12 Best German Textbooks for Any Level

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Using books to learn German is one of a few surefire ways to elevate your linguistic prowess across the board in one fell swoop. Reading in German alone can improve your vocabulary, grammar, cultural knowledge, and understanding of conversational rhythms and structures.

That’s why books are among my favorite German learning resources out there!

A young girl reading and studying a German text book sitting in front of a chalkboard with a German flag drawn in coloured chalk in the top left corner of the black board

Today, we’ll focus specifically on textbooks written with learners in mind.

Many of these are entirely in the original German, with no English translations to fall back on. Of course, that may be a bit too much for some of you, so I will include some more beginner-friendly alternatives that feature English explanations.

German textbooks for beginners

1. Complete German: A Teach Yourself Program

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Complete German: A Teach Yourself Program (Teach Yourself Language)
  • Heiner Schenke (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 416 Pages – 11/26/2010 (Publication Date) – Teach Yourself (Publisher)

This is my top pick for those who want an all-inclusive, holistic guide that takes them from zero to pro without shortcuts.

The Living Language series has long been a favorite among schools and language courses, and the new Teach Yourself Program combines all the existing volumes into a huge value pack.

Composed of an extensive workbook and audio CD, Complete German covers the whole gamut from beginner level to exercises suitable for advanced learners.

What I like about this book:

  • Probably the most comprehensive German language textbook on the market
  • Huge number and impressive quality of exercises and materials included
  • Great value for those who want to commit

2. German Made Easy: Level 1

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German Made Easy Level 1: An Easy Step-By-Step Approach To Learn German for Beginners (Textbook + Workbook Included)
  • Lingo Mastery (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 207 Pages – 10/07/2022 (Publication Date) – Lingo Mastery (Publisher)

This is a more traditionally structured and beginner-centric textbook for learning German, heavily focusing on conversational skills and easy-to-pick-up vocab and grammar.

If day-to-day usage is a really important aspect of language learning for you, then you might want to give German Made Easy a look.

Utilizing a straightforward structure that really guides you by the hand through many of the most crucial aspects of spoken German (including pronunciation, basic conjugations, and the most heavily-used words), this is a really good showcase of a textbook that does everything to cater to its target audience.

What I like about this book:

  • Exceptionally beginner-friendly
  • Contains everything a beginner needs to get started speaking and understanding basic German
  • Also works great as a reference book

3. The Everything Learning German Book

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The Everything Learning German Book: Speak, write, and understand basic German in no time (Everything® Series)
  • Swick, Edward (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages – 11/18/2009 (Publication Date) – Everything (Publisher)

As the title implies, this is a great German textbook for those who want to learn everything, from basic conversational skills to reading, writing, and some more advanced listening comprehension than might be covered in other German textbooks for beginners.

With a complimentary audio CD full of useful (and realistic) exercises, The Everything Learning German Book is handy, neatly laid out, and optimized for a smooth, gentle learning curve.

What I like about this book:

  •  A comprehensive study companion for beginners of all backgrounds
  •  Neat listening and speaking exercises by means of an audio CD
  •  Easy to get into, but challenging enough for the beginner in later chapters

4. Speak German in 90 Days

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Speak German in 90 Days: A Self Study Guide to Becoming Fluent
  • Marx, Kevin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 164 Pages – 10/10/2015 (Publication Date) – CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

Usually, I shy away from any language learning textbooks that claim to provide you with “complete fluency in only so-and-so many days!”, but this is a perfect example of an exception defining the rule.

Speak German in 90 Days is a practical self-study German learning textbook that is a genuinely quick read without ever sounding too superficial.

As the title implies, the book isn’t composed of longer chapters that gradually acquaint you with one important language-related topic after another, but rather into 90 short lessons that are each meant to be finished within a day.

This keeps you engaged and encourages you to go the whole three months – which, as the author does thankfully admit, might not fully get you towards fluency at the end depending on how you engage with those exercises, but at the very least will give you a hugely useful boost in your overall knowledge!

