Bookworm or not: if it’s a good read, it’s a good gift. We’ve rounded up some of Berlin’s best new books for under the tree.
Berlin by Jason Lutes: (Drawn & Quarterly, €40)
Jason Lutes began working on his Berlin trilogy as far back as 1996. Twenty-two years and three tomes later, his titanic work is finally complete and all three books have been compiled as one great omnibus that should delight Weimar buffs, Berlin lovers and graphic novel enthusiasts alike: Lutes’ 600-page epic charts the rise of fascism in the post-WWI political and social turmoil that plagued the Weimar Republic, as told through the eyes of a few great protagonists: journalist Kurt Severing, a lefty intellectual with strong convictions; art student Marthe Müller, a Weimar ‘creative’ on her very modern quest for self discovery: Silvia, the working-class orphan turned hardened communist, and more. Their life stories intertwine against the backdrop of the historical drama unfolding between 1929 and 1933, under the stylish black-and-white art of a great visual storyteller. Insanely well documented and emotionally impactful! – RS
Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutscher (Sandstone Press, €8)
If you can’t get enough of the €40 million German-language smash Weimar-Krimi series (helmed by Tom Tykwer, no less), you’re going to have to wait until some unknown point in 2019 for season three. Or turn to the book – Volker Kutscher’s 2008 page-turning novel, Der nasse Fisch, now renamed to fit the hit TV show. Follow detective Gereon Rath’s investigation beginning with a mutilated body in a car being pulled out of the Landwehrkanal and dive deeper into the criminal underbelly of Weimar Berlin. Rich with historic detail, this noir detective story is sure to please fans of classic detective novels and Weimar period drama lovers alike. – ÖD
Bauhaus: Travel Book: Berlin Dessau Weimar (Prestel, €28)
Come the new year, and the celebrations connected to the 100th anniversary of its foundation, Bauhaus will be on everyone’s lips. Get ahead of the curve and brush up your knowledge on the trailblazing modernist design school with this guidebook – the ultimate, latest, best on the topic – as compiled by the Berlin Bauhaus Archive, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, three authorities on the subject. Text-heavy and information-packed as it is, the compact volume serves as a solid introduction to the Bauhaus movement – whether you’re planning to travel to Weimar or not. It’s also a great companion to go Sightseeing in Berlin – off the Lonely Planet turf – from Hansaviertel and the architects’ Zehlendorf villas to the lesser known car park “palace” on Kantstraße and the AEG Turbine Hall in north Charlottenburg. All this substance has its drawbacks though: not only a hefty price, but also a hefty weight (for a portable book!). But true Bauhaus nerds won’t mind the load. – FH
Rise by Alexa Vachon (Available from Alexa Vachon’s website, €36)
In this indie yet stylish work, Berlin-based Canadian photographer Alexa Vachon follows the (literally) moving lives of (literally) outstanding football players: all women, all refugees from Syria, Afghanistan Pakistan, Somalia or Albania, all members of Berlin football team Champions ohne Grenzen. Touching quotes, handwritten letters and page-long stories (in English and German) give the reader a unique insight into these women’s individual journeys. The main draw of Rise, though, is its gorgeous photography: shots of the players in action on the field or lounging in their homes, or striking portraits looking straight into the camera, one of Vachon’s great strengths. Clearly close to the politically-engaged Vachon’s heart, this book does more than fit the usual do-gooding refugee-awareness bill. It is an artist’s book in its own right. Purchasing it will do more than make you a better person, it’ll sharpen your eye, and show you that, when put in the right hands, a camera can not only serve but also transcend the cause it depicts. – FL/RS
Die Tödliche Doris: Kostüme by Wolfgang Müller (Hybriden-Verlag, €120)
The long-sunken island of West Berlin contains many myths, among which is its vibrant “artier” punk scene, as crystallised by the performance art group Die Tödliche Doris, the clanging, cacophonous band of misfits who spearheaded the Geniale Dilletanten movement in the early 1980s. In 2018, Wolfgang Müller, the most visible member of the defunct group, gives us a gorgeous look into this (fashion) world some might describe as “ugly” with Die Tödliche Doris: Kostüme. The book focuses on the costumes that the group wore in the 1980s, as well as one of the women who created them, screen and seam star Tabea Blumenschein (Ulrike Ottinger’s Bildnis einer Trinkerin). Add to that heavy, glossy paper, meticulously reproduced high-resolution photos, a stunning shimmering green hardbound cover with etched red-glittering lettering and an engrossing text, Kostüme is that must-get collectible for the cultured punk and design enthusiasts with an eye for Berlin lore. – DX
Red Rosa by Kate Evans: (Verso, €19)
In time for the commemoration of her death next month, Berlin’s household Marxist firebrand, and this city’s most beloved female political icon, the Spartakist-cum-feminist Rosa Luxemburg gets the graphic biopic treatment (in English last year, translated into German this year) – and it’s already a bestseller at local bookstores. The black-and-white, kooky drawings chronicle the courageous worker-heroine’s journey from the small Polish city of Zamość to the Landwehrkanal – where her body was dumped 100 years ago in January – after she was shot in the neck under orders of ruling Social Democrats threatened by the imminence of the workers’ revolution she was spearheading with fellow Spartacus leader Karl Liebknecht. From comedic scenes of her childhood to naked fights with her lovers, the book offers an intimate view of the woman behind the revolutionary icon, as well as snippets of Marxist theory and unedited quotes from her writings. Purists might think this is Rosa-lite fare, but all the same an entertaining and engrossing introduction for anyone after a solid female role model… Can’t get enough of Rosa? Look out for our special commemorative issue next month! – BJ/RS
Three cookbooks out this year offer three different tastes of Berlin, from the traditional to the trendy to the far-out. Know a type-A English speaker looking to impress his or her German partner’s parents? Schlep them Bavarian celeb chef Alphons Schubeck’s The German Cookbook (Phaidon, €40) , nearly 450 pages of regional recipes interspersed only by a few photos and Caspar David Friedrich illustrations. Berlin mustard eggs, Thuring Bratwurst, Bavarian pretzels… They’re all here, and so are more niche curiosities like “veiled peasant girls”, an apple-pumpernickel parfait from Friesland/Holstein, as well as the uncomplicated classics, like a German vegetable stew ready in 20 minutes.
Then again, who eats German food in Berlin these days? With Ofirs Küche (Insel Verlag, €25), Tel Aviv expat filmmaker and avowed foodie Ofir Raul Graizer (whose feature The Cakemaker was our October EXBlicks pick, as well as selected as Israel’s best foreign feature pick for the Academy Awards) gives Deutsch-savvy readers (English translation coming soon) a chance to get with the current Levantine zeitgeist. His coffee-table tome serves not only as a fact-filled intro to the Israeli-Palestinian classics, but as a quasi-memoir in which he rhapsodises about his personal connections to shakshouka, labneh cheese and, of course, hummus.
Even more personal is Sophie Iremonger’s An Eating (Coda Press, €15), a zine-like collection of recipes and ramblings that feels like being at a madcap dinner party thrown by one of Berlin’s last true bohemians. An English-Irish painter-poet with a penchant for foraged herbs, Iremonger isn’t afraid to go on freewheeling tangents about politics, her friends (Exberliner’s own Walter Crasshole, who inspired her “Crasshole Potato”) and her experiences as a “deep denizen of the mutha-fucking poor chakra”. The dishes themselves are mostly vegetarian, with inexact measurements (“fists” are preferred), short prep times and cheap ingredients – basically, the kind of stuff a WG-dweller might actually cook, except for the roasted mackerel requiring a dying fire made from old egg cartons. – JS