Greatest Literature banner

The 111 Greatest Works of German Literature

This selection of literature from Germany is based on the continuing research carried out for The Greatest Literature of All Time list and is additionally informed by the views of local readers, writers, critics and scholars.

It encompasses the greatest works of German authors in all forms, genres, cultures and periods.

Note, "German" literature here refers to works of authors associated with present-day Germany and its predecessor states, republics and confederations, not necessarily to all works in the German language.

This list focuses on major creative—mainly fictional—works, although some shorter or nonfiction writing of literary significance may also be considered.

Latest update: April 3, 2024

c.1145
King Rother
by Anonymous, Germany, long poem
c.1200
The Nibelungenlied
by Anonymous, Germany, long poem
c.1200–1210
Parzival
by Wolfram von Eschenbach, Germany, long poem
1210
Tristan und Isolde
by Gottfied von Strassburg, Germany, long poem
1494
Ship of Fools
by Sebastian Brant, Germany
Poetry collection
1668
Simplicius Simplicissimus
by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, Germany
Novel
1767
Minna von Barnhelm or the Soldiers' Happiness
by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Germany
Play
1774
missing graphic
The Sorrows of Young Werther
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany
Novel
1779
Nathan the Wise
by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Germany
Play
1781
The Robbers
by Friedrich Schiller, Germany
Play
1782
The Eriking
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany
Poem
1785–1790
Anton Reiser
by Karl Philipp Moritz, Germany
Novel
1787
Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien
by Friedrich Schiller, Germany
Play
1787–1789
The Ghost-Seer
by Friedrich Schiller, Germany
Novel
1795–1796
William Meister's Apprenticeship
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany
Novel
1796–1797
Siebenkäs
by Jean Paul, Germany
Novel
1797–1799
Hyperion
by Friedrich Hölderlin, Germany
Novel
1797–1806
Hymns and Fragments
by Friedrich Hölderlin, Germany
Poetry collection
1800
Henry of Ofterdingen
by Novalis, Germany
Novel
 
Mary Stuart
by Friedrich Schiller, Germany
Play
1804
William Tell
by Friedrich Schiller, Germany
Play
1808
The Broken Jug
by Heinrich von Kleist, Germany
Play
1808–1832
Faust
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany
Play
1809
Elective Affinities
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany
Novel
1811
Treasure Chest of Rhenish Tales
by Johann Peter Hebel, Germany
Story collection
 
Michael Kohlhaas
by Heinrich von Kleist, Germany
Novella
1812
Poems
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany
Poetry collection
1812–1857
missing graphic
Grimm's Fairy Tales
Story collection also known as Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales; Children's and Household Tales
Includes "Cinderella", "Little Red Cap", "Hansel and Gretel", "Rapunzel", "Snow White", "Rumpelstiltskin", "Tom Thumb", and others
1817
The Story of the Just Casper and Fair Annie
by Clemens Brentano, Germany
Novella
1819
Mademoiselle de Scuderi
by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Germany
Novella
1819–1821
The Life and Opinions of Tomcat Murr
by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Germany
Novel
1821
The Prince of Homburg
by Heinrich von Kleist, Germany
Play
1826
Memoirs of a Good-for-Nothing
by Joseph von Eichendorff, Germany
Novella
1827
Book of Songs
by Heinrich Heine, Germany
Poetry collection
1835
The Hermit
by Joseph von Eichendorff, Germany
Poem
1842
missing graphic
The Jews' Beech Tree
by Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Germany
Novella
1844
Germany, A Winter's Tale
by Heinrich Heine, Germany, long poem
1851
by Theodor Storm, Germany
Novella
1870
Venus in Furs
by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Germany
Novella
1879
Woyzeck
by Georg Büchner, Germany
Play
1883–1885
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
by Friedrich Nietzsche, Germany
Novel
1887
Flagman Thiel
by Gerhart Hauptmann, Germany
Novella
1895
Effi Briest
by Theodor Fontane, Germany
Novel
1898
The Stechlin
by Theodor Fontane, Germany
Novel
1901
missing graphic
Buddenbrooks
by Thomas Mann, Germany
Novel
1905
Professor Unrat
by Heinrich Mann, Germany
Novel
1906
Spring Awakening
by Frank Wedekind, Germany
Play
1912
missing graphic
Death in Venice
by Thomas Mann, Germany
Novella
1918
The Loyal Subject
by Heinrich Mann, Germany
Novel
1920
The Storm of Steel
by Ernst Jünger, Germany
Memoir
1924
Purgatory in Ingolstadt
by Marieluise Fleißer, Germany
Play
 