What I like about this book:

  •  Day-by-day learning keeps you engaged
  •  Genuinely useful curriculum that focuses on real-life speaking skills
  •  A quick boost to vocabulary, basic grammar, and pronunciation

German textbooks for intermediate learners

5. Willkommen! 2

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Willkommen! 2 German Intermediate course: Coursebook
  • Coggle, Paul (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 2 Pages – 09/26/2017 (Publication Date) – John Murray Language (Publisher)

The Willkommen! series is a staple among German courses in North America and beyond, and the second volume is a perfect intermediate-level German textbook for practicing grammar, vocabulary, natural speaking, and listening, as well as exercises on German culture and modern history.

The full set includes separate coursebooks and workbooks, an audio CD and DVD pack, and additional online exercises that can be purchased separately.

What I like about this book:

  •  Extensive intermediate-level curriculum
  •  Tons of exercises befitting a college-level German textbook
  •  Includes short reviews of beginner-grade material

6. Die Gelbe Aktuell

LEHR-UND ĂśBUNGSB.DT.GRAMM.aktuell
  • Lehr- und Ubungsbuch der deutschen Grammatik – aktuell: Lehrbuch – aktuell A2
  • Product type: ABIS BOOK
  • Brand: Max Hueber Verlag
  • Dreyer, Hilke (Author)
  • German (Publication Language)

Grammar is cited as one of the most challenging aspects of learning German. From confusing case structures to a flurry of tenses and lots of expressions that are poorly translatable to English directly, there are plenty of reasons why you may want to augment your learning experience with a dedicated grammar workbook.

At an intermediate level, the best choice for that is the Lehr- und Übungsbuch der Deutschen Grammatik, the “textbook and practice book of German grammar”, or die Gelbe Aktuell for short.

Like the Wilkommen! books and most other intermediate-level textbooks in this class, Die Gelbe is entirely written in German, in a semi-formal tone that is extremely common in Deutsch als Fremdsprache (“learning German as a foreign language”) literature.

As such, it’s a great pick for those chasing maximum immersion!

What I like about this book:

  • Neatly structured, with rich explanations and enough exercises to let the material sink in
  • A gold standard in German education worldwide
  • Lack of English explanations or translations forces you to immerse yourself completely

7. Intermediate German: A German Grammar for Speakers of American English

Intermediate German: A German Grammar for Speakers of American English
  • Stewart, Dr. Walter K. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 284 Pages – 06/16/2017 (Publication Date) – CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

The name says it all with this one! Don’t be fooled by the invitingly English text throughout – this is a remarkably challenging German textbook, one that could even be useful for some advanced learners well past its recommended experience level!

As a real grammar reference book, Intermediate German takes you into the little nooks and crannies of how, why, and when German works the way it does.

As such, it’s a really great and engaging read for those who are not passionate about linguistics and related topics.

In other words: while I couldn’t get enough of the author’s painstakingly detailed rundowns of the mechanics of tense, case, mood, and expression, others will groan at the density of content and will be much happier with one of the more practically oriented German textbooks from this guide!

What I like about this book:

  • Extremely detailed and rich in illustrations
  • Perfect as an intermediate or even advanced reference grammar for serious students
  • Nails down just about every need-to-know aspect of German grammar

8. Der, Die, Das: The Secrets of German Gender

Der, Die, Das: The Secrets of German Gender
  • Vayenas, Constantin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 148 Pages – 11/16/2017 (Publication Date) – Constantin Vayenas (Publisher)

I already mentioned how grammar is one thing that often trips people up when learning German for the first time, but within that scope, there’s one topic that really sticks out, and that’s gender.

Because gender in German is a bit more complex than in most languages (having three of them, not two or even none as is more common) and because it is also affected by the aforementioned case system, it tends to be a particularly tough nut to crack. I personally know a few expats that have spent most of their lives in Germany, yet still continue to mix up the gendered articles for some words!

To help prevent that from happening to you, consider adding this German grammar textbook to your list. It’s a really comprehensive and useful 101 guide to the world of grammatical gender in German and should leave you with a really solid foundation by the time you’re through with all its exercises.

What I like about this book:

  • The most thorough analysis of German grammar for intermediate and advanced students
  • Countless examples

German textbooks for advanced learners

9. Ultimate German Advanced

Ultimate German Advanced (Coursebook) (Ultimate Advanced)
  • Living Language (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages – 10/21/2003 (Publication Date) – Living Language (Publisher)

Bilingual German textbooks at the higher level are not too common, but this one is a standout. Ultimate German Advanced is not just excellent as a lookup reference, but also as a practical exercise workbook.

