Berlin Stories

Staff Picks

Berlin Stories

The German capital's dramatic history and role as a center for artists and intellectuals have long captivated the imagination. This list includes novels and works of non-fiction, all of which examine the city through important periods in its history. Spy stories, tales from the Weimar Republic, and portraits of survival during WWII are found below. Visit DC Public Library's catalog for more. 

Babylon Berlin: Book 1 of the Gereon Rath mystery series by Volker Kutscher, translated by Niall Seller

Detective Inspector Gereon Rath moves from Cologne to Berlin in 1929 to take a job with the city’s Vice Squad. Tensions mount as protests push towards a breaking point. Part of the Gereon Rath mystery series and the inspiration for the hit television show Babylon Berlin.

Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries by Rory MacLean
MacLean’s history of Berlin is told through the lives of two dozen of its most notable residents in a time spanning 500 years. Tales of Frederick the Great, Marlene Dietrich, David Bowie and others offer a portal to a changing and historic city.

The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
Comprised of two volumes, The Last of Mr. Norris and Goodbye to Berlin, Isherwood chronicles life in Berlin during the Weimar Republic. The hit musical Cabaret is based on Isherwood’s work.

Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Tim Mohr
Berlin has long been famous for its punk scene -- and its rockers also had a political agenda. Mohr recounts the history of East German punk rockers and their role in fighting authoritarianism and bringing down the Berlin Wall. Named one the best books of the year by Rolling Stone. Punk fans can learn more about DC's punk scene at the DC Punk Archive.

Drawn to Berlin: Comic Workshops in Refugee Shelters and Other Stories from a New Europe by Ali Fitzgerald

Cartoonist Ali Fitzgerald taught art and cartooning to refugees in Berlin in 2016, a time when nearly one million people from Syria and other countries sought asylum in Germany. Fitzgerald chronicles her experience in this graphic novel, a funny-sad musing on life, society, and the meaning of home.

Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada, translated by Michael Hofmann
Originally published in 1947, Every Man Dies Alone tells the story of a quiet working-class couple that joined the German Resistance during WWII. The couple distributed postcards that questioned Nazi activities throughout the city. The novel is set in Berlin and based on actual events. The book was released in English in 2009 to international acclaim and success.

Here in Berlin by Christina Garcia
Garcia’s critically acclaimed novel was long-listed for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, named a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, and listed as one of the 10 Best Books of 2017 by BBC Culture. An unnamed Visitor arrives in Berlin from Cuba and goes about learning the language, learning the city, and learning the pasts of the people. The Visitor collects several interviews from ordinary Berlin residents, many of whom lived through the Second World War.

In the Garden of Beasts: love, terror, and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
Berlin, 1933. The true story of William E. Dodds and his family, who moved from Chicago to Berlin for Dodd to serve as the American ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. The family becomes more and more aware of persecution in what initially appeared to be merely a wild and cosmopolitan city.