Germany Book Reviews

Looking for a good read on Germany? Interested in German culture, language and history or thinking of visiting the country on business or vacation?

Soccerphile reviews some of our favourite books on Germany.


Reviews of guide books for Germany

Lonely Planet - Germany: Buy this book from Amazon.

Lonely Planet: Germany

Andrea Schulte-Peevers et al

Lonely Planet

ISBN: 1740594711
816 pp

Lonely Planet - the backpacker's Bible. So powerful has its reputation become that, in some countries, a restaurant's inclusion in it will double the menu prices instantly. Its selling point is that it goes into the most detail in the most accessible way, not only for the practicalities of getting around, but for relevant historical and cultural information as well. Lonely Planet's Germany is no exception and is a meticulous guide to getting around Germany, deciding what to eat when you get there and where to stay, and for knowing how much you can expect to pay. The writing succeeds in cramming the maximum amount of information into the minimum amount of space while never losing an air of relaxed and pleasurable discourse for those long hours spent in trains, boats and planes. It is engaging, chatty and, indeed, not short of prose that could even be described as flowery.

The new 2004 edition of Lonely Planet's Germany is slimmer and weighs considerably less than its 800+ pages would suggest - making it even easier to browse and stow. One of the Lonely Planet's fortes is its boxed texts explaining, every few pages, an interesting aspect of German culture, or relating some travel-related or historical anecdote. The guide's physical appearance is dictated by the fact that it costs less than USD20. While the general visual impression might sometimes have you wondering if you're actually carrying a photocopied version, there are enough full-color photo sections to ease the monotony.

For visitors to the 2006 World Cup: as well as the short general section on German football, there are numerous references to the coming tournament throughout the book and accurate and comprehensive information for getting to the stadiums.

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Rough Guide To Germany - buy this book from Amazon.

Rough Guide: Germany

Gordon Mclachlan

Rough Guides

ISBN: 184353293X
1296 pp

The Rough Guide to Germany, weighing in at over a thousand pages, is certainly one of the most comprehensive guides on the market with in-depth information on all the major tourist destinations and even the more obscure towns and villages well off the beaten track. What sets the Rough Guide series apart from other guides, however, is the sheer readability of the text, steeped in informed references to the history and culture of Germany. The writing in the book as a whole provides an engaging insight into the background of the places the reader will visit. The Contexts section at the end also has some well-written essays on German history and German painting. The main Guide section presents Germany in a roughly clockwise order beginning with Bavaria and Munich before heading west and north. This commendably logical approach to touring the most visited parts of Germany nevertheless (oddly) leaves Berlin - being in the north east - somewhat near the end of the book.

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German Men Sit Down to Pee and Other Insights into German Culture.

German Men Sit Down to Pee and Other Insights into German Culture

Niklas Frank and James Cave
HJ Publishing
ISBN: 099548130X
160 pp, paperback

It is a great time to love Germany.

It is not just the fact that the Mannschaft are the world champions and near invincible at penalty shoot-outs (ask Italy) which has led to global footballing admiration and not a little jealousy.

The Bundesliga has also become the cream which has risen to the top, drawing the world's largest  crowds and putting the Premier League to shame with its sensibly-priced tickets.

Berlin has similarly surpassed London for value for money and as a hub of international creativity and coolness. After decades keeping a low profile after World War Two, Germans came out loud and proud at the 2006 World Cup and the world began to like them too.

With Aldi & Lidl winning more shoppers by the day, Britain's clumsy exit from the European Union can only boost Germany as the political heart of the continent and cultural dominance will surely follow.

Like it or not the world will be taking more interest in all things German, so as a guide to an often-misunderstood country, German Niklas Frank and Irishman James Cave have penned a clever and informative guide to understanding its culture.

58 anecdotes over 150 pages make for an entertaining read, which is also at pains to explain or even demolish some clichés which persist overseas.

