Using a book to learn German is one of the best ways to get started. There are an endless selection of books aimed at beginners, all making big promises. But which ones really work?
I’m going to share with you the best books for learning German as a beginner. I’ve used all these books myself when I first started learning German.
Do you prefer to study using books rather than online or with apps? Let’s get started.
- Gets you speaking from day 1
- Free audio downloads
- Perfect for complete beginners
Why Use Books to Learn German?
Imagine you’ve spent your whole day at work sitting at your computer. Your eyes are tired, your head aches, you just want to get away from that screen.
If you’ve committed to learning a new language, it can be tempting to make excuses in the evenings when you’ve had a day in front of a computer.
There is something comforting and relaxing about reading words on a page. A way to give your eyes a break.
Perhaps you’re out and about, have a poor internet connection but still want to continue your language learning. Perfect, just keep your text book and a pen nearby and you’re good to go!
Of course with textbooks you will focus a lot on reading and grammar, but many books also have downloadable audio files to go with the dialogues. That’s great news because you can now practice your listening comprehension too!
Best Books for Learning German
Language Hacking German (Benny Lewis)
Language Hacking German was the first book I picked up when I started learning German. I took it everywhere with me. In this book by polyglot Benny Lewis, Benny guides you through your very first steps in German. Each chapter focuses on a different topic.
At the beginning things like introducing yourself, asking about others, talking about family and friends. It then moves on to slightly more complicated conversations such as using the past tense to talk about what you’ve been up to, and using the language to describe places and people.
Each topic chapter has 3 dialogues, conversations between two people. If this sounds a little scary, don’t worry. The very first conversation is a simple introduction, and it goes from there. Benny very gently guides you through your first conversations, introducing grammar and basic sentence structures along the way.
The conversations are very engaging, you won’t even realise that you’re actually studying.
The book also comes with a free audio download of all the conversations so you can practice your listening comprehension as you work through the book.
Benny’s philosophy is to start talking in German from day 1, so the book encourages you to use what you have learned and adapt a script for your own use.
I cannot recommend this book enough. Study it seriously, work through it from start to finish, complete all the exercises and create your own scripts. It will give you a great foundation in German.
Unlocking German (Paul Noble)
Unlocking German was the second book I used at the start of my German learning journey. I was still studying ‘Language Hacking German’ at the same time but was curious about this book having read some reviews.
Paul Noble uses spaced repetition to gradually implant simple, every day phrases into your head. I found this method to be really effective. You will learn basic sentence structures, grammar rules and loads of vocabulary.
As I flick back through this book now, I can recall that I memorised so many new words because of this book, Nachmittag (afternoon), vorbeikommen (to come over), beschäftigt (busy), kaufen (to buy), verkaufen (to sell).
If you’re completely new to German and think these words look complicated, please don’t worry. This book is a brain workout, but it is aimed at the complete beginner. I just want to reassure you that if you work through this book as Paul instructs, you will learn LOADS.
My only criticism is that Paul does such a good job of simplifying everything, and making German seem completely un-scary, that he doesn’t mention any of the grammar terms at all. This doesn’t actually detract from the book in any way. However later on you may find yourself encountering grammatical terms, then realise that you learned it from Paul’s book.
German Phrasebook & Dictionary (Lonely Planet)
Oh the humble phrasebook! Often looked down upon but ‘serious’ language learners as a tool for mere tourists. In my opinion, phrasebooks are a goldmine! Let me explain.
Phrasebooks have an enormous selection of premade sentences for all situations. My favourite method for learning German is the ‘chunking’ method, in short, learning chunks of text, phrases and sentences to improve fluency. When you use a phrasebook at the start of your German learning journey, you won’t know what every single word in a phrase means. And that’s absolutely fine.
Keep your phrasebook with you, imagine a situation you may find yourself in. My favourite example, something that actually happened to me, was on one of my first solo trips to Bremen.
I was in a book shop and an assistant came over and asked if I needed any help (in German of course). I had no idea what she was saying, stuttered an apology and made a hasty exit.
After this I realised I needed to learn the phrase ‘I’m just looking around’ to save myself from future embarrassment. My trusty phrasebook told me, ‘ich schaue mich nur um’. I spent the next hour repeating this phrase, so that the next time I went into a shop to browse, it was at the forefront of my brain.
That is the power of phrasebooks. Anyway, one phrasebook is very much like another, but I really like my Lonely Planet German Phrasebook. Simply laid out, clear to read and packed full of useful phrases and vocab.
Café in Berlin (André Klein)
Have you had enough of ‘studying’ German and just want to enjoy the language for a while? Look no further than Andre Klein’s ‘Café in Berlin‘. This is the first in a series of short stories written especially for German beginners. The best thing is that it’s written for adults, so the stories are engaging and interesting as opposed to wading through books written for children.
The series follows the story of Dino, an Italian guy who has just arrived in Berlin. His adventures are interesting and at times hilarious as he moves to a different city in each book, meeting new people, having some unusual jobs and generally trying to learn German and explore the German culture.
Each chapter has a glossary of useful words and phrases highlighted within each chapter, as well as a few comprehension questions. These books are also available as an audiobook.
As the series goes on, the stories become a little more complex, challenging the reader a little more each time. The first four books are available as a bundle on Amazon, and all 11 of the books are also available on Kindle.
If you love short stories, check out my post: 19 Short Stories in German.
So there you have it, my all time favourite books for getting started in learning German. Have I missed any of your favourites? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear which books you find the best.