The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief (large)Where do I even start on this one? The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was our neighborhood book club selection, we haven’t yet met to discuss it, but I couldn’t wait to write about it. First off, I could not believe that The Book Thief is considered a young adult book. I think it’s one of those books that would appeal largely to adults as well, I only hope that it’s labeling doesn’t make those who don’t read juvenile literature hesitant to pick it up. It’s my understanding though that this book is in the Adult category in Zusak’s home country of Australia.

I’d say that the first twenty pages or so are very confusing. At first, I couldn’t figure out who the narrator was and I was not used to the way in which the book was written. I finally figured out that the narrator is Death and he stops to give “announcement-like” declarations throughout the book. Once I passed this hump and got into the rhythm of the book, it was very easy to understand and read (after I wrote the majority of this review, I read other reviews, and they all seemed to mention the same thing). The writing actually became refreshing and it was a nice break, stylistically speaking, from all the other books I had been reading. This is though one of those books that, like my recent A Thousand Splendid Suns review, made me stop and think about the comforts of life which I enjoy and grateful that I have not lived in a war torn country.

To quote A Book Thief:

It’s a small story really, about, among other things:

  • A girl
  • Some words
  • An accordionist
  • Some fanatical Germans
  • A Jewish fist fighter
  • And quite a lot of thievery

The story begins as a young Liesel Menimger is traveling to a small town outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, the narrator Death, becomes intrigued with Liesel when her little brother dies. It is here that she steals her first book, The Gravedigger’s Handbook. He then follows and narrates her story. Liesel, is being given to foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, for reasons that she does not quite grasp nor understand. Despite the constant swearing and yelling (mostly by Rosa) Liesel is treated well and loved by her new foster parents, she makes friends with a boy named Rudy, goes to school, is taught to read by Hans, but the book becomes tense as the war begins to hit closer and closer to home and the family hids a Jew named Max in their basement.

Liesel is infatuated with words. Hans teaches her to read, and Liesel can not get enough of books and their words inside. She learns that it is words that give people power and it is words which holds the country under the control of Hitler and the Nazi party.

This story told by Death, is about death and the threat of death and the brutality of man is continually in the background. The book showcases mans ability to be brutal and the ability to have great compassion. It humanizes those who lived through World War II and teaches us how small defiance’s make a large difference.

I would highly recommend this book to everybody! One of the best reads in a long time! I was so excited to find this amazing short:

Reviews (from Bookmarks Magazine)
Hartford Courant – [Zusak] writes in a moving but never maudlin way about ordinary Germans caught up in the grim machinery of the Holocaust, who quietly and at enormous risk find ways to subvert it. … It is a testimony to Zusak’s strength and skill as a writer that the tears this story rightly evokes seem the proper tribute to this shattering, haunting book.” Carole Goldberg

Philadelphia Inquirer – If you start this novel expecting a cornball triumph-of-the-human spirit-through-the-magic-of-reading kind of experience, you’re in for a surprise. … [Liesel’s] story is remarkable in that it’s one of many equally tragic ones—and because it takes a special talent to find its moments of beauty among the rubble.” Katie Haegele

San Antonio Exp-News - An observant narrator, Death doesn’t hold back the bravery, persistence, twists of fate and love that swirls around ‘book thief’ Liesel. The ending transcends the sadness of war violence that reaches Molching through powerful emotion made possible only from all the storytelling risks author Zusak himself takes.” David Hendricks

San Francisco Chronicle – Zusak has done a useful thing by hanging the story on the experience of a German civilian, not a camp survivor, and humanizing the choices that ordinary people had to make in the face of the Führer. It’s unlikely young readers will forget what this atrocity looked like through the eyes of Death.” Reyhan Harmanci

Washington Post - The book’s length, subject matter, and approach might give early teen readers pause, but those who can get beyond the rather confusing first pages will find an absorbing and searing narrative. … Death, like Liesel, has a way with words.” Elizabeth Chang

New York Times – “Markus Zusak has not really written Harry Potter and the Holocaust. It just feels that way.” Janet Maslin