The myth that Germans have no sense of humour is happily demolished, while the need to be like Basil Fawlty and not mention the war, or David Hasselhoff, is explained by the typically long German word Vergangensheitsbewältigung, (coming to terms with the past).

Other popular myths may ring true. Germans are so disciplined that crossing the road on the red man is unheard of while running out of petrol on the autobahn is actually illegal.

In a short section on football, Frank and Cave confirm how disliking Bayern is as popular as cheering the national team, while explaining that, "Football is a unisex passion...and you'll find yourself cheering beside men, women, kids and even grandparents."

Some facts are enlightening: Some Bavarians drink beer for breakfast, the average German munches 30 kilos of sausage a year and thinks his country's excellent train system is rubbish. If you are celebrating your birthday don't forget to bring your own cake and buy drinks for your guests. Oh and the Döner Kebab was born in Berlin.

Learn why Germans celebrate the asparagus harvest nationwide, rap their knuckles on the table at a business meeting and go a stealing spree of Swedish road signs each summer.

Reading this charming book one leaves with a fondness for a misunderstood country and a similar feeling to that felt after spending the World Cup of 2006 in Germany - that this place is rather nice.

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Sean O'Conor


Fodor's Germany 2004: Buy this book from Amazon

Fodor's Germany

Amanda Theunissen

ISBN: 110187970X
696 pp

A namebrand in the guidebook field for decades, Fodor's continues its tradition of excellence with its latest tome on Germany: the country of the Rhine, the Alps, and some of Europe's hippest cities. Few other countries offer the same quality of beer, wines, football, radical undergound culture—and trains that run on time.
Fodor's Germany 2004 features Fodor's Choice ratings that tell the visitor what not to miss. There are sections on hotels and restaurants for every budget. The ¢ sign highlights the best buys. Multi-day itineraries are planned for all sorts of travel. A great resource.

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Eyewitness Travel Guide to Germany: Click on the image to purchase.

Eyewitness Travel Guides: Germany  

Joanna Egert-Romanowska

Dorling Kindersley

ISBN: 0751348309
Paperback, 576pp

Eyewitness Travel Guides make for an excellent guide book if you prefer less text and more color images, maps and illustrations for slightly more of your money. The text is well-presented in an easy-to-read, 2 or 3 column format with each page liberally sprinkled with photographs. The tourist and city information for Germany is presented in brief snapshots with references to museums, palaces and galleries etc kept short and to-the-point and much of the practical information such as access details and facilities presented using symbols. The reader would be well-advised to read the 'How to use this book' section at the beginning and the list of symbols on the back flap to get the most out of the guide. The format works well and enables the reader to get an overview of subjects such as German literature and German painting in an eye-pleasing couple of pages. Each section is further color-coded and there are basic maps on the front and back covers.

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Insight Guides Germany: Buy this book from Amazon.

Insight Guides: Germany

Insight Guides

ISBN: 9812348050
406 pp

Insight Guides are published in association with the Discovery Channel so are, as may be expected, pretty hot on visual stimulation. Lavish color photographs on virtually every page make the the Insight Guide to Germany a real pleasure to look at. The commentary is very readable and the writers show a thorough knowledge of German history and culture. The maps, though few, are very clear, with a useful road map and a Berlin subway map on the inside covers.
However, the Insight Guide to Germany is somewhat limited in the practical information it gives. The travel sections are hidden at the back and are not too easy to get around. It's great to leaf through, makes an ideal coffee table souvenir of your travels, would be a great accompaniment on a package tour - but you couldn't effectively plan an entire independent trip with it.
The Insight Guide to Germany is more a work of art rather than a solid practical planning resource. It's up to you to decide which you need.

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Frommer's Germany 2004: Buy this book from Amazon.

