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4.6 out of 5 stars
17,721
The Book Thief
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With a heart full to overflowing and eyes quite moist, I finish this novel of a young waif of a girl in Hitler’s Germany whose body, soul, and spirit ought never have survived her furnace of affliction. Yet survive she does, grittily and even poetically, with the aid of a good friend, a tender father, a Jewish refugee in the basement, a mother whose harshness runs only skin keep, and a traumatized mayor’s wife who loves to have her books stolen.

As the old proverb—old but still true for all its rusty years—would tell us, ‘The book is far better than the movie’. This has never been more true than with Markus Zusak’s phenomenal achievement.

The book is narrated by Death, the Grim Reaper. Yet he is not an evil presence, indeed his tender observations are endearing. In the end, the circumstances of 1940s Europe keep him far busier than he’d prefer. Yet he cannot take his eyes off these dismal, glorious humans.

They haunt him, these human beings do. He sees such majesty in them, and such cruelty. The circumstances that call him into hard labors allow him to peer into the human condition at its best and, simultaneously, at its best.

He cannot look away from them, these horrible, beautiful, haunting beings.

This reader revels in the deeply biblical substratum of this compelling novel, whether intended by its author or not.

The best book I’ve read in a year. And I’m hardly alone, for this work has virtually nailed itself to the top rung of the New York Times Bestsellers List. As another old proverb might have it, 50,000,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong.

Buy it, read it, remember it when you least expect.
22 people found this helpful
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on January 23, 2017
I LOVED this book. We started listening to the audio version in the car before I bought the paperback. My son is an audio learner, so we are constantly looking for books to listen to. We had recently listened to another WW2 book told from a kid's perspective. This was recommended to us, but we were warned the content was much more mature than the first book, even though it is also focused on a "child". While that was true, it wasn't a bad thing. I really enjoyed the narrator for the audio book, and I am quite picky. I ended up buying the paperback because I couldn't stand to wait to see what happened since I only listened with my son in the car. I was enjoying it enough to think it was worth the purchase. I'm glad I bought it. It is "heavy" but I did fall in love with the characters and know I'll be revisiting it again and again. One thing that I found unique about this book was that it was told from the view of "death", or maybe a grim reaper...but it is not in any way fantasy. Looking back, I can't imagine it being told from any other perspective and I'm so glad the author seemed to realize that too.
26 people found this helpful
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Top Contributor: Coloringon February 12, 2018
Eleven-year-old Liesel Meminger is a foster child who has recently arrived in a small town outside Munich, Germany during WWII. Liesel has been sent to live with Hans and Rosa Huberman, presumably for the small stipend they’ll receive. Liesel is still suffering from the loss of her little brother and the difficult and somewhat mysterious separation from her mother. She takes an immediate like to Hans, who is kind and thoughtful, but takes much longer to warm up to the abrasive Rosa.

Liesel makes friends with next-door neighbor Rudy and establishes herself as a self-proclaimed book thief. Becoming unlikely friends with the Mayor’s wife Ilsa affords Liesel the opportunity to read the books in the Mayor’s massive library. Along the way, Liesel is witness to the atrocities of war, heartbreaking events, love, loss and other life-changing events.

I saw the movie The Book Thief several years ago and loved it. When I decided it was time to read the book I was absolutely captivated. Although the book is 550 pages long, I read it in just two days – it was THAT good.

The book is different in several ways, ways in which I won’t go into in my review. Suffice it to say that I’m glad I saw the movie first and then read the book. I think I might have been disappointed with the movie version if it had happened in opposite order. This just goes to show how well the author has written this important piece of fictionalized history. The time period, location, mood, characters, etc. come to life as the story unfolds.

I was surprised at some of the other reviews, stating that the book was just plain depressing. I’m not at all sure how a book that deals with the systematic extinction of a race of people can be written about in an uplifting, happy way. Yet, the book is so much more than a story about a German girl who is living in Nazi Germany during WWII. There are many lovely, tender elements to be found in The Book Thief. The additional anniversary edition footnotes written by the author (at the end of the book) provide wonderful insight.

I think it’s extremely important that all generations read books like The Book Thief. This is part of history and, as poet and philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it." This is a book that is emotionally draining, but very much worth the read!
13 people found this helpful
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on February 11, 2018
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.
5 people found this helpful
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on December 18, 2017
I liked this book a lot, but because the author chose to actually tell us what was going to happen, not just forecast, I found myself wishing it would end. It was hard to read and yet a good read.

