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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Markus Zusak

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
24,192144945 (4.38)4 / 1730
Title:The Book Thief
Authors:Markus Zusak
Info:Knopf Books for Young Readers (2006), Edition: First, Hardcover, 560 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:YA, Hitler, Germany, coming-of-age, holocaust, Nazi, WWII

Work details

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)

  1. 559
    The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (alalba, PghDragonMan, Anonymous user)
    PghDragonMan: Both side of hiding during the Holocaust
    Anonymous user: Both are about Holocaust. The Book Thief is from German girl's perspective whereas The Diary of a Young Girl is from a Jewish girl's perspective.
  2. 402
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (paulkid, Anonymous user)
    paulkid: There are many similarities between these books. For example, a strong father-daughter relationship, where the father teaches by example by taking the moral high ground in protecting a persecuted minority - also kids that break down the barriers between secluded and socially awkward neighbors through books and sundry shenanigans.… (more)
  3. 301
    The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (Booksloth, frsantos)
  4. 231
    Night by Elie Wiesel (Smellsbooks)
  5. 236
    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (weener)
  6. 160
    The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom (PghDragonMan, avidmom, rhshelver)
  7. 182
    I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (whymaggiemay, RosyLibrarian)
  8. 100
    Everything is illuminated : a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer (TessaSlingerland)
  9. 90
    The Chosen by Chaim Potok (avidmom)
  10. 80
    Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman (kaipakartik)
  11. 91
    Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene (bethielouwho)
  12. 71
    Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum (loriephillips)
  13. 71
    Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (sleepykid00)
    sleepykid00: Both taken place during WWII, but in different perspectives.
  14. 71
    The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen (whoot, booklove2)
  15. 61
    The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (Ciruelo, heidialice)
  16. 63
    The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak may linked with The Reader by Bernhard Schlink using the themes of reading, Nazi Germany and death. You could also pair it with the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman. Atonement by Ian McEwan could work as well because of the young protagonists, war, and reading.… (more)
  17. 74
    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (BookGirlVL)
    BookGirlVL: The story is told from the point of view of a precocious eleven year old with a passion for poisons and death. Her favourite places to think are in the cemetery and in the old chemistry lab in the country house, she shares with her annoying sisters and preoccupied father. The witty, lively and whimsical narrative voice immediately reminded me of Zusak's "The Book Thief".… (more)
  18. 20
    The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust's Shadow by Krystyna Chiger (elwren75)
  19. 20
    City of Thieves by David Benioff (avalon_today)
    avalon_today: Kolya reminds me of Rudy, a bit older but none wiser, with his self-assurance and confidence, ok maybe he has lost some of his sweetness, but I still see the humor and zest for life.
  20. 20
    Daniel Half-Human: and the Good Nazi by David Chotjewitz (fountainoverflows)

(see all 43 recommendations)


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Showing 1-5 of 1354 (next | show all)
This book was distinctly okay. It kind of felt like it wanted to be all things to all people? I've seen it classified as young-adult, and that works, in a sense, but I also get the impression that Zusak's ambitions were somewhat more "literary" than that? And in the same breath, I feel like the writing is often even more juvenile than young-adult literature tends to be. The narrator should be interesting, but isn't. Terry Pratchett portrays Death (and death) interestingly. Zusak doesn't. Death's narration left me cold, I felt no rapport with him, despite the conversational tone he took. Similarly, all the telegraphed plot points - mainly deaths - left me with nothing left to look forward to in this book, in the sense that, if we had to have a bleak ending (which, of course, we had), then we would bloody well know what KIND of bleak ending we were going to have!

Like I said, it was okay. There were some nice scenes. But I didn't really feel anything about it and I feel like I should have. It was just so... simplistic. So black and white. I've had meatier Big Macs. ( )
  humblewomble | Oct 19, 2014 |
great fiction book for 5th grade independent reading ( )
  blev | Oct 19, 2014 |
A well-told story is a well-told story, regardless of forum in which it appears. The old adage about reading the book instead seeing the movie overlooks the possibility of a story more fitted for the screen than the page. And some stories are suited better for the internal imagination than for projected images. Marcus Zusak’s [The Book Thief] was so well-adapted from book to movie that you can really choose your poison, as neither the film nor the book offer any significant improvements – it’s just a well-told story.

[The Book Thief] – the book – is Death’s own musings about, well, life. He is enchanted by Liesel, a young German girl, the first time he sees her. It is the day that he scoops up the soul of her younger brother from a train car. Liesel and her mother watch the boy as he is buried in the frozen ground, and the girl pockets a copy of a gravedigger’s handbook from the scene, the first of several purloined books. She is deposited with a foster couple, the wife a vulgar, if secretly tender, curmudgeon and the husband a genuinely sweet soul. Death watches her grow as he struggles to keep up with World War II’s body count.

Certainly, a book told from Death’s perspective is unique, but Zusak is at his best when he forgets the affectation of speaking through the Reaper. Maybe the seeds of the story didn’t strike him as the kind that would garner the attention necessary for publication. Maybe he didn’t feel comfortable telling the story through the eyes of a 12-year-old German girl from a century long gone. Or maybe he had just always wanted to try thinking like Death. Whatever the reason, the parts of the book that feel forced are those passages when Death interrupts with wisdom born of corpses. Otherwise, Liesel is quite capable of providing her own insight into the brutal workings of the world and the conflicted souls of those around her.

