with a narrative that includes a phase of falling for the propaganda, and the impact on village life. The big plus of this book is that all characters in the book are very real.

  • 1
    Note that the link may default to the general amazon site, but it is perfectly available at amazon.de
    – Phira
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 18:08

Another very nice book for kids, but real literature and no nursery rhymes is Robbi, Tobbi und das Fliewatüüt by Boy Lornsen. I realize that this might not be right for your intended level, I just mention it to vary the complexity a bit. It's a rather long book about the fantastic adventures of a boy, a robot friend of his and their self-built vehicle which can fly, swim and drive (the name derives from these three properties.)

The same (long book with fantastic story for young readers) goes for everything by Michael Ende. Apart from what was already mentioned, the Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer books were some of my favorite books through a good part of my teen years. I will leave these two suggestions in one answer because I feel they are similar in style, target audience and originality and also because there are already several answers for Michael Ende's books.


Der Kontrabass by Süskind is really nice read, short and simple, but if you're interested in music, it's lovely.


I'm not sure this is a famous tale in Germany, but looking for tales to read in order to improve my German I found a story called "Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten", there is also an audio to listen to, so you can use the same story to improve listening.

In this page you'll find more links to books/magazines/etc. in German.

  • 1
    this is one of the Brothers Grimm's fairy tales and yes, it's well-known all over Germany. :)
    – ladybug
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 12:08
  • 2
    The entire Grimm's fairy tales book might be a good read, though the language can feel a bit dated :) Commented May 30, 2011 at 12:15
  • @ladybug: ops, I didn't thought of reading the authors lol :D
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 12:17

I just remembered that we read Mario und der Zauberer by Thomas Mann, one of the classical German authors, in school (native German (; ), so maybe it's also suitable for learners of the language.

  • Yes. Anything of Thomas Mann! Even if it won't fulfill requirement #3, but this requirement is nonsensical anyway. (IMHO) You'll never get a feeling for the language with 3-word sentences.
    – Ingo
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 15:39

Books by Hermann Hesse should qualify as readable, such as Unterm Rad, which has some autobiographic qualities as it explores the schooling and aspects of the private life of a boy in southern Germany towards the end of the 19th century.


Timm Thaler oder Das verkaufte Lachen by James Krüss

This is a novel from 1962 about a boy who sold his laughter. The language is understandable by fifth-graders, so it's not too difficult.

Wikipedia link

Buy it on amazon


Tschick by Wolfgang Herrendorf.

The language is easily understandable by school teens but the content is enjoyable and meaningful both to adults and kids. It is also available on Audible as a full-length audiobook.


The Tagebuch der Anne Frank is of immediate historical importance and gives incredible insights into the psyche of a 13-year-old girl. It is not, however, a children's book. You could say that Anne writes for all audiences, and she's very, very talented. Her diary is a stunning achievement and it is at times a breathtaking experience to read it.

I had forgotten that it was originally written in Dutch. Too bad, in a way.



Cornelia Funke, 1997, ISBN-13: 978-3791504544, Amazon

Interessant geschriebene Geschichte über den Drachen Lung, der sich mit seinen Gefährten auf die Suche nach einem sicheren Platz für seine Artgenossen macht. In der Menschenwelt gibt es nämlich keinen Platz mehr für Drachen.

Schwierigkeit: mittel bis fortgeschritten


Jenseits von Aran :

Protagonist der Geschichte ist der junge Krieger und Königssohn Crithir, dessen Lebensziel es ist getreu dem Vorbild seines Helden Chuchulain auf dem Schlachtfeld Ruhm und Ehre zu erkämpfen. Eine Chance dafür scheint sich zu bieten, als sein Vater, König Ruad, ihn ruft, um Crithirs erschlagene Brüder zu rächen [...]


Actually, I once had a flatmate from Canada for a year and gave him several books to read, and he found Pippi Langstrumpf and Der kleine Prinz extraordinarily readable, entertaining and just right for him – although they are originally in Swedish and French, respectively, but that doesn't stop the fun they give! I'll include them here just because of this positive experience my flatmate had with them. Their simplicity makes them ideal first books for language learners. If you read Harry Potter fluently without consulting dictionaries or stumbling over the grammar, you are already an advanced reader so they will be too basic for you, even though they are both very entertaining for all ages.

  • Good ideas. Would you mind writing several answers instead, one for each book? That would make it easier to vote on single suggestions.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 9:49
  • 1
    I see -- just one second :) Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 9:50
  • I'll add that Anne Frank wrote her diary in Dutch. If not, it would be perfect.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 9:51
  • 2
    Ooops :( damn, I forgot about that! Sorry :/ Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 9:55

I recently read a graphic novel series called Monster by Naoki Urasawa. It is a bit gruesome, but the language is simple enough especially with the pictures. There is a bit of a philosophical twist to the books, but it's not too difficult to follow. I definitely recommend them. They are usually found in the adult graphic novel section (again because it is a bit gruesome), so I think it meets your "not for children" criteria. This is a great question, I have some more novels to add to my list now! :)

  • 2
    But this isn't originally written in German, is it? Commented Jul 3, 2011 at 9:17
  • Oh, wow. I somehow didn't see his last stipulation! :S Nevermind...
    – Istable
    Commented Jul 3, 2011 at 18:41

(Splitting up my first answer)

Karl Kraus: Die Sprache.

A journalist from Vienna, about 100 years ago. Not 100% up to date, but teaching German in this text in an entertaining way. Also, a lesson in history.


I'd recommend "Die Geschichte des Herrn Sommer" by Patrick Süskind.

The style is very light hearted although the story of Mr. Sommer is actually quite a sad one.

I don't have a Flesch score, but I don't think that the book is too difficult to read. Although there are some really long sentences, which can be difficult.

The book itself is not that long (around 130 Pages) and contains some really nice illustrations.

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