Frommer's Germany

Darwin Porter, Danforth Prince

ISBN: 1628873124
696 pp

This is the latest guide from Frommer's. Unlike many guides, these are updated annually and are genuinely comprehensive. Frommer's Germany 2004 features lovely color photos - the baroque architecture, quaint villages, medieval towns, modern cities, timbered houses, vineyards, and beer gardens that are Germany in all its glory.
There are sections on "The Best of Germany," "Planning Your Trip to Germany," "Berlin," "Munich," "The Romantic Road," and much more. "The Best of Germany" section alone is worth the cost of the book. A concise section on the German language, German history, and detailed maps make this an excellent companion on your next trip to the land of the 2006 World Cup. Highly recommended.

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Germany For Dummies: Buy this text from Amazon

Germany for Dummies

Donald Olson

ISBN: 0764554786
480 pp

Like all of the "Dummies" books, this book's selling point is its ease of use. A junior-high school student would be able to navigate his or her way through the Teutonic heartland with this guide in hand. With its simple format, Germany for Dummies features five great itineraries, the best shopping and nightlife in Berlin, a guide to German food, a list of ten great German museums, an insider's guide to the best Bavarian castles, events such as the Oktoberfest and Berlin Film Festival, and more.
Also, like all Dummies guides, Germany For Dummies includes: simple pre-travel planning tips, what to hit and what to skip, restaurants and hotels for all budgets, and pages and pages of maps. You can't go wrong.

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Insight Guides Bavaria: Buy this book from Amazon.

Insight Guides: Bavaria Pocket Guide

Insight Guides

ISBN: 9812345698
100 pp

Bavaria is one of Germany's most impressive areas of natural beauty, so it particularly benefits from the 'Insight Guide' treatment. The guide is as much a photo album with extensive commentary as a conventional guidebook, and as such makes for a great advertisement for Bavaria as a holiday destination. You'll probably never tire of leafing through page after page of stunning pictures.
There is a section devoted to suggested itineraries. Bavaria Pocket Guide is clearly aimed at the better-off, or package tour, traveller. There are also useful pullout maps of Bavaria and of the centers of the province's cities.

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Lonely Planet - Berlin: Buy this book from Amazon.

Lonely Planet: Berlin City Guide

Andrea Schulte-Peevers and Tom Parkinson

Lonely Planet

ISBN: 174059472X
334 pp

Tight as a rucksack, Lonely Planet's Berlin City Guide (republished Aug. 2004) caters to a multitude of tastes on varying budgets, providing relevant information on locations, decor, characteristics, quirks, prices, dos and don't-dos, and how to say it in German. Each section is generously peppered with useful blue text boxes containing extra - often eye-opening - information. Two full-color sections offer dynamic and varied images, and the maps are in color detail too. As a Lonely Planet guide, possible criticism relating to lack of depth is not really warranted: reading it will give the traveller background adequate for informed conversation; it contains plenty enough searchwords for the still-curious to look up on Google; and, with economy of size and price, it succeeds in covering all bases relating to getting a good taste of life in Berlin. Whether culture vulture or party animal, this is a guide that will get messed up quickly!

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Lonely Planet - Munich and Bavaria: Buy this book from Amazon.

Lonely Planet: Munich & Bavaria

Andrea Schulte-Peevers

Lonely Planet

ISBN: 1740595289
312 pp

Bavaria is Germany's most visited region with its enchanting mix of medieval architecture and magnificent mountains, so it's well worth slipping a copy of Lonely Planet's Guide To Munich & Bavaria into your lederhosen for its excellent travel and entertainment tips. It's slightly disappointing that the city information for Munich, Regensburg and Nuremberg et al is basically the same as you'll find in the main Lonely Planet Germany Guide but there's plenty of new insights on outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking and beer drinking as well as a section on Salzburg in Austria to make this another valuable addition to the Lonely Planet series of world travel guides.

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Insight Guides Berlin: Buy this book from Amazon.

