The Book Thief - book cover
Growing Up & Facts of Life
  • Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition
  • Published : 11 Sep 2007
  • Pages : 608
  • ISBN-10 : 0375842209
  • ISBN-13 : 9780375842207
  • Language : English

The Book Thief


The extraordinary, beloved novel about the ability of books to feed the soul even in the darkest of times.

When Death has a story to tell, you listen.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. 

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
"The kind of book that can be life-changing." -The New York Times
"Deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank." -USA Today


Editorial Reviews

"Brilliant and hugely ambitious…Some will argue that a book so difficult and sad may not be appropriate for teenage readers…Adults will probably like it (this one did), but it's a great young-adult novel…It's the kind of book that can be life-changing, because without ever denying the essential amorality and randomness of the natural order, The Book Thief offers us a believable hard-won hope…The hope we see in Liesel is unassailable, the kind you can hang on to in the midst of poverty and war and violence. Young readers need such alternatives to ideological rigidity, and such explorations of how stories matter. And so, come to think of it, do adults." -New York Times, May 14, 2006

"The Book Thief is unsettling and unsentimental, yet ultimately poetic. Its grimness and tragedy run through the reader's mind like a black-and-white movie, bereft of the colors of life. Zusak may not have lived under Nazi domination, but The Book Thief deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel's Night. It seems poised to become a classic."
- USA Today

"Zusak doesn't sugarcoat anything, but he makes his ostensibly gloomy subject bearable the same way Kurt Vonnegut did in Slaughterhouse-Five: with grim, darkly consoling humor."
- Time Magazine

"Elegant, philosophical and moving...Beautiful and important."
- Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"This hefty volume is an achievement...a challenging book in both length
and subject..."
- Publisher's Weekly, Starred

"One of the most highly anticipated young-adult books in years."
- The Wall Street Journal

"Exquisitely written and memorably populated, Zusak's poignant tribute to words, survival, and their curiously inevitable entwinement is a tour de force to be not just read but inhabited."
- The Horn Book Magazine, Starred

"An extraordinary narrative."
- School Library Journal, Starred

"The Book Thief will be appreciated for Mr. Zusak's audacity, also on display in his earlier I Am the Messenger. It will be widely read and admired because it tells a story in which books become treasures. And because there's no arguing with a sentiment like that."
- New York Times

Readers Top Reviews

I loved the film so much that I had to get the book and as usual, the book is obviously better. It is very moving and had me hooked. Beautifully written characters that stay with you long after the book is finished.
Valerie L Pate
don’t know how many times I have picked up this book from a bookstore or library shelf, only to replace it. Shamefully, I believe it was the trailer for the upcoming film that led me to open it to the first page and read the first few sentences. I immediately decided that I absolutely must take it home with me at once for further, intense devouring. I am not a fan of war books as a sort of general rule; and yet there have been war related novels which have come along and proved the exception. This book, while set in Nazi Germany, is unlike any other World War II book in existence. First of all, the narrator is none other than Death himself. Such a fantastical host provides a unique introduction to the characters of the book and their individual plights. Zusak has created a cast of palpably deep individuals, rich unto their depths, and cleverly juxtaposed them with a wryly observant, mythological presence. I must state that this makes for a truly magnificant combination. Some characters will stay with me forever; like distant friends viewed through the foggy lens of memory. Liesel and her dear foster father, Hans, are two of these extremely special, fictional creations. As a pacifist, I hold in high esteem those who dare to defy crimes against humanity; often at extreme risk to themselves. There were many “Hans Hubermanns” during the war; people that aided Jews and refused to keep irrational prejudices alive in their hearts. Zusak has really given life and breath to Hans. He is the embodiment of a “good neighbor”. He would make an excellent dinner guest, but not because of lofty conversation. Hans is steadfast, and quite critical to Liesel’s development of character. As for Liesel, I found myself instantly aligned with someone who could take such joy from books. Even before she knew how to read, Liesel fell in love with reading. Liesel may have been unable to escape the war and its shocking atrocities, but she took her escape and her comfort from the books that she collected. Liesel’s story feels so real it makes me wonder at Zusak’s inspiration for her. As with all underdogs, the reader cannot help but yearn for Liesel’s survival. More than that, however, I loved being able to treasure every one of her new books with her. I rejoiced in her turn to writing, and I cried beside her more than once. She was intriguing enough to stir the curious interests of the infamous Reaper; and that fanciful conception actually serves to balance an otherwise painfully human construction. We want realism, but we respond to brief reprieves of levity in equal measure.
david dohertyQuirky
I did like the relationship dynamic of the story. Notably that of Liesel and Papa, Liesel and Rudy, Liesel and Max. There are some moving moments in the book, a good use of irony and an unusual narrative. The ending is good and somehow very plausible However, I have to say I found the storyline altogether slow and meandering, the plot thin and for me there was never any sense of drama, tension or change of pace. The author’s use of metaphor is at times over the top, for example, the room tasted of sugar and a thousand pages!? There are some books in life that you want to pick up and read again. For me this isn’t one of them
David A. Baer
Agree with all the others giving one or two stars: who in hell thought this was a good book? the style is exasperating and there is no much meat or story. Some say that is because it was intended to young people, but I wonder how young you have to be to enjoy that kind of writing. Tried to come to terms and finish it but I could not waste more time on this.
Justin and Katie Sch
I waited way too long to read this book. I don't even really know why I waited so long, other than Courtney and I started this blog around the same time that I actually bought the book and it took me a while to get to the point where I started reading some of the books that I wanted to read instead of just books that we received requests for. If you follow my blog at all, you know that I love WWII era historical fiction. What I loved about this book is that it showed the lives of average Germans during the war. That's not a perspective I've seen a lot (or ever that I can think of off the top of my head). But Liesel's foster family wasn't exactly average either because they held unfavorable opinions about Jewish people, at least unfavorable by German standards during the war. Another highlight of this story was that it was told from the perspective of Death. It was a bit odd to get used to at first because he jumped around a bit, as Death is wont to do in the course of his work, but once I got used to it, it was a fun way to see things. While death isn't exactly omniscient, he does have access to information that a human narrator wouldn't have. I realize that I'm late enough to this party that you've probably already made up your mind about whether you want to read this book or not, but if you're still on the fence about it, you should absolutely not wait any longer. You're likely to regret it if you do, like I did. Overall I give The Book Thief 5.05 stars.

