The Greatest German "Nonfiction" Books Since 1900

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 313 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. Relativity by Albert Einstein

    This book is a comprehensive introduction to the theory of relativity written by the physicist who developed the theory. It covers both the special and general theories of relativity and provides an accessible explanation of the physics involved, including the nature of light, time, and gravity. The book also discusses the philosophical implications of relativity and its impact on our understanding of reality. Written for a general audience, it aims to make complex scientific concepts understandable to non-experts.

    The 315th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

    The book explores the roots of totalitarian systems, particularly focusing on Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. It delves into the historical, social, and political circumstances that led to the rise of these oppressive regimes, including anti-Semitism, imperialism, and the decline of the nation-state. The author further discusses the nature of power, the role of propaganda, and the manipulation of the masses in these systems, providing a comprehensive analysis of totalitarianism.

    The 567th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. Being and Time by Martin Heidegger

    Being and Time is a seminal work that explores the concept of "being" through a detailed analysis of human existence. The book delves into existential and phenomenological thought, examining how humans relate to the world and their own existence. The author argues that people are always "being-in-the-world" and that understanding this fundamental state is crucial to comprehending the broader concept of being. The work also introduces the concept of "Dasein," a term used to describe the specific type of being that humans possess.

    The 790th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt

    This book is a thought-provoking exploration of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a major organizer of the Holocaust. The author argues that Eichmann was not a fanatical ideologue, but rather an ordinary individual who simply followed orders and bureaucratic procedures, highlighting the terrifying potential for evil in any system that values obedience over personal responsibility. The concept of the "banality of evil" is introduced, suggesting that horrific acts can be committed by ordinary people under certain conditions.

    The 799th Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. Economy and Society by Max Weber

    "Economy and Society" is a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between economy and society, focusing on the role of social actions and their impact on economic systems. The book presents a theoretical framework for understanding how economic and social structures influence each other, including the role of bureaucracy, power, and authority. The author also introduces his famous concept of the "Protestant Ethic", linking the rise of capitalism to certain aspects of Christian beliefs. The book is considered a fundamental text in sociology and economics, providing a deep understanding of social and economic phenomena.

    The 851st Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

    This book is a two-volume work written by a prominent dictator during his imprisonment in 1924. It outlines his political ideology and future plans for Germany, combining elements of autobiography with an exposition of his views on race, nationality, and governance. The author's main thesis is that the German-speaking 'Aryan' race is superior to all others, and that it is the duty of the state to preserve the purity of this race through policies of racial segregation, expansionism, and extermination. The book also contains detailed discussions on the author's hatred towards Jews, Marxism, and the parliamentary system.

    The 915th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber

    This book is a sociological study that explores the relationship between the ethics of ascetic Protestantism and the emergence of the spirit of modern capitalism. The author argues that the religious ideas of groups such as the Calvinists played a role in creating the capitalistic spirit. The work is noted for its rigorous methodology and its contribution to the broader understanding of the origins and development of capitalism. It has been widely influential across social sciences, especially in sociology and economics.

    The 1019th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald

    "The Rings of Saturn" is a richly detailed travelogue that follows the narrator's journey along the coast of Suffolk, England. The narrative weaves together history, literature, and personal anecdotes, exploring topics as diverse as the decline of the herring industry, the horrors of colonialism in the Congo, and the life of philosopher Sir Thomas Browne. The book is characterized by its melancholic tone, its digressive style, and its meditative reflections on memory, time, and decay.

    The 1174th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. The Emigrants by Winfried Georg Sebald

    "The Emigrants" is a novel that explores the experiences and memories of four different emigrants, each with a unique and complex history. The narrative primarily focuses on the psychological impact of displacement and the haunting nature of the past. The author delves deep into their lives, revealing their struggles with identity, loss, and the persistent influence of their roots. The narrative is interwoven with historical events, photographs, and other documents, creating a rich tapestry that blurs the line between fact and fiction.

    The 1355th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger

    "Storm of Steel" is a memoir of a German officer's experiences during World War I. The book provides a detailed account of the daily life in the trenches, the brutal and chaotic nature of warfare, and the psychological impact on the soldiers. The author describes the horrors of war with a sense of detachment, viewing the battlefield as a place where one's character is tested and shaped. Despite the grim subject matter, the memoir is often noted for its poetic language and vivid imagery.

