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The Origins of Modern Germany by Geoffrey Barraclough is an excellent introduction to the country's complex history. The powerful landmark history of Hitler's reign is William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.For more cultural detail and insights into the German character dip into Gordon A Craig's The Germans. Berlin and the Wall by Ann Tusa is a saga about the events, trials and triumphs of the Cold War, the building of the Wall and its effects on the people of Berlin.If you've never read Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, make your visit to Germany the excuse to read it! Alienated theatrical types should dip into Brecht (try The Threepenny Opera), while listening to Kurt Weill. Christopher Isherwood wrote a couple of tasty books about Berlin, one of which made Liza Minnelli famous for a couple of decades.For a treatment of the effects of Germany's recent history on the post-war German psyche, pick up The Tin Drum by Günter Grass. Other German authors worth checking out are Thomas Mann, Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Böll and the playful post-modernist Walter Abish. The most popular author currently writing in German is probably Patrick Süskind. His 1985 novel Perfume is the extraordinary tale of a psychotic 18th-century perfume maker.Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad is recommended for his comical observations of German life.

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