Latest Book Reviews

Book cover for novel 'Das deutsche Wunder' by Rudolph Stratz Das deutsche Wunder (1916) by Rudolph Stratz. One of the best anti-war novels. A powerful verdict against all imperialistic warmongers of the world responsible for the Great War. For almost half a century Germany did not make war. While England, Russia, Italy, France and Balkan states were in perpetual conflicts with their neighbors or expanding their colonial power, the soft-hearted Germany emptied its piggy banks for the Boers and starving Indians, lovingly built houses for those buried in Messina and sent warm clothes to the burned and hungry Russians, fed and sent whole shiploads of goods to the needy Norwegians, this Germany, whose heart was as big as its spirit, this Germany, whose doctors and surgeons saved tbousands of sick from all over the world, was declared the source of all evils on earth. Professor Tillesen discovers with great sadness: "Too much gratitude turns into hatred. With the individual as with the peoples. We were too guileless. We were too rich. We gave too much. And to too many. Didn't we Germans do much more than that? Didn't we give the world the miracle of Weimar? The magic of Bayreuth? Didn't we give the Bible back to the world, didn't we bless it with Faust and the Ninth Symphony? And this is the thanks? And this is the thanks?" He asks himself again and again: "Where does this hatred come from? We only gave our own gifts! We gave so much! Gave more than I can think of, in technology, trade and transport. Our protection of the old and the sick was exemplary for other states, our officers were the masters of arms of foreign nations, our doors of knowledge were open to everyone, from the Balkans to Japan. So was our heart. Half of all foreign people who are famous among their people are so because we made them so, understood them better than their own countrymen. And we were so happy that we could give without envy!" For the Russian warmongering fanatic who takes pride in having burned Moscow down and is obssessed with setting on fire the whole world, for whom the war was "just another European pogrom," the brokenhearted professor has a strong message: "You are a good hater, Mr. von Schjelting. That does not prevent you, as I see, to seek the help of the country which you want to remove from the list of nations in your book. I would have liked to help you. But against the pure culture of German hatred, which you are breeding in yourself and others, there is no remedy even in my laboratory. Instead, take a warning from me with you on your way out: In your booklet, you run up a storm against a Germany mechanically constructed by you. You pull on strings on puppets of officers, kings, and unhappy workers, but you have no idea what is behind all this: the German spirit!" Professor Tillesen is only one of many millions of Germans who have a hard time trying to figure out why they are hated by die Engländer. The answer comes straight from the horse's mouth: "There are different ways to live! Ours is: we are here to rule! The German one: we are here to work! They follow them so thoroughly that we, too, would have to work instead of ruling. Thus they force us to the roughest of all work: war!" Other voices in the book sound eerily prophetic: "Man will always wage war, Inge. That's the way it is! He does that also now! Only by other means! In the old days, people used to bash each other's heads. Nowadays war is waged with the brain, with the drawing board, with the big wallet, and with the chemical retort." (The book cover by Larysa Johnston Text available on Project Gutenberg

Book cover for crime novel 'Der Gläubiger' by Christian Ernst Der Gläubiger (circa 1920) by Christian Ernst. Take a break from incredibly boring and tedious TV crime series (bordering on mental paralysis) and discover the uniquely attractive world of early 20th century Kriminalroman. Rita Kattner, the only daughter of a successful bookseller and fiance of rich businessman Horst Nissen, dies from cyanide poisoning in her own house. Based on the content of the letters with death threats signed by anonymous 'Creditor' which Rita had received a few days before she was murdered, investigators conclude that the murderer is someone who belongs to Rita's circle of friends. Friends? Or maybe just acquaintances? One of them ponders sorrowfully on the nature of that friendship: "It was difficult to get a good understanding of someone from our circle of friends. We were too much focused on pleasure. After all, we hardly ever had a chance to have a serious conversation. During such light, superficial chats, which are common in our country, you don't get to know a person closely." For a good, trusting, warm-hearted person as Rita the reckoning with the fact that there could be a force in the world capable of cutting off her life has a crusing effect. Neither Horst Nissen nor Dr. Glaß know of anyone in their circle with even a hint of the Creditor's handwriting. Interrogation of several suspects accomplishes so little that Kommissar Förster realizes he could use some help from 'Stubengelehrte" Staps, professor of psychology and clever criminal investigator famous for solving the most hopeless cases. Professor Staps once again brilliantly proves that although Rita's killer thought out everything down to the last detail, eventually he puts the proverbial stone in his own path, over which almost every criminal stumbles sooner or later. For German learners: The roman has a lot of dialogues with elements of rhetorical analysis. These should be read aloud. Careful reading and paying close attention to individual words and syntax should help you remember new general and professional lexicon, idioms and grammar. (The book cover by Larysa Johnston Text available on Project Gutenberg

