A Year of Reading in German- book list

“Those who know nothing of foreign languages,
know nothing of their own.”

– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

On this page, I shall be listing the books I’m reading in German.   I’m currently studying the language, and this is an enjoyable addition to coursebooks.    I hope to read at least one novel per month.   My method consists of reading very slowly, sounding out each word, not translating it into English in my head, and not looking up anything in the dictionary.   When I see an unknown word often enough, or then hear it on television, something “clicks”.

update: I’ve actually come to the realization that the dictionary/translation method works best for me.   So try different things until you find what works best for you.

1. January 2010: currently reading Agatha Christie’s, Und dann gabs keines mehr  (English title:” “And then there were none”)

I have read it previously in English, plus have seen the 1945 film version, so am quite familiar with the plot.  That helps greatly, no doubt.   Several months ago, I did read it in Deutsch.  I am thus far pleased at how many words I now know that I didn’t the first time around.

UPDATE: finished Und dann gabs keines Mehr.

being a Christie tale, I thought I’d share a few terms related to crime, death, and murder:

mord: murder

selbstmord: suicide

starben- died


Zyankalivergiftung- cyanide poisoning (btw- never accept any “gift” in Germany.  It’s poison.)

And here’s a few translations:

Original English version:  “He had even complimented her on her presence of mind and courage, she remembered.

Deutsch:  “Er hatte sie sogar für ihre Geistesgegenwart und ihren Mut gelobt, erinnerte sie sich.”

Original English version:  “Lucky that he’d managed to pull himself together in time after that business- ten- no, fifteen years ago.”

Deutsch:  “Was für ein Glück, dass er sich rechtzeitig nach diesem Vorfall vor zehn- nein, fünfzehn- Jahren wieder zusammengerissen hatte.”

Original  English:  “They came up over a steep hill and down a zigzag track to Sticklehaven – a mere cluster of cottages with a fishing boat or two drawn up on the beach.”

Deutsch:  “Sie fuhren einen steilen Hügel hoch und dann einen Zickzackpfad hinunter nach Sticklehaven- einer bloßen Ansammlung von Fischerhäusern mit dem einen oder anderen Boot am Strand.”

2. February 2010: On January 28th, I began Anton Chekhov’s play, Die Möwe.  (English title: “The Seagull”)

3. February 21, 2010: 

I finished Die Möwe at the beginning of the month.   It was as melancholic in German as I remember it to be when I read it years ago in English.  Evidently though, Chekhov considered it a comedy.  Hmm…

 I’m currently reading Steinbeck’s, Von Mäusen und Menschen.  (which you can probably guess is, Of Mice and Men).  I recall disliking it when it was assigned back in school (though I loved The Grapes of Wrath).   Anyway, the tv show Lost has mentioned it enough times for me to want to give it another try. 

The Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag’s back cover describes it thus:  “George und der bärenstarke, aber einfältige Lennie ziehen zusammen übers Land, um sich als Erntehelfer ein paar Dollar zu verdienen.  Ihr grosser Traum ist eine eigene kleine Farm…”

The best I can translate it is: ” George and the strong as a bear, but slow-witted Lennie are traveling over the land together, as they work as farmhelpers to earn a few dollars.  Their great dream is to own a little farm…”

4.  March 2010

Early in the month, I squeeled with joy to discover  a novel by one of my favorite urban fantasists, Charles de Lint, at the bookstore that I frequent.  Grünmantel.  (Greenmantel).   Locus’s blurb on the back cover describes it as, “Ein Buch voller Kraft und Schönheit.”  (“A book full of Strength and Beauty” )

It did not take me long to discover that reading De Lint translated into German was an entirely different beast than enjoying his works in English.  Indeed, this book proved to be the most challenging one thus far.  By far.  As the sentences were much longer, and therefore, not as stylistically simplistic as the Agatha Christies I read, or Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men.

