Book Reivew: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

February 19, 2013
Arti­cle first pub­lished as The Book Theif by Markus Zusak on Blog­crit­ics

The Book Thief by Austrian author Markus Zusak is a novel taking place in Nazi Germany. The book was published in 2006, since then it has won many awards and spent over 230 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list.

  • 576 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375842209


Book Reivew The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


My rating for The Book Thief4

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She was a girl.

In Nazi Germany.

How fitting that she was discovering the power of words.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a very popular novel, mainly among the YA crowd, and I can certainly see why. The book celebrates the power of the written word, of language, encourages people to read has an interesting twist in the narration.

The book approach to the Holocaust, not straight on but looking from the sidelines, will appeal to teens as well as adults. The young heroine, Liesel Meminger who is a feisty girl who navigates through the claustrophobic and schizophrenic world of adults in Nazi Germany is both smart and tough, with admirers and haters. All the characters occupy Molching, a small town which tries to keep out of the huge events surrounding it, the nearest city (Munich) and the nearest concentration camp (Dachau), both rich and poor struggle through their daily chores, hoping to have enough money for a few bites at the end of a long day.

The book itself is geared toward young adults on the cusp of full fledged adulthood. The book’s narrator, Death, is sorry for what he has to do, his “boss” expects him to do the impossible and mankind keeps feeding him “clients”. Most of the violence and bloodshed we associate with the Nazis is masked by symbolism or metaphors.

As I’m sure any intelligent reader have already figured out, books play an important part in the story. However, the one book the protagonist didn’t steal plays a very important and unexpected part – Mein Kampf. Hitler’s book helps to save a Jewish man, Max Vandenburg and it is then used to make an entirely new book.  The connection between the little girl and the Jewish outcast is forged on a new book built and written on the pages of Mein Kampf.

The strength of the book is its wit and understated horror. Death has a sense of humor, a keen eye and a literary outlook (“For me, the sky was the color of Jews”).  It is an impressive book and I appreciate Mr. Zusak’s ability, but a few lesser moments of the author trying to get the audience to tear would have worked for its favor.

Liesel Meminger meets Death at the age of 9 when she attends the funeral of  her brother.  Werner died on a long train trip them to Molching, Germany to a foster family which will distance the children from their Communist parents. At the funeral is when Liesel, an uneducated illiterate, steals her first book.

Death continues to narrate the book, he sees Liesel’s relationship with her foster parents, her neighborhood, a Jewish fist fighter and Rudy Steiner, a boy her own age. Along the way Liesel stumbles on more books, many of which she steals and become a soothing voice during the Allies bombardments.

Buy this book in paper or in elec­tronic format*

More Rec­om­mended World War II books on Man of la BookStore

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I bought this book.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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  • Helen Maryles Shankman February 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Hey, Zohar–

    I did try to read this once, but I couldn’t get past the cutesy little boldface headings. My 12 year old son just read it, and loved it. That one line you quoted–“For me the sky was the color of Jews–” has me convinced to try it again. Thanks!

    Did you ever get around to trying Andy McNab?

    • Zohar - Man of la Book February 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      Hi Hellen,

      I read the book in digital format so the heading didn’t translate through (I’m glad to say).
      If you’ll give it a shot I’ll be interested in what you would think about it.

      Just bought my first McNab book – thanks 🙂

      • Helen Maryles Shankman February 20, 2013 at 5:21 pm

        Which one did you get? (We just bought a bunch because we couldn’t get them at the library.)

        I’m going to give “The Book Thief” another chance. Everyone I know loves it. And you’ll have to tell me what you think of Andy McNab.

  • April Kempler February 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    I love this book. So glad you posted this review.

  • Sharon Henning February 19, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Another book to put on my book pile.

  • Michael @ Literary Exploration February 19, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    I must be one of the few people that didn’t think much of this book. Oh well, I’m glad you enjoyed it

  • Ryan February 20, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    I also didn’t love this book. It was good but I thought his other book, I Am the Messenger, was much better.

  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) February 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    This is one of my favorite books! I think I liked it so much because having Death as a narrator is pretty different, and I loved the characters. I re-read it with my daughter, and she loved it, too, though she didn’t cry at the end like I did.

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