I studied German at university and am qualified to guide in German, so have kept up-to-date with the country and its issues. I have also always had a fascination for Germany’s history, culture and people.  In the process I have come across many fascinating and entertaining books on Germany from which I have selected my best-seller list.  For me the most fascinating era is the past 100 or so years during which the country has gone through four regime changes with new borders, new currency new political systems and new flags every time.


From Julius Caesar to Angela Merkel in only 226 pages including many maps and diagrams

Germany as a country is only 150 years old, divided again after the 2nd world war it is now re-united and the dominant force in Europe.  Unlike the UK and to extent France who have natural geographical boundaries, Germany has none….  Most histories lay emphasis on the marked division between Protestant (Prussian) North and Catholic (Bavarian) South.  However Hawes demonstrates that it is the East West divide that goes right back to Roman times that has been the dominant influence in Germany’s history.

A real find!  It is difficult for us as an island with a more ‘unified’ history to appreciate how complex and fluid Germany’s history is.  This is a brilliant book and I found it really helped me understand better the roots of Germany’s more recent turbulent history.  A must for anyone interested in European history.


GERMANIASimon Winder
A personal history of Germans ancient and modern. – A cheerful tour through German history

Germany’s history, folklaw, cuisine, architecture and landscape – Part travelogue part history book and full of wit and quirky stories.  ‘A unique exploration of German culture from sausage advertisements to Wagner’ (Google review).

I loved this book as it was entertaining, quirky but also informative – a bit in the mould of Bill Bryson, but in my view much more meaty.  It made me want to rush back to Germany and explore, and it reminded me what a fascinating and diverse country Germany is.


Berlin: One House. Five Families. A Hundred Years of History

In 1993, Thomas Harding travelled to Berlin with his grandmother to visit a small house by Glinieke Lake (the Berlin wall had run along the lakeside at the bottom of the garden).  It was the house she had been forced to leave when the Nazis swept to power. The house was derelict, and it prompted Harding to research its history. The book tells the history of Germany, from the late nineteenth century to the present day through the inhabitants of this small wooden building: a nobleman farmer, a prosperous Jewish family, a renowned Nazi composer, a widow and her children, a Stasi informant.

Neil MacGregor’s review says it all. ‘A superb portrait of twentieth century Germany seen through the prism of a house which was lived in, and lost, by five different families. A remarkable book’.


The File is that kept by the Stasi on Timothy Garton Ash’s life in Berlin in late 70s. He returns to Germany to read it and confront some of those who informed on him

In 1978 Timothy Garton Ash, currently Professor of European Studies at Oxford and Guardian columnist went to live in Berlin to see what that divided city could teach him about tyranny and freedom. Fifteen years later, by then internationally famous for his reportage of the downfall of communism in Central Europe, he returned to look at his Stasi file which bore the code-name ‘Romeo’. Compiled by the East German secret police, with the assistance of both professional spies and ordinary people turned informer, it contained a meticulous record of his earlier life in Berlin.

So much has been written about this era in German history, but I found this a thought-provoking book as it was both deeply personal yet also a social commentary not only on that era but our society today.


(My Free German Youth)  A child’s eye view of life in the GDR

Claudia Rusch was born in 1971 and grew up knowing nothing except East Germany. A series of short chapters on various aspects of her life as a child in the GDR….many amusing, some touching, and a few shocking.  The title is a satirical take on the FDJ, which was the East German Youth Movement, which operated much like the Hitler Youth in indoctrinating the young, or at least trying to.

As the title indicates this is in German.  Anyone who has a reasonable grasp of German, assisted by a good dictionary (I use Leo online) would be able to understand it.  I loved this book as it gave a child’s eye view of life both good and bad in East Germany. And regardless of political background children will be children.



Spy thrillers, all named after stations, set in Berlin 1930s – 1948.  A series of 6 starting with Zoo Station, ending with Masaryk Station 1948.  A real evocation of life in Berlin during those cataclysmic years

Six books written as a series of spy thrillers, based around Anglo-American character John Russell a journalist but also an undercover agent based in Berlin in the 1940s. They are known as “The Station Series” because they are all named after train stations.  The first – Zoo Station – starts in the 1930s with the growth of the Nazi party, and ends with Masaryk Station set in 1948 with the beginnings of the Cold War. (in order Zoo, Silesia, Stettin, Potsdam, Lehrter, and Masaryk Stations).

These are real page-turners, which I found immensely enjoyable and also surprisingly informative, as the historical and sociological background was so well researched.  They prompted me to reach frequently to Google to check out the history/people in more detail. I had to ration myself as I would have got through them too quickly.


A series of 5 thrillers also set in Germany during the 2nd World War…

Clara Vine is an actress in the famous UFA studios by day and undercover British intelligence Agent by night.  Stories told from a female perspective e.g Winter Garden – is set against the background of Nazi wives and girlfriends and the role of women in Nazi Germany.  Clara Vine infiltrates the notorious Nazi bride school in Berlin.  In Black Roses: Clara Vine is sent to befriend Magda Goebbels. The books are published under different titles in the US.  So UK titles are as above plus War of Flowers, Faith and Beauty, Solitaire.

Like David Downing’s Zoo series these are a fast read yet really well researched and I found the female perspective a refreshing take on an over-worked period of German history.



DEUTSCHLAND  83All4 Catch Up
(In the Walter presents series)

Set against the real events, this compelling thriller is set in Germany in 1983, at the height of the Cold War.  It is a mix of action movie, political drama and spy story.  The central core of the series is the Able Archer 83 NATO cold war exercise which brought the world perilously close to nuclear conflict.



The sequel to Deutschland 83, in which Martin Rauch is conscripted into a plot to drum up hard currency abroad and keep the East German communist project afloat, which included by-passing sanctions by selling West German Arms to rebel forces in Southern Africa. It also features the GDR’s other projects to earn hard currency – selling blood products and conducting covert clinical trials for West German Pharma companies.


DEUTSCHLAND  89More4/All4 Catch Up

Currently airing, but covers the time after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  To quote the writer/directors ‘When the Berlin Wall came down, Germany reinvented itself for the fourth time in the 20th century. Deutschland 89 goes back to the so-called ‘end of history’. Our heroes, spies in the national security apparatus of a country that has collapsed overnight, find themselves at a dramatic crossroads, personally and professionally.’



THE RATLINEThe Intrigue podcast series

Philippe Sands, barrister and author,  investigates the disappearance of a senior Nazi Otto Wachter along what was known as the Ratline… a system of escape routes for Nazis and other fascists fleeing Europe in the aftermath of World War II..  Many members of Sand’s family were murdered by the Nazis in the Polish territories under Wachter’s control.  One of the most fascinating aspects of this series is that Sands does this together with Wachter’s son Horst.


TUNNEL 29The Intrigue podcast series

This 10 part series tells the extraordinary true story of a man who dug a tunnel into the East, right under the feet of border guards, to help friends, family and strangers escape.  The most remarkable thing about it was that he had already escaped to the West before the wall was built yet risked everything to tunnel back into the East.


Back to Discover At Home