Insight Guides: Berlin

Insight Guides

ISBN: 1585731463
350 pp

A lot of effort goes into making Insight Guides look attractive, and in terms of the photographs they are easily the best guidebooks to Germany on the market.
The Insight Guide to Berlin weighs in at a massive 350 pages, compared to only 400 for the whole of the Insight Guide to Germany, which illustrates the wealth of detail supplied. There are commentaries and photographs of virtually everything there is to see and do in Berlin, and is, in terms of history and what to see and do, one of the most thorough city guides available.
The Insight Guides focus on the up-market and armchair traveller (they are produced jointly with the Discovery Channel). This means they may lack sufficient practical information for the independent backpacker. A guaranteed joy to leaf through, though.

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Charming Small Hotel Guides: Buy this book from Amazon.

Charming Small Hotel Guides: Germany

Andrew Duncan (Editor)

ISBN: 1872576985
224 pp

The key to this book is in the title, only hotels and guest houses that are considered both "small" and "charming" enough by the editors are included in this list of over 360 entries that cover the country. The book divides Germany into five regions: northern, eastern, central, western and southern with a short introduction for each region, and then the list of hotels and guest houses arranged in alphabetical order by town. Some entries have a full page with photo and later in each section there are text-only entries. Each small hotel has a fact box with the main details for contact information (no email or web site, so be prepared to telephone or fax), prices, meals and facilities. If you are looking for something different from your stay in Germany, this book is a useful resource offering personal recommendations. Neither are the authors afraid to criticize on occasion anything considered remotely 'bland'.

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Lonely Planet German Phrasebook: Buy this book from Amazon.

Lonely Planet: German Phrasebook

Lonely Planet

ISBN: 1864501537
256 pp

Unless you're fluent in German, it seems like some kind of phrasebook would be a wise investment if you're going to Germany. The Lonely Planet German phrasebook is very, very complete, I couldn't think of a single thing I would be likely to want to say which wasn't in there. Everything's in there from 'I can't eat for philosophical reasons' to 'You have a beautiful body' or 'Before this goes any further, I must be upfront, I'm an accountant'. But seriously, this fits an awful lot of very useful German into a very small space for a very small price, and it's not difficult to find the phrase you're looking for. There are also interesting asides like tongue-twisters, comic misunderstandings, a table manners guide, and of course there's a good two-way dictionary at the back. On the back cover they point out: "Three travellers walk into a Biergarten. One has a map, one has a Swiss army knife, and one has a copy of this phrasebook. Guess who gets served first!" They're right. Buy this book. Or go to France.

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Rough Guide German Dictionary Phrasebook: Buy this book from Amazon.

Rough Guide: Dictionary Phrasebook

Lexus

ISBN: 1858286107
256 pp

Undoubtedly Rough Guide's German: Dictionary Phrasebook is a useful addition to your pocket on any business or leisure travel to Germany, but I must admit to a few problems working out the pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book. That aside, this handy, compact book can help to guide you through the most essential language situations you are likely to encounter on your travels in Germany. Arranged in two main English-German and German-English sections following the introductory sections on grammar, pronunciation and numbers etc., keywords and phrases are presented alphabetically, interspersed with useful cultural and travel information. If you are going to make an effort with the language, this handy little book comes well recommended.

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Rapid German: Buy this audio CD from Amazon.

Rapid German: 200+ Essential Words and Phrases Anchored into Your Long Term Memory with Great Music: v. 1

earworms Publishing Ltd

ISBN: 190544303X
20 pp

A new approach and a scientifically proven phenomenon using the same brain function that causes us to repeat catchy tunes (earworms) all day. Mimicking the way children learn just by listening, the German words and phrases are repeated gently to groovy music. As well as being a bit of fun, the music acts as a carrier, anchoring the sounds of the words into long-term memory and with minimal concentration. The powerful effect music can have on memory has been used by advertisers for years in the form of annoyingly memorable jingles and sound bites, but the educational potential of this phenomenon however, has remained largely untapped. The new Rapid German audio CD (or MP3) download can be listened to anywhere and everywhere: while stuck in traffic, at the gym, while jogging or even on the plane to Germany, so English fans cheering on their team in Frankfurt, Cologne and (hopefully) Berlin can now order more than just a beer.

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Wicked German: Buy this book from Amazon.