    The 1501st Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Decline of the West by Oswald Spengler

    "Decline of the West" is a comprehensive historical and philosophical work that explores the rise and fall of civilizations. The author argues that every civilization has a life cycle, from birth to maturity and finally to decline. He suggests Western civilization is in its final stage of decline, comparing it to the end phases of the Greco-Roman civilization. The book also introduces the concept of 'pseudomorphosis', where a civilization is so deeply influenced by a previous culture that it suppresses its own authentic culture.

    The 1543rd Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Logical Investigations by Edmund Husserl

    This seminal work is a foundational text in the field of phenomenology and philosophy, presenting a rigorous critique of psychologism—the view that logic is a part of psychology—and arguing for the independence and objectivity of logical truths. Through a series of detailed investigations, the author explores the nature of meaning, the structure of consciousness, and the relationship between language and logic. By distinguishing between the act of thinking and the content of thought, the work lays the groundwork for a new science of consciousness and establishes the author as a pivotal figure in 20th-century philosophy. The text is notable for its methodical approach and its significant influence on both the analytic and continental traditions in philosophy.

    The 1775th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. The Fear Of Freedom by Erich Fromm

    The book explores the psychological and societal mechanisms that lead individuals to relinquish their autonomy and seek security in authoritarian systems, despite the inherent dangers of such a surrender. It delves into the historical context of the 20th century, particularly the rise of fascism and totalitarianism, to understand the paradoxical inclination of people to escape freedom's responsibilities. The author argues that true freedom requires not only the absence of external constraints but also the presence of inner psychological conditions that enable self-reliance, critical thinking, and the ability to love and connect with others. The work challenges readers to confront the difficult task of achieving positive freedom through self-awareness and the development of one's human potential.

    The 1807th Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. Dialectic Of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno

    "Dialectic of Enlightenment" is a seminal philosophical work that explores the nature of enlightenment and its paradoxical relationship with the concept of reason. The authors argue that the Enlightenment's quest for knowledge, freedom, and autonomy has inadvertently led to the opposite: a form of domination and control through instrumental reason. They examine how the Enlightenment's rationality, once aimed at liberating individuals from myth and superstition, has devolved into a tool of oppression, giving rise to totalitarian systems and a culture industry that manipulates mass society. The book delves into various cultural artifacts, including literature, film, and popular culture, to illustrate how enlightenment has become self-destructive, ultimately questioning the possibility of true emancipation in a society governed by the very rationality that was supposed to set it free.

    The 1807th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. Behemoth by Franz Neumann

    "Behemoth" is a comprehensive analysis of the structure and practice of National Socialism in Germany from its rise to its peak during World War II. The book delves into the political, economic, and social frameworks that defined the Nazi regime, arguing that it represented a new form of totalitarianism marked by chaotic governance, industrial monopolies, and the fusion of state and party under despotic rule. The author critically examines how these elements led to aggressive expansionism and the systematic extermination of Jews and other minorities, ultimately asserting that the regime's inherent contradictions contributed to its downfall.

    The 1807th Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. The Civilizing Process by Norbert Elias

    "The Civilizing Process" is a sociological treatise that explores the development of manners, changes in behavior, and the evolution of social norms from the medieval period to the early modern era in Western Europe. The book argues that the transformation in social codes, particularly around violence and the regulation of impulses, is closely linked to the formation of state power and the monopolization of physical force. Through a detailed analysis of historical documents on etiquette, the author illustrates how the increasing pressures of social structures and interdependencies require more regulated forms of behavior, leading to what is described as the "civilizing process." This process, according to the author, reflects broader socio-political changes and is integral to understanding the dynamics of state formation and individual behavior regulation in European history.

    The 1928th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by Daniel Paul Schreber

    The book is a personal account of a prominent German judge's struggle with severe mental illness. It provides a detailed and vivid description of his experiences with psychosis, hallucinations, and delusions, which he attributes to divine intervention and cosmic forces. The author's attempt to understand and make sense of his condition forms the core of this memoir, and his insights have been influential in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. His narrative is a unique exploration of the mind and its relationship with reality, providing an intimate perspective on mental illness.

