Germany: travel books to read before you go

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This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet's guide to Germany

To get you in the mood for your trip, consider reading some of these titles written by travellers who have visited Germany before you.

A Tramp AbroadA Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain is a literary classic that includes keen and witty observations about Germany garnered during his travels in Europe, including a walking tour of the Black Forest in the 1880s. Twain’s postscript ‘The Awful German Language’ is a hilarious read.

The Berlin NovelsMr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin are by Christopher Isherwood, who lived in Berlin during the Weimar years and whose stories inspired the movie Cabaret. The book brilliantly and often entertainingly chronicles the era’s decadence and despair.

What I SawFor a different take on the same era, try What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920–1933 by Joseph Roth, a dynamic and insightful chronicler.

The TempleThere’s also The Temple, an autobiographical novel by one of Britain’s most celebrated 20th-century poets, Stephen Spender. It is based on his travels to Germany in the late 1920s and his encounters with, among others, Isherwood.

DanubeIt’s a tough slog, but Claudio Magris’ Danube certainly has its moments. Part travelogue, part meditation, it follows the great river through Bavaria and beyond, reflecting on the events that took place along it and the people who’ve lived there.

Bells in their SilenceThe Bells in Their Silence: Travels Through Germany (2004) was written by Michael Gorra, an American literature professor who spent a year living and travelling around Germany in the early 1990s. This travelogue combines a literary tour of the country with impressionistic observations about daily life.

A Time of GiftsPatrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts (1977) is a keen and readable account of the author’s epic journey on foot from Holland to Turkey, passing through the Rhine and Danube valleys, in the years before WWII.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.