Other blogger reviews:
U Krakovianki Reviews I found the literary device of anthropomorphizing death to narrate the book to be a bit of a stumbling block. It was probably the aspect of the book that I liked the least, and yet it does work. I found Death’s constant interruptions to the story to be irritating and frustrating, but as I read, I decided that death is very much just that–an interruption to the smoothly flowing story of life. Death is constantly interrupting–telling us things that we would rather not know–and then the story moves on. The interruptions do not stop the story–it goes on. Some people are no longer part of the story, but it goes on just the same, until death interrupts again: a pattern as old as the world.
3M’s Review Each character in the book is so perfectly portrayed and so lovingly depicted. I fell in love with each one and cared deeply about what happened to them. I won’t spoil any more of the storyline, because this book is a treasure to read and to ponder over long after the final page is turned. It is a story that will stay with me for many, many years to come.

Carlo Reviews The war without the war, with the death as narrator. Interesting, but not a light reading. A good story, but not enough to keep you awake in the night. Well written, but not breathtaking. I would not suggest it, but to be completely honest it is much better than many many other books I have read lately!

Stefanie Reviews You’d think with Death as the narrator of the book and the fact that it is set in Germany during World War II that I would be prepared for a sad ending. This is one of those books where you love all the characters and even though you know how the war ends, even though you know what happens, you hope that maybe here, maybe in this book, history can be changed, people can be saved and that everything might turn out alright.

Booklogged Reviews The whole book is filled with beautiful and unexpected arrangements of words. This alone is not what makes the book so outstanding. The story is compelling. The characters are flawed but important. You love them. You care about them. You worry and cry for them. Even Death.

Links of interest: Reading guide and Marcus Zusak’s website. More book blogger reviews.
Genre: Historical Young Adult Fiction.
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers. March 14, 2006.
Hardcover, 560 pages. ISBN 0375831002
Source copy: Own
The Book Thief is available from your favorite independent bookstore, Powell’s, and Amazon.

58 comments


  1. I loved your review. Mine is up too. The YouTube clip is fabulous and I’m going to add it to my review as well. Thanks for visiting.

    on January 21st, 2008 at 10:06 am
  2. [...] reviews The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Slow Man J.M. Coetzee, Cut by Patricia McCormick, and My Brother’s Keeper by [...]

    on January 25th, 2008 at 8:53 am
  3. Great review. This was absolutely one of my favorite books from last year’s reading. Absolutely brilliant!

    on January 26th, 2008 at 6:18 am
  4. I’m so glad I found your reveiw; I have been meaning to add this one to my TBR list, but I forgot about it. This is a very insightful review, and I will be reading this one soon (I hope!)

    on January 26th, 2008 at 6:32 am
  5. I have this book sitting on my bookshelf. It is next in line to read. I enjoyed your review of it and look forward to reading it for myself!

    on January 26th, 2008 at 7:37 am
  6. This was absolutely my favorite book last year. I get misty every time I read a review. What an incredible book.

    on January 26th, 2008 at 9:53 am
  7. This is by far my favorite book of all time – what an amazing story. Just plain brilliant. I reviewed this book on my blog here.

    on January 26th, 2008 at 7:12 pm
  8. Today my husband ran into the library to drop stuff off and pick up our holds, he came out with The Book Thief. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I just returned that one a couple of days ago.” “I know,” he says, “it was in the book sale area for 25 cents!” He, he . . . I’m giddy.

    BookGal – I’m glad you enjoyed the clip, I’ve watched it a billion times, I just can’t help myself.

    Small World – thanks!

    Amy – don’t just add it the TBR pile, put it on top!

    Carrie – enjoy!

    Framed – I read your review as well and look forward to many more articles!

    Wendy – I also added you to my reader and look forward to reading more great reviews!