Here are a few examples from Grünmantel that give insight into German’s grammatical structure:

In statements, the verb is always put in the second spot (note:  that will not always be the second word).  Any other verbs pile up at the end.

“Ich werde sie fragen.”  literal translation:  I will she ask

Veileicht solltest du dir einen Termin bei Dr. Bolton geben lassen.”   Literal translation: Maybe should  you you an appointment with Dr. Bolton give let. (the other two verbs are put at the end)

Du hättest ihn letzte Nacht nicht so weit laufen lassen dürfen.”  literal translation: “You had  him last night not so far go let  allowed.”   As you can see, the three other verbs pile up at the end.
“Sie konnte sich nicht erklären, warum es ihr so wichtig erschien, welche Kleider sie heute abend trug.”  literal translation:  She could (first verb of clause in second spot) self not explain (second verb at end of clause, why it her so important appear (verb end of clause), which dress she tonight wear.  (verb at end of clause).
Also, when there is a subclause, the word order is reversed.  (the verb will be in the first spot, rather than the second:
“Wenn ich bleibe, bin ich ein toter Mann.” literal translation:   If I stay, am I a dead man.
Yes,  reading German can be akin to figuring out a jigsaw puzzle!  I am now reading  Supernatural Suspense novellas by German pulp writer, John Dark.  Shall report back at the end of April.
*NOTE:  Since this page had become much longer than I expected, any and all new posts concerning the German books I am reading, shall appear in the form of a regular post. 
So, thus ends this page.
Published on January 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm  Comments (30)  

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  1. Hi Gypsy-Scarlett!

    This is wonderful. I currently am try to relearn German by listening to CDs in the car on my workday commute. Similar to your practice I have found CDs that do not contain any English and I try not to look up words, just listen to the conversations and hope they “seep” in to my brain.

    I’d love to read “Und dann gabs keines mehr”! My question: how do you find books in German? Is there a place to order them?

  2. Hi Kelly,

    That’s neat that you’re studying German, too. 🙂

    I’m actually living in Germany. But in your case, you can order books and dvds from amazon.de Since titles change, you might find it easier to search by typing in an author’s name.

    Regarding dvds, I like to buy a season of a tv show. I find that very helpful because I can watch the eps first in English if I wish, and then in German (with or without subtitles).

    I’m finding that the mix of watching and listening to a lot of shows in German, combined with the reading of books tranlated in German, has really helped me.

    Keep me posted on how your studies are going, and if you order anything. Enjoy! 🙂

  3. Wow … I didn’t realize you are living in Germany! What town/city are you in?

    My introduction to German was when I was nine years old and my family lived for a year in a small town near Munich.

    Thanks for the book-ordering tips!

  4. I’m in Berlin. It’s fabulous here.

    Are you planning to revisit the town you lived in as a child?

    And you’re very welcome about the book-ordering tips. 🙂

  5. When I was working on French, I picked up some children’s books in French (well, young adult actually) at Powells. I’m thinking about picking up the Harry Potter books in Norwegian now. Since I’m so familiar with the stories that seems like it would make it easier to figure out words in context. I will, however, have a Norwegian-English dictionary at my side 😉

  6. Hey DD,

    That’s a good idea about picking up the Harry Potter novels. That’s the same reason I’ve been reading Agatha Christie novels in German- the familiarity. Plus, her books are very dialogue heavy, which I find easier to understand than narrative prose.

  7. Yikes, those translations left me in the dust! My German was never very good to begin with, now I see how really minimal it was. Good for you for doing this! 🙂

  8. Thanks DD! But writing those translations was easy for me since I own copies of the book in both languages. 😉

    I was hoping that some might get a kick out of seeing how it looks in German.

    Have you been doing any more studying of Norwegian?

  9. Not as much as I’d like, but I try to do a little every day, at least pick up a couple new words, or take random thoughts during the day and try to translate them into Norwegian. I’ve got a long way to go yet but I love learning languages so it’s fun.

