The most recommended Berlin Wall books

Who picked these books? Meet our 42 experts.

42 authors created a book list connected to the Berlin Wall, and here are their favorite Berlin Wall books.
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Book cover of The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the Ruins of the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in Thirteen Stories

Graeme Brooker Author Of 50/50 Words for Reuse: A Minifesto

From my list on interior architecture and reuse of buildings.

Who am I?

Graeme Brooker is a Professor and Head of Interior Design at the Royal College of Art London. He has written and published fifteen books on the histories and theories of inside spaces, many of which focus on the reuse of existing artefacts, buildings, and cities. Apart from teaching and writing, when he isn’t cycling, he is often staring intently at the sea in Brighton, where he currently lives.

Graeme's book list on interior architecture and reuse of buildings

Graeme Brooker Why did Graeme love this book?

This book is a provocative and stimulating read, offering a series of stories on and about interior spaces and the buildings they are situated in. The stories of buildings and their changes are fascinating, providing boundless enthusiasm to communicate the ideas and stories of each space. Hollis states that many conversations are started and that maybe not all of them are ever finished, this book provides an inspired beginning for any person who wants to begin an exploration of the art of adapting and altering existing buildings. 

By Edward Hollis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The plans are drawn up, a site is chosen, foundations are dug: a building comes into being with the expectation that it will stay put and stay for ever. But a building is a capricious thing: it is inhabited and changed, and its existence is a tale of constant and curious transformation. In this radical reimagining of architectural history, Edward Hollis tells the stories of thirteen buildings, beginning with the 'once upon a time' when they first appeared, through the years of appropriation, ruin and renovation, and ending with a temporary 'ever after'. In spell-binding prose, Hollis follows his buildings…


Book cover of Wall: The Inside Story of Divided Berlin

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

From my list on understanding 20th-century Berlin.

Who am I?

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?

This book is unjustly neglected because it was published just days before the Berlin Wall fell, an event the author, like the rest of us, failed to foresee. Wyden, a prolific writer who grew up Jewish in Hitler’s Berlin, uses his knowledge of the city to situate stories of highwire diplomacy and sensational escapes against a backdrop of ordinary lives marked by grim repression. 

By Peter Wyden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Discusses the events surrounding the erection of the Berlin Wall, the Wall's devastating effect on those living near it, and its major impact on East-West relations


Book cover of The Picnic: A Dream of Freedom and the Collapse of the Iron Curtain

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom Author Of Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink

From Jeffrey's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Essayist Historian Teacher Songwriter

Jeffrey's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom Why did Jeffrey love this book?

I’m a sucker for books about historical events that leave you keenly aware of how easily a big transformation could have turned out differently—or not happened. In this case, the end of Communist Party rule across the former Soviet Bloc is the transformation.

In providing a fresh perspective on this oft-covered subject, the author zeroes in on a small and largely forgotten incident: a picnic. It took place on the border between Hungary and Austria in 1989. It might never have happened if an Iron Curtain border guard had not decided to look the other way at a particular moment, or if Gorbachev and a Hungarian leader not met years before each took power.

The book is by a political scientist I’ve never met who demonstrates great skills as an oral historian and a flair for bringing to life the complex motivations of people who risked a lot in uncertain…

By Matthew Longo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In August 1989, a group of Hungarian activists organised a picnic on the border of Hungary and Austria. But this was not an ordinary picnic-it was located on the dangerous militarised frontier known as the Iron Curtain. Tacit permission from the highest state authorities could be revoked at any moment. On wisps of rumour, thousands of East German "vacationers" packed Hungarian campgrounds, awaiting an opportunity, fearing prison, surveilled by lurking Stasi agents.

The Pan-European Picnic set the stage for the greatest border breach in Cold War history: hundreds crossed from the Communist East to the longed-for freedom of the West.…


Book cover of The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life

Robert David Crane Author Of Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories

From my list on to combat loneliness and quiet desperation.

Who am I?

I have always followed writer Christopher Isherwood’s words: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.” I am most comfortable as an observer, a documentarian, someone who gathers details, tries to make sense of them, lays them down in a presentable order, noticing colors, light, sounds, people’s behavior. Trying to make sense of life. I come from a divorced family, my father was murdered, and my first wife died of breast cancer. Still, there was plenty of laughter. I’m interested in and trying to figure out why we’re here.

Robert's book list on to combat loneliness and quiet desperation

Robert David Crane Why did Robert love this book?

British spy novelist John Le Carre writes a rare non-fiction piece involving 38 tales of searching for the “human spark” – the reason we get up in the morning – and overcoming betrayal and disappointment. Le Carre meets spies, heads of state, celebrities, politicians, along his life’s journey but it always gets back to the heart, the humor, the “moral ambiguity” he finds in each individual that he transfers to his fictional characters in novels such as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I loved this book because I travelled to locations and met people that will never be part of my personal experience. Le Carre despite his fame is a humble, obedient servant to the word and shares his innermost feelings about the success and failure of human beings.

