100 books like Berlin

By Pierre Frei, Anthea Bell (translator),

Here are 100 books that Berlin fans have personally recommended if you like Berlin. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Naked and the Dead

J.M. Unrue Author Of The Festival of Sin: and other tales of fantasy

From my list on showing that somebody has it worse than you do.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an old guy. I say this with a bit of cheek and a certain amount of incongruity. All the books on my list are old. That’s one area of continuity. Another, and I’ll probably stop at two, is that they all deal with ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances—those curveballs of life we flail at with an unfamiliar bat; the getting stuck on the Interstate behind a semi and some geezer in a golf cap hogging the passing lane in a Buick Le Sabre. No one makes it through this life unscathed. How we cope does more to define us than a thousand smiles when things are rosy. Thus endeth the lesson.

J.M.'s book list on showing that somebody has it worse than you do

J.M. Unrue Why did J.M. love this book?

A masterful debut novel, post-WWII, and dealing with characters in the heat of battle, internally and externally.

I was forced to read it in eleventh grade Honors English (what they called AP pre-AP. Like I said, I’m old). I reread it for edification as a young writer and was awed by the craftsmanship. The writing is dense and requires patience. War is never pretty.

By Norman Mailer,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Naked and the Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as one of the finest novels to come out of the Second World War, The Naked and the Dead received unprecedented critical acclaim upon its publication and has since enjoyed a long and well-deserved tenure in the American canon. This fiftieth anniversary edition features a new introduction created especially for the occasion by Norman Mailer.

Written in gritty, journalistic detail, the story follows a platoon of Marines who are stationed on the Japanese-held island of Anopopei. Composed in 1948 with the wisdom of a man twice Mailer's age and the raw courage of the young man he was, The…


Book cover of From Here to Eternity

Sam Foster Author Of Non-Semper Fidelis

From my list on showing that a man is the sum of his choices.

Why am I passionate about this?

I heard a Jordan Peterson interview in which he boiled down my entire life’s struggle in a single phrase.  The interviewer was pushing Jordon on the subject of male toxicity. Jordon said something like, “If a man is entirely unwilling to fight under any circumstance, he is merely a weakling. Ask in martial arts trainer and they will tell you they teach two things – the ability to fight and self-control. A man who knows how and also knows how to control himself is a man.”

Sam's book list on showing that a man is the sum of his choices

Sam Foster Why did Sam love this book?

James Jones's brilliant debut novel must have had a great effect on me because I admit, in many ways, my book covers the same ground – how does a man maintain honor and dignity when constrained to live his life by the choices of other, and much more powerful men? I suppose the difference between our two themes is that the question in my book is about those same choices but wrapped in the question of race. Jones’s characters, while in the military, were dealing with personal issues. My Corporal Buck is dealing with an issue about which all of America is on fire.

From Here to Eternity is 70 years old. I read it in 1969, an eternity ago and it has lasted with me from there to here.  When I was in the Marine Corps I knew everything that was happening to me. But I didn’t know what…

By James Jones,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked From Here to Eternity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I'll never understand the fucking Army.'

Prew won't conform. He could have been the best boxer and the best bugler in his division, but he chooses the life of a straight soldier in Hawaii under the fierce tutelage of Sergeant Milt Warden. When he refuses to box for his company for mysterious reasons, he is given 'The Treatment', a relentless campaign of physical and mental abuse. Meanwhile, Warden wages his own campaign against authority by seducing the Captain's wife Karen - just because he can. Both men are bound to the Army, even though it may destroy them.

Published here…


Book cover of The Young Lions

Joe Kilgore Author Of A Farmhouse in the Rain

From my list on WWII era that explore conflicts on the home front.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been enamored with the World War II era. It was a time that seems virtually non-existent today, where almost everyone in my country was on the same page. There seemed to be a collective commitment to the struggle. An agreement that this was indeed good versus evil. Of course, I’m sure its nostalgic allure is much greater for those of us who didn’t actually have to live through it. But the strength, perseverance, and everyday heroism it brought out in soldiers and civilians alike, deserves to be chronicled and remembered forever.

Joe's book list on WWII era that explore conflicts on the home front

Joe Kilgore Why did Joe love this book?

What kind of people participated in the greatest conflict the world has ever known? Were the Allies really that different from the Axis soldiers? This book gives you the opportunity to look into what individuals on different sides of World War II were doing before they were trying to kill one another. You find yourself understanding what ignited one German’s initial patriotism, one American’s attempts to avoid the draft, and another’s struggles with antisemitism within his own ranks as well as the enemies. Above all though, it is the madness and futility of war that stays with you when the last page is turned.  