    To all – I always add comment droppers to my reader and have done so to all of you. I look forward to many great reviews and recommendations. Thanks!

    on January 26th, 2008 at 10:37 pm
  9. Hi, I came to your site to say hello! Have fun reading the sappiest book in the world. ;) let me know how you liked it.

    on February 15th, 2008 at 6:49 am
  10. I have taught English for 14 years and have never some across a more beautiful story. I think Markus Zusak is Australia’s finest writer at the moment. His other more popular novel – ‘The Messenger’ is just as good but for totally different reasons.

    on February 17th, 2008 at 9:56 pm
  11. What a surprise – you have a quote by me?! Isn’t this book so good. Can’t believe you husband bought a copy for 25 cents. I don’t understand it’s classification as YA, either.

    on March 16th, 2008 at 1:36 pm
  12. Mimi – Eat, Pray, Love? I read and I reviewed!

    Tony – I have Messenger on the nightstand right now. Hope to start real soon.

    Booklogged – Well hey, it was a great review!

    on March 17th, 2008 at 7:36 pm
  13. I’m going to start reading this book today. I only recently heard about the book, but since then, I’ve seen it all over the blogging world, and I’ve only heard good things! Thank you for your great review!

    on April 22nd, 2008 at 6:43 am
  14. This is one of my favorite books that I read last year. It was told from a very unique perspective. My favorite part though was that it told of this time period from a completely different point of view than I had ever read. It was a great change. I’m glad to see that so many other people have liked it as well. I do know that some people have been hesitant to read it because of it’s young adult categorization. I’ve been doing my best to encourage people to read it despite the label.

    on April 23rd, 2008 at 7:38 am
  15. [...] just discovered Marcus Zusak this year having The Book Thief (review here) I was eager to read more of him. And it seemed like everybody that was reading The Book Thief was [...]

    on April 25th, 2008 at 10:29 pm
  16. I too disagree with the classification for young adults, which limits the scope of the book’s potential sales! But I love this review. It would make any reader want to pick the pick up and see what the fuss is about.

    on April 27th, 2008 at 12:24 pm
  17. I also couldn’t believe it was reviewed as Young Adult. I saw you commented on my review so I wanted to come see what you said about it.

    I also just read your review of Keeper and Kid and how you didn’t like the language. Did the language in this bother you? It really bothered me–I guess because he even bothered to define the German curse words. I also listened to it, so it was harder to ignore, I guess.

    on June 9th, 2008 at 4:25 am
  18. [...] Other reviews of this book: Clare Stefanie Nyssaneala Natasha [...]

    on June 26th, 2008 at 5:51 am
  19. Did Liesel marry Max. I don’t want to ruin the book for those who haven’t read it, but several of us have debated

    on June 30th, 2008 at 11:14 pm
  20. I don’t want to ruin the book for those who have not finished it, but several of us have debated whether Liesel married Max. Please answer this.

    on June 30th, 2008 at 11:16 pm
  21. Carol – I read in an interview with Marcus Zusak that he left it ambiguous on purpose and each of us can decide for ourselves what we think. As for me, I don’t think so. I thought their friendship was more brotherly/sisterly than a romantic one. But that’s just me!

    on June 30th, 2008 at 11:59 pm
  22. I am reading the Book Thief right now, and I’m right in the middle. I love the theme of it, and I love Liesal. She’s a tough straightfoward and honest person, which makes the story so good. I like the book so far, and from what Ive read I would rate it 4 and a half stars.

    on August 12th, 2008 at 1:40 pm
  23. It’s the same with me, I was confused with the weird writing at the beginning of the book! But as I continued, I found that it’s one of the most compelling stories ever written. I feel it should be read by all, regardless of age. Here’s my review of this fabulous book!

    on September 21st, 2008 at 9:25 am
  24. [...] Bloggers’ Reviews: Nymeth, Laura, Leah, Kristine, Reading Monk, Rimi, Natasha Bookmark and Share: sociallist_59a9125e_url = [...]

    on September 28th, 2008 at 10:32 am
  25. Wow. I am a high school senior, and this was part of our AP summer reading. I thought it was going to be just another pointless reading book that I wouldn’t get into. It was quite the opposite. I have learned to love this book, it is Amazing!! I am so glad it was on my reading list. Markus Zusak is an amazing writer, and keeps the reader on his/her toes the whole time. A must read!!

    on October 6th, 2008 at 5:09 pm
  26. Isn’t it a marvelous book? I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it and how much the story affected me.

    on October 16th, 2008 at 7:09 am
  27. snowflakestargrl – I’m so glad that you are enjoying it. Leisel is great!

