1,048 of 1,085 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Story
Liesel Meminger is a Book Thief, living with a foster family in Germany during World War Two. Torn from everything she's known, her foster father shows her the power of words as the two of them share late night reading sessions of The Grave Digger's Handbook. Her love of books ties her to others, including the mayor's wife and Max, the Jew the family hides in the...
Published on June 12, 2006 by Tamela Mccann
97 of 117 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not engaging
As a buyer for a bookstore, I read a lot of YA books. I read the "must-read" reviews for this book and it sounded right up my alley, deep, meaningful, thought-provoking.
I didn't like it. At all.
So much so that I stopped reading halfway through, something I never do. It simply isn't an engaging read, and I find it very difficult to believe many teens would get...
Published on March 28, 2009 by Orion
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1,048 of 1,085 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Story,
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Liesel Meminger is a Book Thief, living with a foster family in Germany during World War Two. Torn from everything she's known, her foster father shows her the power of words as the two of them share late night reading sessions of The Grave Digger's Handbook. Her love of books ties her to others, including the mayor's wife and Max, the Jew the family hides in the basement.
My own words escape me as I try to recount the beauty of this book in a short review. Rarely have I read a book as moving, as profound, as this one. Narrated by Death, this story is one that crawls under your skin and reverberates your soul with its images of Nazi Germany, friendship, and loss. The images stirred through Death's telling are so vivid, so wonderful, so tragic. Zusak has a masterful command of language and I was astounded by the way his words brought Liesel and her world to life. We follow Liesel over the years as she learns the true meaning of family through her caring new Papa and her friendships with Max and Rudy, the boy next door who idolizes Jesse Owens.
Just a small list of images that will stay with me forever:
+Liesel reading to the neighbors sitting terrified in a basement waiting for the bombs to fall around them
+A snowball fight in a basement
+Mama arriving at school to "yell" at Liesel
+A boy with candlelit hair standing up to a Nazi Youth Leader
+Death gathering up the souls of children softly
+The story of a Word Shaker
+An accordian player accepting a cigarette as payment
There are not enough words within me to express the beauty of this book. It will move you to laughter and tears, often at the same time. This one is a keeper that I will revisit frequently in the future. It has changed my soul. Highly, highly, highly recommended.
1,113 of 1,171 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book deserves more than 5,
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I am not going to tell the plot of this book yet again, Amazon and some other reviewers have done it quite well...I will tell you that this is an astounding book, a beautiful book, and a book that I know I will read again and again......
I read a lot, two to three books a week, my family makes fun that I "love" so many that I read...but in the past few years there have only been a handful of books that when I finish reading the book I sit and try to think of who I can send a copy to, who can I share this wonderful experience with. A book that when I finish, I want to go back to the beginning and start over.
I am a little sorry it is listed as a young adult book, I feel that if the bookstores put it in the young adult section, so many people will be missing out on a wonderful experience. Yet it is important that younger readers, high school readers, read this book too. When I was growing up, I remember reading Diary of Anne Frank, and the feelings I had when I read it...and understanding the importance of everyone reading that book. Well, this book is that important, this book is a must read.
I am going to go back and read this author's other book, I don't know how it can measure up to this one, but if it is half as good, I am in for a treat.
907 of 971 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different, entertaining and heart breaking,
This review is from: The Book Thief (Library Binding)
This is a story told by Death. An interesting point of view perhaps, but as it is set in Germany during World War II, perhaps it is entirely appropriate. It is also a story of a young girl, who in spite of having a life that no one would wish on anyone, still manages to have glimpses of pleasure through many small things, including the few books that she manages to acquire (or shall we say, steal).
It is interesting to see that it appears to be targeted to young adult readers - please don't be put off by this - it is very much an adult story about children who are doing their best to live a normal life in times of unspeakable horror. It would also be a good way to introduce more mature readers to the history of the times. But be warned, it is quite confrontational at times, and considering who the narrator is, very sad.
