The Greatest German "Nonfiction" Books Since 1970

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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. 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
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. Against Method by Paul Feyerabend

    "Against Method" argues that science does not adhere to a strict, universal method and that the idea of a singular scientific method is a myth. The author challenges the notion that science progresses through a consistent, rule-based approach, suggesting instead that scientific breakthroughs often require creativity, non-conformity, and the breaking of rules. The book posits that the advancement of knowledge depends on anarchistic strategies that subvert rigid scientific norms, advocating for a more pluralistic, tolerant, and individualistic approach to scientific research. This perspective encourages a methodological pluralism where multiple methodologies coexist, allowing for a more diverse and dynamic scientific inquiry.

    The 4145th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. The Messianic Idea In Judaism, And Other Essays On Jewish Spirituality by Gershom Scholem

    This book is a collection of insightful essays exploring the complex nature of Jewish mysticism and the development of the Messianic idea within the Jewish tradition. The author, a preeminent scholar of Jewish mysticism, delves into the historical and spiritual evolution of these concepts, examining their origins, their influence on Jewish thought, and their manifestations throughout Jewish history. The essays also discuss the role of Kabbalah and other mystical traditions in shaping the spiritual landscape of Judaism, offering readers a deep and nuanced understanding of the spiritual dynamics that have animated Jewish life and thought for centuries.

    The 4833rd Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. I Will Bear Witness by Victor Klemperer

    "I Will Bear Witness" is a chilling personal account of life in Nazi Germany from 1933-1941. The author, a Jewish professor, meticulously details the daily life under Hitler's regime, capturing the fear, oppression, and constant threat that Jews faced. The diary serves as a powerful testament to the horrors of the Holocaust and the resilience of those who endured it.

    The 4861st Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. Systematic Theology by Wolfhart Pannenberg

    "Systematic Theology" is a comprehensive exploration of Christian doctrine from the perspective of a renowned German theologian. It delves into the nature of God, the creation of the universe, and the essence of humanity, among other topics. The author's approach is unique in that he uses historical and scientific knowledge to interpret and explain Christian beliefs, making this a significant contribution to modern theological thought.

    The 4888th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. On Being A Christian by Hans Kueng

    The book in question is a comprehensive exploration of Christian faith and its relevance in the modern world. It delves into the historical and philosophical foundations of Christianity, examining its core doctrines, ethical implications, and the challenges it faces in contemporary society. The author critically assesses the role of the Church, the credibility of Christian beliefs in light of scientific progress, and the potential for dialogue with other religions. Throughout, the work emphasizes the importance of a genuine and lived faith, encouraging believers to embody the teachings of Jesus in a way that is both authentic to the Christian tradition and responsive to the needs of today's world.

    The 5219th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. Walls: Resisting The Third Reich by Hiltgunt Zassenhaus

    "Walls: Resisting The Third Reich" is a powerful memoir of courage and defiance, recounting the experiences of a young German woman during World War II who risked her life to oppose the Nazi regime. Working as an interpreter in the German courts, she secretly aided Scandinavian prisoners of war, passing along messages and providing them with hope and support. Her clandestine activities, carried out under the constant threat of discovery and execution, showcase the profound bravery and moral conviction required to resist oppression from within the very heart of a totalitarian state. The narrative not only captures the personal struggle against tyranny but also serves as a testament to the human spirit's capacity for resistance and solidarity in the face of overwhelming adversity.

    The 5520th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. Critique Of Cynical Reason by Peter Sloterdijk

    The book provides a deep exploration of cynicism as a pervasive and influential mindset in contemporary society, tracing its evolution from the classical cynicism of antiquity to its modern form, which the author describes as "enlightened false consciousness." The work delves into the philosophical, social, and psychological dimensions of cynicism, examining how it serves both as a defense mechanism and a form of social critique. Through a blend of philosophical analysis, cultural commentary, and historical insight, the book challenges readers to understand and confront the cynical attitudes that pervade modern culture and to consider the possibilities for genuine sincerity and commitment in a seemingly disenchanted world.