Wicked German For The Traveler

Howard Tomb

ISBN: 1563052946
64 pp

Not really a phrasebook more a satire on Germany and the Germans, Wicked German For The Traveler is part of a series of pocket phrase books covering the major languages. Thematically based in seven major sections - entertainment, transport, accommodation etc., this short book is, depending on your mindset regarding the subject matter, either hilariously funny or puerile tripe. I seriously doubt the phrases presented would cut much ice with your average native speaker, mind you. Take your pick from such gems as: "You have an unconscious wish that I eat your sauerkraut," and "The aftertaste is reminiscent of ballbearings" which come with German and phonetic transliteration.

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When in Germany, Do As The Germans Do: Buy this book from Amazon.

When In Germany, Do As The Germans Do

Hyde Flippo

ISBN: 0844225533
124 pp

When In Germany, Do As The Germans Do is a fun and informative read. The slim volume opens with a quiz on German life to see how much we really know about Germany, Germans, their culture and ways of doing things. The results can be surprising and the book does much to destroy some of the preconceptions and stereotypes about the Germans. There are over 90 one-to-two page entries on subjects grouped in categories: ranging from arts and culture to education, food and drink, religion to social issues and attitudes. Some of the nuggets of knowledge concerning German life are: it is considered a mark of efficiency to leave work on time in Germany without doing overtime, German water is perfectly drinkable but no-one would ask for it in a restaurant, and the German driving test requires 12 hours of theory!

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Making Friends With Hitler: Buy this book from Amazon.

Making Friends With Hitler: Lord Londonderry and the Roots of Appeasement

Ian Kershaw

Allen Lane (Penguin)

ISBN: 0713997176
512 pp

This is a great read for anyone with an interest in World War II and pre-war British aristocracy in general. Having said that, if like me you don’t know your Ribbentrops from your Rauschnings you can still get a lot out of it. The author Ian Kershaw is one of the foremost UK experts on Nazi Germany, and a fairly prolific publisher on the subject. Kershaw’s style is, as usual, very readable for what is essentially a history book. He has the knack for writing serious books seriously, but not seeming to. Not to say that this book is entertainment. Far from it. It is more tragedy than comedy. The hardback copy looks like quite a hefty tome, but is not really all that long. The main body of the text is under 350 pages, with the notes etc. at the end taking up more than 100 pages.
Making Friends With Hitler centers around supposed Hitler-loving closet Nazi, the British aristocrat Lord Londonderry. After it became clear appeasement was not going to divert war, Londonderry was vilified, and most people came to believe he was an out and out Nazi. After Kershaw’s analysis it’s pretty obvious that although he was clearly a racist snob, most of his social class was at that time. He was more of a gullible fool desperate to avoid a bloody war than an actual Nazi. My feeling after reading the book was more of feeling sorry for a man who was the wrong guy at the wrong time, rather than believing Londonderry would have actually approved of Hitler if he’d really known what was going on.

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A Concise History of Germany: Buy this book on Amazon.

A Concise History of Germany

Mary Fulbrook

Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 0521540712 (paperback)
277 pp
ISBN: 0521833205 (hardback)

Mary Fullbrook's 'A Concise History of Germany' steers the reader safely yet entertainingly through approximately 2000 years of German history. The style is very accessible, and would work for long haul reading on the beach or just as something to dip into occasionally. It starts off with a look at where Germany came from, the problems with defining Germany, the roots of the national identity, then brings the threads together for the majority of the book which is focused on the period from 1500 onwards - the ages of confessionalism, absolutism and industrialisation, unification, Bismarck, the Weimar Republic, Hitler's Germany, the post war division and finally the modern day. The book covers all the big events that usually fill history books, but always with an eye to the causes, the consequences and the socio-political changes through Germany's history. There are plenty of entertaining photographs and illustrations, look out for the peasant wedding photo. Overall, it makes for an epic tale of a nation often strong but never sure of itself, a truly engrossing read. I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

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