The Magic Mountain
by Thomas Mann, Germany
Novel
1925
Jud Süß
by Lion Feuchtwanger, Germany
Novel
1926
Metropolis
by Thea von Harbou, Germany
Novel
1926–1943
Joseph and His Brothers
by Thomas Mann, Germany
Novel
1927
The Case of Sergeant Grischa
by Arnold Zweig, Germany
Novel
1928
The Three-Penny Opera
by Bertolt Brecht, Germany
Play
 
Pioneers in Ingolstadt
by Marieluise Fleißer, Germany
Play
1929
Berlin Alexanderplatz
by Alfred Döblin, Germany
Novel
 
missing graphic
All Quiet on the Western Front
Novel
1930
Success: Three Years in the Life of a Province
by Lion Feuchtwanger, Germany
Novel
1932–1942
Josephus trilogy
by Lion Feuchtwanger, Germany
Novel series
1933
The Artificial Silk Girl
by Irmgard Keun, Germany
Novel
1939
Mother Courage and her Children
by Bertolt Brecht, Germany
Play
1941
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, The
by Bertolt Brecht, Germany
Play
1942
The Seventh Cross
by Anna Seghers, Germany
Novel
1943
The Good Person of Szechwan
by Bertolt Brecht, Germany
Play
 
The Life of Galileo
by Bertolt Brecht, Germany
Play
1944
Transit
by Anna Seghers, Germany
Novel
1945
The Caucasian Chalk Circle
by Bertolt Brecht, Germany
Play
1947
The Diary of a Young Girl
by Anne Frank, Germany
Memoir
 
Doctor Faustus
by Thomas Mann, Germany
Novel
1948
Mr Puntila and His Man Matti
by Bertolt Brecht, Germany
Play
1951
And Where Were You, Adam
by Heinrich Böll, Germany
Novel
1952
The Black Swan
by Thomas Mann, Germany
Novella
1953
The Hothouse
by Wolfgang Koeppen, Germany
Novel
1954
Death in Rome
by Wolfgang Koeppen, Germany
Novel
1955
Raquel: The Jewess of Toledo
by Lion Feuchtwanger, Germany
Novel
1956
A Legacy
by Sybille Bedford, Germany
Novel
1957
The Glass Bees
by Ernst Jünger, Germany
Novel
1959
Billiards at Half Past Nine
by Heinrich Böll, Germany
Novel
 
The Tin Drum
by Günter Grass, Germany
Novel
1960
Halftime
by Martin Walser, Germany
Novel
1961
Cat and Mouse
by Günter Grass, Germany
Novella
1963
The Clown
by Heinrich Böll, Germany
Novel
 
Dog Years
by Günter Grass, Germany
Novel
1968
The German Lesson
by Siegfried Lenz, Germany
Novel
 
The Quest for Christa T.
by Christa Wolf, Germany
Novel
1969
Jacob the Liar
by Jurek Becker, Germany
Novel
1970–1983
Anniversaries
by Uwe Johnson, Germany
Novel
1971
Group Portrait with a Lady
by Heinrich Böll, Germany
Novel
1972
The New Sufferings of Young W.
by Ulrich Plenzdorf, Germany
Novel
1974
The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum
by Heinrich Böll, Germany
Novella
1976
Patterns of Childhood
by Christa Wolf, Germany
Novel
1976
The Neverending Story
by Michael Ende, Germany
Novel
1981
Couples, Passersby
by Botho Strauß, Germany
Story collection
1984
The Young Man
by Botho Strauß, Germany
Novel
1985
The Parable of the Blind
by Gert Hofmann, Germany
Novel
 
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
by Patrick Suskind, Germany
Novel
1987
The Pigeon
by Patrick Süskind, Germany
Novella
1990
Vertigo
by W.G. Sebald, Germany
Novel
1993
The Emigrants
by W.G. Sebald, Germany
Novel
 
The Invention of Curried Sausage
by Uwe Timm, Germany
Novella
1995
The Reader
by Bernhard Schlink, Germany
Novel
 
The Rings of Saturn
by W.G. Sebald, Germany
Novel
1997
Alberta Receives a Lover
by Birgit Vanderbeke, Germany
Novel
2001
Austerlitz
by W.G. Sebald, Germany
Novel
2004
The Swarm
by Frank Schätzing, Germany
Novel
2005
Measuring the World
by Daniel Kehlmann, Germany
Novel
2007
The Blind Side of the Heart
by Julia Franck, Germany
Novel
2008
Visitation
by Jenny Erpenbeck, Germany
Novel

Back to top of page