    The 5914th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. The Freud Reader by Sigmund Freud

    "The Freud Reader" is a comprehensive anthology that provides a key selection of Sigmund Freud's most important writings, spanning the entire length of his career. Edited by a prominent Freud scholar, this collection includes complete texts of some of his most famous works, as well as excerpts from his lesser-known writings. The book is designed to give readers a clear sense of Freud's development as a thinker and writer, presenting his ideas on psychoanalysis, the unconscious mind, dreams, the theory of sexuality, and the structure of the psyche. This reader serves as an essential introduction to Freud's groundbreaking theories and his contributions to the understanding of human psychology.

    The 6160th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Pavel's Letters by Monika Maron

    "Pavel's Letters" is a poignant narrative that explores the personal journey of a novelist who uncovers her family's past in war-torn Poland. After receiving a collection of letters from her grandfather, Pavel, the protagonist delves into the history of her family, their experiences during World War II, and the hardships they faced under Stalin's regime. The book is a compelling blend of personal memories, historical facts, and the exploration of the human spirit's resilience in the face of adversity.

    The 6607th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. The Theory Of Communicative Action by Jürgen Habermas

    The book is a seminal work in social theory that explores the concept of communicative action, where individuals interact based on mutual understanding and pursue rational arguments, consensus, and cooperation rather than merely acting for individual success. The author critiques the instrumental and strategic action in modern societies and argues that communicative action is essential for maintaining the rationality and democratic nature of human interactions. The work delves into the structures of how language and social interaction form the basis of society and how distortions in communication can lead to social issues, emphasizing the importance of transparent and undistorted communication in achieving genuine understanding and societal cohesion.

    The 6672nd Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle

    The book is a guide to discovering profound inner peace and serenity through the power of mindfulness and stillness. It delves into the transformative potential of living in the present moment and disengaging from the constant chatter of the mind. The author presents a series of meditative insights and wisdom that encourage readers to connect with the depth of the present moment, transcending ego-driven thoughts and emotions. By embracing stillness, the book suggests that individuals can access a deeper sense of self-awareness, leading to a more fulfilling and enlightened existence.

    The 6842nd Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. The Meaning of Hitler by Sebastian Haffner

    This book provides an insightful analysis of Adolf Hitler's life, his rise to power, and the devastating impact of his rule. It delves into Hitler's ideology, his strategies, and the psychological factors that contributed to his becoming one of history's most infamous dictators. The book also critically examines the factors that allowed Hitler's rise and the world's response, offering a comprehensive understanding of this dark chapter in human history.

    The 6981st Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. Thomas Mann Heinrich Mann by Helmut Koopmann

    The book provides a comprehensive study of the lives and works of two prominent German literary figures, who were also brothers. It delves into their complex relationship, contrasting ideologies, and individual contributions to literature and culture. The author examines their personal and professional journeys, exploring how their differing views on art, politics, and society reflected the broader intellectual and historical currents of their time. Through a detailed analysis of their novels, essays, and other writings, the book offers insights into the brothers' influence on each other and on the literary world, highlighting their lasting legacy in the context of German and world literature.

    The 7023rd Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. Die Totalitäre Erfahrung by Karl Dietrich Bracher

    The book in question provides a comprehensive analysis of totalitarianism, exploring the political and social conditions that give rise to such regimes. It delves into the characteristics of totalitarian states, examining how they gain and maintain power through the manipulation of ideology, the use of terror, and the control of mass communication. The work also reflects on the historical instances of totalitarian governments in the 20th century, offering insights into the dangers they pose to individual freedoms and democratic structures. Through its examination of the dynamics of total control, the book serves as a warning about the fragility of democratic institutions and the constant need to defend them against authoritarian threats.

    The 7217th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. German History 1800–1918 by Thomas Nipperdey

    This book offers an in-depth and comprehensive examination of German history from 1800 to 1918. It delves into the political, social, and cultural transformations that occurred during this period, exploring the rise of nationalism, the impact of industrialization, the evolution of the German states, and the lead-up to the First World War. The author provides detailed analysis of key events, figures, and movements, weaving a rich tapestry of the forces that shaped modern Germany.

    The 7292nd Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. Along The Ganges by Ilija Trojanow

    The book is a travelogue that takes the reader on a captivating journey along the sacred Ganges River, from its source in the Himalayas to its delta in the Bay of Bengal. The narrative is rich with descriptions of the diverse landscapes, cultures, and people encountered by the author. It delves into the profound spiritual significance of the river to millions of Hindus, as well as the contemporary challenges it faces due to pollution and modernization. Through personal reflections and encounters, the author explores the complex relationship between the river and the civilization it has nurtured for centuries, offering insights into the historical, religious, and ecological aspects of this iconic waterway.

