The 9 Best Books to Learn German Effectively

Kelsey Wetherbee Published on December 7, 2022
Best books to learn German

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Guten tag! German is one of the closest languages to English, but it still takes hard work and study to master it. There are tons of resources available, and identifying the one that’s right for you can be difficult. If you’re reading this article, perhaps you’ve already decided that a book is a good choice for you (and you wouldn’t be wrong!). Below I show you some of the best books to learn German. No matter what your level or language goals are, I’m sure there’s a book here that will help you.

There are more than 97 million German speakers, making it the second most spoken language in Europe (after Russian). It’s an official language in 6 different countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Germany also has the largest economy in Europe and the 4th largest in the world. Learning German can open up job opportunities, expand your horizons, and help you immerse yourself in a new culture.

How Long Will It Take You To Learn German?​
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Upper Intermediate
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Upper Intermediate
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How We Picked the Best German Books

For any language learning products we’ve tested or researched, we follow a strict testing methodology to make sure our experts make the same considerations and follow the same criteria. By doing this, we make sure that we only recommend the best products. Here are the factors we looked at when testing German learning books specifically:

  • Structure and Topics: We reviewed the layout and organization of the books to see how logical they are, and we also examined which topics each book covered and how in-depth and accurate the explanations were.
  • Quality of Content: We read several chapters of each book to gauge the quality of the content, including the example texts, exercises, and explanations. It’s important that each book contains clear and easy-to-understand content that’s appropriate for the learner’s current German level.
  • Value for Money: We took the two previous factors and compared them to the price of the book to determine if it offers a good value for the cost. 

Our Top Books to Improve Your German Skills

Here is our list of the best books to learn German. Scroll down to read more about each one.

Best Overall Book to Learn GermanGerman All-in-One for Dummies
Best for BeginnersThe Everything Learning German Book
Best for Self-StudyGerman Made Simple
Best for TravelersSpeak German in 90 Days
Best for German GrammarGerman Grammar for Beginners
Best German WorkbookComplete German All-in-One
Best for German VocabularyEasy German Phrasebook
Best for Learning Genders of NounsDer, Die, Das: The Secrets of German Gender
Best for Reading50 German Coffee Breaks

German All-in-One for Dummies

Best Overall Book to Learn German

The “For Dummies” book series is recognized around the world for providing practical and useful instruction about a variety of topics, including foreign languages. German All-in-One for Dummies is the best overall book to learn German because it combines 5 books from the “For Dummies” series into this comprehensive resource. I recommend it not only because of the variety of topics it covers, but mainly for its conversational and simple style. German is a language with exceptionally difficult grammar (noun cases, anyone?), but this book is approachable and explains the concepts in a laidback way. The grammar it does teach you is specifically for communication – the grammar section is literally called “Assembling the Grammatical Foundations for Communication.”

Don’t be fooled by its informal nature, though. This book will take you from complete beginner to intermediate if you complete the lessons in order. The structure of it is logical, and once you build a strong foundation in the first half, the second half helps you refine your skills to speak more naturally. The aspect I like most about it is that the focus is always on conversational language. For most German learners, becoming conversational is the ultimate goal, and with German All-in-One for Dummies, you can achieve it. See more about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • The book’s focus on communication means you’ll improve your skills quickly
  • The sections follow a logical order and reinforce what you learned in previous units
  • The audio material complements what you learn in the books and enhances your listening and speaking skills

I discovered “The Everything Learning” books when I started studying Portuguese (and loved it!). I was excited to see The Everything Learning German Book was also available so I had to take a look at it. This book focuses on how to navigate everyday situations in German. The reason I recommend it as the best book for beginners is because it showcases the similarities shared by English and German and builds upon them. By using this method, the lessons are easy to follow and more memorable. For example, one of the first sections in the book is called “The Vocabulary You Already Have.” Whether you realize it or not, a lot of words are the same in German and English. The book lists examples like name, film, moment, and national.