    The 2223rd Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology by Edmund Husserl

    This book is a philosophical work that explores the crisis facing the sciences in Europe, arguing that this crisis stems from the disregard for transcendental phenomenology. The author asserts that the sciences have lost their grounding in the world of lived experience and have become too abstract and disconnected from human life, leading to a crisis of meaning. He proposes a return to the "lifeworld" and a recentering of science on human experience, using the methods of phenomenology to uncover the essential structures of consciousness and the world.

    The 2502nd Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. Studies in Iconology by Erwin Panofsky

    "Studies in Iconology" is a seminal work in the field of art history that examines the use of allegory, symbol, and motif in visual art. The author uses a method known as iconology, which is the study of the content and meaning of works of art, as opposed to their form. By doing so, he provides a deeper understanding and interpretation of various artworks, particularly those from the Renaissance period. The book also delves into the cultural, historical, and psychological contexts in which these works were created, offering an in-depth exploration of the symbolism and significance of imagery in art.

    The 2969th Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. The Perennial Scope Of Philosophy by Karl Jaspers

    The book in question explores the enduring nature of philosophical inquiry, examining how it transcends temporal and cultural boundaries to address fundamental questions of existence, knowledge, and ethics. The author argues that philosophy is not confined to any particular era or dogma but is a continuous pursuit of truth that evolves with human thought while remaining rooted in the quest for universal understanding. Through a critical examination of historical philosophical movements and their contributions to the ongoing dialogue, the work emphasizes the importance of philosophy in providing a framework for individuals to confront the mysteries of life and the universe, encouraging readers to engage in their own philosophical contemplation.

    The 3070th Greatest Book of All Time
  21. 21. Man Meets Dog by Konrad Lorenz

    In "Man Meets Dog," the author explores the deep bond between humans and dogs, tracing the origins and development of this unique relationship. Through a combination of personal anecdotes and scientific insights, the book delves into various aspects of canine behavior, psychology, and the evolutionary factors that have shaped the human-dog partnership. The author, an eminent ethologist, uses his observations of his own dogs to illustrate broader themes about communication, affection, and the instinctual basis of domestication, offering readers a thoughtful reflection on why dogs hold such a special place in human society.

    The 3120th Greatest Book of All Time
  22. 22. Stories from the Lord Keuner by Dieter Wöhrle

    "Stories from the Lord Keuner" is a compilation of short, thought-provoking parables that explore philosophical, political, and social issues. The book features a fictional character who challenges conventional wisdom and societal norms through his insightful and often ironic observations and dialogues. The stories are crafted to stimulate critical thinking and encourage readers to question their beliefs and assumptions.

    The 3226th Greatest Book of All Time
  23. 23. Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein

    This book is a collection of essays, letters, and speeches from a renowned physicist, offering his thoughts on a wide range of topics. It includes his insights on science, philosophy, religion, politics, peace, education, liberty, and morality. The physicist's reflections on his own scientific discoveries and the theories of other great thinkers are also discussed. This compilation provides a comprehensive view of his intellectual development and personal beliefs.

    The 3362nd Greatest Book of All Time
  24. 24. Ideas by Edmund Husserl

    This philosophical work delves into the complex realm of phenomenology, exploring the intricate relationship between consciousness and the objects of its awareness. The author systematically unpacks the concept of intentionality, the idea that consciousness is always consciousness of something, and introduces the method of phenomenological reduction as a means to study the essential structures of consciousness. Through a rigorous examination of the acts of consciousness, including perception, imagination, and judgment, the text seeks to lay bare the foundational elements of human experience, arguing for a direct investigation into the phenomena as they present themselves to consciousness, free from presuppositions. This exploration aims to establish a solid groundwork for understanding the nature of reality as it is experienced, emphasizing the importance of subjective experience in the constitution of the world.

    The 3404th Greatest Book of All Time
  25. 25. The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich

    "The Courage to Be" is a philosophical work that explores the concept of courage in the face of existential threats and anxieties. The author argues that courage is not simply a bold act in the face of physical danger, but also the strength to affirm one's own being in spite of non-being, despair, and death. The book also discusses the role of God as the ultimate source of courage and suggests that embracing our existential anxieties can lead to self-affirmation and spiritual growth.

    The 3458th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.