It comes with a few dozen exercise-based lessons, each centered primarily around proficiency in speaking, listening, and writing.

One nitpick: the course is a bit old-fashioned, originating from a curriculum initially written in the 80s, then updated around the turn of the millennium only to replace outdated terminology (removing references to East and West Germany and the old currency, the D-Mark).

Still, for those who can gel with the format, it’s one of the best and highest-quality German textbooks around!

What I like about this book:

  • Strikes a fair balance between reference-grade material and engaging exercises
  • Time-tested and hugely successful with English-speaking readers
  • Exercise-based lessons combine theoretical knowledge of grammar, culture, and more with practical techniques

10. German Power Reader: Super Grammar

German Power Reader (German Reader) (German Edition)
  • Smith, Brian (Author)
  • German (Publication Language)
  • 360 Pages – 07/24/2023 (Publication Date) – Independently published (Publisher)

Okay, say what you want about the title, but this book is a goldmine if you’re looking for advanced-level tips and tricks to elevate your knowledge of German, especially in reading and writing. A big focal point of the book is idioms and literary uses of language that more formal, traditional textbooks will rarely touch on

It’s very grammar-heavy as the title implies, so this is not a good choice for those who shy away from long discussions on the preterite tense or things of such nature.

On the other hand, the author tries, through playful uses of voice and tone and the inclusion of many little “stories”, to ease you into those convoluted topics and make them more fun than most dry grammar references would.

On top of that, there is a bundled collection of audio files containing German stories for practicing your listening comprehension!

What I like about this book:

  • Goes over some of the most challenging topics German learners might encounter
  • Included audio stories are a neat addition
  • Conversational and fun tone

11. Advanced German Vocabulary

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Advanced German Vocabulary – Second Edition (Advanced Vocabulary)
  • Lanzer, Harriette (Author)
  • German (Publication Language)
  • 104 Pages – 11/01/2014 (Publication Date) – Oxford University Press (Publisher)

This book is a role model for the expression “does what it says on the tin”.

You want advanced German vocabulary? You got it!

A simple, straightforward, and content-rich reference guide, this is a perfect book to pick up for late-year students of German at an undergraduate or even early graduate level.

To help you structure your own vocab practice sessions, the book also includes a few tips and tricks to memorize and internalize all those new words that you’ll learn, from Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung to Öffentlich-rechtlicher Rundfunk!

What I like about this book:

  • Comprehensive reference for advanced-level German vocabulary
  • Handy tips and techniques for vocab practice included
  • So fully-featured yet simple, you won’t need anything else

12. Communicating in German, Advanced Level

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Communicating In German, Advanced Level
  • Feuerle, Lois (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages – 08/01/1994 (Publication Date) – McGraw-Hill (Publisher)

This is an old one, but a good one.

No, not as old as the first edition of Ultimate German Advanced (thankfully)! But with an original publication date of August 1994, it’s not the most up-to-date German textbook in the whole world either.

Why did I still put it on this list, then, you may ask?

In simple words, because Communicating in German just does its job well. Better, in fact, than most comparable textbooks today.

Intended for a university classroom setting, the book can easily be adapted to a self-study context and features countless exercises not delineated by area (such as grammar, vocabulary, or listening comprehension), but rather by topic.

In one chapter, you might be studying the rules of the road and figuring out how to say I think the radiator is running low on coolant in German – in the next, it’s going to be all about table manners, fine dining etiquette, and how to address your waiter in a German restaurant.

It is this diversity of topics, and the richness of the content in each section, that really makes this one of the best advanced-level German textbooks for learners, even almost 30 years on.

What I like about this book:

  • One of the most effective German textbooks for training advanced conversational skills, despite its age
  • Covers a wide gamut of topics and fields
  • Excellent for classroom use, but also adaptable for self-study purposes

Conclusion

smiling female student with books and backpack over german flag background

And that’s a wrap! I hope that you managed to find at least one or two books on this list that matched your study requirements for the near future.

Learning German is a long and never-ending process but its benefits are endless, so feel free to bookmark this guide and come back to it later – as your experience with the language matures, so will your needs and your expectations.

Consider also reading up on other media that can be useful for learning German. For example, I’ve written a parallel guide on the best German novels and literature to read for learners and students!

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