The best Walter Benjamin books 📚

Browse the best books on Walter Benjamin as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Reading Berlin 1900

Reading Berlin 1900

By Peter Fritzsche

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books to understand 20th-century Berlin

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Book cover of Spanish Testament

Spanish Testament

By Arthur Koestler

Why this book?

This book was written in 1937 by a British journalist who was visiting Spain. This was the year that Málaga fell to the Nationalist forces. It is the year that I write about in Spanish Lavender, a love story set in the Spanish Civil War in Málaga. Arthur Koestler arrived in that city when thousands of people were fleeing from the advancing army. His book gives an eye witness account of what it was like there, the military situation, the devastation and the evacuation. He saw it all and wrote about it. Later he was arrested and imprisoned in a…

From the list:

The best books on the Spanish Civil War through oral history and narrative

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

Berlin for Jews: A Twenty-First-Century Companion

By Leonard Barkan

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books to read if you are visiting Berlin and love history

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