  10. Good luck with Steinbeck. Like you, I enjoyed “TGoW,” but not so much “Of Mice and Men.” Maybe forcing teenagers to read some of these books is a waste of time, I don’t think at that age you have the wisdom and experience to appreciate it. Let us know how you like it this time around.

  11. Hey DD,

    Geek that I was/am, I actually liked a lot of the books assigned in school. One that I didn’t appreciate at the time though, was Tess of the d’Ubervilles. Could barely keep my eyes open through that. Reread it a few years ago and was so moved by it’s raw power that I went on a Hardy-kick.

  12. I just picked up Of Mice and Men the other day, and then of course Sawyer gives away the ending. 🙂 Egad!!!

    By the by, your German must be incredible that you’re reading real literature in German. Are you reading German literature, too?

    I just picked up a Russian book the other night and realized I need to brush up. Languages are work…but what magic, too!!! 🙂

    Good luck! 🙂

  13. Thanks Sput!

    But honestly, I’m not being modest when I say my German reading skill is far, far from great. I can read some things; but a lot of it is simply getting the gist.

    After every chapter or so, I make vocabulary lists.

    That’s too damn funny that you also picked up Of Mice and Men. If someone spoiled a book Sawyer was reading, you know what he would say. 😉

    Awesome that you know Russian. Seems so difficult, yet so fascinating…

  14. Ah, I loved Of Mice and Men. SUCH a great book.

    Think I’m going to go back to studying Russian. It’s been a long time, but if I’m going to be visiting the Russian family anytime soon, it’d be nice to do more than introduce myself and ask for directions. 🙂

  15. Hey Amy,

    I’m liking Of Mice and Men more this time around.

    That’s great that you know some Russian. That language definitely intrigues me.

  16. Since I studied a little German (emphasis on little) I can get some of it in context, although the vocabulary is beyond my limited knowledge in the Charles de Lint snippets you have posted. How did you make out with that one?

  17. Heya DD,

    I must admit I gave up about 250 pages in (out of about 400+. I definitely learned a lot, and am glad I pushed myself. But after all that intensity, I decided I needed to rest my brain by reading something easier in German. Hence, the John Dark pulp novels.

    Have you been studying Norwegian at all, lately? If so, how is that going?

  18. I can imagine what a strain that is, trying to absorb all that. I’m still plugging along with the Norwegian, but not too strenuously. Mostly I’m reading one of my Norwegian cousins’ Facebook posts (she posts in Norwegian) and reading her local newspaper online. I’m disappointed to see how much I’ve forgotten. It’s taking me some time to remember words I should know.

  19. Hi Gypsy I was a tad bit curious and to a nice surprise you live in Germany too!
    May I ask how long have you live in Germany and what bought you here just for my curiosity?
    I also think it is cool that you can read novel in Deutsch. I am still working on my Deutsch.

  20. Hi Starting Over,

    I married a German. 😉

    I’ve been here about five years and am still working on my Deutsch! The language is so absurd.

    One thing that helped me a lot with my reading skill was translating all of the German version of “And Then There Were None”. I actually went through the entire book and wrote in ink the English word on top of the Deutsch. That took a much deeper concentration and really made me notice the German sentence structure.

    I should add that I did this much after my original post about reading it in German.

    How long have you been in Germany, and how have you found it?

  21. Ah so, we both move here because of love:)
    I do the same thing too. Words that I don’t know I underline, look up, and write the English word over the Deutsch word just to familiar myself for next time.

    I have been living in Germany since Sept 09. I actually love Germany. I use to visit every year since 2002 for Christmas and the New Year. Hubby like to have Christmas with his family which is understandable. We had Thanksgiving in the past with mines, Christmas and the New Year with his.
    Plus every two years we visited different part of Europe. So Germany is not really new to me perhaps this is why I feel so relax here. I am use to it. It is just the communication at times I have problem with. I have so much to say and I talk so little and sometime to me I sound like a retard. Every words are like baby words. But it is okay eventually my vocab will build.