Book cover for crime novel 'Die Drei aus Hollywood' by Paul Rosenhayn Die Drei aus Hollywood (1929) by Paul Rosenhayn. This pacy whodoneit keeps the reader in suspense till the last page. It vividly reveals the dark side of the human soul, in which the dignity and honesty gives way to lust for power and enrichment at any cost. Some characters reject the spirit of golden calf worship. They do not hide their opinions, even though it might jeopardize their careers in Hollywood: "What kind of country is this? You think your money is everything?" laments English movie star Ivy Griffith. A UK-born princess has been accused for the crime she did not commit. Legally declared in the wrong, she can hardly withstand the crushing power of the Hungarian law, money, and public opinion. A number of unsavory characters use the unsolved murder case for their own enrichment or career advancement: an unscrupulous Hollywood filmmaker, Hungarian noblemen and even ordinary people. On the victim side of this high-stakes drama are those who get caught in the murky waters of deadly intrigues and betrayal. Some victims are luckier than the others. Vilma Berény takes her own life, while princess Klausenburg is rescued by her adventurous Czech friend Stefan Ladinser and Peter Thornquist, a German freelancer who works for Scotland Yard. In the end, honor, justice and loyalty prevail. (The book cover by Larysa Johnston Text available on Project Gutenberg

Book cover for crime novel 'Der Attentäter' by Karl Hans StroblDer Attentäter (1920) by Karl Hans Strobl. The novel tells a story of the tragic fate of a German young man who is caught up in the whirlpool of political and ethnic conflicts that ravage Austria-Hungary at the beginning of the last century. The local press only adds fuel to the fire, making ethnic Germans feel marginalized in their home towns. The combustible mixture of foreign-brewed ideas of revolutionary terrorism, martyrdom and ill-understood patriotism drive Gustav to bad decisions. The thought of spending his best years in prison, "somewhere, where they choked you back down to wretchedness, where they broke the soul and burned out strength and courage and pride with red-hot irons, without hope, without the key to a future", drives him to suicide. The author does not assume the role of a judge or a moralist. He suggests that we listen to Wolf Schmelkes, the folk philosopher who has something important to say to all of us: "Who is not deaf and mute? Who pays attention to what is going on around him? No one! We are all deaf and mute. I see only human beings. In that they are all the same. Jews and Germans and Czechs and Italians. Deaf-mute brothers. And if they could hear each other and speak to each other, they wouldn't stab one another with knives and they wouldn't throw bombs." (The book cover by Larysa Johnston Text available on Project Gutenberg

Book cover for crime novel 'Menschenhasser' by Dietrich ThedenMenschenhasser Kriminalroman (1904) by Dietrich Theden. Fleeing from justice, Wilhelm Mumm escapes to Australia, leaving behind his wife and children in his native Germany. "At that time wild fellows lived in the Australian bush, the terror of the shepherds and settlers, convicts who had escaped from the colonies, bushrangers, daring gold diggers who did not shy away from any crime, thieves and drunkards from the silver mines." Mumm joins the "brave pioneers of the convict outpost" and lives a live of robbery and murder. For twenty plus years Mumm is busy accumulating his enormous wealth. He finally realizes that he is no longer able to tolerate the disgust for the milieu of greed and crime and wants to exchange the cold, senseless hunt for gold for a modest, quiet happiness in the old, familiar homeland, close to his children and wife. The realization that this feeling came too late embitters him enormously. It also makes him feel his own responsibility for everything that went wrong while he was away. Neither revenge nor acts of kindness bring peace to his tormented soul. On his deathbed he passes sentence on himself and those whom gold worshipping has turned into people haters.(The book cover by Larysa Johnston Text available on Project Gutenberg

