Summer reading tips 2021

We asked some of the people we have been lucky enough to work with so far in 2021 to share their summer reading choices. Enjoy!

Cecile Barendsma – Cecile B Literary Agency

New Books in German Summer Tip

Bad Regina (Regina Spa) by David Schalko

Schalko’s tongue-in-cheek and yet insightful novel about a resort town in decline – as metaphor for an entire country and the fall of empires – is my favorite kind of summer read: fun, smart, suspenseful with unique though relatable characters. The perfect travel companion. 

[Editor’s note – you can listen to translator Kat Hall read her sample translation of this novel here]

Summer Reading Tip – General

The Eternal Audience Of One by  RĂ©my Ngamije

I am compelled to mention this talented new writer because he is based in Germany’s former colony Namibia where he recently launched a literary magazine and a literary prize.  The first short story I read of RĂ©my’s reminded me of Tom Wolfe’s rhythmic prose; and a recent story published in Granta about a fiercely independent matriarch is unforgettable. His debut novel stands comparison to Tommy Orange’s There There and Zadie Smith’s Swing Time. It is a vibrant portrayal of a family uprooted and a young man’s search to belong.

Vikki Brown – former New Books in German Intern

New Books in German Summer Tip

Ein Spalt Luft (A Crack of Air) by Mischa Mangel

I find myself particularly drawn to ‘Ein Spalt Luft’ by Mischa Mangel. I like that it has been described as a challenging and intelligent read and I am also particularly drawn to the fragmented narrative style in which this debut novel has been written. I look forward to reading it. 

Summer Reading Tip – General

Amerika by Joachim Meyerhoff

My favourite German language novels are the Alle Tote Fleigen Hoch Book Series by Joachim Meyerhoff. I really struggled to put down the first novel in the series (Amerika) and would highly recommend it, along with the rest of the series. I found ‘Amerika’ to be an entertaining and compelling coming-of-age novel, which covers a huge range of events in young Meyerhoff’s life, including deeply sad ones but also comical, laugh out loud moments. The fifth installment of the series ‘Hamster im hinteren Stromgebiet’ was released in September 2020. 

Juliane Camfield, Director, Deutsches Haus at NYU

New Books in German Summer Tip

Fast Hell (Almost Light) by Alexander Osang

Summer Reading Tip – General

Vom Aufstehen (Getting Up) by Helga Schubert

How can we make sense of our own lives, the lives of others, and the way these are always and inexorably intertwined with one another and with history? Alexander Osang’s page-turner Fast hell [Almost Light] and Helga Schubert’s contemplative story collection Vom Aufstehen [Getting Up], both published in spring 2021, brilliantly show how this is possible. These two recent autobiographical literary works consist of immensely intriguing personal stories and observations and are thought-provoking assessments of the authors’ complex and sometimes painful pasts, pasts very much determined by the German Democratic Republic, a country that no longer exists but that, not surprisingly, has left rather palpable traces. I highly recommend both books–engaging with these distinctive voices is a memorable and enriching experience.

[Editor’s note – Vom Aufstehen will be recommended by New Books in German in September 2021.] 

Maxine Hart – New Books in German Intern 2021

New Books in German Summer Tip

SolsbĂĽll by Jochen Missfeldt

I’m only part way through but am loving this multi-generational story. Set in a small town in Schleswig-Holstein, Missfeldt explores the major events of the twentieth century through the eyes of Gustav Hasse, his father and grandfather. There’s a lovely balance between character’s own experiences and Gustav piecing family history together, for example through reading his grandfather’s service papers, which makes this a very compelling, familial read.

Summer Reading Tip – General

Zwischen den Welten by Annie Bertram

In a year of limited travel I’m looking forward to reading Annie Bertram’s photo-book and exploring some of these lost and beautiful places across Europe – from palaces to hospitals, churches to industrial sites. While the places may be run down and decaying, the photographs have captured incredible details and vivid colours which gives an almost fairy-tale quality to them.