By Irwin Shaw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Young Lions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Young Lions is a vivid and classic novel that portrays the experiences of ordinary soldiers fighting World War II. Told from the points of view of a perceptive young Nazi, a jaded American film producer, and a shy Jewish boy just married to the love of his life, Shaw conveys, as no other novelist has since, the scope, confusion, and complexity of war.


Book cover of Before the Court of Heaven

Joe Kilgore Author Of A Farmhouse in the Rain

From my list on WWII era that explore conflicts on the home front.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been enamored with the World War II era. It was a time that seems virtually non-existent today, where almost everyone in my country was on the same page. There seemed to be a collective commitment to the struggle. An agreement that this was indeed good versus evil. Of course, I’m sure its nostalgic allure is much greater for those of us who didn’t actually have to live through it. But the strength, perseverance, and everyday heroism it brought out in soldiers and civilians alike, deserves to be chronicled and remembered forever.

Joe's book list on WWII era that explore conflicts on the home front

Joe Kilgore Why did Joe love this book?

Most of this novel’s action occurs between World War I and World War II. It’s the riveting tale of a young German crushed by his country’s defeat and dedicated to doing something about it. He joins a network of assassins and aids in the murder of a high-ranking Jew in the Weimar government. Sent to prison, he meets a unique individual and begins an acute reexamination of everything he’s previously believed. This is a passionately compelling tale of one man looking deep within himself to make sense of what he’s done with his life. The author brings the times, as well as his characters vividly to life and makes this chronicle of redemption a supremely fulfilling read.

By Jack Mayer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Before the Court of Heaven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Historical Fiction based on a true story of Weimar Germany and the rise of the Third Reich. Winner of 13 book awards.2017 Independent Press Award - Winner - Historical Fiction 2017 Independent Press Award - Winner - General Fiction 2016 IndieReader Discovery Award - 1st Place - Fiction2015 Nautilus Book Award Winner - Fiction - Silver medal2016 Readers' Favorite Book Award - Gold Medal - Fiction -Social Issues2016 Finalist - Grand Prize (Eric Hoffer Award) - Fiction2016 Honorable Mention (Eric Hoffer Award) - Commercial Fiction 2016 Finalist - First Horizon Award (Eric Hoffer Award) - Fiction 2015 Finalist - Foreword…


Book cover of Metropolis

Nina Wachsman Author Of The Gallery of Beauties

From my list on a peak into the world of art and artists.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having taken up the brush myself, I can attest to some sort of mystical, out-of-body experience that sometimes surfaces as an artist creates. Emotions and senses become directly connected to one’s hands, releasing the unconscious, allowing the artist to bring something to life that was buried deep inside. My favorite class in art school was Aesthetics, which explored the philosophy of art – what possessed the artist to paint – and what passions and beliefs were behind some of the art movements, including Surrealism, Dadaism, and Futurism. Books that delve into the craft and passion behind great works of art are my favorite reads.

Nina's book list on a peak into the world of art and artists

Nina Wachsman Why did Nina love this book?

This is the last Bernie Gunther novel, in a series that is über noir, and whose protagonist is a police detective who is a member of the SS in Nazi Germany. 

In Metropolis, Gunther learns that murder has become the subject of an art movement, Lustmord, or “lust murders” which focused on the brutal, sexual-tinged serial killings of women and prostitutes in 1930s Berlin.

A scene in the book of a famous German expressionist sketching a murder victim in the morgue is all the more chilling, since I know it to be true. I’ve been fascinated with the art movements of this era, and have seen the exhibits of Lustmord paintings, which are still in museums today. 

By Philip Kerr,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Metropolis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"[Metropolis is] a perfect goodbye--and first hello--to its hero...Bernie Gunther has, at last, come home."--Washington Post

New York Times-bestselling author Philip Kerr treats readers to his beloved hero's origins, exploring Bernie Gunther's first weeks on Berlin's Murder Squad.

Summer, 1928. Berlin, a city where nothing is verboten.

In the night streets, political gangs wander, looking for fights. Daylight reveals a beleaguered populace barely recovering from the postwar inflation, often jobless, reeling from the reparations imposed by the victors. At central police HQ, the Murder Commission has its hands full. A killer is on the loose and though he scatters many…


Book cover of Reading Berlin 1900

Brian Ladd Author Of The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape

From my list on understanding 20th-century Berlin.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of cities and the ways people shape them. Living in Berlin, both before and after the Wall came down, made me aware of how the shared experiences and memories of particular places give meaning to civic life. (And for a historian it was thrilling to find a place where history was taken very seriously.) Although I have since written broader studies—of cars and cities (Autophobia) and of earlier street life (The Streets of Europe)–it was the experience of living in Berlin while learning its history that enabled me to see the layers of meaning embedded in buildings and streets.

