Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Book Thief Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 552
Format: eBook
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I was amazed by the strength of the characters, and their love and survival with the simplest that life in a rationed war-torn town could offer them. The Book Thief changed my perception about Death and is a wonderful, hauntingly beautiful and poignant book and well worth a read, again and again.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

“It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who 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.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.”


My Thoughts:


Death narrates a remarkable story about Liesel, a young girl whose brother passes away on their way to live with foster parents. At his burial, one of the grave diggers drops a book and Liesel steals her first book. Liesel is unable to read very well. Her foster father is a loving and doting father and teaches her to read. As her ability to read improves, so does the love for her foster father and the books that bind them together.


Death, the narrator, is one of my favorite characters and gives us an interesting perspective. Initially, as Death begins the story of taking Liesel’s brother’s soul, I have the mental image of the stereotypical Grim Reaper and honestly, turned on the light because I was freaked out about Death “stealing” souls of the deceased. Death toys with the reader into what he (or she) really looks like. We have this preconceived notion that Death is scary, but then If you believe in an afterlife, should it be scary or welcoming, inviting and beautiful?


Death is surprisngly compassionate and eloquent in describing a dying person’s aura, Death was a fascinating narrator and really brought up thought-provoking ideas on why people die and who brought it upon them.


The book is set during World War II and details the atrocities against Jewish people and the fear of Germans to comply with the Nazi party. I was amazed by the strength of the characters, and their love and survival with the simplest that life in a rationed war-torn town could offer them. The Book Thief is a wonderful, hauntingly beautiful and poignant book and well worth a read, again and again. You won’t want to miss this book.


Favorite Quotes:


“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”


“The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. (Death)”


“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spot blues. Murky darkness. In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them.”


“Usually we walk around constantly believing ourselves. “I’m okay” we say. “I’m alright”. But sometimes the truth arrives on you and you can’t get it off. That’s when you realize that sometimes it isn’t even an answer–it’s a question. Even now, I wonder how much of my life is convinced.”


Challenges Satisfied:

Around the World in 80 Books Reading Challenge – set in Nazi Germany


Books Like This You Might Enjoy: 

If you enjoyed The Book Thief, you might also enjoy Sarah’s Key by Tatiana deRosnay.

What books have you read that changed your perceptions? What books have you read about the Holocaust. Happy reading!






About Markus Zusak

From Goodreads: “Markus Zusak was born in 1975 and is the author of five books, including the international bestseller, The Book Thief, which is translated into more than forty languages. First released in 2005, The Book Thief has spent a total of 375 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and still remains there eight years after it first came out.

His first three books, The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe and When Dogs Cry (also known as Getting the Girl), released between 1999 and 2001, were all published internationally and garnered a number of awards and honours in his native Australia, and the USA.

The Messenger (or I am the Messenger), published in 2002, won the 2003 Australian Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award (Older Readers) and the 2003 NSW Premier’s Literary Award (Ethel Turner Prize), as well as receiving a Printz Honour in America. It also won numerous national readers choice awards across Europe, including the highly regarded Deutscher Jugendliteratur prize in Germany.

It is The Book Thief, however, that has established Markus Zusak as one of the most successful authors to come out of Australia. To date, The Book Thief has held the number one position at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, the New York Times bestseller list, as well as in countries across South America, Europe and Asia. It has also been in the top five bestsellers in the UK and several other territories. It has amassed many and varied awards, ranging from literary prizes to readers choice awards to prizes voted on by booksellers. It was the only book to feature on both the USA and UK World Book Night Lists in 2012, and has now been adapted into a major motion picture.

The Book Thief (the film adaptation) is directed by Emmy Award-winning Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) and was shot in Berlin by Twentieth Century Fox. The cast is headlined by Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush (Shine, The King’s Speech) and Academy Award nominee Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, Anna Karenina). It also includes exciting new talents Ben Schnetzer, Nico Liersch, and Sophie Nelisse (Monsieur Lazhar), with Nelisse cast as The Book Thief, Liesel Meminger.

The Guardian calls The Book Thief “a novel of breathtaking scope, masterfully told.” The New York Times: “Brilliant and hugely ambitious…the kind of book that can be life-changing.” The Age: “an original, moving, beautifully written book.”

Markus Zusak grew up in Sydney, Australia, and still lives there with his wife and two children.”


    1. Yes, there are two apparent turnoffs just from the book’s description: 1) it is set during Nazi Germany and 2) it is narrated by Death. However, the story really focuses on the German townspeople and how they deal with living during the dictatorship (it does not describe the horrors of the concentration camps). There is one Jewish character that you meet in the story as he hides in Liesel’s basement. Death as a narrator is very different than the image we have of Death and his commentary on what he sees happening is unique, compassionate and quite insightful.

      It’s sort of like the Hunger Games for me. In the Hunger Games, I didn’t think I could get through the premise that the game was killing of kids, but once you get past the initial perceptions of what you think the book will be like, the story is much more moving and powerful to pass it up. Another instance of don’t judge the book by its cover 🙂

  1. I’ve been fascinated by this book since a long time, but for some reason never really picked it up. Your review makes me want to run out to the bookstore and buy it just now! Definitely going on my to-read list.

    1. Thanks Vinma for visiting. I was having trouble commenting on your earring post but I would agree to wait for your daughter to make me decision herself. My parents had my ears pierced as a baby so I don’t remember the experience. But they are very sensitive so I can’t wear them for more than a hour and I save that for dates with my Superhubby.

  2. Wow, it sounds like an intense, beautiful read. An interesting point of view and that quote is great. I probably won’t be reading it though since I hate crying. Yet I tear up at cartoons! Happy SITS day 🙂

    1. Yea, I am surprised I didn’t cry but I think a lot of people do. It is intensely beautiful. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I love this book! I loved Death as a narrator. I loved the idea that being Death is a difficult idea. I loved the way all the characters found distractions to help them through the atrocities of war, including Death. I loved the way he mixed senses like saying a sunset tastes a certain way.

    There are many books about this horrible time in history, but this one felt unique to me. Not just because of the narrator but because it was a different perspective than we usually have. It’s not about the Jewish people and what they are going through or about the Nazis, it’s about the people trying to live a normal life while this is going on around them.

    It was just so good in so many ways. If you haven’t heard the audiobook yet, you should. The reader is the second best I’ve heard. Jim Dale (Harry Potter) will probably always be my favorite audiobook reader. But the one who reads The Book Thief has a voice like liquid chocolate. It’s awesome!

    Stopping by from SITS. Have a great weekend.

    1. Thanks Miss Robin, great insights into the book! Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Hope you will be back to share with me other books you’ve enjoyed and recommend for these various reading challenges I have undertaken for 2013. Hope you have a great weekend too!

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