Required High School Reading – Book List from a German Grammar School

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 brackets if the title differs from the German version).

Year 5
  • Max von der Grün: Vorstadtkrokodile (lit.: Suburban Crocodiles)
  • Wilhelm Matthießen: Das Rote U (lit.: The red U)
Year 5 books: Die Vorstadtkrokodile and Das Rote U

Year 5 books: Die Vorstadtkrokodile and Das Rote U

Year 6
  • 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

Year 6 books: Till Eulenspiegel, Als Hitler Das Rosa Kaninchen Stahl, Robin Hood and The Speckled Band

Year 6 books: Till Eulenspiegel, Als Hitler Das Rosa Kaninchen Stahl, Robin Hood and The Speckled Band

Year 7
  • 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.

Year 7 books: Der kleine Prinz, The Canterbury Tales, Pedro und die Bettler von Cartagena

Year 7 books: Der kleine Prinz, The Canterbury Tales, Pedro und die Bettler von Cartagena

Year 8
  • 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)
Year 8 Books: Don Carlos, Das Fräulein von Scuderi, Kleider machen Leute, Betrayed, Tagebuch der Anne Frank, La guerre des boutons

Year 8 Books: Don Carlos, Das Fräulein von Scuderi, Kleider machen Leute, Betrayed, Tagebuch der Anne Frank, La guerre des boutons

Year 9
  • 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
Year 9 books: Of Mice And Men, The Twelfth Day of July, Jean de Florette, The Wave, Grete Minde, Wilhelm Tell, Das Schiff Esperanza, Die Judenbuche

Year 9 books: Of Mice And Men, The Twelfth Day of July, Jean de Florette, The Wave, Grete Minde, Wilhelm Tell, Das Schiff Esperanza, Die Judenbuche

Year 10
  • 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)
Year 10 books: Der Richter und sein Henker, Homo faber, Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder, Effi Briest, The war between the classes, Animal Farm, Bombs on Aunt Dainty, Harry Potter à l'école des sorciers

Year 10 books: Der Richter und sein Henker, Homo faber, Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder, Effi Briest, The war between the classes, Animal Farm, Bombs on Aunt Dainty, Harry Potter à l’école des sorciers

Year 11
  • 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 11 books: Das Leben des Galilei, Das Parfum, Jakob der Lügner, Blueprint-Blaupause, Dead Poets Society, About a Boy, A Streetcar named Desire, Nathan der Weise

Year 11 books: Das Leben des Galilei, Das Parfum, Jakob der Lügner, Blueprint-Blaupause, Dead Poets Society, About a Boy, A Streetcar named Desire, Nathan der Weise

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 12 Books: Walkabout, Shakespeare's Sonnets, A Clockwork Orange, Fahrenheit 451, Kes, Die Physiker, Kabale und Liebe, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, Cal, The Handmaid's Tale, Faust I, Irrungen und Wirrungen, Macbeth, Gulliver's Travels, Woyzeck, Leonce & Lena

Year 12 Books: Walkabout, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, A Clockwork Orange, Fahrenheit 451, Kes, Die Physiker, Kabale und Liebe, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, Cal, The Handmaid’s Tale, Faust I, Irrungen und Wirrungen, Macbeth, Gulliver’s Travels, Woyzeck, Leonce & Lena

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
Year 13 Books: Der Vorleser, Die Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull, Slaughterhouse-Five, Lord of the Flies, Die Verwandlung

Year 13 Books: Der Vorleser, Die Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull, Slaughterhouse-Five, Lord of the Flies, Die Verwandlung


 

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.

 

Books read at Waitakere College in New Zealand: The Crucible, They called me Te Maari, On the Road, Whale Rider

Books read at Waitakere College in New Zealand: The Crucible, They called me Te Maari, On the Road, Whale Rider

So tell me, which of these books were you required to read? Which books did you read that are not on my list?

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Required High School Reading – Book List from a German Grammar School

  1. vendija723 says:

    Very interesting! It has been a LONG time since I was in high school (1980s), so my list is nowhere near as complete–and, being American, it’s entirely in English. Here’s what I remember having to read:
    Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Othello, and Hamlet–Shakespeare
    The Crucible and Death of a Salesman–Arthur Miller
    Walden–Thoreau
    Ethan Frome–Edith Wharton
    Lord of the Flies–Golding
    The Chosen–Chaim Potok
    The Color Purple–Alice Walker
    Cry, The Beloved Country–Alan Paton
    The Scarlet Letter–Nathanial Hawthorne
    To Kill a Mockingbird–Harper Lee
    Animal Farm–George Orwell
    Great Expectations–Charles Dickens
    The Stranger–Camus
    Waiting for Godot–Samuel Beckett
    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings–Maya Angelou
    Tess of the D’urbervilles–Thomas Hardy
    bits of Canterbury Tales and Beowulf

    I also remember that in middle school (ages 11-13) we read A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, and I think Anne Frank’s diary.

    Like

    • Conny Kaufmann says:

      This is so interesting! Many of your books I read just because I was interested in them, but it shows that even decades (I was in high school from 1997-2006), and countries/continents apart, there really are some works that seem to be internationally important. I’m glad to see Anne Frank’s Diary taught outside of Europe, and I was right about Shakespeare & Orwell, as well as Anne Frank, Miller, Chaucer and Golding!

      Like

  2. Conny Kaufmann says:

    This is so interesting! Many of your books I read just because I was interested in them, but it shows that even decades (I was in high school from 1997-2006), and countries/continents apart, there really are some works that seem to be internationally important. I’m glad to see Anne Frank’s Diary taught outside of Europe, and I was right about Shakespeare & Orwell, as well as Anne Frank, Miller, Chaucer and Golding!

    Like

  3. multimodalme says:

    I completed high school in Australia in 1980 – here’s what I remember:
    The Wife of Bath (Canterbury Tales)
    Tess of the D’urbervilles
    Merchant of Venice
    Richard II
    Henry IV (pt 1)
    The Glass Menagerie
    Brave New World
    Go Ask Alice
    Lord of the Flies
    The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith
    Bob Dylan – lyrics as poetry
    Orange Wendy
    Sons and Lovers
    Under Milkwood
    Diary of Anne Frank

    Like

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