Lately I have been wondering about required reading in high school. Mainly because I re-organised my book shelves and grouped all the books I had to read in school together and realised that my list is pretty long.
There seem to be a few books and/or authors that are universal (Shakespeare, Orwell etc.), but many are down to a country’s preference.
In your native language, you’ll usually read and analyse books that originated in your country or were written in your language first (i.e. not a translated work). In foreign languages, you tend to start off easy and then get more complex reading lists as your language skills improve.
This makes me quite glad that I received my secondary education in Germany, as I feel I got a quite comprehensive reading list out of the deal. My Grammar School was bilingual and we were treated like native English speakers as well as native German speakers, so my reading list might be a bit out of the ordinary. Grammar School in Germany used to go from Year 5 to Year 13. It has since my graduation in 2006 been reduced to Years 5-12.
Which books were you required to read in school? Which ones did you keep? Which ones stayed with you?
Here’s my list!
In German (bear in mind, I’m a native speaker), English (treated like native speakers due to bilingualism), Literature/Drama and French classes, my German Grammar School Gymnasium Schwertstraße Solingen, set these required texts for us (English titles or literal translations of titles are in bracketsif the title differs from the German version).
- Max von der Grün: Vorstadtkrokodile (lit.: Suburban Crocodiles)
- Wilhelm Matthießen: Das Rote U (lit.: The red U)
- Judith Kerr: Als Hitler das rosa Kaninchen stahl (engl.: When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit)
- Erich Kästner: Till Eulenspiegel
- Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes – The Adventure of the Speckled Band
- Enid Blyton: The Tales of Robin Hood
Note: Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood had been heavily edited and turned into scripts for a play
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Der kleine Prinz (engl.: The Little Prince)
- Ursula Hasler: Pedro und die Bettler von Cartagena (lit.: Pedro and the beggars of Cartagena)
- Geoffrey Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales
Note: We only read 3 of the Canterbury Tales, mainly due to a week-long classtrip to Canterbury.
- Anne Frank: Tagebuch (engl.: Anne Frank’s Diary)
- E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (engl./fr.: Mademoiselle de Scudéri)
- Gottfried Keller: Kleider machen Leute (engl: Clothes make the Man)
- Friedrich Schiller: Don Carlos
- Carl Taylor: Betrayed
- Louis Pergaud: La guerre des boutons (engl.: War of the Buttons)
- Annette von Droste-Hülshoff: Die Judenbuche (engl: The Jew’s Beech)
- Friedrich Schiller: Wilhelm Tell (engl.: William Tell)
- Fred von Hoerschelmann: Das Schiff Esperanza
- Theodor Fontane: Grete Minde
- Joan Lingard: The Twelfth Day of July
- Morton Rhue: The Wave
- John Steinbeck: Of Mice and Men
- Marcel Pagnol: Jean de Florette
- Max Frisch: Homo faber
- Bertolt Brecht: Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (engl.: Mother Courage and Her Children)
- Friedrich Dürrenmatt: Der Richter und sein Henker (engl.: The Judge and his Hangman)
- Theodor Fontane: Effi Briest
- Judith Kerr: Bombs on Aunt Dainty
- George Orwell: Animal Farm
- Gloria D. Miklowitz: The war between the classes
- J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter à l’école des sorciers (engl.: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)
- Charlotte Kerner: Blueprint : Blaupause
- Jurek Becker: Jakob der Lügner (engl.: Jacob the Liar)
- Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Nathan der Weise (engl.: Nathan the Wise)
- Patrick Süskind: Das Parfum (engl.: Perfume)
- Bertolt Brecht: Das Leben des Galilei (engl.: The Life of Galileo)
- Nick Hornby: About a boy
- N.H. Kleinbaum: Dead Poets Society
- Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar named Desire
Year 12 Leistungskurs / Advanced Level German and English
- Friedrich Dürrenmatt: Die Physiker (engl.: The Physicists)
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust – Der Tragödie erster Teil (engl.: Faust – The first part of the tragedy)
- Georg Büchner: Woyzeck
- Georg Büchner: Leonce & Lena
- Theodor Fontane: Irrungen und Wirrungen (engl.: Trials and Tribulations)
- Friedrich Schiller: Kabale und Liebe (engl.: Intrigue and Love)
- William Shakespeare: Macbeth
- William Shakespeare: Sonnets
- James Vance Marshall: Walkabout
- Bernard MacLaverty: Cal
- Barry Hines: Kes
- George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four
- Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451
- Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange
- Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale
- Aldous Huxley: Brave New World
- Jonathan Swift: Gulliver’s Travels
Note: each student had to choose 2 out of Gulliver’s Travels, A Clockwork Orange, The Handmaid’s Tale and Brave New World.
Year 13 Leistungskurs / Advanced Level German and English
- Thomas Mann: Die Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull (engl.: Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man)
- Franz Kafka: Die Verwandlung (engl.: The Metamorphosis)
- Bernhard Schlink: Der Vorleser (engl.: The Reader)
- William Golding: Lord of the Flies
- Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse-Five
I spent my Year 11 as an exchange student at Waitakere College in New Zealand, where I attended 6th and 7th Form.
While there, I was also required to read:
- Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
- Witi Ihimaera’s Whale Rider
- Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
- Florence Harsant’s They called me Te Maari.
So tell me, which of these books were you required to read? Which books did you read that are not on my list?
One thought on “Required High School Reading – Book list from a German school”
This is a wonderful list! I’m an old lady, but I’m studying German and German history, and I’m grateful for the list. Also impressed. I’m not sure our best prep schools in the U.S. require anything so extensive as this.