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https://www.duolingo.com/stefott

Book Recommendations

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As I've mentioned in my previous post¹, my main goal of learning languages is to be able to read books in them. So after I finished all the English to X trees in August, I read some parts of Harry Potter in different languages, only to come to the conclusion that I've read about Harry's adventures enough times to know exactly what the text I'm reading is supposed to mean. And anyway, I learn languages to avoid having to read a translation, however good it may be.

Time to move on to original work. Before DuoLingo, I read some books from German writer Michael Ende:

  • Die unendliche Geschichte (The Neverending Story)
  • Momo (The Grey Gentlemen / The Men in Grey)
  • Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch (The Night of Wishes)²

'Die unendliche Geschichte' is the probably the hardest of these, while 'Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch' is the easiest. I think 'Momo' is the best, sublimely critising modern society, though all are great. Alas, Michael Ende died in 1995 and his other books seemed less famous and targetted at younger children, so I turned to French writer Pierre Bottero (who died in 2009) and his series set in the world of Gwendalavir:

  • Le Pacte des Marchombres
  • La Quête d'Ewilan
  • Les Mondes d'Ewilan

The first two books of 'Le Pacte des Marchombres' are set before the 'La Quête d'Ewilan' and 'Les Mondes d'Ewilan' while the third (and last) book is set after them. Currently I'm halfway through the second book of 'Les Mondes d'Ewilan' and these series are the most fun reads I've had in a long time. At times they are exciting, sad, thrilling, heartwarming, in short, they are great. Well, I need a dictionary to be able to decipher every sentence, but I can get the gest of the story without one. It's kind of a shame they've never been translated into English (the Germans are luckier in this regard) but on the other hand, in English all the funny lines about vouvoyer and tutoyer would be lost. Not to mention this one:

  • Erylis parler votre langue beaucoup mieux que moi, expliqua-t-il. Elle parvenir même à maîtriser ce que vous appeler conjugaison et que je nommer sadisme envers les étrangers.

After these series I plan to read a book in Italian, Portuguese or Spanish. However, I've had kind of a hard time finding 'good' books. Most of the time Amazon (be it co.uk, de, es, fr or it) comes with translations of English series.

So, does any of you know a good book or series originally written in one of aforementioned languages (or French / German)? I'm looking for one that meets these requirements:

  • Difficulty between a harder children's and a young adult book (say, somewhere between Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
  • Preferably Fantasy or Historical Fiction (though most genres will do if it's good :) )
  • Not a swooning girls book (eg Twilight)³

To make it easier, here are some more examples of books/series I like:

  • Markus Heitz - Die Zwerge (The Dwarves)
  • Astrid Lindgren - Bröderna Lejonhjärta (The Brothers Lionheart)
  • Astrid Lindgren - Pippi Långstrump (Pippi Longstocking)
  • Astrid Lindgren - Ronja Rövardotter (Ronia the Robber's Daughter)
  • George R.R. Martin - A Song of Ice and Fire
  • Garth Nix - The Old Kingdom series (Abhorsen)
  • Philip Pullman - His Dark Materials
  • Ton van Reen - De Bende van de Bokkenrijders
  • Brandon Sanderson - Mistborn
  • Brandon Sanderson - Stormlight Archive
  • Jonathan Stroud - Bartimaeus Sequence
  • Simone van der Vlugt - Zwarte Sneeuw

Thanks in advance :)

4 years ago

28 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/sakasiru
sakasiru
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A nice series for teenagers in German is the series "die drei Fragezeichen". It started as an American series "the three Investigators" sometime in the 60ies (?), but then the series was discontinued there. By then it was hugely popular in Germany, and German authors continue to write for the series to this day. As an added bonus, every book gets made into an audio play (with the same voice actors for over 30 years now), which cuts the plot somewhat but makes up for it with funny dialogues. So if you are interested in teenage detective/mystery stories, it's worth a try. For further reading (and maybe writing) exercise, fans have made a well maintained home page with discussion forums: http://www.rocky-beach.com/php/wordpress/

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/niceliz
niceliz
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I've been reading "Tintenherz" lately and I highly recommend it. I read the first Harry Potter book in German shortly before starting this and, after (personally) finding Harry Potter a little too easy, this is a nice step up in difficulty. It's challenging, but not enough that it's confusing or frustrating (I still need to look up some words, but not so frequently that it distracts from the plot).