By John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Recounted with the storytelling elan of a master raconteur - by turns dramatic and funny, charming, tart and melancholy." -Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

The New York Times bestselling memoir from John le Carre, the legendary author of A Legacy of Spies.

From his years serving in British Intelligence during the Cold War, to a career as a writer that took him from war-torn Cambodia to Beirut on the cusp of the 1982 Israeli invasion to Russia before and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, le Carre has always written from the heart of modern times. In this,…


Book cover of In Times of Fading Light

Fiona Rintoul Author Of The Leipzig Affair

From my list on life under the Stasi.

Who am I?

I’m a Scottish journalist. In the 1980s, I studied German at Karl-Marx University in Leipzig, East Germany. It was a fascinating experience that changed my perceptions of the world. I didn’t become a communist, but I did begin to see that where you stand depends on where you sit and that principles are easy to maintain when it costs you nothing to do so. There was a bleak glamour to East Germany that I loved, and so I decided to set my first novel in the shadowy world of intense personal connections, underground artists, and unofficial informers that I’d found in Leipzig. 

Fiona's book list on life under the Stasi

Fiona Rintoul Why did Fiona love this book?

In Times of Fading Light is a masterful five-decade family saga that melds the personal and the political to create a fascinating portrait of East Germany before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Intelligent, fearless, and full of dark humor, it is both an ingeniously structured page-turner, moving back and forward in time, and a literary tour de force. Eugen Ruge was a 35-year-old playwright when the Wall fell, and In Times of Fading Light, published in 2011, was his first novel. It provides a rich understanding of how people lived and loved in East Germany that scotches both nostalgia for the old East and Western clichés. Shining a bright light into the darker corners of family dynamics, it is also a tale with universal resonance. 

By Eugen Ruge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Times of Fading Light as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Already hailed as a Cold War classic.' Boyd Tonkin, Independent Books of the Year

'Utterly absorbing, funny and humane. A romp through a twisted century in the heart of Europe.' Anna Funder, author of Stasiland

International bestseller and Winner of the German Book Prize

A sweeping story of one family over four generations in East Germany: the intertwining of love, life and politics under the GDR regime.


Book cover of Blood Lines

J.M. Adams Author Of Second Term

From J.M.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Explorer Traveler Tennis player Reporter Tenacious

J.M.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

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

If you thought the Cold War was over when the Berlin Wall came down, think again. My love of history and current events drew me into this book from the first page. 

I was in Berlin when the Berlin Wall came down, so Nelson and Alex DeMille's book impacted me on multiple fronts. The comparisons and, more frighteningly, the similarities between Germany now and when the country was divided into East and West Germany blew my mind. 

The Army CID tag team of Scott Brodie and Maggie Taylor keeps you tethered to reality as Berlin teeters on the brink of chaos. The story reinforces the notion that history never forgets, no matter how desperately the powers that be try to rearrange past events or erase them altogether. 

By Nelson DeMille, Alex DeMille,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From New York Times bestselling authors Nelson DeMille and Alex DeMille, Blood Lines features the return of Special Agents Brodie and Taylor who are on the hunt for the cold-blooded murderer of one of their fellow agents.

Army Criminal Investigation Agents Scott Brodie and Maggie Taylor have been separated for five months following their last assignment, a dangerous mission in Venezuela to locate and detain an infamous Army deserter. Now, in Berlin, they are reunited and tasked with investigating the murder of one of their own: CID Special Agent Harry Vance of the 5th MP Battalion, an accomplished counterterrorism agent…


Book cover of Kieslowski on Kieslowski

Kieron Connolly Author Of Dark History of Hollywood: A century of greed, corruption and scandal behind the movies (Dark Histories)

From my list on moviemaking.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved movies. In my 20s, I went to film school – perhaps you can still find a couple of the short films I wrote with animator Matthew Hood on Vimeo (Hourglass and Metalstasis) – and I worked a little in the UK film industry reading scripts for Film4, among others. I’ve also interviewed filmmakers, including Nicolas Winding Refn, Christopher Hampton, Life of Brian producer John Goldstone and editor Anne V. Coates. And I’ve always found a romance, despite the seedy aspects, of Tinseltown being developed out in Hollywoodland, a place of orange groves and pepper trees where people from the Midwest went to retire in the sun.   

Kieron's book list on moviemaking

Kieron Connolly Why did Kieron love this book?

In contrast to Hollywood, Krzysztof Kieslowski worked under Polish Communism for the first 20 years of his career, before he became better known in the West with the Three Colours Trilogy. In Poland, it wasn’t the box office that determined a filmmaker’s fate but what the state censors thought. His film Blind Chance wasn’t released for six years because it suggested that a person’s political affiliation – whether they become a dissident or party member – was up to, well, blind chance. This is a wonderfully thoughtful book not only about film-making, but working under Communism, what it is to be a creative artist, and, if I may, life.

