Short stories with simple grammer and limited vocabulary, often with an explanation or dictionary of difficult words.
Baumgartner & Momsen
by André Klein
There are four Baumgartner and Momsen detective stories, each one follows two detectives as they hunt for a murderer. These are books for beginner-intermediate level. There is some German vocabulary provided at the end of each chapter, and like the Dino series by the same author, the language used is contemporary and idiomatic. The stories are good enough to forget you’re actually learning something.
German Easy Reader: Männer aus Deutschland
by Achim Seiffarth
Short bios of 16 famous German men, including Einstein, Bach and Luther. A thin book for the money (£7) with little vocabulary provided. I would have preferred more unusual words and a dictionary at the end of each chapter telling me what they mean. Some of the bios are superficial and short, and sometimes a little opinionated instead of factual. I learnt something about each man, and it is an easy read.
German Easy Reader: Marlene Dietrich
by Achim Seiffarth
The bio of Marlene Dietrich in basic German. A good reader - the same words and phrases are used again and again, fixing them in one’s memory. There is little vocabulary provided, and the book is thin for £5, but it is an interesting story.
German Easy Reader: Super 500
by Brian Smith
One for absolute beginners, this book is based on the 500 most common German words. A lot of repetition is used to hammer those words and phrases into the memory. There is an audio accompaniment to the book which is freely available from the authors website.
German Short Parallel Texts
German on one page, the English translation opposite, no dictionary. The dust jacket says “…eight short stories offers students of German at all levels the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of contemporary literature…” but I’m not sure that is true. I think the reader has to be at least intermediate to be able to read this German without feeling they still have a long way to go. I have given up on this book for now, it is too difficult, but it is staying on the shelf and I will come back to it one day when my German is good enough, because the stories have lines like this (in German, natürlich!): “She was suddenly this pulsating, opening body, warm, fleshy, breathing, wet, against which there was no objection, no vested right.” When I can translate that I can translate anything.
Learn German with Short Stories: Interlinear German to English
by Kees Van den End
Short stories from classic German authors, with a good size font, and the English translation printed below each line. Concerning the layout, printing the English translation below each German word is useful, I can use a piece of paper to hide the English until I need it, but for a long German sentence that wraps onto the next line, I cannot read to the end of the sentence without revealing the English for the line above. Also, having the literal meaning of each word doesn’t help with idiomatic expressions, which are difficult to lookup, and could have been translated as a group of words. Finally, and this is personal, the stories are boring. I want to read about German life, not jackals in the desert or tales of the Red Baron, these things are irrelevant.
Short Stories For Beginners
by The Language Academy
Nine stories, each one split into three chapters. Difficult words in bold and a dictionary at the end of each chapter to translate them. There is also a synopisis at the end of each chapter in both German and English so I know if I'm on the right track. The book is big, and the stories are presented in a good sized font. A good reader for anyone moving on from the beginner readers.
The Ashkalon Trilogie
by André Klein
The Ashkalon series consists of three books about a warrior returning home to find the kingdom’s gone down the toilet. These books are interactive, there are points in the book where the reader is given three choices about where the story will go. This sort-of works, and it is exciting to be able to do that in a new language, but at the same time it is very easy to guess the best answer from the page numbers. By book 3, the final book, the story starts to ramble on a bit, and it is a relief to both the characters and the reader when it’s all over.
The Dino Series
by André Klein
The Dino books, beginning with “Café in Berlin”, are about Dino, a young Sicilian man who comes to Germany to learn German. Each book has about 8 chapters, and at the end of each chapter there is a small dictionary of the difficult words used in the chapter, so you can take this book out-and-about without also taking a dictionary. There are presently about 8 books in the series, they start at beginner level and end at intermediate. As well as learning German, the books teach something about German culture and people. What appealed to me about these books was that I had only been learning German for 3 months and I was actually reading a book in a foreign language, with a real-world story and real characters. The best first reader.