To add extra punch to the story, it appears that it is the true story of the author's grandmother. When you consider this, you realise how truly resilient we humans are, and how occasionally, and with a bit of luck, we can hold off death for a time.
489 of 524 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding,
Very rarely a book comes out that steals my breath away. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak is a revelation. Narrated by Death, this story follows Leisel as she steals books in Nazi Germany while she and her best friend Rudy discover the power of words, language and friendship. Zusak's writing is mesmerizing; it's sarcastic, emotional, sophisticated and wondrous.
If you only read one book this year, read this one. Share it with your friends and family. I don't expect to read anything better this year, or next year either.
146 of 156 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, moving, and remarkable,
"A human doesn't have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both."
So muses the narrator of Markus Zusak's powerful and moving new novel, THE BOOK THIEF. As you might guess, this is no ordinary narrator. The contemplative first person guiding you through this book is Death, an at-once fitting and ironic vanguard for a tale that both celebrates the power of words and agonizes over the consequences of their use.
Set against the tragedy-stained canvas of World War II, Death tells the story of young Liesel Meminger (the eponymous book thief) growing up in Nazi Germany under the watchful eye of a staunch foster mother and kindly foster father who teaches her to read. She attends meetings of the BDM, a youth group aimed at indoctrinating young girls into Hitler's ideology. She plays soccer with the boys on her street, holding her own in any disputes that arise. And all the while, the dreams of her dead brother haunt and goad her into a fascination with reading and words that inevitably leads to her life of crime.
It is a meeting with Max Vandenburg, a 24-year-old Jewish man being hidden in Liesel's basement by her compassionate foster parents, that alters the course of Liesel's life. Max, too, is haunted by nightmares of a family he lost in the harrowing aftermath of Kristallnacht. Together, Max and Liesel discover a shared love of words that leads to a decisive understanding about the role words play in both bravery and cowardice. Each, in their own way, sets out to use this knowledge to shape the world around them.
While other writers have employed Death as a narrator, Zusak makes his own indelible mark on the technique in the dimensions he gives to the character. Death is simultaneously dispassionate about his work and the impact it can have while striving to understand humanity's resilience. Death boasts an omniscience of what will happen in life but also a naivety about what can happen in the human heart.
In the ultimate expression of his dichotomous theme, Zusak creates a touching love letter to books and writing, framed in arguably the most horrific period in human history. But his greatest triumph is delivering a reminder that no writer enters this world quietly. Writers are born of eruptions and detonations, and the truly exceptional ones, like Zusak, continue to channel these explosive energies to craft a truly remarkable book that will be admired for generations.
--- Reviewed by Brian Farrey [...]
110 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and Transforming for Any Age,
I just finished this book last night and said to myself, "I should really read it again before I try to make comment" but, no, I want to share my reactions as spontaneously as possible.
There are hundreds of books in my house, but there is one bookshelf upstairs in a back bedroom which holds those special books: you know, the ones that have made such a profound impact on who you are and how you see the world that they are put aside in a place of honor. This will be one of those books for me.
This book is for adults, but it is also for teenagers. I think it is doing younger people a dis-service to think they could not relate to this book because the narrative style is challenging, the subject matter is doleful and/or because there are too many pages (oh, for heaven's sake!). Young people who like to read and like to think and like to feel will love this book as much as older folks like me. There is no need to dummy things down or sugarcoat them, especially when there is such a compelling story to be told.
One of the most powerful aspects of the book for me was the number of surprises. The book was not what I thought it would be and I was constantly astonished by:
1. the amazing stories that Max told and were re-created with tender illustrations inserted into the body of the book
2. the treatment of the German people as human beings, rather than "nasty Nazis" a la 1940's Hollywood. Although I like to see a "nasty Nazi" get his comeuppance as much as the next person, I found the lack of stereotypes in this book quite refreshing.
3. the imaginative use of language - it's just plain poetical at times. You get stopped short and have to read bits out loud because they are so darned beautiful and/or original.
