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4.6 out of 5 stars
17,517
The Book Thief
Format: Paperback|Change
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on September 25, 2017
A poetic melodrama about poor Germans during WW11. Strange use of words, especially verbs, and metaphors that work sometimes while unsuccessful at others. I started it twice before getting into it, then could not put it down. Lovely, sad, powerful, with an unlikely heroine I won't soon forget. Overall one of the best books I have read in the past few years.
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on June 1, 2017
Despite the historical savagery of Nazi Germany, this author was able to convey kindness, giving, acceptance and love by fostering a little girl and a Jew. Death, the narrator, was almost human. The balance of these with the horror, sadness, dying and fear of war, stirred every emotion in me and in the end, Hope prevailed.
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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 December 31, 2014
Unique perspective on the people experiencing WWII--from those living every day lives within Germany and their challenges in coping with live under the boot of Hitler and his Nazis. Beautifully and lovingly told from the biggest victor of that war--Death,

If you have seen the movie, you will know the book almost to the page, but not with equivalent character development, depth and insight. Nonetheless, having seen the movie the book will be more easily followed and understood. Both are wonderfully well conceived, realized and delivered to we fortunate enough to share them. The characterizations, characters/actors and settings are directly traceable between movie and book as is the development and realization of the plot. Not Hollywood shoot 'em up this one--full of special effects, blow us, crude language and overdone sex--just beautifully conceived, imaginatively written, perfectly executed and delivered human story in both mediums. If you like an interesting, real-life human drama, rich with the realities, fears, frustrations and joys of real-live victories; you with treasure this book and the movie it generated.
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on May 19, 2014
Every once in a great while, I read a book that makes me want to promptly open up my Goodreads app and start confiscating stars from the nearly 400 books on my “read” shelf. <i>The Book Thief</i> by Markus Zusak is one of these books. I have read a lot of books, but there are very few that come close in comparison to this one. I say this for many reasons—reasons I will attempt to convey in this review.

One of the most unique characteristics of <i>The Book Thief</i> is the fact that it is narrated by Death. In the prologue, Death describes that when he comes to collect a soul, he focuses on the color of the sky. We are introduced to Liesel, the little girl nicknamed “the book thief”, as Death recalls the colors of the sky during his three encounters with her, as he collected souls in her presence: white, black, and red. With this prologue, I was captivated by Death’s words and longing to know the book thief’s story.

<i>The Book Thief</i> is essentially the story of a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany. Due to her failing health and social status, Liesel’s mother takes her to live with foster parents in a small town outside of Munich. The foster parents, the Hubermanns, are lovable characters, with Rosa (a.k.a. Mama) being a woman who pretends to be tough as nails, but has a heart of gold and Hans (a.k.a. Papa) being a soft-hearted, nurturing father figure who is Liesel’s hero in every way. The beginning of the book is mostly about Liesel’s pre-teen years, her growing relationship with the Hubermann’s, her friendship with a boy named Rudy, and the beginnings of Liesel’s book thievery. Starting with a book she found in the snow in a graveyard, Liesel becomes fascinated with the power of written words and the book thief is born.

Don't misunderstand me... <i>The Book Thief</i> is not just a book about a girl who loves and steals books. It’s also a chilling story about one of the darkest times for humankind, told from a perspective with which I’m not as familiar. Every time I read a book about the Holocaust, I can’t help wondering how in the world so many people were convinced/brainwashed to allow and participate in the genocide of other human beings. Most books that I’ve read about the Holocaust are from the perspective of Jewish families facing concentration camps. This book is instead about a family who were forced to feign loyalty to Hitler, while secretly hiding a Jewish man in their basement.