Each chapter of the book focuses on a general concept and then has more detailed sections that break down that concept into everyday situations. I particularly like how the book taught numbers. It starts by teaching the numbers themselves (eins, zwei, drei…). After that, you learn how to talk about street addresses and phone numbers, as well as measurements, ordinal numbers, fractions, money, and quantities. The logic behind the layout of the sections makes the book one of my absolute favorites. Also, for the value it provides, the price is reasonable. You can check it out here.

Key Benefits

  • Focuses on communication instead of distracting you with complicated grammar
  • Simple explanations that build on previous lessons and reinforce what you already learned
  • The emphasis on practical vocabulary means you’ll be able to communicate more quickly

German Made Simple

Best for Self-Study

German Made Simple takes a direct, no-frills approach to teaching German, and that’s why I think it’s the best book for self-study. The teaching method is also interesting. The whole book follows a single storyline – an American businessman learning German. Each unit has a story that’s divided into sentences followed by a translation, a vocabulary list, grammar explanations, and exercise activities. The reason German Made Simple‘s method is so unique is that each section accomplishes a certain goal. For example, the story in Chapter 4, “Herr Clark ist hungrig” (“Mr. Clark is hungry”), teaches you the indefinite articles ein and kein, shows you real-life examples of verb endings, helps you practice using nicht to negate, and you also start forming questions in German.

Overall, this book is most helpful for people who have a basic level in German and are looking to improve their reading and writing skills. But I’d also suggest it as a resource for more intermediate and advanced learners, too. The later chapters when Mr. Clark leaves Germany (specifically chapter 40 – “Herr Clark verlässt Deutschland” – and onwards) cover more difficult topics like German subjunctive and the conditional tense. You can learn more about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • The linear story becomes more and more complex as you learn more grammar and vocabulary
  • There’s a pronunciation guide to help you practice reading the stories aloud
  • Your learning is more structured because there’s a clear goal for each story

Speak German in 90 Days

Best for Travelers

Speak German in 90 Days is best for travelers because it not only teaches you what to study but also how to study German. The book consists of 90 lessons (one for each day), which means you can time it perfectly and prepare for your upcoming trip to a German-speaking country. The content itself is solid but nothing too special. The main reason I wanted to include it on this list is because it follows a specific timeframe – 90 days. This aspect motivated me to continue completing the lessons each day.

Another reason I enjoyed this book is because it focuses on speaking. It doesn’t distract you with useless vocabulary or overly complex grammar concepts. The organization of the chapters is clear and logical, too. First, you learn the question words and other grammar basics, then nouns basics, verb basics, and so on. By the end of the book, you’ll understand how to form complete sentences. Each lesson also teaches you 10 vocabulary words, so you’ll know at least 900 words by the end. If you’re traveling, that’s more than enough to get the most out of your trip. You can see more about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • The book follows a clear timeline, which keeps you motivated and on track to continue studying
  • The focus is on conversational German and it helps you develop your speaking skills quickly
  • Because of its clear layout, this book is an excellent reference that you can use over and over again

German Grammar for Beginners

Best for German Grammar

German Grammar for Beginners is a straight-to-the-point guide for learning the basics of German grammar. There are 30 lessons that clearly explain the rules of the language and they have over 300 exercises to help you reinforce what you learn. Especially with grammar, I prefer a clear guide to the most important topics and I want to be able to locate exactly what I need to practice. That’s exactly what this book offers. There’s a lesson on the articles, noun genders, verb tenses, and more, and each lesson has a recap section followed by practice activities.

One aspect of this book I commend is its focus on time management: The idea is that you spend 30 minutes a day for 30 days to complete the book and develop an effective study habit. I think this is the perfect amount of time to spend on grammar because it’s enough to understand a new concept without feeling fatigued. It’s clear the author is an effective teacher too because each lesson is balanced and includes the perfect amount of detail. For its price, German Grammar for Beginners is an excellent value and worthwhile resource. Check out more about it here.