Markus Hoffmann – Regal Hoffmann & Associates

New Books in German Summer Tip

1000 Serpentinen Angst (1000 Coils of Fear) by Olivia Wenzel

I absolutely loved this novel when I first read it in German last year. It’s smart and witty and tackles big themes with a freshness and an irresistible linguistic energy that were a real blast of fresh air. Now the novel has been translated into English (for publication by Catapult in Spring/Summer 2022), and since I was the agent who handled the sale, I’ll be able to get a sneak peek at an ARC later this Summer and look forward to falling in love all over again with the novel, this time in English.

Summer Reading Tip – General

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

Katie Kitamura is a wonderfully sharp and sly chronicler of modern relationships and the push and pull of our contradictory needs for freedom and security, and her prose is impeccably cool and stylish. I loved her previous book, A Separation, and can’t wait for this new novel of hers.

Ruth Martin – Translator

New Books in German Summer Tip

Die Erfindung des Ungehorsams (The Invention of Disobedience) by Martina Clavadetscher

It’s a unique Russian doll of a book, ostensibly the interwoven stories of three women – Iris, trapped in a Manhattan apartment, her “half-sister” Ling who works in a Chinese sex-doll factory, and Ada Lovelace, the Victorian computing pioneer. But it’s also a meditation on storytelling, female emancipation, and the blurred lines between human and artificial intelligence. With elements of gothic fiction and a slightly dystopian feel, it’s full of striking images and written as a kind of prose poem – I’ve never read anything quite like it. 

[Editor’s note – Die Erfindung des Ungehorsams will be recommended by New Books in German in September 2021.] 

Summer Reading Tip – General

Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov, tr. Boris Dralyuk

It’s the story of a beekeeper living in Ukraine’s Grey Zone, a kind of no-man’s-land in the middle of a smouldering war between loyalist and separatist forces. He decides to drive his bees across the country to find a safe haven for the summer, and along the way he meets all kinds of people on both sides of the battle lines. It’s a fascinating portrait of Ukraine, painted with Kurkov’s characteristic dry humour, and brilliantly translated by Boris Dralyuk.

John Owen – Bookseller and translator

New Books in German Summer Tip

Aufprall by Heinz Bude, Bettina Munk and Karin Wieland

Set in the West Berlin squatter scene of the 1980s, this novel is the product of a team of three writers each of whom were largely responsible for one voice. It is a highly innovative narrative style, which appears to translate its characters’ approach to physical property to a creative sphere, but which also allows for a stunningly realistic account of its young, radical characters and the scene they inhabit. I was utterly gripped by it and was therefore thrilled to be asked to prepare a sample translation.

Summer Reading Tip – General

The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes

Vom Aufstehen by Helga Schubert

For booksellers, holidays are the best time to catch up on books we have missed. One embarrassing omission for me last year was Caoilinn Hughes’s short novel of the Celtic Tiger which went on to win my one of my favourite literary prizes – the Encore Award for second novels. With their seal of approval and rave reviews everywhere, I am sure it is going to be great. And after hearing it being praised by some of the recent NBG jury members and by many of my German colleagues, I will also be taking Helga Schubert’s first book in nearly twenty years, a reflective look back at her life and German history over the last hundred years. I cannot wait to get stuck into both between all the COVID tests required for holidaying in 2021!

[Editor’s note – Vom Aufstehen will be recommended by New Books in German in September 2021.] 

Barbara Perlmutter, ret. Scout and Agent for S. Fischer Verlag

New Books in German Summer Tip

Fast Hell (Almost Light) by Alexander Osang

Fast Hell is high up on my reading list.  I’ve followed this writer as a journalist and reporter for Der Spiegel and always felt he cares deeply about his subjects and the people he writes about. The genesis of this book intrigued me immediately: a story, meant as reportage, morphed into fiction.  I want to read about Uwe, the book’s main character who, as an East German, needed to get away from his past and reinvent himself in NYC.