Really, I think everyone should read this book. It is one that I will never forget and will always treasure. I cried until my head throbbed and my chest literally ached. Of course, the story is sad and with the subject, of course I expected it to be. It’s the way Markus Zusak’s words hit you right in the gut that caught me off guard. When I read on my Kindle, I use the highlighting tool to mark phrases and paragraphs that really strike me and with this book, I found myself wanting to highlight the whole thing. Although <i>The Book Thief</i> will join many other books that I’ve given five star ratings to, it is definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read.
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on May 3, 2013
As an avid reader, I tend to avoid any fiction written after 1960. However a dear friend recommended this book out of the blue and I grudgingly agreed to read it. What a wonderful surprise! Even though it is considered a "youth" book (bit of slightly salty language), it is a well written and finely crafted story. The writer has taken a subject that has been covered quite extensively and chosen an approach to characters that is both novel and clever. (Both adjectives I find sadly lacking in modern literature). Keep the tissue box handy. Definitely worth a read. I couldn't put it down!
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on April 13, 2014
This is by far my favorite book that I've read in the last few years. I chose it carefully after previewing it; even so, I almost wondered why when I read the first page after buying it. I'm so grateful that I read on. I quickly became absorbed. The main character is a young teen named Liesel who is essentially abandoned by her parents, deposited near a small German town around 1939, and told to go to a particular address. There she is taken in by foster parents in their 50's: unassuming Hans, a part-time house painter and accordion player with whom she quickly becomes comfortable around and his more surly wife in a very poor family. A few more important characters, particularly the unseen narrator who gathers the souls of the dead and who is especially busy during this period when Hitler is head of Germany in the early 1940's. The grim reaper makes a variety of comments throughout the book - some sad, some even humorous, many almost poetic.

I loved this book because it has everything that I could ask for: a great story line and plot, wonderful writing that is often poetic, often unusual presentation that for me added to the book rather than taking away from it, and a range of characters that added interest but not so many that I couldn't keep track of them. Let me explain a little about the unusual presentation. Each chapter heading announced what was coming for the chapter. Every once in awhile, large, bold letters would appear announcing something out of the ordinary. That always peaked my interest. Also, because the setting occurred in Germany, German words were sprinkled around, with translations. A few sketches and so many wonderful phrases and sentences occurred - too many for me to quote that lent a very visual field to this novel. Here are a few quotes: "They rustled up their thoughts"; "a rumor of sunshine stood behind the clouds"; "Ruined cases of buildings were piled up in mounds".

This is a story of Liesel, a young woman who initially could not read, yet loved books and stole them one at a time. She learned to read from Papa Hans who himself had had little schooling. This story of her love of reading, some of the people who touched her and those whom she touched and influenced without even meaning to was very moving at times. I fell in love with Liesel's innocence and tenderness. By the end, I also felt much more compassion for what it would have been like to live in a country that was under siege that had nothing to do with many of its ordinary citizenry. And that could happen anywhere, including where I or any of us live. This can also be a story of all of us and want we want to do with our lives.
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on March 23, 2014
My fourteen-year-old daughter just completed this book for school, and she wrote a lovely review. So I'll share it here for future readers - both of my daughters highly recommend this!

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This Holocaust young adult novel retains some adult elements, and yet stands out among many other books. This story has characters that readers connect with, which is a quality all good quality books should have. The Book Thief has the little facts correct, which many authors overlook. In addition, this novel tells a World War II story in a completely new way.

This story has a setting I have seen repeatedly, but with a unique twist. The Book Thief takes place in Nazi Germany at the beginning of World War II in a small town called Molching on a street called Himmel (Heaven). The story may seem at first to be about Liesel, but ultimately Death and his relationships with humans become the focus of The Book Thief.
The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel Meminger, her friend Rudy Steiner, a Jew named Max Vanderburg in Liesel’s basement, Liesel’s foster family, and Nazi Germany. Liesel’s brother dies on the train ride to their foster home with Hans and Rosa Hubermann, and she steals her first book, The Grave Digger’s Handbook, at his gravesite. Hans teaches her how to read and a love of books increases.