Key Benefits

  • This book guides you through the most essential German grammar and teaches you the most important topics you need to know in 30 days
  • There is a huge amount of practice activities available so you can truly grasp what you’re learning
  • It comes with free audio files that extend your learning and improve your communication skills

Practice Makes Perfect: Complete German All-in-One

Best German Workbook for Practicing

“Practice Makes Perfect” is a brand similar to the “For Dummies” books, and its Complete German All-in-One is a compilation of 6 workbooks from the “Practice Makes Perfect” series. I used this book to study German in university and I liked how practical it was. There aren’t lengthy explanations, just a lot of exercises to help you actively hone your skills. There are some useful tips throughout the book too, like how to spot masculine nouns (they often end in -en, -el, or -er). Once you learn that, the book asks you to practice identifying masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns in a list.

This book doesn’t have complete lessons, so it’s probably not the best choice for a beginner. However, if you already have a basic understanding of the German language, this book is the best one available to practice using it. All of the explanations are in English too, which makes it useful even if you’re not yet able to read fluently in German. Since this book actually contains 6 different workbooks, it’s definitely worth the price. You can see if this book is a good choice for you here.

Key Benefits

  • This book is full of practice exercises, which means you’ll use German instead of just learning about it
  • The tips and hints throughout help you significantly improve your grammar and vocabulary skills
  • Excellent tool for self-study if you don’t have access to a tutor or native speakers

Easy German Phrasebook

Best for German Vocabulary

Easy German Phrasebook helps you learn the 1,500 most common phrases for everyday use and travel. It doesn’t teach grammar or more advanced topics, but if you want to focus on growing your vocabulary, it’s a top-notch resource. The book is organized in a simple way: it’s divided into common vocabulary topics such as colors, business, and the weather. One aspect that makes it stand out from other vocabulary books is that it has a detailed pronunciation guide at the beginning. This means you not only learn the words and phrases, but how to pronounce them correctly as well.

This book is best for beginners or people looking to learn some necessary vocabulary before a trip to a German-speaking country. It can be a nice reference guide, but it’s certainly not a comprehensive course on the German language. If that’s what you’re looking for, check out some of the other books on this list. Easy German Phrasebook is a reasonably-priced book, though, and it’ll complement your other German learning resources. You can learn more about it here.

Key Benefits

  • This book is organized by topic so it’s easy to find which words you want to study
  • The price of the book is low and it’s an excellent supplement to other German materials
  • The pronunciation guide at the beginning helps to say the words correctly as soon as you learn them

Der, Die, Das: The Secrets of German Gender

Best for Learning Genders of Nouns

There are three grammatical genders in German, and they can be especially difficult to learn for English speakers. Der, Die, Das: The Secrets of German Gender is an in-depth guide that makes this aspect of the language a lot more simple through common-sense explanations. The book has 6 sections, and the first three are each dedicated to one gender – masculine, feminine, and neuter. The next three sections teach you how to distinguish the genders, and they also explain how some nouns have more than one gender or no gender. These last two sections are mainly what made me include the book on this list. These topics are brushed over in most other resources, but it’s an extremely important topic if you hope to achieve fluency.

Der, Die, Das will help you master German gender by teaching you about the origins and linguistic history of the genders. Once you understand more about the rules, you’ll see that a word’s gender is rarely random. This lesson alone makes the book worth its price. That said, the book does only focus on gender. It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll need to use other books in addition to this one for a more comprehensive understanding of German. You can learn more about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • You’ll understand the history of word genders in German, which makes it easier to distinguish a new word’s gender
  • Learn about words with more than one gender or no gender (something most other books ignore)
  • There’s a proficiency test at the end to help you practice what you learned throughout the book

50 German Coffee Breaks

Best for Practicing on the Go

50 German Coffee Breaks helps you build and master a language learning routine. The idea is that by completing the simple 5-, 10-, and 15-minute lessons, you can learn German in the time it takes you to drink a cup of coffee. The focus on time management and practical steps maximize your study time and make it the best book to learn German on the go. There are different activity types throughout the book that keep it interesting, too. Some of my top picks are the word building activities, “Say What You See” exercises, guided translations, and mini grammar challenges.

The “Say What You See” activities are by far the most effective that I’ve seen in any German book. They show you a picture and you describe what’s in it. To help you out, the book includes some suggested phrases and vocabulary words. You can also see an example answer to get an idea of what you should say. Another feature of this book that makes it stand out is the activities that use idiomatic expressions. My favorite expression that I learned from this book is “sie hängt es nicht an die grosse Glocke” (“she’s not making a big deal out of it”). You can take a look at the book here.