Sarah Rimmington – Translator and NBG Copyeditor and Proof-Reader

New Books in German Summer Tip

Das alles, hier, jetzt by Anna Stern

I loved das alles, hier, jetzt by Anna Stern. It’s that rare combination: an accessible page-turner that’s also innovative and poetic. It deals with the experience of grief – which is something we all go through – in such a gripping and uplifting way. I almost felt as if I was one of the characters myself by the time I finished it. An enriching and surprisingly enjoyable approach to a subject that we in the West don’t often find it easy to look at.

Summer Reading Tip – General

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Die Grosse Heimkehr (The Great Homecoming) by Anna Kim

I’ve been saving Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and I’m really looking forward to immersing myself in the saga. The first line – “History has failed us, but no matter” – promises a prescient and fascinating tale. In translated fiction, I have a similar geographical focus and I’m very much looking forward to Die Grosse Heimkehr (The Great Homecoming), another sweeping epic, translated by Jamie Lee Searle.

Annie Rutherford – Writer, Translator, StAnza Programme Co-ordinator and NBG Writer

New Books in German Summer Tip

Wie der Wahnsinn mir die Welt erklärte by Dita Zipfel

A lovely friend recently sent me a copy of Dita Zipfel’s YA debut Wie der Wahnsinn mir die Welt erklärte – what a delight! I love the way that Rán Flygenring’s drawings are interwoven with the narrative, rather than simply illustrating what’s told, and Zipfel really captures the absurd rollercoaster of being an adolescent.

Summer Reading Tip – General

Trafalgar by AngĂ©lica Gorodischer, tr. Amalia Gladhart

I read Trafalgar by Argentinian author AngĂ©lica Gorodischer (tr. Amalia Gladhart) with my Women in Translation book club, and I was hooked! Trafalgar combines all the spaceships and seductions of pulp sci-fi with the thought experiments of the best kind of speculative fiction, and the result makes for a genuinely fun and thought-provoking read.

Anne Vial – Anne Vial Literary Scouting

New Books in German Summer Tip

Dunkelblum by Eva Menasse

A masterpiece, my favourite this autumn – though it took me days to digest and gather courage. A disconcerting and stylistically-brilliant novel. Based on the true horrors of the Rechnitz (aka Dunkelblum) Massacre (March, 1945), it´s a fictional chronicle of the lives of villagers past & present. The effects of decades of  forceful silence, trauma and hidden secrets passed on through generations. An epic choral novel, part Bertold Brecht, part (dark, literary) soap-opera. Menasse mercilessly exposes the darkest corners of human nature & community: our fears, cowardice, maliciousness, brutality. Nobody gets away unscathed… But there is also hope.

Summer Reading Tip – General

Allein (Alone) by Daniel Schreiber

His essays are little philosophical gems: witty, compassionate, profound & thought-provoking. Besides being a smooth, pleasurable read – the perfect essay – they´ve really stayed with me. A genuine and deeply personal reflection (usually on “the stuff that really matters”: belonging, friendship, freedom vs. addiction), written in clean, elegant prose – reminds me of Andrew Solomon or Alain de Botton. I admire how he reveals vulnerability – his own and all ours -with such lightness and fearlessness…

[Editor’s note – Dunkelblum will be recommended by New Books in German in September 2021.] 

Alex Wachek – Austrian Cultural Forum London

New Books in German Summer Tip

Dave by Raphaela Edelbauer

Edelbauer’s dystopic third novel is dealing with the possible social, philosophical and moral implications of the future of artificial intelligence. The author explores what it takes to endow a machine with human consciousness. An engaging read, challenging and smartly composed.

Summer Reading Tip – General

The Lost Cafe Schindler by Meriel Schindler

Meriel Schindler tells a story through the prism of the famous Innsbruck Café Schindler, weaving together memoir, family history and the untold story of Austria-Hungary’s Jewish population. It explores the restorative power of writing, and offers readers a profound reflection on memory, truth, trauma and the importance of cake.

Browse further recommendations here

[book reviews will appear here…]

About New Books in German

Find out more about our work to promote German language literature for translation into English

Find Funding

Discover more about the guaranteed support for translation into English


Delve into articles and interviews about books, publishers, translators, authors and the German language literary field.