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Morgengrauen
Morgengrauen
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Tintenherz is indeed pretty good! Would vote for that, too.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lilithly
Lilithly
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Tintenherz would be my suggestion as well. Absolutely loved it. Then there would also be Wolfgang Hohlbein, who's one of Germany's most famous fantasy authors.I'd recommend Märchenmonds Erben by him.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/chilvence
chilvence
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I know you said book recommendations, but since you mentioned fantasy and are after reading material, it's probably worth throwing it out there that the Baldur's Gate series of games have recently been re-released, with extreme amounts of loving poured into the international translations of them, based on ongoing efforts by the fan communities for 10+ years.

The game is very heavy on dialogue, and is a damn good vocabulary trainer in the sense that the game will split you in two and eat you if you don't keep up with it :). Books may be more sophisticated in their writing than RPG games, but they don't often react to you misunderstanding them by unceremoniously murdering the protagonist... :)

There's reportedly over a million words of dialogue in the game, and at last glance there are czech, german, polish, italian, french, spanish, portuguese, turkish, chinese, korean and japanese versions, with more to come. You can even switch between them halfway through a game if you feel like it. (and in Baldur's Gate, a game is looooooooong with a capital L, so you may feel like it)

Of course your level of reading may be well above mine and so not in need of such testing, but I think its a fun way to improve my reading so I wanted to share it with people..

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sakasiru
sakasiru
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If you want to learn language through games, why don't you try one from the natives? ;) Here's an introduction to das schwarze Auge: Drakensang (in German): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J_7C_p_RSY
Or if you are more into adventures, I can recommend Deponia: http://www.daedalic.de/game/deponia and its sequels

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/chilvence
chilvence
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Thanks for the recommendation, although it's very unlikely I will be able to try it. My computer is more or less the same one I've had since Baldur's Gate was a newish game :/

It's weird but I don't think its my sort of game either. Much as I've tried, I can't seem to enjoy any of the newer rpgs since they even began in 3d, despite chucking money at them. Gothic, NWN, Elder Scrolls etc... they just don't have the same spark for some reason. They just seem... pointless. You're the hero, here are some quests, after which you shall find your anticipated treasures! Don't even get me started on Warcraft.

Now Torment, that was a game.

I might check out Deponia though, you can't go wrong with point and click.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/stefott
stefott
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Warcraft III wasn't that bad :)

I'm not really into gaming anymore, but I might check them out over the holidays :) Thanks :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
Ontalor
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This is an amazing recommendation actually, I'm always trying to find video games to play in foreign languages.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/chilvence
chilvence
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I should think almost every game has at least one or two localisations, so I would go with what you like and see if you can get the local patch for it. I only stuck Baldur's Gate up on a pedestal because of the ridiculous amount of in game text and the quasi 'multiple choice test' nature of the conversations - it is almost like it was designed to be some sort of comprehension test. And it has a healthy sense of humour :)

In fact it really gives me a different perspective on how languages should be taught, because the way I remember it growing up was pretty dry and humourless, but if I stumble on a collection of eg German jokes, I can lose half a day quite easily before I realise it. Good materials make every step of learning an exciting experience, they lend a sort of compulsion that you can't resist, rather than traditional textbooks that feel more like a puritanical chore...

My personal diet plan for learning is starting to look like this; 1: Learn first the 500 or so basic core words using pure audio only methods like language tapes, music, conversation, bad tv soap operas, movies etc. Don't write anything down, writing it down means you are letting it escape your long term memory. I don't remember a damn thing I wrote in school, and I wrote LOTS. 2: Once grounded, tear through some beginner textbooks if only to see much less hassle they are with some grounding ;) 3: You can now communicate with people, but you sound awful, so start retracing your steps with both the benefit of real world experience and the new found ability to touch a textbook without feeling a deep sense of resentment towards it. Use unconventional methods like computer games and internet joke sites because no one ever said that was the right way to go about it, so they must be hiding something o.O

(sorry for the overshare, I was just trying to organise a fleeting train of thought...)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
Ontalor
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My method is to learn the first few hundred words and then try to find kids TV shows or something I can dive into that I can understand the gist of and just gives me more interesting exposure time to the language. I have to see it written from the beginning because my brain just doesn't hold on to bits of audio in the long run without a visual aid. And then I just study vocabulary, brush up on grammar when I can't figure it out or it gets frustrating, and just keep trying to use it.

I think that's what's amazing and terrible about language learning; everyone has a different method that works for them, and even the people teaching languages don't really know which methods are more effective. For being crucial to global communication, we know surprisingly little about it. But Duolingo's format allows them to explore, collect tons of data, and see what does teach people better.

