The best books that show living in East Germany really was like a spy movie

Michelle Barker Author Of The House of One Thousand Eyes
By Michelle Barker

The Books I Picked & Why

Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

By Anna Funder

Book cover of Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

Why this book?

I first encountered this non-fiction book on East Germany while doing research for my novel. It is a riveting account of the author’s journey to Germany after the Wall came down to interview both people who resisted the authorities and people who worked for them. It provides incredible insight into the life and mindset of East Germans under the totalitarian regime. Many of the stories will leave you with your mouth hanging open in shock. I took it out of the library and then realized it was a book I needed to own, so I bought it and have read it several times. 


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The Innocent

By Ian McEwan

Book cover of The Innocent

Why this book?

This novel is set in Germany during the Cold War and is based partly on an actual event: a tunnel that was built by the British and Americans to gain access to the Soviets’ communications system. However, it focuses on a fictional character who is an innocent in several senses. I loved the setting, but I also loved the turn in the book where innocence becomes experience in a shocking way. This was a book I couldn’t put down.


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The Iron Curtain Kid

By Oliver Fritz

Book cover of The Iron Curtain Kid

Why this book?

This is a memoir written by a young man who grew up in East Germany. I picked this one up for research but found myself completely enthralled by the story. His attention to detail is excellent. If you ever want to know what it was like to grow up in East Germany on a day-to-day basis, this is a great source of information. When the author finally goes to West Berlin for the first time in his life, it made me cry. 


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Stasi Child: A Karin Müller Thriller

By David Young

Book cover of Stasi Child: A Karin Müller Thriller

Why this book?

This is a police procedural set in the 1970s in East Berlin. The author successfully evokes an atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion, as the main character, a female detective, must try to solve the murder of a young girl who seems to have been killed fleeing from West to East Germany (not the usual direction). The feeling that everyone is watching, everyone is a potential informer, everything is potentially corrupt, corresponds to all the research I did on East Germany. Plus, it’s a great story that’s hard to put down.


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Born in the GDR: Life in the Shadow of the Wall

By Hester Vaizey

Book cover of Born in the GDR: Life in the Shadow of the Wall

Why this book?

The author of this non-fiction book interviews eight people who were born and raised in East Germany’s totalitarian regime and have had to adjust to a new life after the Wall comes down. I liked this book because it gave me a different perspective on East Germany and how people felt about the regime. Turns out it was a little more complicated than simply thinking everything was bad. And once the Wall came down, many things became difficult for easterners, particularly the higher cost of living and the scorn they experienced from westerners. 


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