Key Benefits

  • The book is full of actionable exercises and games to improve your German communication skills
  • The lessons are quick and easy to complete, as well as super efficient
  • There’s a podcast from the same company that will help you further improve your skills

Other German Books We Reviewed

While I tested every book on this list, I also reviewed a few others that didn’t quite make it. Here are some of the other German books I looked at that almost made the cut:

  • Learn German for Adult Beginners: The idea of this book is interesting, but it’s unorganized and doesn’t deliver enough value to justify its price. It also makes the claim that you’ll speak German in 30 days, which simply isn’t true.
  • German Picture Dictionary Coloring Book: This book could be useful for visual learners because you color in pictures of new vocabulary words. However, there are much more efficient ways to learn new words and I think this book could end up wasting your already-limited study time.
  • German Men Sit Down to Pee and Other Insights into German Culture: To be honest, I loved this book. It’s a lighthearted overview of the quirks of German culture. The only reason I didn’t include it on the list is that it doesn’t actually teach you the German language. It’s still worth a read though!
  • Swear in German like a Pro: This book is a coloring book that teaches you random German swear words. It could make a fun gift, but it’s not helpful for someone actually learning the language.

Why You Should Use Books To Learn German

Using books is one of the most effective ways to learn German. There’s such a wide variety that you’re sure to find one that’s right for you. For beginners, there are books that start from zero and offer an all-around approach to learning. If you are more advanced, there are books focus on specific skills so you can really take your German to the next level.

How To Use Books To Learn German

If you want to use a book to learn German, it’s important to dedicate time each day, or a few times each week, to learn this language. Consistent study will help you see continual improvement in your language learning skills.

It’s also important to use a variety of resources. While books are good for explaining tricky grammar concepts, a podcast or German language app might be more effective to practice listening and speaking. You can also take an oline course with private or group classes. Using any of these methods in conjunction with a book will ensure you’re improving all necessary language skills.

Jenny Tehraud, Langoly’s German language expert, suggests you “read texts about topics you are interested in or watch movies/series or listen to podcasts that you would also watch or listen to in your native language (such as sports, pottery, the outdoors, animals, nature, computer games). You will automatically learn the vocabulary by doing this on a regular basis.”

Best Books To Learn German: Final Thoughts

I hope this article has helped you identify a book or two that can help you on your German language learning journey. All the books on this list are popular amongst language learners. With dedication and time, you can start learning German quickly and effectively.

Best Books To Learn German: FAQ

Which book is best for learning the German language?

German All-in-One for Dummies is the best book for learning German. It combines 5 different books into this one comprehensive resource that teaches all of the important language topics. It also includes practice exercises and a companion CD that helps you practice listening and understanding.

How can I learn German by myself?

There are many ways to learn German by yourself, but one of the most effective ways is to use a textbook. There are many comprehensive books that can teach you the basics of German grammar and vocabulary. In addition to a book, you can also take online classes with a German tutor or use a language app on your smartphone.

Can I learn German by reading books?

You can definitely learn German by reading books! If you are a beginner, it’s recommended that you use a textbook, like The Everything Learning German Book to learn the basics of German grammar and vocabulary. Once you reach an intermediate level, you can start reading short stories in German, and when you have an advanced level you can read fiction and non-fiction in German.

How long does it take to learn German?

According to the US Department of State, it takes 36 weeks (or 900 class hours) to learn German to a proficient level. But this number varies on other factors, such as your natural ability to acquire languages and if you know another language that is similar to German.

To see how long it will take you to learn German, check out this fluency calculator.

Kelsey Wetherbee

Kelsey is the Content Manager and Editor of Langoly. She is a TEFL-certified English teacher with more than eight years of classroom experience in three different countries. She’s an avid language learner with an advanced level of Spanish and is currently studying French. Whenever possible, she loves to travel and enjoys meeting people from all over the world. Connect with Kelsey on LinkedIn.

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