By Krzysztof Kieslowski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Decalogue, The Double Life of Veronique and his trilogy, Three Colours, earned Kieslowski his reputation as a world-class film-maker. Kieslowski was notoriously reticent, and even dismissive of his work and talent, but these frank and detailed discussions show a passion for film-making and a career which was often threatened by political and economic change within Poland. In the book he talks at length about his life: his childhood, disrupted by Hitler and Stalin; his four attempts to get into film school; and what Poland and its future meant to him at the time of writing, before his death in 1996.


Book cover of W the Whore

Rikke Villadsen Author Of The Clitoris

From my list on sweeping you to a strange surreal world of dreams.

Who am I?

I have been a surrealist since I discovered Salvador Dali and David Lynch at the age of 14. I have been on a path to combine the art world’s depth in style; symbols and metaphors with storytelling. Becoming a comic artist was a natural path and the media is great for expressing the many complex questions in life; what it is to be human and a woman in this world. I have become an artist who revolves around feminism and surrealism, eros and doubt. 

Rikke's book list on sweeping you to a strange surreal world of dreams

Rikke Villadsen Why did Rikke love this book?

This book is contemporary art. The graphics are on a different artistic level than most comics or graphic novels. It made me realize that the contemporary art scene can live and flourish in storytelling, which by the end of the day led me on my path to becoming a comic artist. The story about W the Whore has a weird poetic feel. It is not about a prostitute, but about a woman and that is the symbolism and metaphors Feuchtenberger introduces in her surreal landscape.

By Anke Feuchtenberger, Katrin de Vries, Mark David Nevins (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The experiences of womanhood are heightened and transformed in these eerie, fairy tale–like comics by a gifted artist-writer duo.

Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the West German–born Katrin de Vries read a magazine featuring the drawings of the East German–born Anke Feuchtenberger. De Vries wrote to ask Feuchtenberger if she might want to collaborate, and together they’ve produced some of the most striking German comics of the last thirty years, most notably W the Whore.

Collected here in English for the first time, W the Whore, W the Whore Makes Her Tracks, and W the Whore Throws…


Book cover of Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Island I Have Not Visited and Never Will

James G. Stavridis Author Of The Sailor's Bookshelf: Fifty Books to Know the Sea

From my list on to know the sea.

Who am I?

I'm a retired 4-star Admiral who spent over forty years at sea, rising from Midshipman at the Naval Academy to Supreme Allied Commander at NATO. I studied literature and published eleven books, many dealing with the oceans. My PhD from Tufts University, where I served as Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, centered on the Law of the Sea Treaty. My father was a seagoing US Marine, my wife grew up in the Navy with a father who was a Navy pilot, and my daughter was a Navy nurse. Finally, my basset hound is named Penelope, after the wife of Ulysses who waited for her husband to return from ten years at sea.

James' book list on to know the sea

James G. Stavridis Why did James love this book?

This fascinating little gem of a book is concerned with tiny, largely unknown islands scattered around the world. Schalansky essentially selected them largely for how far they are from big, continental lands. Even after spending a significant portion of my life at sea, I can only claim to have visited or even sailed within sight of about a dozen of them. Most of these small atolls are far from their mother countries. But each of these isolated islands has a story that is inextricably tied to the sea.

By Judith Schalansky,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Atlas of Remote Islands as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Judith Schalansky was born in 1980 on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall. The Soviets wouldn't let anyone travel so everything she learnt about the world came from her parents' battered old atlas. An acclaimed novelist and award-winning graphic designer, she has spent years creating this, her own imaginative atlas of the world's loneliest places. These islands are so difficult to reach that until the late 1990s more people had set foot on the moon than on Peter I Island in the Antarctic.

On one page are perfect maps, on the other unfold bizarre stories from the history of…


Book cover of Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, the Wall, and the Birth of the New Berlin

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

From my list on understanding 20th-century Berlin.

Who am I?

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?

1980s Berlin is famous for two things: a wild counterculture and the sudden demise of the Wall. In recalling the outsize personalities he got to know on both sides of the Wall, Paul Hockenos brings the two strands of history as close together as can be done. The music and party scene, the communes and the squats, arose during this quiet lull in the Cold War, as political, musical, and sexual misfits found their niche in the dead zones along the Wall. Most of us living in Berlin in the 80s enjoyed the peace and quiet. This book shows what most of us were missing out on.

By Paul Hockenos,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Berlin Calling is a gripping account of the 1989 'peaceful revolution' in East Germany that upended communism and the tumultuous years of artistic ferment, political improvisation, and pirate utopias that followed. It's the story of a newly undivided Berlin when protest and punk rock, bohemia and direct democracy, techno and free theatre were the order of the day. Berlin Calling is a unique account of how Berlin became hip, and of why it continues to attract creative types from the world over.