Perhaps, that is why [The Book Thief] – the movie – was so evocative and powerful. While the movie maintains the Death origin, it is far less concerned with Death’s work or perspective, choosing instead to focus on the girl once the introductions are made and returning to him only in the end. The rest of Liesel’s story is rendered in the movie through her eyes, allowing for the raw nerves to be exposed more completely and without interruption.

So, what’s the answer – the book or the movie? For this one, I’d answer either because the story is wonderfully rendered in either milieu. The book offers a bit of a forced technique and a few forced metaphors, but is otherwise well written. The movie renders the story in its raw form, but without the benefit of the subtleties that can only be featured on the page.

Ultimately, with [The Book Thief], Zusak declares himself as a good story-teller – he just needs to forget himself a little more to become a better writer.

Bottom Line: A good story, either on the page or on the screen.

4 bones!!!!! ( )
1 vote blackdogbooks | Oct 18, 2014 |
Grades 10th-12th—The depictions of Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and World War II reach new heights in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Death as the narrator of this historical fiction novel places an interesting twist on the story of Liesel Meminger and her life as a book thief. While visiting her brother’s graveside one day, Liesel discovers a book half-buried in the snow—The Grave Digger’s Handbook. After stealing this book, she embarks on a journey of book thievery, fueling her never-ending love for books and words. Liesel’s life, however, turns both upside down and inside out when her family agrees to hide a Jew in their basement. Although the novel’s mood emits an aura of sadness and despair at times, readers will find several laughable moments, too, and readers become instantly attached in multiple ways to Liesel because of her unfortunate circumstances.

Readers will plummet into a moderate-paced, adventure-filled novel while traveling alongside Liesel as she steals books from the mayor’s wife’s library, Nazi book burnings, and other risky venues. Beautifully written and easily accessible to high school students, this book deserves a place on the bookshelves in school libraries around the world—next to other top-rated books of its kind. Also, The Book Thief will certainly be taught in classrooms for many years. Zusak’s writing, which is full of literal and figurative language, explodes with intensity and a sincere honesty—providing readers with a most realistic, although fictional account of Nazi Germany and those horrific events that are most often associated with this particular place and time. ( )
  Amanda_Woodruff | Oct 13, 2014 |
Excellent book focusing on life of Liesel, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany.near Munich. Very moving book narrated by Death. ( )
  cbinstead | Oct 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 1354 (next | show all)
This over-praised, overlong novel is in trouble before it starts. The acknowledgments open with a tribute to someone “who is as warm as she is knowledgeable” and continue in the same saccharine manner.
Unsettling, thought-provoking, life-affirming, triumphant and tragic, this is a novel of breathtaking scope, masterfully told. It is an important piece of work, but also a wonderful page-turner. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
This is a moving work which will make many eyes brim. Zusak shows us how small defiances and unexpectedly courageous acts remind us of our humanity. It isn't only Death who is touched. Liesel steals our hearts too.
The Australian writer Markus Zusak's brilliant and hugely ambitious new young-adult novel is startling in many ways, but the first thing many teenagers will notice is its length: 552 pages! It's one thing to write a long book about, say, a boy who happens across a dragon's egg; it's quite another to write a long, achingly sad, intricately structured book about Nazi Germany narrated by Death itself.
This is never an easy read, never a glide. But, in Zusak's ability to imagine and execute, he has achieved a very personal vision that grabs the reader and does not let go.

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zusak, Markusprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
White, TrudyIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Corduner, AllanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lodewijk, AnnemarieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For Elisabeth and Helmut Zusak,
with love and admiration
First words
First the colors.
Five hundred souls, I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases; or I'd throw them over my shoulder. It was only the children I carried in my arms. For some reason, dying men always ask questions they know the answer to. Perhaps it's so they can die being right.
In Liesel's mind, the moon was sewn into the sky that night. Clouds were stitched around it.
When the train pulled into the Bahnhof in Munich, the passengers slid out as if from a torn package.
A bathrobe answered the door. Inside it, a woman with startled eyes, hair like fluff and the posture of defeat stood in front of her.
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Information from the Catalan Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
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Book description
Unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul ... With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read ... Sharing her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids ... Plus, sharing with the Jewish a man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau

(Charles Duff description below)
This terrifically engaging book takes place during World War II in Nazi Germany.  An angel of sorts who collects souls once they die, narrates this story in which the angel talks about the book thief herself, young Liesel Meminger.  After losing her brother on the train to their foster home, Liesel comes across a book dropped by one of the grave diggers, The Grave Diggers Handbook.  She becomes immersed in books from there on out, but has to steal to get them because they are banned.  This is a great independent reading book for those in high school.  It has many direct elements associated with the Holocaust and Nazi Germany.  Here is a link to the authors wonderfully interactive website: http://www.randomhouse.com/features/m...
Haiku summary
Words become life to
girl in Nazi Germany -
Narrated by Death.
An accordion

There was once a strange, small man

Liesel Meminger

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375842209, Paperback)

It’s just 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. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:44 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors. Includes readers' guide.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 15 descriptions

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