The writing style is uniquely written from Death's omniscient point of view so of course, there was a lot of death. Well done though; not melodramatic.

I've read many, many books about WWII, and the holocaust. I think this is the first one I've read that touched on the plight of the German people, Nazi, and non-Nazi.

I appreciated that the author gave Death feelings, including a sense of humor. This line, among others, cracked me up, "For some reason, dying men always ask questions they know the answer to. Perhaps it's so they can die being right."
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on December 28, 2017
This was a very good book. In fact when it was laying on my desk as people would come into my office they would say you are reading the Book Thief, you are going to be amazed with it. I was. I think you are drawn into the book by the narrator. If there was a 4.5 I would have given the book that, I stop short of the 5 because it was a little hard to get into. First 50 pages you thinking am I going to like this book, hang in there you will love it.
4 people found this helpful
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on January 4, 2018
"The Book Thief" is one of my favorite books of all times and I introduced it into the MS library at my old school years ago. The students loved it (and so did my elderly mom). I bought it for my 7th grade niece and nephew. If they like it I will buy them "Milkweed" by ...... (blanking on the author's name, maybe Jerry Spinelli) and "The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas." All great books dealing with the Holocaust, but told from the point of view of children. I recommend them all to adults, as well as kids.
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on September 11, 2016
What a wonderful story of Germany before and during the World War II years. Our main earthly character is Liesel a young German girl who's brother dies as they are heading to their adoptive parents in a rural suburb of Munich. From there we follow Liesel as she develops and becomes literate with the help of her adopted father, her curiosity and nimble fingers.

It's a wonderful story narrated by the Grim Reaper who adds background and describes for us the horrors that young eyes might be seeing at the time. The characters are so well developed you'll feel you know them.

It's hard to give such a wonderful book credit through a review. Just look at the high rating this book has across the span of, at this time, 18 - 19,000 reviews. It's standing the test.
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on August 7, 2014
With a prodigious use of allegory, Marcus Zusak has written an enthralling human story of ordinary people caught in the trauma of Second World War Germany. In each of the captivating pages of The Book Thief, an ethos and optimism arises from the hearts of children, momentarily displacing the horrors of the war.

Zusak chose Death, The Grim Reaper, as the narrator of his story. The protagonist is a young girl, Liesel Meminger, handed off by her mother to German foster parents after Liesel's brother dies in her arms on the floor of an unheated rail car. At her brother's burial Liesel recovers the only memory available, an abandoned copy of The Grave Diggers Handbook. Thus The Book Thief is born. This is a story of words, an accordionist, fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, thievery, friendships, love and family and above all a relationship between a daughter and step-father.

The Book Thief is a portrait of how war and the Holocaust causes ordinary people and families to reshape their lives to survive. Meet Liesel's step-father and mother Hans and Rosa Hubermann, her best friend and partner in book thievery Rudy and the Jew Max, hidden from the Nazis for two years in the basement of the Hubermann home. Zusak is such a marvelous story-teller that the journey is never predictable, even as death himself narrates the tale. The story is told so beautifully that the reader may consider clearing the time for the final 200 pages in one sitting.

A word from the Narrator: "I wanted to tell the book thief many things about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant."

I have not seen the motion picture but as stated many times before, a good rule of thumb is to always read the book first!

I highly recommend The Book Thief for readers of any age. Other books by Markus Zusak are Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl and I Am the Messenger. Read more reviews at gordonsgoodreads.com

Enjoy!
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on August 14, 2015
Here is a great book on good people caught up in bad times.

The author's unusual playful style is in marked contrast with the supposed character of the narrator (Death) or the realities of the 1940's Germany. The way he brings out the hidden good nature of people like the Mayor and his wife or Rosa or some of the street boys is exemplary. His efforts to show that even during the holocaust, Germany did not have just a handful of people quietly rebelling against the perverted misdeeds but many is not something taken up so wonderfully probably ever in popular writing.

The moving scenes of the book may read soppy or preachy to some but they work and appear real within the context. The worship of Jesse Owens, the protection of a fleeing Jew, the adoption, the love for words, the feeding of the hungry, the assistance to the neighbours - the book appears like a collection of what a good samaritan should be doing according to any religious or ethical textbook for a growing child but told in an astonishingly beautiful way. The good guys soldier on bravely and the bad somehow do not need as much description.

Not just for the young adults but for all.
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