4. the character Death, who is our guide and narrator. He has seen a lot in all the thousands of years of his existence, but he has never seen anything like the story of the book thief. And neither have I. And neither will you.
As some other reviewers have recommended, I will be sure to read other titles by this author.
149 of 161 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Word Shaker,
THE BOOK THIEF is a beautiful and carefully worded story, following four years in the life of young Liesel Meminger, a poor German girl who finds herself separated from her six-year-old brother (who dies) and her mother and father (taken away by the Nazi's for being a communist), and fostered to Rosa and Hans Hubermann.
Arriving at the Hubermann's, nine-years-old and already burdened with great loss, Liesel forges a deep bond with her Papa, Hans - a man with a many-roomed heart - who sits with her at night when her nightmares force her awake with screams. It is during these nights that Hans teaches her to read, and they begin with the first book she ever "stole": The Grave-Diggers Handbook, a book that fell out of the pocket of a fourteen-year-old grave digger who dug the grave for her brother. Like a kitten who finds comfort at the teat of a sow after losing its mother, Liesel begins to find comfort in words.
The story is narrated by no less a personage than Death, although this Death is sans hooded-skull and scythe. Indeed, we learn little more about Death than he is not what we perceive him to be in our Halloween imitations, and very good at his job. Given the setting for this story, we are guaranteed of the chance to evaluate Death's job performance.
Zusak writes with a deft, poetic hand, his descriptions unconventional and mesmerizing. Rosa Hubermann is "a small wardrobe with a coat hung over it". A woman's mouth has teeth that elbow each other for room. A boy: "His tie is a pendulum, long dead in its clock." These images jump from the page and give us a clearer picture of what we're seeing than if Zusak had spent hours describing the tiniest detail of Rosa Hubermann's body.
Along the way, Liesel shares her interest in words, and in no place is that felt more potently than in her relationship with Max Vandenburg, a Jew who her parents hide in their basement. Max arrives nearly dead, and the much younger Liesel finds herself captivated by him. When the cold in the basement pushes Max to the brink of death, they move him to Liesel's room for (I believe) eight days, where Liesel brings him small mementos and reads to him while he fights for life (and once against Death itself!). In turn, Max writes for her - and these books-within-a-book are more touching and meaningful, more full of love and hope while not betraying the slightest hint of over-dramatization, than anything I've come across in years. Indeed, if this story had been only about Liesel's relationship with Max, it would have been an enormous success. It may also have been more widely read - I suspect that the length of the book and the immediacy present in Max's story but not as equally present in other sections, put some people off.
Before I read the book, I looked at the negative reviews (of which there are four). One review commented that the book felt like "work". Reading Hawthorne can be work, too, but I always feel the better for having read him.
57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Old Story Made New Again,
How rare the times that we read something entirely new and unique! It has been said that there are no new stories to tell, and I will not argue that. There really are only a few novel plots, although it is in our endless variations that we set ourselves apart as writers and word-artists, perhaps also as readers, in the manner and voice in which we tell the story. This is true for Markus Zusak in his creative storytelling of "The Book Thief."
The story is one of the oldest ones told: the narrator is mankind's friend/nemesis, Death, ancient as Time itself, and the scenes Death (not without compassion and not without wry humor) narrates for us are those of human suffering and endurance, an eventual overcoming of conflicts and obstacles, a story of love pitted against hate, of the victory of the best in all of us over the worst in any of us. Zusak's main characters are a 9-year old girl, Liesel Meminger, her companion and young partner in crime, Rudy, and a Jewish refugee named Max hiding in the basement of the house where she lives, herself something of a refugee in Nazi Germany during WWII. A wide range of secondary characters fill in all gaps and keep us reading with fascination, e.g. Liesel's adoptive family, especially her cruel and ascerbic foster mother, Rosa, who on occasion cracks to show a bit of humanity; the mayor's deeply depressed wife, who quietly allows Liesel to "steal" her books; Liesel's young comrades in thievery, and many more.