But video games are totally designed to get you addicted and keep going for hours, so playing them in a foreign language gives you tons of exposure time. I'm buying the new Pokemon soon, and this is the first time each Pokemon game comes with all of the official translations built in, so I've been debating whether to play it in Spanish or French, but I think I'm going with French. :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ssurprize
ssurprize
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"Das Parfum – Die Geschichte eines Mörders" (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind)

"Glennkill: Ein Schafskrimi" (Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pont
pont
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Maybe something by Italo Calvino, who has a fairly simple prose style but a fantastic imagination. Looking at your list, I think Le Città Invisibili might be to your taste. I've also enjoyed his collection of Italian folk tales (or parts of it at least -- it's an extensive collection!).

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jairapetyan
jairapetyan
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I have "Le Città Invisibili" in MP3 form... I think I got it from a library. If you want, I could try to email it to you.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jairapetyan
jairapetyan
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You might enjoy "La Forma dell'Acqua" by Andrea Camilleri. This is the first of his entertaining and popular "Montalbano" detective series. The reading is easy with the caveat that some Sicilian dialect words are mixed into the Italian, which might be confusing to a novice (but you will likely recognize them through the context and not have to look them up). The books are very humorous and will introduce you to southern Italian culture.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Morgengrauen
Morgengrauen
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I like many of the books you listed. Two years ago I stumbled a series from Garth Nix, Keys to the Kingdom. It was the second of the series I read first, I think, and it just blew me away with its funny and weird concepts wrapped in lighthearted speech. They seem to be a few years old now, and I had trouble finding them somehow, so I've collected the 7 books from a variety of online shops and in English and German. Really recommended! They are awesome! :)

http://www.amazon.de/Schwarzer-Montag-Roman-Garth-Nix/dp/3404205960/ http://www.amazon.com/Mister-Monday-Keys-Kingdom-Book/dp/0439551234/

P.S. Really funny to find your thread just half an hour after I picked up this book to read it again after two years :D

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Morgengrauen
Morgengrauen
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"Wintermärchen" von Mark Helprin.

http://www.amazon.de/Winterm%C3%A4rchen-Roman-Mark-Helprin/dp/3785703716/

Super awesome.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Bharad.kv
Bharad.kv
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I came across this list while searching for some books to read

http://www.arnsberg.de/buechereien/zeit_11_06_100klassiker_kijubuch.pdf

Natives, your comments are welcome.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jack.Elliot
Jack.Elliot
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Bewitching first novel by by Sally Green £1million for this book Publishers in 36 countries are printing this book about modern witches in Britain by this Sally Green, who only began writing three years ago strange this world of witches ... everywhere even here in duolingo

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
Ontalor
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Bless you for those French series recommendations. I am hoarding as many EPUB books as I can in as many languages as I can read; my collection started earlier this year and is growing pretty rapidly, but I'm starting all with translated series, partially because I know some of the stories and the ones I haven't read yet because friends and family have recommended a lot of books to me and I figure I can kill two birds with one stone.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Morgengrauen
Morgengrauen
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Wolfgang Hohlbein (as suggested by Lilithly) is a great German writer, but in my opinion only when he is working together with his wife Heike. Somehow when they write together, the books are really fun and interesting to read (Fantasy).

I just loved Spiegelzeit, Märchenmond, Midgard, Der Greif, Elfentanz, Die Bedrohung, Drachenfeuer and Schattenjagd.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sakasiru
sakasiru
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I can support that. Der Greif is one of my all time favourite fantasy books.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jack.Elliot
Jack.Elliot
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4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jack.Elliot
Jack.Elliot
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George Mikes the Hungarian writer that got the English people and language culture and mores to a tee

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/stefott
stefott
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Thanks everyone :) I think I'll go for 'La Forma dell'Acqua' first (I was planning for a book in Italian, Portuguese or Spanish after all) and then turn to one of the German books. Amazon is going to like me :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ittarter

Le Petit Prince all the way

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/stefott
stefott
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Although I didn't mention it, that was actually the first book I've ever read in French :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/amslucy

For German, books I've enjoyed are:

Krabat (Otfried Preußler)

Die 13 1/2 Leben des Käpt'n Blaubär (Walter Moers)

Die Haarteppichknüpfer (Andreas Eschbach)

Another book I like (but it really is a children's book) is Caius ist ein Dummkopf by Henry Winterfeld. I read it (in English) when I was a kid, and it's always been one of my favorites.

4 years ago