Book cover for crime novel 'Angst' by Walther HarichAngst (1927) by Walther Harich. This psychological thriller is almost forgotten today which is entirely unjustifiable, for it conveys a strong impression of the uncertainty and menace of the time in which it was written and strangely resonates with the modern world, where fear, agony and hope lie close together. Germany is still partly in great turmoil after the lost war. There are tens of thousands of job seekers in all professions. People are being laid off everywhere. It is almost a miracle if one can still find a job somewhere. What is more frightening is the profound and ever worsening erosion of trust between individuals, which leads Ernst Alexander Werneuchen, the battle-hardened officer to extreme anxiety. His entangled divorce with two children only augments his bitterness: "Almost all people who get divorced actually wish each other dead. They just don't have the courage to do so." Werneuchen loses his battle. Werneuchen's murder brings profound changes in the lives of his close friends and loved ones and forces them to ponder over the reasons for the ongoing violence in the world. Emma, the mother of Werneuchen's unborn child, believes that if we humans took life quite seriously, no one would be murdered. But where would people get this faith when wars keep coming and millions are forced to kill and die? For Kamp violence results from the fact that only very few living beings are granted with a perspective, from which life is beautiful. (The book cover by Larysa Johnston Text available on Project Gutenberg

Book cover for crime novel 'Ein seltsamer Zeuge' by Matthias BlankEin seltsamer Zeuge (1919) by Matthias Blank, a popular crime writer of the early 20th century, who wrote under pen name Theo von Blankensee.
Michael Gebhard is a child of the whimsical Goddess of Fortune. He is also a talented photographer. It just happens that on a beautiful sunny day he accidentally takes a picture of a horrible crime in action. He takes the photograph to Kommissar Steinherz, a very efficient civil servant who is always assigned the most difficult cases. Steinherz contrasts sharply with Prosecutor Wadricza who regards his office only as a step up in his career. But Steinherz is not so much interested in success. "I don't want just a career. That is the big mistake in all offices. Everyone wants to have success only for themselves, everyone wants to make a career for himself, and in this way the office is forgotten, no one knows any more what he is doing for the sake of others. Justice is not measured by the success of fine speeches, but by recognizing right where right is." Blank sprinkles the fast-paced plot with a whole lot of distracting clues: an ill-meaning American partner, dark family secrets, revenge, and fraud. Only the tireless work of Kommissar Steinherz makes the conviction of the murderer possible at the last moment. Very entertaining and easy reading. (The book cover by Larysa Johnston Text available on Project Gutenberg

Book cover for crime novel 'Kurier des Präsidenten' by Otto SchwerinKurier des Präsidenten (1920) by Otto Schwerin.
Clear and serene life of University of Lausanne students Hanna and Juan passes in the background of the beautiful French Alpes setting up a lyrical mood for the reader. The dark days come suddenly, like a sea storm. Immediately after Hanna's return to Germany, her stepfather, a renowned bacteriologist, dies under strange circumstances. Suspicion of murder falls on Dr. Denkandi Benvenisti, the scientist's assistant. All evidence seems to leave him no chance of acquittal. Salvation comes from the talented and well-educated detective Lutz. Light and entertaining, this Kriminalroman does not always use one hundred percent straightforward language, but you will still feel rewarded by unlocking those charming, twisted passages sprinkled with words not so easily found in online dictionaries. Not everyone likes Poe, Chesterton, Agatha Christie, or even Ellery Queen. Here, on we love Otto Schwerin :-)
(The book cover by Larysa Johnston Text available on Project Gutenberg


Book cover for psychological thriller 'Wer kennt Doktor Eggebrecht?' by J.C. Schumann"Wer kennt Doktor Eggebrecht?" (1939) by J.C. Schumann. This is not your typical "psychological crime novel with an incredible twist," although the ending is quite surprising. The author tells a compelling story about a woman's heart that "does not know any intermediate temperatures. It is either at boiling or freezing point. It sacrifices itself to the last, or it kills." No matter how perfect the murder case against nurse Magda is, how meticulously it is gathered by Regional Court Council Karsten, eventually it gets shattered by Dr. Hiller's passionate speech before the jury: "It could be misunderstanding, a coincidence, an act of providence, a fate - call it what you will, depending on your world view and religious sensibilities - did this. If it could be punishable, it would be so only to the extent that it unconsciously lent its arm to this fate. Be righteous judges to her all!" For Deutsch learners: Not the easiest one in town, but the challenge is worth every minute of time spent on this beautifully crafted novel. (The book cover by Larysa Johnston Text available on Project Gutenberg

Book cover for crime novel Die 'Doppelgänger' by Karl Pauli"Die Doppelgänger" (1903) by Karl Pauli. An American is supposed to marry a German lady according to a contract concluded between their fathers. Since he got already secretly married, a man with a deceptive resemblance comes in very handy. The American bribes this man with $25,000 to marry the German. Soon a fierce feud breaks out between the two, and the German Hiller puts the American into prison. Hiller gained wealth and prestige through a crime, a shameless deception. He enjoyed his prosperity and happiness. But all that remained good and true about him, was vanished and forgotten as soon as he saw his happiness seriously threatened. And as he owed that happiness to a crime, so he was ready at any moment to resort to the only weapon he possessed, that is, another crime. This Kriminalroman has everything: unravelling twists and turns, tension and suspense. (The book cover by Larysa Johnston You can read it here.


