“What on Earth shall I read?” Whether you’re an articulate German teacher or a German student with an appetite for books: anyone looking for suitable reading material is faced with this question. The right book should be exciting, well-written and interesting. But how do you navigate the literary forest? Auserlesen! helps by providing a varied selection!
By Karen-Susan Fessel
Kids and funDuden: Versunkene Wortschätze – Wörter, die uns fehlen werden / What do these words all have in common: Eisenbahncoupé (train compartment), Vatersbruder (paternal uncle) and Mantelsack (saddlebag)? They are about to disappear – from the German language. But rescue is nigh in the form of this entertaining reference work, which not only lists hundreds of these endangered words but also explains them. It’s ideal for passing time if you have a long wait at the doctor’s or bus-stop, and afterwards not only have you brushed up your vocabulary into the bargain, you’re also well-placed to surprise and amaze your fellow humans from time to time. So it’s the perfect volume for German learners and teachers, show-offs and language lovers … / Duden: Versunkene Wortschätze – Wörter, die uns fehlen werden (2016): Berlin, Duden.
Young worldsKirsten Boie: Ich ganz cool / Steffen’s life involves playing chicken, Kawasakis and cool videos, but also lousy school and stupid parents, especially his father, a complete loser even though he’s a branch manager. And his little sister “Sweetie” is always getting on his nerves too. But luckily Steffen can daydream his way to a sparkling future in which he can do everything and be everything, most of all cool … Kirsten Boie’s teen novel was first published in 1993 when it was one of the first books to use slang expressions, and it’s still bang-on in terms of style and content – even though we now have mobile phones and the “expressions” have evolved somewhat since then. A true classic of teen literature, which I can recommend from the bottom of my heart! / Boie, Kirsten (2009): Ich ganz cool. Hamburg: Verlag Friedrich Oetinger.
German (hi)storiesMirjam Pressler: Dunkles Gold / Just a few weeks after finishing this exciting novel, she died: Mirjam Pressler, author of countless powerful books for children and teens, as well as a versatile translator working from Hebrew and Dutch, never felt the need to protect children and young people from horrors and troubles in literature – luckily for us! Anorexia, depression, mobbing or social exclusion: Pressler always crammed these themes into delightfully readable books, each of which helped to make the world a slightly better place – of that I’m certain. The novel that unfortunately turned out to be her final work continues in the same tradition – picking up on a subject area that Pressler, the illegitimate child of a Jewish mother and brought up by foster parents, kept returning to: the history of Judaism and modern Judaism today. The fate of two young people who had to flee from the Black Death pogrom in 1349 is interwoven with the present-day love story between Laura, who has been brought up a Christian, and the young Jew Alexej. What does being Jewish mean in today’s Germany? Pressler leaves us to ponder this question. But we can find our answer within her wonderfully powerful, fantastically-told stories, this book especially. / Pressler, Mirjam (2019): Dunkles Gold. Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg Verlag.
Here and now – Germany todayDaniel Schreiber: Zuhause. Die Suche nach dem Ort, an dem wir leben wollen. // A home – that’s probably something everyone longs for, but not everyone has one. And some people don’t feel at home in the place where they live. So what do we need in order to feel at home, and how can we successfully put down roots in a strange place? There are many questions to ask on this subject: the author and journalist from Berlin has studied it and delivered a brilliantly written essay that’s able to offer some new insights. What interested me personally the most was Schreiber’s view of how children experienced violence in the GDR. It was full of suspense and very informative. But with regard to the actual question – where is my home? – I might have to find my own answer after all! / Schreiber, Daniel (2018): Zuhause. Die Suche nach dem Ort, an dem wir leben wollen. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.
Life pathsOlav Meyer-Sievers: Diffuses Licht / Living in a flat-share with your own mother? An unusual configuration, but Tom’s family is unusual anyway – his father, a well-known fashion photographer, remarried, and Tom’s mother made the most of the hippy era. But when the seventeen year-old returns from a short break she has gone, and his life falls apart completely. This touching debut novel with autobiographical elements spans the gap between the seventies and today, and tells a sensitive tale of loss and hope. I’m looking forward to lots more novels from this author, who hails from Hamburg and only started writing in his fifties. He has already published another very readable book about his work as a crisis counsellor. / Meyer Sievers, Olav (2015): Diffuses Licht. Hamburg: Männerschwarm Verlag.
High tension alert!Stefan Holtkötter: Landgericht. Ein Münsterland-Krimi. / In the sixth volume of this highly successful crime novel series set in Münsterland written by this author from Berlin, Chief Inspector Bernhard Hambrock has to immerse himself deep in the lowlands of all-too-human emotions such as envy and mistrust: a respectable member of the public has been murdered in the middle of the flat country – is it anything to do with the gang of drunken teenagers who had been terrorising the remote railway station hours earlier? Holtkötter’s atmospherically intense thrillers always paint a slightly oblique, profound yet amusing picture of the inhabitants of rural North-Western Germany. Anyone hoping to learn more about this area would be well advised to read Holtkötter’s entertaining murder mysteries! / Holtkötter, Stefan (2013): Landgericht. München: Piper Verlag.
Reading tip of the monthWolf Haas: Das ewige Leben. Volume 6 in the Simon Brenner series /
Here it comes, the first tip of the month from an Auserlesen! reader. She’s from Northern Macedonia.
Biljana is a German teacher in Skopje and recommends the crime novel series featuring ex-police officer Simon Brenner, written by Austrian author Wolf Haas. Biljana writes:
“I came across my first book by Wolf Haas at a seminar for German teachers in Vienna. It was the novel ‘Das ewige Leben’ (Eternal Life). Since then I’ve been a huge fan of the thrillers by Wolf Haas featuring his hero Simon Brenner, who keeps getting caught up in new murder mysteries. After the introductory sentence “Well, something’s happened again”, the narrator tells the story of what’s happened in a style that at first – being a German teacher – makes my hair stand on end. The sentences are rarely finished, predicates are often missing, word order in “weil” clauses is incorrect. You need a bit of time to get used to this language. The narrator tells it like it is, cocking a snook at grammar and German teachers. But what’s interesting is that once you’ve accepted that, every sentence makes you smile or laugh – and you just want to keep reading.”
I’m delighted to pass on this book recommendation. There are now 8 crime novels about Brenner, the undersized, paunchy detective with angular features, and all the books are characterised by their original language, a local Austrian flavour, and their frequently black humour. We’re also sending Biljana our first book prize for this well-chosen reader’s tip. Congratulations! /Haas, Wolf (2011): Das ewige Leben. München: dtv
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Auserlesen! Nr. 2
- Duden: Versunkene Wortschätze – Wörter, die uns fehlen werden (2016): Berlin, Duden
- Boie, Kirsten (2009): Ich ganz cool. Hamburg: Verlag Friedrich Oetinger.
- Pressler, Mirjam (2019): Dunkles Gold. Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg Verlag.
- Schreiber, Daniel (2018): Zuhause. Die Suche nach dem Ort, an dem wir leben wollen. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.
- Meyer Sievers, Olav (2015): Diffuses Licht. Hamburg: Männerschwarm Verlag.
- Holtkötter, Stefan (2013): Landgericht. München: Piper Verlag.
- Haas, Wolf (2011): Das ewige Leben. München: dtv