The Book Thief has a unique style of narration. Death does not often appear as a book narrator, and as such, he can be interpreted in many ways. Markus Zusak has chosen to depict Death as a tired “result” that gathers up all the dead souls, but has an attachment to some of the survivors. One of these survivors is Liesel, and Death picks her as the topic of his narration. This style combines first person and third person omniscient, since the narrator interacts with the story as a character, but he also sees all the thoughts of the other characters.

Rosa Hubermann speaks roughly, inserting the German word for pig into almost every sentence. Hans shows his love for his foster daughter and treats her as his own, playing his accordion for her. Rosa and Hans both have much importance and help shape Liesel’s character. Rudy Steiner becomes Liesel’s first friend. He almost becomes a love interest for Liesel, since he always wants her to kiss him. Max Vanderburg enters the life of the Hubermanns and Liesel because of a debt. Hans promised Max’s mom that he would try to help her family after Max’s dad, an army friend of Hans and Hans’ accordion teacher, dies at war. Max becomes another friend for Liesel, and he influences her life up to the end. Ilsa Hermann, the wife of the mayor of the town of Molching, cares for Liesel. She punishes herself for the death of her son by keeping her house cold and not reading any books, but she takes pity on the inaccessibility of books in Liesel’s life and lets Liesel read her books, even going so far as to let Liesel steal them. Max earns the spot as my favorite character, but Ilsa and Hans almost steal the spotlight.
Death places color in the spotlights as one of the major themes of this novel. From “signature black” to “soupy red” to “whitecap clouds,” Death describes colors to distract himself from the survivors. These colors serve as his “vacation” since Death cannot take a day off.

One other major theme in The Book Thief permeates the book. The story of Liesel, her stolen books, her relationship with Rudy, her relationship with Mama and Papa, and her relationship with Max all point to one theme: the power of love. Liesel loves books, along with all of these people, and these loves influence all of her decisions in this book.
When I look for a new book, I consider many qualities important. I consider topic, length, ratings, and re-readability, among other items. If someone asked me to give The Book Thief a star rating, I would give it five stars out of five. The Book Thief has all of these qualities, so I am proud to own a copy of my own.
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on May 21, 2015
Told mainly from Death's perspective, The Book Thief provides an interesting alternative viewpoint to a pivotal point of the twentieth century and a time of vast destruction in the world. This book is a historical fiction novel that takes place mostly in a city near Munich, Germany during World War Two. The narrator has a sarcastic tone that presents the otherwise depressing and sad story with a humorous and enlightening twist. Even so, it is hard for the mood to generally be more than a depression and sense of great loss. The narrator alternates from speaking directly to the audience, to telling the story in third person, to showing things from the perspective of the main characters. The story revolves around Liesel Meminger, a nine year old German girl who lost her younger brother and was forced to live with foster parents because her mom could not afford to take care of her. Her foster parents are Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Liessel develops a special relationship with her neighbor Rudy Steiner. She also forges a secret friendship with a Jew named Max Vandenburg. This novel is intended for a more mature audience because of the war violence course language used throughout. Overall, this was an interesting read because it can evoke the readers' emotions and sympathy for the characters. The main theme seems to revolve around death and loss. The author does so well at displaying this that it is hard to realize that he is not part of the lost generation that followed the Great War. Although this was a long read, the story does tend to feel choppy at times. Personally, I had some trouble keeping up with the plot at the beginning of the book. If the author can make the overall story flow more fluidly then the novel would be so much better.
-Andy Phu
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on January 6, 2016
I read books constantly so I'm probably a fairly tough reviewer to impress. This book is well written, creatively rendered, and appears realistically described. Interestingly, the narrator is Death, and the story line isn't "happily ever after." After all, the setting is in Germany during the Second World War. Liesel, the main character, is quite engaging and one can't help becoming a bit attached to her and anxious to know what will happen to her next. This isn't technically a young adult (teen) book, though some would enjoy it. It's amazing to me how few Americans read much, and some teens today may not be particularly excited about tackling a book over 500 pages long.
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