Berlin, the vibrant capital of Germany, is a city that never stops reinventing itself. 10 Best Books Set in Berlin, explores contemporary novels that capture the city’s essence. With its rich history, modern culture, and dynamic atmosphere, it has long been a muse for writers. These recent releases provide a fresh perspective on the German capital, making Berlin more than just a setting—it becomes a character in its own right, shaping the lives of the stories’ protagonists.
Books Set in Berlin
Alone in Berlin – Hans Fallada
A modern classic among books set in Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming couple Otto and Anna Quangel.
Then the Quangels receive the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of their quiet existence, they begin a silent campaign of defiance, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between the Quangels and the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich. When petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, tightening the noose around the Quangels’ necks …
The Wall – John Lanchester
Kavanagh begins his time patrolling the Wall.
If he’s lucky, if nothing goes wrong, he only has to do two years of this. 729 more nights.
The best thing that can happen is that he survives and gets off the Wall and will never have to spend another day of his life anywhere near it.
But what if something did happen – if the Others came, if he had to fight for his life?
Thrilling and heartbreaking, The Wall is about a troubled world you will recognise as your own – and about what might be found when all is lost among books set in Berlin.
Berlin – Jason Lutes
For the graphic novel fans among books set in Berlin. During the past two decades, Jason Lutes has quietly created one of the masterworks of the graphic novel golden age. Berlin is one of the high-water marks of the medium: rich in its well-researched historical detail, compassionate in its character studies, and as timely as ever in its depiction of a society slowly awakening to the stranglehold of fascism.
Berlin is an intricate look at the fall of the Weimar Republic through the eyes of its citizens—Marthe Müller, a young woman escaping the memory of a brother killed in World War I, Kurt Severing, an idealistic journalist losing faith in the printed word as fascism and extremism take hold; the Brauns, a family torn apart by poverty and politics. Lutes weaves these characters’ lives into the larger fabric of a city slowly ripping apart.
The city itself is the central protagonist in this historical fiction. Lavish salons, crumbling sidewalks, dusty attics, and train stations: all these places come alive in Lutes’ masterful hand. Weimar Berlin was the world’s metropolis, where intellectualism, creativity, and sensuous liberal values thrived, and Lutes maps its tragic, inevitable decline. Devastatingly relevant and beautifully told, Berlin is one of the great epics of the comics medium among books set in Berlin.
The Innocent – Ian McEwan
Into a Berlin wrenched between East and West, comes twenty-five-year-old Leonard Marnham, assigned to a British-American surveillance team. Though only a pawn in an international plot, Leonard uses his secret work to escape the bonds of his ordinary life.
The promise of his new life begins to be fulfilled as Leonard becomes a crucial part of the surveillance team, while simultaneously being initiated into a new world of love and sex by Maria, a beautiful young German woman. It is a promise that turns to horror in the course of one terrible evening – a night when Leonard Marnham learns just how much of his innocence he’s willing to shed. A good one among books set in Berlin.
Walking in Berlin – Franz Hessel
Take a walk around 1920s Berlin with one of its greatest luminaries.
In this timeless guide, originally published in Germany in 1929, Franz Hessel invites his readers to join him on a stroll through Weimar-era Berlin, taking in some of the most fascinating sights the city has to offer, many of which still exist in some form today.
From the Alexanderplatz to Kreuzberg, his record of them has become priceless; as has his fascinating commentary on the seismic shifts shaking German culture at the time.
Superbly written, and as fresh today as when it first appeared, this is a book to be savoured among books set in Berlin.
The Gift – Vladimir Nabokov
The Gift is the last of the novels Nabokov wrote in his native Russian and the crowning achievement of that period in his literary career. It is also his ode to Russian literature, evoking the works of Pushkin, Gogol, and others in the course of its narrative: the story of Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev, an impoverished émigré poet living in Berlin, who dreams of the book he will someday write–a book very much like The Gift itself among books set in Berlin.
Slumberland – Paul Beatty
After creating the perfect beat, DJ Darky goes in search of Charles Stone, aka the Schwa, a little known avant-garde jazzman, to play over his sonic masterpiece. His quest brings him to a recently unified Berlin, where he stumbles through the city’s dreamy streets ruminating about race, sex, love, Teutonic gods and the Berlin Wall in search of his artistic – and spiritual – other.
Ferocious, bombastic and laugh-out-loud funny, Slumberland is the second novel from Man Booker-winner Paul Beatty, a comic genius at the top of his game among books set in Berlin.
Grand Hotel – Vicki Baum
A must-read among books set in Berlin. A grand hotel in the center of 1920s Berlin serves as a microcosm of the modern world in this celebrated novel which was the basis for the 1932 Oscar-winning film starring Greta Garbo and John Barrymore among books set in Berlin.
The luxury Grand Hotel is a revolving door for the stray souls of 1920s Berlin. Among the guests is Doctor Otternschlag, a World War I veteran whose face has been sliced in half by a shell. Day after day he emerges to read the paper in the lobby, discreetly inquiring at the desk if the letter he’s been awaiting for years has arrived. Then there is Grusinskaya, a great ballerina now fighting a losing battle not so much against age as against her fear of it, who may or may not be made for Gaigern, a sleek professional thief.
Herr Preysing also checks in, the director of a family firm that isn’t as flourishing as it appears, who would never imagine that Kringelein, his underling, a timorous petty clerk he’s bullied for years, has also come to Berlin, determined to live at last now that he’s received a medical death sentence.
All these characters and more, with all their secrets and aspirations, come together and come alive in the pages of Baum’s delicious and disturbing masterpiece—a Weimar-era bestseller that retains all its verve and luster today among books set in Berlin.
The Marketer, Another Berlin Story – Antonio La Matina
Imagine a cool office in the heart of Berlin, complete with free snacks and drinks, a casual dress code, competitive salary and benefits, opportunities for growth and advancement, a fast-paced environment, company outings, and team-building events. Health and wellness benefits such as gym memberships, yoga classes, and onsite massages, along with fresh fruit and a dog-friendly office. There are even ping pong or foosball tables and access to the latest technology and tools, as well as opportunities to work on exciting and innovative projects…
Now, meet Tony, the protagonist of Antonio La Matina’s debut novel, “The Marketer.” among books set in Berlin. Follow him as he navigates through dead-end startup jobs, neurotic bosses, and haunting dreams of eerie creatures against the backdrop of Berlin’s bustling city life.
All Souls’ Day – Cees Nooteboom
Arthur Daane, a documentary film-maker and inveterate globetrotter, wanders the streets of Berlin, a city whose recent past provides the perfect backdrop for his reflections on life and the universe as he collects images for his latest project – a film that will show the world through his eyes.
With his circle of friends – a philosopher, a sculptor and a physicist – Daane discusses everything from history to metaphysics and the meaning of our contemporary existence, often over a hearty meal. Then, one cold winter’s day, Daane meets the history student Elik Oranje and his world is turned upside down. And when she unexpectedly leaves the city for Spain, Daane is compelled to follow.
All Souls’ Day is an elegiac love story, a poignant and affecting tale in which the city of Berlin plays a prominent role, by one of Europe’s major contemporary writers among books set in Berlin.
Berlin’s dynamic and ever-evolving character provides a captivating backdrop for these recent novels. Books set in Berlin offer a unique perspective on the city, its history, and its people, making them essential reads for anyone looking to experience Berlin through the lens of contemporary literature. Whether you’re interested in history, art, romance, or mystery, these books set in Berlin offer a glimpse into the multifaceted world of modern Berlin.
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Are there any books set in Berlin you’d like to add to this list? Would you please share in the comments section below?