"Atlantis" (1925) is a sience-fiction novel by Hans Dominik (1872-1945), a German science-fiction and non-fiction writer, science journalist and engineer. The plot: World events are determined by three power blocs: the European confederation with headquarters in Bern, the African empire under Emperor Augustus Salvator, and the American power bloc. Two people from Hamburg, Uhlenkort, a mining magnate, and Tredrup, an engineer and adventurer, meet by chance at a circus performance in Timbuktu, the African emperor's seat. Emperor Augustus has big plans; he drives a deep shaft into the earth at Lake Chad to mine carbide and boost the African economy. Rouse, an unscrupulous profiteer is to get American submarines for a possible conflict. Europe publishes a resolution against the simultaneous detonation of all explosives. According to a report signed only with "J.H." This action should lead to a diversion of the Gulf Stream and thus to an icing of Northern Europe up to Berlin.

"Auf zwei Planeten" by Kurd Laßwitz (1897) was a real blockbuster of its day. Upon its publication in 1897 Moritz Kronenberg observed that the novel represented a clear departure both from a traditional utopia and from fiction about actual science. He suggested that it deserved to be recognized as an impressive example of a new genre with the emphasis on the profound philosophical and ideological questions which the novel posed about its own time, as well as social-political observation into an unavoidably malign nature of a supposedly benign imperialism. A number of luminaries including Arthur C. Clarke exprssed their admiration for this book. The novel's exciting plot will surprise the modern reader with the taste for fast action. The book begins when a team of scientists discover a Martian base at the North Pole, which is serviced by a Martian space station above the Earth. A small faction of Martians are determined to take over the Earth to use its more abundant solar energy, while another group wants to share its advanced science with humans. A misunderstanding leads to an outbreak of hostilities between the worlds.

"Der Tunnel" by Bernhard Kellermann (1913) concerns an endeavor far more grandiose than anything else in human history: a tunnel under the Atlantic, extending from New York to Europe. "Der Tunnel" celebrates man the doer and his power to reshape nature to his own ends. An enormously popular international best seller, the book was translated into 23 languages. Mac Allan, the hero of "Der Tunnel", is an American engineer who has created a drill that can penetrate the hardest rock. Mac, a former coal miner, is a self-made man to whom work is a religion. Mac calls a meeting of potential investors to discuss his new project. His credentials and expertise are beyond question, and when he states firmly that such a tunnel can be finished within 15 years, there is no trouble issuing and selling bonds. The work progresses rapidly and efficiently. But in the fifth year, when miners drive the tunnel into a cavern filled with combustible gases, a great explosion and fire wreck a great section of the tunnel. Almost three thousand men are killed. This catastrophe has enormous repercussions. All work on the tunnel stops. The workers refuse to continue and go on strike. Investors sue Allan, claiming they were misled about the schedule, and a mob kills his wife and child. The tunnel is now shut down, except for the maintenance. A new problem arises with the activities of Wolf, a Hungarian who is the treasurer of the company. Wolf, a brilliant crook, has plotted to seize control of the tunnel for himself. He embezzled the company's assets and lost a fortune. About five years are lost as the direct and indirect results after the explosion.

"Die Macht der Drei" by Hans Dominik (1922), a writer of Zukunftsromanen, or "technological futuristic novels." The "science fiction" of Hans Dominik was not too far off the mark. Viewed from today - indeed, as early as 1950 - his technological visions of that time already seem like pretty realistic scenarios. And even his ideas of political and social change no longer prove to be far-fetched. The novel starts with a spectacular escape from a death-row cell in Sing-Sing and the remainder of the plot features one exciting episode after another. The whole novel revolves around the invention of "teleenergetic concentrator" (Strahler), a device that makes it possible to watch things from afar and release the vast energies present in the ether, according to the author's hypothesis. The political conflict here is between the British Empire and the United States.