    The 7513th Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle

    This book is a guide to spiritual enlightenment that emphasizes the importance of living in the present moment to achieve true happiness and fulfillment. It argues that many people are trapped by their thoughts and emotions, which are often rooted in the past or anxious about the future, leading to a state of unconsciousness. The author presents practical teachings and methods to help readers awaken to their true selves by transcending the ego and the mind's limitations. Through mindfulness and presence, individuals can discover a deeper sense of peace and connection with the world around them, unlocking a new level of consciousness and personal growth.

    The 7873rd Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. The Invention Of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf

    "The Invention of Nature" is a biographical account of Alexander von Humboldt, a 19th-century explorer, scientist, and naturalist who revolutionized the way we understand the natural world. Andrea Wulf chronicles Humboldt's travels across South America, his encounters with indigenous peoples, and his groundbreaking scientific discoveries that challenged prevailing notions of the natural world. Humboldt's ideas about interconnectedness and the unity of nature were ahead of their time and continue to influence environmentalism and conservation today. Wulf's book is a masterful exploration of one of history's most fascinating and influential figures.

    The 8024th Greatest Book of All Time
  21. 21. Essays On Music by Theodor Adorno

    This collection is a comprehensive anthology of critical essays on the subject of music, written by one of the 20th century's most influential philosophers and social critics. The work delves into the complexities of musical composition, performance, and reception, offering a profound exploration of the social, political, and cultural dimensions of the musical experience. The author critiques the commodification of music in capitalist societies and the way this impacts artistic authenticity and the listener's experience. Through a series of essays, the author examines various genres and eras, from classical to jazz to popular music, applying a rigorous theoretical framework that draws from Marxist thought, sociology, and psychoanalysis to dissect the role of music in modern life.

    The 8956th Greatest Book of All Time
  22. 22. Conquest Of The Useless by Werner Herzog

    "Conquest of the Useless" is a reflective memoir that presents a collection of the author's diary entries written during the tumultuous production of a major film in the early 1980s. Set in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, the narrative captures the intense challenges faced by the film crew, ranging from logistical nightmares and clashing personalities to confrontations with nature and local cultures. The author's poetic and introspective prose delves into the emotional and existential upheavals experienced during the making of the film, revealing his relentless determination and the surreal experiences encountered in a remote and demanding setting.

    The 9463rd Greatest Book of All Time
  23. 23. The Hidden Life Of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

    This book offers a fascinating exploration into the complex life of forests, revealing the social networks and communication methods that trees use to survive and thrive. The author, a forester, draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to illustrate how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with the sick and the weak, and even warn each other of impending dangers. With deep understanding and an eye for the wonder of these essential organisms, the narrative transforms the way we perceive trees, encouraging us to appreciate the intricate and interconnected life of the forest.

    The 9989th Greatest Book of All Time
  24. 24. Marzahn, Mon Amour by Katja Oskamp

    "Marzahn, Mon Amour" is a reflective and poignant narrative that delves into the lives of ordinary people through the lens of a podiatrist working in the Marzahn district of East Berlin. The book offers a tapestry of human stories, as the protagonist encounters a diverse array of clients, each with their own unique backgrounds and experiences. Through the intimate setting of the treatment room, the author weaves together tales of the community's past and present, exploring themes of identity, resilience, and the search for meaning in the day-to-day. This work serves as a touching exploration of the seemingly mundane aspects of life that, upon closer inspection, reveal the depth and complexity of the human condition.

    The 10308th Greatest Book of All Time
  25. 25. Crusade and Jihad: Islam and the Christian World by Bassam Tibi

    This book explores the historical, ideological, and political aspects of the Crusades and Jihad, comparing and contrasting the two. It delves into the origins and evolution of the Crusades and Jihad, their impact on Christian and Islamic societies, and their relevance in today's world. The author also examines the role of religion in conflicts and the use of religious ideologies for political purposes, providing a comprehensive understanding of these complex issues.

    The 10570th 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.