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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
17,592
The Book Thief
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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 July 13, 2017
I downloaded this book to challenge my stepdaughter with her summer reading. I can honestly say that I was the one challenged. It took some pushing to get me reading, yet when I started, I couldn't put it down. What an amazing read!!!
No words can express the surge of emotions that came with this book. I lived with these characters, survived the stories (and the war) and have found an honest love of words, and stories, again!
The way the story was relayed was brilliant and well done. I laughed, I held my breath and I cried when it was over. This is definitely a book I want to reread for the first time!
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on December 9, 2016
The Book Thief was written in a very new lliterary format but settled down into a great story that I could not put down. It was the best novel I have read that looks at Nazi Germany in an intimate way, from the viewpoint of those opposed to Hitler and who felt sympathy for the Jews.
I had followed that , somewhat , reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer , the theologian who attempted , with others , to kill Hitler. This was the best novel I have read that looks at a different Germany. It also presented a look at the rise of Hitler and why he rose so quickly with the power he had.
The story of the young girl and her adopted family and friends was a powerful one.
I look forward to reading more books by Zusak.
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on August 29, 2016
This book was incredible. The perspective was unique and interesting. I'm definitely curious to see the movie now. I highly recommend reading this first because the read was so great. It was quick to get through, but the story line was so in depth for being such a quick, short novel. The characters are well developed and the storyline, which takes place during WWII is so interesting. I've never read anything like it.

Overall, a great book. You will not regret purchasing and reading it yourself.
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on March 27, 2014
It is not a quick read, and certainly not a light one, but well worth the effort. I would not say I enjoyed this book because that verb is just not properly descriptive. This book is experienced or ruminated over or felt or something. The imagery is diverse and evocative, sometimes ethereal, and occasionally bizarre. The writing style is unique, infrequently downright odd, but always interesting and creative.

The interwoven lives of the characters are complex, amazing, and disturbing. Of course, how could a story set in World War II era Germany fail to be complex and disturbing.

The narrater is death. Yes, death. Not an unwise choice to narrate a war story. Death, as you may imagine, is rather busy in a time of war.

The main protagonist is a young girl, Liesel, the daughter of communists (hint: not a good thing to be in Nazi Germany). Her world is chock full of strange, interesting, and odd characters, from her foul mouthed foster mother and contrastingly gentle foster father, to various acquaintances on Himmel Street outside Munich. Although death tells the story, it is mostly presented as the story of Liesel and the people that were or are a part of her young life. Liesel, not surprisingly, experiences much death and loss, in general. However, the better side of humanity is illustrated in both large and small ways all around her.
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on December 16, 2014
I first saw the film based on this book with Geoffrey Rush as Hans, both film and book very good. Balanced approach and nuanced read on that time in history. A needed corrective to the view that all Germans supported Hitler and were actively involved in the Holocaust. The truth is both simpler and more complex than that. Using Death as a narrator was quite clever and the characterization of Death was very good, as well. A couple corrections to common mistakes about that period and German history, in general, perpetuated by this novel:
1."Deutschland Uber Alles", the german national anthem, sung in the story in a Nazi context, has never meant Germany over all other nations(a common misconception) but rather allegiance to the German national state rather than the particular region, duchy, principality, or free city which comprised Germany throughout most of her history prior to unification in the 19th century. This is a phenomenon known as eidgennosenschaft(sic) in German history.
2.Hitler and the Nazis never garnered near the 90% support alleged in the novel. The highest percentage of the popular vote the Nazis ever received, in the 1932 elections, was a little over 33%, the following year it fell back to around 32%, which was when they made their move, used the conservatives and aristocrats to secure the Chancellorship after which Hitler consolidated his power and abolished opposition. The point being that Naziism, extremism, anti-semitism is not particular to Germany or the Germans or, to paraphrase the American Thomas Sowell, the Third Reich should serve as a warning to anyone enamored of charismatic leaders and the power of rhetoric.
All of which is the point of the book, i.e. the power of words, both to seduce us to evil ends and to arm us in opposition. In Christian mythology, after all, Satan is the Master of Lies, the Deceiver who seduces us with his silver tongue to do evil. Which, in fact, in my opinion is as good an explanation as any, novels or history, as to how Hitler came to power and the horrors that followed.
Altogether, a very good read.
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on November 26, 2013
A refreshing account of similar stories we know and have read. A horrible part of history enlightened with happy tales told by a very unique narrator throughout. It's great to read about the love and hope intertwined with such a horrific part of history. My only wish would have been for a slightly mire developed ending. The story built up great all throughout but ending came on too suddenly. That is probably only because I became so attached to the characters. Job well done. I will definitely read more by this inspiring author.
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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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on November 10, 2014
THE BOOK THIEF has been on my shelf practically since it came out, but I kept putting it off and reading other things instead. Finally, last month, I decided to read it.

My conclusion?

*This is a beautiful book*

A beautifully rendered story, interesting style, and unique voice. I love the unbridled audacity of writers who are brave enough to use odd and innovative styles to tell a story.

Some view these new styles as too gimmicky, all show and no substance, that it’s the style rather than the story which is garnering attention.

My litmus test is always whether the underlying story can stand on its own without the odd stylistic choice.

THE NIGHT CIRCUS can’t

GONE GIRL can’t

THE BOOK THIEF most certainly can

It’s the story of Liesel Meminger (a character destined to go down as a classic, on par with Mary Lennox, the Darlings, and the Pevensies) in Nazi-era Munich. Liesel’s mother is giving her up, along with her younger brother who doesn’t survive the journey, to the Hubermanns, a husband and wife living on Himmel Street. He is a painter, she washes clothes and swears at people. Liesel bonds with her new papa immediately. Her new mother, though rough, treats her well and genuinely cares for her.

We meet Rudy, Liesel’s spunky best friend, a runner with flaxen hair who gets in trouble with her, protects her and loves her.

We meet the Nazi youths and witness the casual xenophobia and cruelty of the era from the eyes of a little girl.

We witness a gut-wrenching scene of book burning, particularly for our little book thief.

*NOTICE HOW I HAVEN’T MENTIONED THE USP YET?*

It’s because the story is strong enough on its own and doesn’t need the unique selling point of Death as Narrator.

As I’m sure you’re aware, the story is narrated by Death. He’s an apt choice given the horrific war in which the story is set. Death is by turns perplexed, sympathetic, apathetic, and complimentary of humans. He claims to be haunted by humans at times and seems to have been inordinately interested in Liesel and her family.

He is a fully omniscient narrator, knowing the past, present , and future of the characters. He can also see into them, their thoughts, motives, and inner lives, and he uses this knowledge to tease and hook the reader, telling us key future events throughout the story.

THE GOOD:

There’s a lot to praise here, but to name a few:

Liesel is a great protagonist. Believable and real. She has a streak of meanness in her that makes her very real.

The characters are deftly drawn across the board. Papa is a great, warm, eminently likable person. Rudy is awesome and makes a great sidekick for Liesel. Even the mayors wife and Frau Heil Hitler are well-rounded.

There is some beautiful prose here. One passage that caught my eye:
"Trust me though, the words were on the way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain."

There are some wondrously imaginative and moving passages. Not to spoil anything, but I especially loved the bit where Max ‘transforms’ the book for Liesel. Stunning.

THE BAD:

Not much to bemoan, but I didn’t care for:

The constant translating from German to English. I felt like most of it could be understood from context.

The way it was formatted: constant paragraph breaks, centered and bold test was repetitive and began to annoy me after a while.

But other than those two minor gripes, which have nothing to do with content, I think this is a great book and one I will be rereading over the years.
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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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