"Herrn Arnes Schatz" by Selma Lagerlöf (1903), one of the Swedish authors whose works belong to world literature. In 1909 she was the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. It's a short novel where ghosts play a role. This crime novel is about a cruel robbery and murder in Bohuslän in the 16th century and the inevitability with which the crime must be atoned for. Three Scottish lansquenets in the service of the Swedish king had been thrown into prison on suspicion of treason, but they managed to escape and now, disguised as tannerymen, want to flee home. When they arrive in Bohuslän, which was Danish at the time, they raid the Solberga parsonage and kill the priest, Mr Arne, and all the inhabitants of the parsonage. The topic seems to be far away from today's time. But Selma Lagerlöf's art forces the most skeptical rationalists under its spell. No one will be able to escape the compelling mood of this book, which is strangely tense and unsettling and will not let you go until you have read the book and put it down.

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"Der Arzt von Stalingrad" by Heinz G. Konsalik (1956) is a war story that sold more than 3.5 million copies in Germany and was made into a movie. After the defeat of the 6th German Army, the German surgeon and medical officer Dr. Fritz Böhler is interned in the POW camp 5110/47 near Stalingrad. Under Russian supervision, he and his colleagues Werner von Sellnow and Jens Schulheiß built an "exemplary military hospital" there. They performed a series of operations that were as unusual as they were daring and belong in the realm of the fantastic. At the beginning of the plot Dr. Böhler performs a successful appendectomy with a penknife and a silk thread taken from a silk scarf. Later, his colleague, Dr. von Sellnow, falls ill with a brain tumor, which Dr. Böhler removes with the help of a chisel and a simple drill. The highlight of his brilliant achievements is a stomach cancer operation that Dr. Böhler performs in front of a hundred Russian students. Dr. Böhler and his colleagues gained so much respect from the Russian authorities that they were able to influence camp life beyond the scope of their authority. As one of the last Stalingrad prisoners of war, Dr. Böhler is repatriated to West Germany in 1953.

"Frau Sorge", the best novel by Hermann Sudermann (1887). In "Heimat" Suderman defined his aims as a writer in a short and concise sentence: "The purpose of the art is to elevate the moral sense of the people." By experience, the author had learned what was right and had so freed himself that like his creation Paul Mayhöfer he could stand up with an erect head before the tribunals of the world and tell the truth regardless of consequences. Sudermann is one of the few who has looked a little deeper into "Seele" of a human being and who has been courageous enough to reveal his feeling, his contemplation. In order to earn Sudermann's respect, a man must, above all things, possess an imperturbable individuality, an ego of his own making. His writings are a real mine for a honest reader. The story is written with much pathos and beauty.
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"Zone Null" (1972) by Herbert W. Franke, one of the most important science fiction author in the German language. After a devastating nuclear war, the Earth is only partially inhabited. Two cultures collide in this novel, which had been completely isolated for centuries and knew nothing about each other. The people have secured the space in which the radiation exposure makes life possible. Zone Zero is a part of the earth about which it is only known that the exposure to radiation there was far above the maximum tolerable. An exploration team discovers a highly technical civilization that has taken completely different paths since the catastrophe. The inhabitants live - free of all material worries - for their play, for their research, for art. They live in a technical paradise. The protagonist Daniel, a cyberneticist, is the first to dare to make contact. He quickly finds out that the society is determined by the interconnectedness of man and machine. The story is told in two levels: On the one hand, Dan's experiences as he enters Zone Zero, and on the other hand, later on, interrogations that attempt to understand what exactlz happened to Dan and the expedition. The novel is a metaphysical questioning of the true aims of society.


Victor Hugo had spoken enthusiastically of the deep German soul hovering over the other nations. Renan and Taine had talked about the spiritual superiority of the Germans, still later Leroy-Beaulieu had called Germany "one of the first factors of civilization and a workshop of learning." Maeterlink had called Germany "the moral conscience of the world." Bulwer had called the Germans "the nation of poets and thinkers".

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Der deutsche Genius

German speakers and German learners have a unique chance to read "Der deutsche Genius" here online.

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Psychologie des deutschen Menschen und seiner Kultur: Ein volkscharakterologischer Versuch

(The German, his psychology and culture: an inquiry into folk character)

by Richard Müller-Freienfels

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Rembrandt als Erzieher

by August Julius Langbehn