    Josette – I’m glad to see The Book Thief doing well on the NY Times bestseller list. People are reading it.

    Ashlee – Isn’t it wonderful to find a book that you thought you’d hate and you really like it?

    Stefanie – I still have fond memories of The Book Thief.

    on October 16th, 2008 at 11:44 pm
  28. Ohh, this book is truly a treasure. As the commenters b4 me said, it holds great beauty and is such a compelling story. The ending is a sad one, but that’s what makes the book, well, the book. I don’t wanna ruin the ending so I’m not saying what happens :) But throughout the last two chapters of the book, I was literally sobbing. I got the book wet and now it has a bunch of wavy blotches in it! :( This has gotta be one of my all-time fave books. I can strangely relate to it in ways i can’t understand…

    on October 20th, 2008 at 2:02 pm
  29. Is the Whistler a real book and if so, where can it be found?

    on November 13th, 2008 at 12:46 pm
  30. This is my favorite book! I love it! You were right about the bigginging: it was extremely confusing and hard to identify who was talking. The book was addictive, however, the ending was sad enough to make me cry

    on November 20th, 2008 at 2:02 pm
  31. [...] is a link to a web site that provides helpful background information on your book.  This site is http://blog.mawbooks.com/2008/01/20/the-book-thief-by-markus-zusak/.  I have chosen that site because this site tells the description about the book.  In this site, [...]

    on December 9th, 2008 at 6:18 pm
  32. i’m going to finally get to this one in January – i hope!

    on December 19th, 2008 at 8:42 am
  33. i love his book!

    on December 29th, 2008 at 3:04 pm
  34. I just finished this book and absolutely loved it. Death just might be my new favorite literary character. :)

    on January 16th, 2009 at 12:53 pm
  35. I really loved this book even though it made me cry at the end (which I don’t usually do.) My favorite quote from the movie was the one you put in your review.

    on March 30th, 2009 at 6:48 pm
  36. I bawled like a baby for the last 10 pages and then flipped it to the beginning and read it again. The 2nd time was even more intense. This is the first time I read a book again immediately upon finishing it…

    on May 2nd, 2009 at 5:31 pm
  37. Just put “The Book Thief” down and immediately had to Google it, which is how I happened upon your blog. Very excited to find your blog and thrilled to read how this book touched fellow readers. Saw that you will soon be reading “Atonement” by Ian McEwan. Never saw the movie, but I loved the book. His writing is so expertly crafted that it had me hooked from the get-go, despite the fact that the story is slow-going for the first fifty pages. Looking forward to your review of that! Your new fan!

    on May 10th, 2009 at 8:54 pm
  38. I just put the Book Thief down moments ago. I loved it. I am also puzzled about the YA categorization. Who decides these things? A reviewer? The publisher? Ridiculous.

    on June 29th, 2009 at 8:31 pm
  39. I enjoyed “The Book Thief” so much that the day after I finished it I began “I am the Messenger” which I also love. By the time I was half way through “The Book Thief” I even liked the narrator of the book, Death-I enjoyed your review a lot

    on July 20th, 2009 at 1:02 am
  40. I am reading this book with my grandson it is on his required summer reading list. We both love this book. The characters are so real and likable especially Hans, Rudy and of course Liesel. I have to say this is one of my very favorite books.

    on July 23rd, 2009 at 4:12 pm
  41. hahahaha mr. tony hytch… what are ya doin?

    on July 25th, 2009 at 7:45 am
  42. i think this book was not that great at all all my peers hated it

    on August 27th, 2009 at 6:30 pm
  43. I just finished the book thief, but the only reason I did was because I paid for it. It is easily the worst book I’ve read this year. If you haven’t yet read the book, don’t! Unless you’re a moron, you won’t like it. Death finds a child’s memoirs and carries it around in his pocket, narrating her story. Couldn’t care less about any of the characters. Complete trite nonsense. A serious pile of crap. Steer well clear.

