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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
The Book Thief
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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!
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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.
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on February 12, 2018
I am haunted by The Book Thief - by compassionate Liesel, by vivacious Rudy, by nurturing Hans, by volatile Rosa, by gentle Max, by tired Death. I had seen the outstanding, compelling, unbearably sad film, and then I read the outstanding, compelling, unbearably sad book. The idea of evil coming to power by the use of words, and one little girl's wish to fight that evil by words made me think of a professor years ago who told us that, if we got nothing else out of his class, he wanted us to learn to think for ourselves, "because, God knows, there are plenty of people who'd be willing to do your thinking for you."
There was so much beauty in this book - the way that Liesel described the sky to Max, Rosa holding her husband's accordion - and there was so much fear and anguish and sorrow.
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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.
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on August 26, 2017
I've loved this book since it came out and bought my younger sister a copy (as well as one for me) so she could love it just as much as I have. This book is about words and how they affect you and everyone around you. The book is very sad but definitely a great read. On another note, I bought two copies of the paperback and they both came intact. No tears or anything wrong.
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on January 28, 2017
It was my second read. The author's alliterations give the book a new, vivid language. I loved it. Having lived in Germany during the time Markus Zusak describes, I can appreciate the settings described, although my family was sophisticated and never used a "four-letter-word." What bothered me was the name Saumensch, something I heard living in more southern German areas--sometimes used a teasing-kind of nick-name. It jarred me never-the-less. Maybe intentionally, as it never took me out of the story. The movie was equally good.
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on January 24, 2014
Like most real works of art, I did not understand it nor particularly like it at first. "The Book Thief "starts out with a most horrible scene from near the end of the book and morphs into a book long flashback, starting with the death of young girl's brother on the way to being left with a foster family. As we soon learn, the narrator throughout the book is Death, him/her-self.

Who would want to read a depressing book like that? But we keep reading and quickly find that the book thief, hungry for words even more than for food, is the girl, who steals her first book on the way to her foster parents. Some relationships themes begin to appear - the girl has dreams, of her brother, and of Hitler (who seems to be the root cause of her plight, and of the hate - that counters the developing love growing from the increasing number of relationships). Her stepfather, a really good hearted painter, who plays accordion when he is jobless, as often he is Hitler's Germany, sits with the girl on her bed at night and reads to her all night if necessary, till sleep overcomes the fear from her dream. In the daytime he teaches her to read.

Other growing love themes appear, battling a growing darkness - 1) Her best friend, a boy (Rudy) who wants to be Jesse Owens, who wants (but never gets) a kiss, and who helps her steal more books from a rich woman's library. The older boy, a Jew, they are hiding in the basement, whom she nurses back health and falls in love with - unrequited when he runs away, is eventually is caught, and is marched to Dachau. Then the hate begins to win as air raids are called, surrounding cities are bombed, and finally - by mistake - their little town is completely destroyed. (This hate raining from the sky is not from Hitler, but from the American bombers - collateral damage - all part of hateful war). The girl, Liesel, was one of the few survivors, because she was in the basement finishing a book about her life, called "The Book Thief" - Dead were her foster father and mother (whom by that time she also loved) and Rudy (who finally got his kiss, on dead lips). About this time I am thinking three things: 1) the character development must have been great, because I am actually shedding tears for these people, 2) This is the scene at the start of the book, and 3) Death is narrating this book because he had picked up Liesel's book and read it many times over the years before Liesel's own death when he could return it.

Lest you think the book ends on a sour note, there is also an Epilog, wherein the Jewish boy, Max, (now hardship tested man) survives and returns to look for Liesel (now a beautiful young lady), and wherein Liesel dies many years later in Australia, having many children and grandchildren (we are left to guess that they were also Max's).

PS I forgot to say something about "Death" - not clear whether a he or she, some charcteristics of both. I will use a generic "he". It was Death's job to gather the souls and carry them to their next destination - he did this with care and empathy, and it was especially a hard job during war time - he "needed a vacation". But he was fascinated by humans - he was "always overestimating or underestimating them". His last statement was: "I am haunted by humans".
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on August 1, 2017
Rarely do I find a book that haunts me as this one has. I want to love it, but something inside me says it wouldn't be appropriate. I want to hate it, but that same something battles with the other side of me, pushing and shoving until the room turns inside out and I have to close my eyes.

I'm still processing. I'm still reeling. I'm still...still. Quietly rolling the words around in my head. And I know I will for a very long time.

Rare. Haunting. Gorgeous. Ugly. This book has it all. I'm so glad it's fiction...but we know better, don't we?

Kudos Markus Zusak. Kudos.
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on November 11, 2013
When I saw the movie version of The Book Thief was coming out I thought it was the perfect time to finally read my copy of the book that has been sitting on my shelf for some time. With all the lovely reviews I have read I was sure I would love it as well and I was definitely not disappointed. While I cannot say that it is a feel good read in any way it is an incredibly beautiful story and one who's characters I will never forget.

First and foremost the narrator of this incredible story is death himself. He's not the usual scythe and darkness death we have seen before but a death who is just doing his job and trying not to get too distracted by the strange lives of the living he passes by. There is a heart beating in that cold chest, one that cannot turn away from our main character, Liesel Meminger, a girl who refuses to let this horrid life she has been born into break her spirit. It might sound strange but, with all the war stories I have read in my lifetime, it is this book narrated by death that presents the most humane and heartbreaking story yet.

