An equivalent of the BBC’s The Big Read, this list called ‘Das große Lesen‘ was compiled 2004 from 250.000 votes in a survey conducted by German public service broadcasting channel ZDF. Initially, I just checked it out because I was writing an article about Gabriel García Márquez and wanted to see how he and other Latin American authors were doing in Germany. They’re highlighted with an x in the list. But a closer look at the list revealed a lot of other interesting things – which I wanted to share, especially with English-speaking readers who are curious about the German book scene. For example, all but two of the 22 books originally published in German have been translated and are available in English today (I checked Amazon). That’s a nice little trade-off for the 15 books on the list that were originally published in English. And isn’t it funny that John Irvings A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989), which is a homage to the German novel The Tin Drum (1959), is higher in the list than Günter Grass who wrote it? That’s life. As for glaring omissions – where for instance are Tolstoy and Orwell? – one has to remember that many classics become a victim of their own success, having been gone through in schools, films and media so many times, they’re taken for granted. So, there’s food for thought in this list, and as Wikipedia only mentions the first 26 books of the complete 50, I publish the complete list here, adding English titles and the year the books were originally published.

1 The Lord of the Rings (1954)  – J. R. R. Tolkien
2 The Bible
3 The Pillars of the Earth (1989) – Ken Follett
4 Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (1985) – Patrick Süskind
5 The Little Prince (1943) – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 
6 Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family (1901) – Thomas Mann
7 The Physician (1986) – Noah Gordon
8 The Alchemist (1988) – Paulo Coelho  x
9 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)  – J. K. Rowling
10 Pope Joan (1996) – Donna Woolfolk Cross
11 Inkheart (2003) – Cornelia Funke
12 Outlander (1991) – Diana Gabaldon
13 The House of the Spirits (1982) – Isabel Allende x
14 The Reader (1995) – Bernhard Schlink
15 Faust, Part One (1808) – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
16 The Shadow of the Wind (2001) – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
17 Pride And Prejudice (1813) – Jane Austen
18 The Name of the Rose (1980) – Umberto Eco 
19 Angels & Demons (2000) – Dan Brown
20 Effi Briest (1896) – Theodor Fontane
21 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003) – J. K. Rowling
22 The Magic Mountain (1924) – Thomas Mann
23 Gone with the Wind (1936) – Margaret Mitchell
24 Siddhartha (1922) – Hermann Hesse
25 The Discovery of Heaven (1992) – Harry Mulisch
26 The Neverending Story (1979) – Michael Ende
27 Das verborgene Wort (2001) – Ulla Hahn
28 Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir (1996) – Frank McCourt
29 Narcissus und Goldmund (1930) – Hermann Hesse
30 The Mists of Avalon (1983) – Marion Zimmer Bradley
31 The German Lesson (1968) – Siegfried Lenz
32 Embers (1942) – Sándor Márai
33 Homo Faber (1957) – Max Frisch
34 The Discovery of Slowness (1983) – Sten Nadolny
35 The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984) – Milan Kundera
36 One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) – Gabriel García Márquez  x
37 A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989) – John Irving
38 Sophie’s World (1991) – Jostein Gaarder
39 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) – Douglas Adams
40 The Wall (1963) – Marlen Haushofer
41 The Cider House Rules (1985) – John Irving
42 Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) – Gabriel García Márquez  x
43 The Stechlin (1898) – Theodor Fontane
44 Steppenwolf (1927) – Hermann Hesse
45 To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) – Harper Lee
46 Joseph and His Brothers (1933-1943) – Thomas Mann
47 Der Laden (1983-1992) – Erwin Strittmatter
48 The Tin Drum (1959) – Günter Grass
49 All Quiet on the Western Front (1928) – Erich Maria Remarque
50 The Swarm (2004) – Frank Schätzing
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Further infos Besides 22 books originally published in German and 15 in English, the list contains 1 book orig. published in French, 1 Portugese, 1 Italian, 1 Dutch, 1 Norwegian, 1 Czech, 1 Hungarian, 4 Spanish. Only two German books on this list have so far not been translated into English: Erwin Strittmatter’s Der Laden (1983-1992), und Ulla Hahn’s Das verborgene Wort (2001), latter adapted into movie Teufelsbraten

Avenita Kulturmagazin

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