    on September 4th, 2009 at 4:13 pm
  44. i love this book i just now am reading it he is a genius i love how death is telling the story and cant wait to read more from him

    on September 13th, 2009 at 7:13 pm
  45. Just finishes it!!!I totally enjoyed & loved this book. Indeed is one of the best ones I’ve read in my life!!! I could read it over and over again……

    on October 3rd, 2009 at 6:52 pm
  46. I loved this book! I am only 13, but I found it truly amazing. Anyone who doesn’t like it at least needs to rethink their life ideas! Fantastic!

    on October 25th, 2009 at 3:01 pm
  47. I am a librarian who leads a book discussion group. My group is reading this book. I can not wait to discuss “The Book Thief.” I love this book. It touched my heart.

    on November 9th, 2009 at 10:42 am
  48. I don’t know whether anyone mentioned this but I didn’t see it in the comments. I read The Book Thief when it first came out in Australia-I follow Aussie lit. It was in fact written and published as adult fiction. It was nominated for some prizes-in adult literature. When Knopf bought the US rights, they made the decision to publish and market it in the US as Young Adult fiction. I was flabbergasted when I heard this-and the rest is history-everyone in the world thinks it’s for kids. How awful that millions of adults will probably pass it by thinking it’s for, and about, adolescents. I enjoyed your review. Just thought this might interest you if no one has mentioned it yet.

    on January 6th, 2010 at 8:07 pm
  49. [...] reviews Filling My Patch of Sky Maw Books So Many Books At Home with Books In the Shadow of Mt. TBR Musings of a Bookish Kitty A Chair, a [...]

    on February 1st, 2010 at 7:14 am
  50. this book was terrible you guys are all retarded specially you kat…you need to rethink your life

    on June 2nd, 2010 at 12:09 pm
  51. I like this book very interesting.

    on November 17th, 2010 at 9:37 pm
  52. [...] Maw Books Blog, Rebecca Reads, The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader, Reading Matters, Stella Matutina, Things Mean A Lot, Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Becky’s Book Reviews, Stephanie’s Written Word. Have you reviewed this book on your blog? Let me know and I’ll add your link. [...]

    on January 5th, 2011 at 6:13 am
  53. i absolutely loved this book and i think your review was excellent. I totally agree that the first 20 pages were confusing because at first i didn’t know who the narrarator was and the annoncements

    on January 22nd, 2011 at 4:14 pm
  54. This is really a nice publication I will recommend this book to my other friends that this can help their self-publishing not to be struggling.

    on March 2nd, 2011 at 2:55 am
  55. [...] Late last night I caught the final chapter of a BBC ‘made for radio’ reading of “The Book Thief” by Marcus Zuzak. The story is of a young non-Jewish girl in Germany, in the years leading up to, and including, WWII. She, her foster household, and people of her neighborhood experience ‘living on the edge’ of Nazi-machine realities. The narrator, also a principal character, is ‘outside’ these lives – narration is by Death itself. Find a good review by ‘Natasha’ here. [...]

    on March 27th, 2011 at 9:49 pm
  56. I read it that Lisel married Max.

    It was the falling over each other when hugging, and that Max was not mentioned again. I thought his reference was as Liesel’s husband. Also I could see them emigrating together to Australia for a new life. I didnt think the age difference was that great, and she was very mature.

    on April 18th, 2011 at 1:49 am
  57. I liked this book. at first i didnt know if i would but after reading it i really liked it. however i am still in the middle of chapter 4 and havent finished but i can already tell that this is a good book. Lisel i think doesnt understand the concept or grasped it of why Hans needs to keep Max in her basement. but besides all of that nobody, tell me anything. i wanna read all of it. i hear that liesel dies in the end and so does her boy Rudy(Jesse Owens).

    on May 3rd, 2011 at 6:38 am
  58. [...] The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | Maw Books The Book Thief — So Many Books The Book Thief by Markus Zusak — In the Shadow of Mt. TBR At Home With Books: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Review books i done read: The Book Thief – Markus Zusak [...]

    on May 6th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

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