Liesel is another wholly unique character. Made to go live with foster parents when the Communist label attached to her family becomes too dangerous, Liesel's younger brother dies on the way to their new home. Finding a book in the snow by her brother's grave, Liesel steals the book and resolves to learn how to read it. It is with this first theft that Liesel resolves to steal words when the world takes things from her. However words become so much more to our young heroine: a bridge connecting her to her foster Papa, Hans Hubermann; a way to escape the horrors happening around her, both figuratively and literally; a way to emotionally relate and communicate to the young Jewish man the Hubermanns hide in their basement. For someone who love words as well I became very attached to Liesel and her various ways of dealing with the unpredictable, often hypocritical world she had to try and navigate. How else might a young German girl, a member of the local Hitler Young group, deal with the unwarranted hatred she sees being thrown at Jewish people like the young man in their basement she has come to love like family?

I couldn't end this review without mentioning the other unforgettable characters that saturate this story. By far my favorite character is Liesel's best friend, Rudy Steiner, a young boy always willing to do what his heart feels is right, regardless of the danger it might present for himself, and a boy who wants nothing more than a kiss from Liesel. I don't want to give too much away regarding their sweet, innocent relationship but I will advise you prepare and have some tissues when you begin reading the last 50 pages or so of the story. Another unforgettable character is Papa, a man who seems to have unlimited amounts of kindness and another character who refuses to let the propaganda of the Fuhrer dement what he knows to be the right way to be. There are so many more remarkable characters - Max, the young Jew in the basement, Liesel's harsh yet caring Mama, Rosa, the many colorful characters inhabiting Himmel Street - and this collection of humanity makes the ending of the book that much more poignant. I've never quite read anything like it.

Anyone who loves reading history from an alternative viewpoint, especially history dealing with WWII, would be remise not to read this book. This is a powerful, beautiful, bittersweet story. It's the kind of story that you will not only never forget but one that, once you have read it, will make you forget what it was like to have not known and loved these characters. Truly a life changing story.
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on December 10, 2014
“First the colours.

Then the humans.

That’s usually how I see things.

Or at least, how I try.”

The Book Thief is narrated by Death, himself. Death—although portrayed as almost sympathetic—watches from afar the life of Liesel Meminger who is the thief herself. An adopted daughter to Hans and Rosa Hubermann, she finds her consolation in words.

Stolen words that start to give her a sense of camaraderie with her foster father.

Stolen words that comfort her neighbors in basements during bombing raids.

Stolen words that comfort a Jewish man in her basement.

Death has a personality. He warns you ahead of time when something bad is about to happen. He feels the same trepidation, the same sense of foreboding you will when you know something’s wrong. He’s trying to understand the human race as desperately as humans are.

Muskus Zusak accomplished a great feat – making me ache for the people and children of Nazi Germany, reminding me that people , whether good or bad, deserved to be loved because they are, after all, only human.

This book is an ode to the people who managed to keep their humanity in the midst of war, a tribute to the people who did not succumb to the evil around them and an acknowledgement of all those brave souls who were punished for doing what was right.

“So much good, so much evil. Just add water.”

Rudy Steiner, the boy with hair the color of lemons, capable of so much love, so much life whose death devastated me. A death that was so casually and off-handedly mentioned by Death. A wasted life with so much potential, so much capability for doing good.

“How about a kiss, Saumensch?”

He stood waist-deep in the water for a few moments longer before climbing out and handing her the book. His pants clung to him, and he did not stop walking. In truth, I think he was afraid. Rudy Steiner was scared of the book thief’s kiss. He must have longed for it so much. He must have loved her so incredibly hard. So hard that he would never ask for her lips again and would go to his grave without them.”

Max Vandenburg, a Jewish nobody but someone you’re going to cry for. He fist fights with the Fuhrer and somehow, he’s going to fight his way into your heart.


Rosa Hubermann. She’s described as being the woman with a filthy mouth and a wardrobe figure. And yet you know. You just know that this woman has a heart of gold.

“Make no mistake, the woman had a heart. She had a bigger one that people would think. There was a lot in it, stored up, high in miles of hidden shelving. Remember that she was the woman with the instrument strapped to her body in the long, moon-slit night.”

But if there were a true “hero” of the story, so to speak, it would be Hans Hubermann. Death, in the earlier parts of the novel, describes Hans Hubermann as the type to slip by you unnoticed. The kind of gentle humility this man is capable of is astounding. And Hans’s ability to be “not noticeable” turned out to be his greatest asset. A flashier guy may have not been able to hide a Jew in his basement for almost two years during the Holocaust. Hans has true strength of character as shown by his acts of resistance against the Nazi’s and his willingness to risk everything for a Jew, which in those days could have only meant death.

“His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do – the best ones. The ones who rise up and say “I know who you are and I am ready.Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.” Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.”

I could keep quoting this book forever but at some point words are just words. What’s more important is that you remember and believe.

Remember that humanity is capable of good even in the worst situations.

Believe that amidst sorrow, there is joy. Amidst darkness, there is light. Amidst Death, there is always Life.
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