By far one of the coolest cities on the planet, Berlin has it all: from beats to river beaches, sex clubs to fine dining, pop-up galleries, vestiges of the wall, swimming pools floating in the Strand, and the best döner around. For a city that stands out in Germany for eccentricities and alternative way of life, Berlin is not to be missed.

Berlin Alexanderplatz: The Story of Franz Biberkopf
by Alfred Döblin

pianoIn one of the great classics of European literature, Berlin Alexanderplatz is a kindred spirit of James Joyce’s Ulysses, equally experimental in narration and style. Alfred Döblin penned his masterpiece during the interim years of the Weimar Republic, and tells the story of a recently-released prisoner who must contend with life on the outside, as the threat of Nazism begins to take root in Germany.

Goodbye to Berlin
by Christopher Isherwood

pianoThe inspiration for the musical and then award-winning film, Cabaret, Goodbye to Berlin captures the simultaneous decadence and deprivation that leads to the rise of Nazi Germany. Published in 1939, Isherwood’s novel charts the social unease and shifting political attitudes as they play out on some of his most memorable characters.

The Innocent: A Novel
by Ian McEwan

pianoFlash forward from Nazi Germany and we find ourselves in the midst of Cold War Berlin. In this suspenseful thriller, Ian McEwan depicts the British-American plot to dig a tunnel under the Soviet sector of the city in order to tap into its lines of communication. Set against this backdrop, the protagonist finds himself catapulted into a world much darker and more sinister than he ever could have imagined.

Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F.
by Christiane F.

pianoIn divided Berlin, Christiane F. is a young teenager whose general disaffection, ennui, and desire for something exciting spiral her into heroin and prostitution. It is a true story about the kids who worked Berlin’s Zoo train station, peddling sex acts for drugs. Although the journalists who helped her write the book hoped it would be a cautionary tale, upon its publication, Christiane F. became a cult hero.

In the Garden of Beasts
by Erik Larson

pianoFrom the acclaimed author of Devil in the White City, In the Garden of Beasts charts the rise of Nazi Germany through the perspective of the Dodds, the family of the American Ambassador to Germany. While at first, they are drawn into the fervor and excitement of their new lives abroad, as the realities of the Third Reich come to light, the horror of the scene in which they are now living becomes undeniable. This book is a true page-turner.

Berlin Blues
by Sven Regener

pianoSet in 1989 as the Berlin Wall is about to come down, the novel zooms in on one particular character, “Herr Lehmann,” a 30-something who tends bar near his home in Kreuzberg, and finds himself generally pretty content, if somewhat uninspired. The novel accrues scenarios, ranging in magnitude, that threaten to unravel the keen complacency that the character has created for himself. Sven Regener gives us a solid read in Berlin Blues.

Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
by Anna Funder

pianoUsing classified ads to reach out to both former Stasi (East German secret police) and underground anti-Stasi organizations, Anna Funder compiled the stories of real people’s lives behind the Berlin Wall. In this award-winning work, the horror and the resistance of life in East Germany during the Cold War is given a human face. This is a must-read for anyone traveling to Berlin.