"All great works of literature either found a genre or dissolve one" (Walter Benjamin), and Sebald?s books are quite unique, baring a resemblance to nothing which has gone before, and almost certainly being followed by no books quite like them. Sebald creates thoughts in us which are entirely our own, helping us discover something which has always been there, but unrecognised, until the convoluted prose of Sebald has penetrated into out own depths to release something precious from its swirling eddies.
Unique to Sebald is his use of images, grainy black and white photographs scattered throughout his text. Sometimes these photographs are "found" images which Sebald used for his own purposes, other times, they are photographs taken by himself. The images are always untitled and enigmatic, sometimes enlightenting, other times misleading.
It is difficult to recommend a first Sebald book, but my personal recommendation would be Vertigo - a sort of travelogue, in which Sebald travels across the Alps to Italy and then returns to his home town in Germany. Travel however is not the point - the digressions, reflections and descriptions of his state of mind are what makes the book typical of Sebald's work.