The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak,

Book cover of The Book Thief

Book description

'Life affirming, triumphant and tragic . . . masterfully told. . . but also a wonderful page-turner' Guardian
'Brilliant and hugely ambitious' New York Times
'Extraordinary' Telegraph


1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has…

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Why read it?

29 authors picked The Book Thief as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Markus Zusak’s book is definitely not for the faint of heart or those easily bored: its narrator is Death, and the book is over 500 pages long. Not really the kind of book you’d think of for those aged 12 and up (as it’s listed). But it is one that really ought to be universally read.

The book follows two young children battling for survival in Nazi Germany. Entropy hangs in the air like Death’s shadow. Life’s harsh realities—like evil, heartache, pain, and mortality—are ever-present. In Max's (the young boy) dreams, he is boxing with Hitler and lands a…

I love the way this story is narrated by Death.

I love unusual first-person narrators anyway. But the idea of Death telling the story of a young girl in World War 2 who grows to love words and adore books, that’s genius. I love it! And I love the way that this girl, Liesel, comes to a very Hebraic understanding of the power of words to give life.

This, in the end, causes a great reversal. Instead of Liesel being frightened of death, Death is frightened of her! I love the idea of books containing something that’s stronger than death.

This is a very touching, beautifully-written story about a young girl Liesel who is growing up in a town near Munich, Germany during World War II.

She is living with foster-parents, both of whom are anti-fascist but must, of course, be careful not to draw attention to themselves. Their lives become very difficult, however, when they decide to hide Max, a young Jewish man, in their basement. They all live in constant fear of him being discovered.

Liesel and Max develop a strong bond as he teaches her the value of the written word. The family cannot afford to buy…

Sometimes as a writer you read books that make you think, ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ and so it is with The Book Thief.

For me, the idea of casting death as a character is brilliant but to portray him as the narrator, and one with a sense of humour too is genius. Through his eyes we are able to see not just the horror but the humanity of the people living in Nazi Germany and particularly the main character, Liesel. She is a smart young girl reeling from personal tragedy and fascinated by words.

She steals books that…

“I am haunted by humans.” I’ve read a lot of fiction and non-fiction set during WWII and it was hard to imagine a better choice to narrate this particular story than Death.

He knows, after all, what humanity is capable of. “Their great skill is their capacity to escalate,” he says, as humanity escalated misery to its zenith. With War leaning over Death’s shoulder constantly requiring new efficiencies, it is the single life of Liesel Meininger, the orphaned German book thief of the title that serves as Death’s touchstone, his reminder of humanity’s potential wonder.

Forced to steal away…

From Maria's list on stories of death personified.

The story unfolds somewhat mysteriously, in that WWII historians may be a bit confused. The annihilation of Dresden, Germany through intense fire-bombing by the allies leaves little hope that anyone could survive long, yet a young girl is moving through the neighborhoods unscathed. She steals books from the library of a rich, sophisticated lady who has all but surrendered to her fate. The premise provides a nice counter to the book burning by the Nazis in the years leading up to military action. Although the girl is hardly a military hero, her persistence and courage renders her a testament to…

The Book Thief remains to this day one of my favorite novels! When I first read the book ten years ago, I was immediately drawn to the unique way the story was told. The opening chapter introduces the reader to the narrator... Death. Surprisingly, Death is a sympathetic character who states that they have never needed a vacation more than during WW2. It took me a bit to get used to the narrator’s voice, but once I did, I was hooked. The prose is so beautifully written and poetic that the only way I can describe it is like reading…

In 1939 Nazi Germany, Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich. She scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing until she encounters something she can’t resist—books. Her accordion-playing foster father helps her to read, and she shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. The story is told by “Death,” who becomes a character in the story. As one of the first books about the war that I read offering a point of view of someone living in Germany, an important message…

I loved everything about this young adult novel. Many books have been written about the Holocaust, but several things set this one apart. I loved Zusak’s innovation in writing from Death’s point of view, about a time and place in history—Berlin during WWII—where Death had never been busier. The author presents a rare and empathetic look at life for the average German, struggling with poverty and pressured to participate in one of the most horrific events ever. Liesel’s love of reading and risk to do so inspired me, as did the fact that stories matter. This story matters a great…

As the youngest of four in a single-family home, I spent a lot of time alone while my mother worked and my older siblings had extracurriculars. Books raised me. They were my salvation, literally saving me, much like they saved Liesel Meminger in The Book Thief. A foster child in 1939 war-torn Germany, Liesel stole books to feed her broken soul. There’s so much loss in this book—and the novel is narrated by Death—but at the same time, I learned about hope (sprinkled with a touch of humor), survival, and the redemptive power of the written word. 

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