    Have you taking the Intergration Deutsch classes for your B1? And what do you think about Germany?

  22. I haven’t taken formal classes, but I study on my own daily. What about yourself?

    I love Germany. Not that some elements don’t drive me nutty, but then, no place is perfect. But yes, Germany just suits me very well. The very first moment I landed here, I felt strangely at home. Very comfortable. It felt right to be here.

    And all the art and culture! *squee* 🙂

    So glad to hear that you love it here, too. 🙂

  23. I am in the integration class aiming for my B1. I heard it was mandatory to have residency here if a person want to live in Germany for over a year. Also the certification help to get a job and the C1 certification help to get accepted at the University. I don’t know how new that rule is because I have people in my class that been living here for 5 years and more and they said they have to take the class because of the Arbeitamt told them it is a requirement. I don’t know if I am require to take it. I have not went to the Rathaus to check to see if I got a paper or not that I am require. I am taking it just encase plus I need to learn the language to socialize and it is home:) In Feb is my Prufung for the class I am so nervous of not passing. Because I clam up when talking and sometime think in English. People say think in Deutsch I am like sorry I have been thinking in English for years this is hard for me to do automatically.

    Your absolutely right, no where is perfect, lol. Some people ways bother me a tad bit too. But I laugh and move on. I read your early response and saw that you live in Berlin. Berlin is too cool. I have not visit there yet, but I study on it when I was younger. I even have a peace of the Berlin wall my husband friend gave to me so that I would not get arrested if I found there is still a section of the wall left and help myself to it, lol. Plan to visit there next year. I have a friend who have been living there for little bit over a year and another friend who is moving there next year. I so can’t wait to check it out. It look very diverse and fun!

    I am glad that we both feel at home here. It is very beautiful any part of Europe you go to. Sometimes I feel as if I been here before. Like live my life here. I never dream of living here only visiting but I like it here!

    I am glad that I was curious to come onto your page!

  24. “I am glad that I was curious to come onto your page!”

    Me too! Very much so. 🙂

    And all the best with passing your tests!

  25. Thank you very much. I am not a stalker or anything, lol, but you will see me now and then seeing what you are up to:)

  26. Hee hee!

    Well, I certainly hope so. That is, that you come by here. 🙂

  27. Hi GypsyScarlett!
    I’ve been learning German for a few years, but lately have been awfully time poor and haven’t picked up book for ages…I love that you’ve given tips on Agatha Christies’s translations, because like you, it’s the dialogue that motivates me to keep on reading.
    I’ve tried amazon.de for her books, but only get the English version. Could you possibly post/email me a list of translated titles?
    I’m hoping that they’ve an eBook version as my Kindle is my new BF!
    Your blog is delightful!

  28. Hi Morning Song,

    Thank you! So glad you enjoy my blog. 🙂

    Here are some titles to get you started:

    1. Und dann gab keines Mehr (And then there were None)
    2. Die Vergessliche Mörderin (Third Girl)
    3. Blausaüre (Sparkling Cyanide)
    4. Der Tod wartet (Appointment with Death)
    5.Die Tote in der Bibliotek (Body in the Library)
    6.Mort in Orientexpress (Murder on the Orient Express)
    7. Fata Morgana (I think the original title is Murder with Mirrors)
    8. Alibi(Who Killed Roger Ackroyd)
    9. Mord in Pfarrhaus (Murder at the Vicarage)

  29. Thanks so much for this list!
    I searched amazon.de for one of the titles and THIS time the others came up too. Which I promptly ordered.
    So now I await happily for mein deutches Lesen.
    Thanks again ! and Merry Christmas or rather Frohe Weinachten!

  30. You’re very welcome! Very glad to be able to help.

    Happy Holidays to you, too! 🙂

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