It is hard to pinpoint what it is, precisely, that makes Zusak's work so unique. But I knew it, felt it, instantly, page one, first line. Voice, yes. Style. A few experimental approaches in his storytelling, such as illustrations inserted in the novel with all errors present, just as Max wrote the text and drew the pictures for his young friend, Liesel. Death's narration is unique, too, with occasional bolded quotes that give just the right amount of distance. There are many such details that all come together to form a story worth reading, worth hearing, worth understanding. It is the story of Liesel, a spunky little book thief, who does far more than steal good books. Liesel steals hearts. In our smallest, we often find our greatest heroes.
67 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars haunting tale,
During World War II near Munich, Germany, nine years old Liesel Meminger finds a tome The Gravedigger's Handbook while attending her younger brother's funeral. Unable to resist she takes the book with her. However, she is unable to read the book until fate steps in. Her father is missing and her mother cannot afford her upkeep so she gives Liesel in care to foster parents, acerbic Rosa Hubermann and her kindhearted spouse Hans, who owes a Jew his life.
Hans helps Liesel cope with her nightmares and teaches his ward to read. His chance to pay the war debt to the Jewish soldier who saved his life finally occurs when the man's son, the artist Max, arrives at his house seeking shelter. As Max paints over pages of the Mein Kampf, Leisel steals books from Nazi burnings and begins to write about living at a time of misery caused by fellow humans. If the Nazis catch either one, Death will be a welcome guest.
This is a complex book in which the narrator Death tells the tale of Liesel and Max. Interestingly Death is a cynic when it comes to human behavior especially kindness towards others; the apparition recognizes that his best suppliers of goods are people who in spite of their Golden Rule ramble contain homicidal tendencies rationalized by an ism of some sort. The fascinating asides to the readers are brilliant as they enable the audience to understand the cast he looks upon adding to his collection, but especially Death itself. Give yourself plenty of time, over a week or more, as Markus Zusak has written one of the most haunting tales of the human condition in several years.
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary Masterpiece,
My local librarian suggested the book to me as we have previously discussed I was looking to steer from the murder/mystery genre on a daily basis. We were discussing a variety of books including Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and I mentioned that I thought I was going to find the narrative from a girl in heaven to be awkward. She then suggested that I try this book even though it was narrated by Death and catalogued as young adult. Of course who knows books better then a librarian? As far as I am concerned, nobody does. I ordered the book and received it 2 weeks later.
Upon beginning the book I was extremely tortured. First off, I am Jewish. Next, I remember my relatives having their arms tattooed with the identification numbers from the concentration camps. All that aside, if possible, I was tortured as a reader as to how to pace myself through this magnificent piece of literature. Often times I read at a rapid pace so I can continue on with the author's journey and find out immediately what happens with the characters and how they grow within the book. In this particular novel, despite my yearning to move on and see how each page progressed, I was also torn with the fear that by reading too fast, this wonderful journey as poetically described by Death, would end far too soon for my liking. Albeit I enjoyed every word penned by Mr. Zusak, I knew that as each word entered my brain it was another word closer to the end of what would become one of the top ten novels I have ever read.
I will not go into any synopsis of the book at this time as I don't believe in spoiling this great literary masterpiece for others. But I will say that I hope you all take the time to appreciate the sweat and tears that must have poured from the author's heart and soul as he penned this phenomenal series of pages. With each turn of the paper you should find a poignant message about humanity, death, life and the appreciation of so many things we as humans take for granted in this world. At the same time you may also discover that you find beauty in the things that others find terrifying. You may cry at times and realize that for some perverse reason you are actually crying with tears of joy. You will also discover that the true power of words are not just what is found in a piece of recycled tree and marked by a chemical process - no, the true power of words comes from deep inside the human soul and is indeed mightier then any sword we have yet to discover.
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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Paperback - September 11, 2007)