Short Excerpt Teaser


First the colors.
Then the humans.
That's usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.

You are going to die.

I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that's only the A's. Just don't ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.

***Reaction to the  ***
Does this worry you?
I urge you--don't be afraid.
I'm nothing if not fair.

--Of course, an introduction.
A beginning.
Where are my manners?
I could introduce myself properly, but it's not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.
At that moment, you will be lying there (I rarely find people standing up). You will be caked in your own body. There might be a discovery; a scream will dribble down the air. The only sound I'll hear after that will be my own breathing, and the sound of the smell, of my footsteps.
The question is, what color will everything be at that moment when I come for you? What will the sky be saying?
Personally, I like a chocolate-colored sky. Dark, dark chocolate. People say it suits me. I do, however, try to enjoy every color I see--the whole spectrum. A billion or so flavors, none of them quite the same, and a sky to slowly suck on. It takes the edge off the stress. It helps me relax.

People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it's quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations, with each passing moment.
A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors.
Waxy yellows, cloud-spat blues. Murky darknesses.
In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them.

As I've been alluding to, my one saving grace is distraction. It keeps me sane. It helps me cope, considering the length of time I've been performing this job. The trouble is, who could ever replace me? Who could step in while I take a break in your stock-standard resort-style vacation destination, whether it be tropical or of the ski trip variety? The answer, of course, is nobody, which has prompted me to make a conscious, deliberate decision--to make distraction my vacation. Needless to say, I vacation in increments. In colors.
Still, it's possible that you might be asking, why does he even need a vacation? What does he need distraction from?
Which brings me to my next point.
It's the leftover humans.
The survivors.
They're the ones I can't stand to look at, although on many occasions I still fail. I deliberately seek out the colors to keep my mind off them, but now and then, I witness the ones who are left behind, crumbling among the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair, and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs.
Which in turn brings me to the subject I am telling you about tonight, or today, or whatever the hour and color. It's the story of one of those perpetual survivors--an expert at being left behind.
It's just a small story really, about, among other things:
* A girl
* Some words
* An accordionist
* Some fanatical Germans
* A Jewish fist fighter
* And quite a lot of thievery

I saw the book thief three times.


First up is something white. Of the blinding kind.
Some of you are most likely thinking that white is not really a color and all of that tired sort of nonsense. Well, I'm here to tell you that it is. White is without question a color, and personally, I don't think you want to argue with me.

Please, be calm, despite that previous threat.
I am all bluster--
I am not violent.
I am not malicious.
I am a result.
Yes, it was white.

It felt as though the whole globe was dressed in snow. Like it had pulled it on, the way you pull on a sweater. Next to the train line, footprints were sunken to their shins. Trees wore blankets of ice.
As you might expect, someone had died.

They couldn't just leave him on the ground. For now, it wasn't such a problem, but very soon, the track ahead would be cleared and the train would need to move on.
There were two guards.
There was one mother and her daughter.
One corpse.