Brian's book list on understanding 20th-century Berlin

Brian Ladd Why did Brian love this book?

There are many books about the glitz and the cultural icons that we associate with Weimar Berlin. This one gives us a broader and deeper picture. Instead of concentrating on a few writers and artists, it anchors the city’s creative explosion in mass-market newspapers and their readers, turning our eyes to people in the streetcars and cafés and the stories they read about their own lives. We can read about sensational crimes just as Berliners did, and we find the prototypes of modern art in the layout and content of newspapers and in the chaos of the streets where they are hawked.

By Peter Fritzsche,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Reading Berlin 1900 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The great cities at the turn of the century were mediated by words--newspapers, advertisements, signs, and schedules--by which the inhabitants lived, dreamed, and imagined their surroundings. In this original study of the classic text of urban modernism--the newspaper page--Peter Fritzsche analyzes how reading and writing dramatized Imperial Berlin and anticipated the modernist sensibility that celebrated discontinuity, instability, and transience. It is a sharp-edged story with cameo appearances by Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin, and Alfred Doeblin. This sumptuous history of a metropolis and its social and literary texts provides a rich evocation of a particularly exuberant and fleeting moment in history.


Book cover of Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewish Woman

Peter Wortsman Author Of Ghost Dance in Berlin: A Rhapsody in Gray

From my list on capturing the spirit of Berlin.

Why am I passionate about this?

The American-born son of Jewish refugees, I would have every reason to revile the erstwhile capital of The Third Reich. But ever since my first visit, as a Fulbright Fellow in 1973, Berlin, a city painfully honest about its past, captured my imagination. A bilingual, English-German author of fiction, nonfiction, plays, poetry, travel memoir, and translations from the German, Ghost Dance in Berlin charts my take as a Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin in a villa on Wannsee, Berlin’s biggest lake, an experience marked by memorable encounters with derelicts, lawyers, a taxi driver, a hooker, et al, and with cameo appearances by Henry Kissinger and the ghost of Marlene Dietrich.

Peter's book list on capturing the spirit of Berlin

Peter Wortsman Why did Peter love this book?

This idiosyncratic biography of Rahel Levin Varnhagen, a 19th-century German-Jewish Berlin literary salon hostess may at first seem esoteric to the general reader. A prickly, contradictory character, Arendt’s portrayal of Rahel’s outsider status as a Jew in a largely hostile Christian society, her proto-feminist self-affirmation of her womanhood at a time when women were essentially groomed for marriage, and her paradoxical mix of intellectual self-assurance and crippling emotional insecurities make for a riveting read. You don’t have to be Jewish or a woman to appreciate the complexities of this prototypical Berliner.

By Hannah Arendt, Clara Winston (translator), Richard Winston (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rahel Varnhagen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Born in 1771 as the daughter of a Jewish merchant, Rahel Varnhagen would come to host one of the most prominent salons of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Hannah Arendt discovered her writings some time in the mid-1920s, and soon began to re-imagine Rachel's inner life and write her biography. Arendt draws a lively and complex portrait of a woman during the period of the Napoleonic wars and the early emancipation of the Jews, a figure who met and corresponded with some of the most celebrated authors, artists, and politicians of her time. She documents Rahel's attempts to…


Book cover of Berlin for Jews: A Twenty-First-Century Companion

Dina Gold Author Of Stolen Legacy: Nazi Theft and the Quest for Justice at Krausenstrasse 17/18, Berlin

From my list on Berlin and its history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Dina Gold is the author of Stolen Legacy: Nazi Theft and the Quest for Justice at Krausenstrasse 17/18, Berlin. After postgraduate degrees from London and Oxford universities, Dina spent over twenty years working as an investigative journalist and television producer at the BBC in London. She now lives in Washington DC and is a senior editor and film critic at Moment magazine.

Dina's book list on Berlin and its history

Dina Gold Why did Dina love this book?

If you are Jewish and have ambivalent feelings about visiting Berlin, then this could be the book for you.  Leonard Barkan is a professor at Princeton where he teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature. A Jewish American, growing up in a secular New York family, his book is a personal reflection on traveling in the city. 

