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Top 11 novels set in Berlin

The perfect reading for all Berlin fans

reading girl
reading girl © Getty Images, Foto: Hello World

To get in the mood for the next Berlin trip with the right novel, we have picked out some exciting Berlin books for you.

Let yourself be taken away to the Berlin of past times, be it the Prussian Berlin of Theodor Fontane or the wild twenties with the thrillers of Kutscher or the books of Isherwood. Travel to the divided Berlin at the time of the Wall or to the post-reunification period with Lutz Seilers's current bestseller.

We picked out eleven Berlin novels for you to read, which are really worthwhile and perfect for a relaxing evening or a weekend.

Surely you will miss some famous books like The Children of Bahnhof Zoo or Russendisco, but we have deliberately chosen a few perhaps not-so-famous books that we would like to recommend to you.

Have fun reading.

Tip 1: Berlin Alexanderplatz

S-Bahnhof Alexanderplatz
Alexanderplatz Berlin mit Blick auf den Fernsehturm © visitBerlin, Foto: Arthur F. Selbach

Berlin, Alexanderplatz

The classic Berlin novel par excellence: Alfred Döblin translates the tempo and attitude to life of the modern age, the 1920s, into his collage-like novels, thus creating a document of that time and at the same time a stirring, exciting novel. The latest film adaptation with Franz Bieberkopf as the fugitive Francis, who tries to remain a decent person in today's Berlin despite all temptations, is released on DVD and to stream

More about Alexanderplatz

Tip 2: Stern 111


Oranienburger Straße Berlin
Oranienburger Straße © visitberlin, Foto: Philip Koschel

The novel about post-reunification Berlin was on the bestseller lists in 220 and is certainly on its way to becoming a classic. Lutz Seiler draws a gripping panorama of the time after the fall of the Wall, when everything was still possible in Berlin. That time, when Berlin's legendary nightlife took place in the Oranienburger Straße with its pubs like the Assel, clubs and the Tacheles. By the way, you can see what it looked like there in the early 1990s in the great illustrated book Berlin Wonderland: Wild Years Revisited, 1990-1996.

More about Oranienburger Straße

Tip 3: Die Effingers

Flowers as table decoration
Table decorated with flowers © Getty Images, Foto: Ivan Olianto

You want to dive deep into a book and forget everything around you? Then pick up the family saga Die Effingers by Gabriele Tergit. The novel takes you into a time and a Berlin tthat has disappeared, into in the world of the Jewish-German bourgeoisie. The family chronicle spans over seventy years, from the late 19th century to after the Second World War, and tells of the rise of the Effinger family over some 900 pages. A German paperback version has just been released. Gabriele Tergit's satire on the media world Käsebier erobert den Kurfürstendamm is just as worth reading.

More about literature in Berlin

Tip 4: The Artificial Silk Girl

Shopping und Sehesnwürdigkeiten am Kurfürstendamm
Alter Kiosk am Kurfürstendamm © visitberlin, Foto: Philip Koschel

Meet Doris  - a Weimar Bridget Jones. Like Gabriele Tergit, author Irmgard Keun was long forgotten and her work was rediscovered only late. Her novel The Artificial Silk Girl (Das Kunstseidene Mädchen) was published in 1932 and tells the story of a young woman who tries to make ends meet in Berlin at that time and dreams of becoming a "shining". A great novel in form of a diary, which brings the dazzling Weimar Republic back to life and is simply fun to read with the direct, unvarnished language

More about women in the 1920s

Tip 5: The Innocent

former US listening station Teufelsberg in Berlin
viewing platform of listening station Teufelsberg © visitBerlin, Foto: Martin Gentischer

Ian McEwan is without doubt one of the most important voices in contemporary literature. His spy thriller The Innocent is set in post-war Berlin. The young Leonard Marnham comes to Berlin in 1955 to take part in a British-American secret service operation to bug the Soviets in a tunnel. He falls in love with a German woman, but things take a dramatic turn when her ex-husband appears on the scene. Then things get pretty dramatic! The author certainly lives up to his nickname Ian Macabre McEwan.
The film adaptation ... and the sky stands still with Anthony Hopkins and Isabella Rossellini is unfortunately not quite so successful.

More about the Cold War in Berlin

Tip 6: Irrungen, Wirrungen (On Tangled Paths)

Black-and-white photograph Brandenburger Tor Berlin 1907
Brandenburg Gate around 1900 © Landesarchiv Berlin

Theodor Fontane is one of the most famous Berlin authors ever, his wonderful novels still fascinate us. At the centre of Fontane's novel Irrungen, Wirrungen is the unhappy love between the noble Botho and the petty bourgeois Lene. It is set in 1870s Berlin and tells of the arrogance and social constraints of the time. At the same time it is a poignant love story and a portrait of Prussian Berlin.

Mehr about Prussian Berlin

Tip 7: The Gift (Dar)

Umgebung Seehotel Grunewald

After fleeing from revolutionary Russia, Vladimir Nabokov lives in exile in Berlin for several years before he has to flee again, goes to the USA and writes his notorious novel Lolita. The Gift was published in 1938 and tells the story of a Russian writer in Berlin in the 1920s. A lot is about literature, but also about everyday observations such as a swimming trip to Grunewaldsee.

More about the 1920s in Berlin

Tip 8: Die Berlinreise

Philharmonie in Berlin
Philharmonie © visitBerlin, Foto: Wolfgang Scholvien

The diary of Hanns-Josef Ortheil tells of the journey he made to Berlin with his father in 1964 when he was twelve years old. In addition to the Berlin of the 1960s (for example a visit to the Philharmonie), the diary also deals with the time during the Second World War, when his parents lived in Berlin, and about which his father tells us again and again. And just as the boy's parents' past comes alive for the boy, so it does for us readers.

More about the Philharmonie in Berlin

Tip 9: Goodbye to Berlin

Café in Schöneberg in Berlin
Café in Schöneberg © visitBerlin, Foto: Dirk Mathesius

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome, Im Cabaret, au Cabaret, to Cabaret!  You are probably more familiar with the musical Cabaret and its film adaptation with Liza Minelli than the underlying book by Christopher Isherwood. But this autobiographical collection of stories is a great snapshot of the time shortly before the Nazis seized power. Isherwood's memoirs Christopher and His Kind from 1976 also tell of his time in Berlin and his love for the German Heinz.

More about LGBTI* Berlin

Tip 10: Herr Lehmann

Kiez Kreuzberg
Kiez Kreuzberg © visitBerlin, Foto: Philip Koschel

From the early thirties to the late eighties: Sven Regener's debut novel Herr Lehmann brings to life the Kreuzberg of the time when the Wall divided the city and Kreuzberg was wild and unadjusted. Mr. Lehmann stumbles through Kreuzberg without a perspective - until the Wall falls and a new era begins.

More about the Berlin Wall

Tip 11: Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin:Im MOKA EFTI
Im MOKA EFTI © Frédéric Batier / X Filme 2017

We have already presented the thrillers by Volker Kutscher in our blog, but unlike many of the historical (and often rather mediocre) Berlin thrillers they are not only exciting crime stories, but also excellent Berlin stories and portraits of that time. And if you haven't seen the Babylon Berlin series yet, it's perfect for a long bingewatching on a rainy weekend.
By the way, you can find our 11 tips for Berlin crime stories here in our blog.

More about Babylon Berlin

Kristin: visitBerlin-Bloggerin unter


does not smile on fotos. But in real life she enjoys with a smile in her face the rich cultural life of Berlin - the metropolis both in front of and behind the scenes. Her favourite season is the Berlinale, then she spends 10 days watching movies and writing about them in the blog. All posts