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4.6 out of 5 stars
17,523
The Book Thief
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on January 26, 2017
I found the movie that was made from this book. I had never heard of it but thought the title was intriguing. The movie moved me greatly - couldn't get it out of my mind. So I got the Kindle book and read that. First let me say that although there were some differences between the movie and the book, they were minor. Both are excellent. In my humble opinion this is one of the best movies and books I have ever watched or read. I went on line to see if it won any academy awards - it won one for the music score and nothing else. That was really a slap in the face as I don't even remember the music score. The movie should have been best picture that year - superb acting and incredibly realistic depiction of the late years of the war. I highly recommend both the book and the movie. You won't be disappointed.
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on April 12, 2014
Death has a story to tell about something that happened in 1939 Nazi Germany. A story about newly orphaned Liesel Meminger and her new foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. A story about Rudy Steiner, the boy who wants to steal a kiss from her, and Max Vandenburg, the Jew who lives in her basement.

This is one of those books that exceeds expectations by such a degree, I'm left awestruck. This is not what I expected from a book labeled YA. The language in this book is simple yes, which I suppose is for the benefit of the Young Adult, and about a child growing up in Nazi Germany, but the story is complex enough for the Old Adult, with a pile of emotional triggers (code for I cried...a lot).

The story itself, is narrated by Death. That Death would take notice of anything besides ferrying souls between worlds, lends the haunting narrative a hopeful touch. Death takes notice of Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl and a survivor, who's traveling with her younger brother to meet their new parents. But Liesel's brother never finishes the journey, and so Death begins to haunt Liesel Meminger's footsteps.

Illiterate little Liesel, placed in a class with students much younger than she, covets books above all other things. She takes them when no one's looking, she learns to read them in the basement with her foster father's help. There are moments of happiness for Liesel, learning to read, finding Rudy, her partner in crime, and sneaking a snowman through the house. Moments of youthful indiscretions and laughter followed by the horror of air raid sirens and bullies and starving men forcibly marched down the street. And while Liesel's fleeting moments of happiness encourage hope, Death never let's you forget how many people are dying while she's learning to read...

And that's the best and the worst part about this book. The happiness. The sadness. Liesel's a child who has already experienced too much loss, so seeing her happy is a relief followed by page-turning-anxiety in the knowledge that more pain is headed her way. And when bad things start to happen, you can't help but cry at the helplessness of it all. That at the end of the day, Liesel can only keep surviving, keep living, keep trying. That no matter what happens, Death has more to do when the humans go to war...And that He will inevitably come for everyone.

As sad as this book was, and predicted itself to be, the ending was surprising. Liesel was granted some happiness at the end and that made the pain worth suffering.

Any book that can make me feel so much is worthy of 5 stars.
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on September 24, 2015
I can't actually remember if there was violence or not, as it has been a while since I read it. But I mean, it's about the Holocaust, so yeah, a little emotionally traumatic. I love this book and it is one of my favorites. You will not regret reading it far as I'm concerned.

Edit: POSSIBLE SPOILERS: Also, it's a story about a girl from the perspective of the grim reaper in WWII. She loses her mother and has to live with a foster family. She likes to read and steals books from I believe the Mayor's house. This is at a time when the Hitler Youth were burning books so I believe it was dangerous to have them. It's an interesting story, especially when her foster father repays an old debt by sheltering a Jew from the Nazis. There's a movie out, has been out about three years now I believe.
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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 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 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 May 1, 2014
Tonight, I finished reading Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief -- a major Hollywood movie released last year was based on this novel. Set in Nazi Germany, during World War II, the story is told from the perspective of Death, the one who gathers the troubled souls departing this world and takes them away from the realm of physical existence.

Liesle, the principal character in the novel, is introduced to us on a train where her little brother is dying from tuberculosis. Her mother, desperate that her daughter may live is taking her to find another family as she is too shattered in her life to continue raising her. At a remote station, Liesle's little brother dies and is buried in the town cemetery, a location to which neither she nor her mother have any connection, until this burial. It is at this cemetery that Liesle steals her first book, from a young boy, the caretaker's apprentice -- The Gravedigger's Handbook. She cannot read it yet, yet Liesle feels the power that words hold for her, and feels compelled to keep it when she notices the young apprentice drop it.

Liesle ends up being raised by a poor family in a suburb of Munich, as National Socialism comes to power under der Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler. Slowly, life begins to unravel, as yellow stars begin appearing in Jewish neighborhoods just blocks from her house. Persecution intensifies until processions of Jewish "laborers" are marched through the streets on their way to Dachau, the local concentration camp.

Liesle's family ends up hiding a Jewish young man in their basement, despite terrible risks, as her adopted father was befriended by the young man's father in World War I. Although forced to join the Nazi Party in order to feed his family, he has no sympathy for the Reich and its racist aims. Exhibiting great bravery, Liesle's "Papa" dares to give a dry crust of bread to a staggering old man, being forced on the march through town to Dachau -- and receives a savage beating for his trouble.

Liesle continues to find solace in books, belonging to the wife of the town Mayor, who allows her to "steal" books from her library and read them to neighbors, even during frightening air raids which threaten their community. She discovers the power of Words to cast vision, inform, make sense of life, and ennoble the human spirit.

In a poignant moment, following a direct hit by allied bombers of her street, killing absolutely everyone who is precious to her, she finds her "voice" through writing, becoming the "word shaker" who climbs the tree of ideas to shake down its fruit to pass on the truth that is hidden in her heart.

This is a most sobering book, riveting because of the beauty of the human spirit which is distilled through unspeakable tragedy, suffering and loss. It is a reminder that truth cannot be suppressed by propaganda forever, but will find its expression through honest hearts unafraid to give it voice and pen.
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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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