Berlin for Jews is part history and part travel guide.  Barkan shows how, in the early nineteenth century, Jews dominated the arts, sciences, and public life and the way in which, despite the horrors of the Nazi era, they left an indelible imprint on the Berlin of today.  The book, described as a “love letter” to the city, takes the reader through some of the most iconic locations of Jewish life and describes the long-lost elegant Jewish suburbs, salons, writers, artists, politicians, philanthropists, art collectors, and intellectuals. And throughout, Barkan muses on what…

By Leonard Barkan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Berlin for Jews as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What is it like to travel to Berlin today, particularly as a Jew, and bring with you the baggage of history? And what happens when an American Jew, raised by a secular family, falls in love with Berlin not in spite of his being a Jew but because of it? The answer is Berlin for Jews. Part history and part travel companion, Leonard Barkan's personal love letter to the city shows how its long Jewish heritage, despite the atrocities of the Nazi era, has left an inspiring imprint on the vibrant metropolis of today. Barkan, voraciously curious and witty, offers…


Book cover of My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin

Sylvia Maultash Warsh Author Of Find Me Again: A Rebecca Temple Mystery

From my list on Holocaust memoirs to understand what real people experienced.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a child of Holocaust survivors who spent three years in slave labour camps. My mother told me stories of her experiences a child should probably not hear. The result is that my philosophy of life, and sometimes my writing, can be dark. It’s no surprise that this period of history imbues my novels. I chose to write mysteries to reach a wider audience, the Holocaust connections integral to the stories. During my research, I discovered a wealth of information on the Holocaust but learned that memoirs revealed best what happened to people on the ground. Memoirs draw you into the microcosm of a person’s life with its nostalgia, yearning, and inevitable heartbreak.

Sylvia's book list on Holocaust memoirs to understand what real people experienced

Sylvia Maultash Warsh Why did Sylvia love this book?

Peter Gay was a child in Nazi Berlin in the 1930s. I read his book to see what life was like there while writing my third novel, much of which takes place in Nazi Berlin. Gay was an academic historian but this memoir is deeply personal, laced with self-deprecating humour. His assimilated life (he and his father were staunch atheists) was relatively unaffected by the regime until 1933 when he became a Jew overnight by law. The Nazis quickly stripped the Jews of all rights, culminating in the violent Kristallnacht in 1938. He and his parents managed to escape to the U.S. six months later. Many of his relatives were killed. The underlying question in the book: why didn’t his family—and by extension other Jewish families—leave right after 1933 when Nazi plans became clear?

By Peter Gay,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked My German Question as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this poignant book, a renowned historian tells of his youth as an assimilated, anti-religious Jew in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1939-"the story," says Peter Gay, "of a poisoning and how I dealt with it." With his customary eloquence and analytic acumen, Gay describes his family, the life they led, and the reasons they did not emigrate sooner, and he explores his own ambivalent feelings-then and now-toward Germany and the Germans.
Gay relates that the early years of the Nazi regime were relatively benign for his family: as a schoolboy at the Goethe Gymnasium he experienced no ridicule or…


Book cover of The Good German

Richard Powell Author Of Pact with the Devil

From my list on spy and espionage I encourage my friends to read.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, I devoured historical works. In fact, the city librarian told my mother when I reached my teens. that I had read every book in the Children’s section on the Civil War and they recommended I get adult privileges. In my teenage years, I developed a taste for spy novels thanks to Ian Fleming. However, as I matured, I became drawn to the less gadgety stories in the genre like the books I recommend here and write myself. I have no unique expertise in the area beside a desire to learn more about the field so my own work will inform as well as entertain. 

Richard's book list on spy and espionage I encourage my friends to read

Richard Powell Why did Richard love this book?

This particular time and place fascinate me. The cold war is ramping up. Dirty deals abound while deviltry floats in the air or can be found around any corner. It was a crucial time in history and shaped much of what happens today throughout the world. And the story mixes intrigue and romance. Will the hero find his love plus uncover the plot? The suspense can’t be beaten.

By Joseph Kanon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Good German as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jake Geismar cut his teeth as a foreign correspondent in pre-war Berlin. When he returns in 1945 to cover the Potsdam conference he finds the city unrecognisable - streets have vanished beneath the rubble, familiar landmarks truncated by high explosive. But amongst the ruins Berliners survive, including some he knew and, miraculously, his lost love, Lena. However, in the same way she refused to leave with him before the war, Lena won't join him now without finding her husband and Emil has disappeared from the safe care of the Americans who, turning a blind eye to his links with Hitler,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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