The Book Thief

The Book Thief

4.38 (2,188,335 ratings by Goodreads)
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The extraordinary, beloved novel about the ability of books to feed the soul even in the darkest of times.

When Death has a story to tell, you listen.

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.

"The kind of book that can be life-changing." --The New York Times

"Deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank." --USA Today

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Product details

  • 12-17
  • Paperback | 608 pages
  • 132 x 203 x 30mm | 411g
  • Random House Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0375842209
  • 9780375842207
  • 16,349

Review Text

(12-16 años)
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Review quote

"Brilliant and hugely ambitious...Some will argue that a book so difficult and sad may not be appropriate for teenage readers...Adults will probably like it (this one did), but it's a great young-adult novel...It's the kind of book that can be life-changing, because without ever denying the essential amorality and randomness of the natural order, The Book Thief offers us a believable hard-won hope...The hope we see in Liesel is unassailable, the kind you can hang on to in the midst of poverty and war and violence. Young readers need such alternatives to ideological rigidity, and such explorations of how stories matter. And so, come to think of it, do adults." -New York Times, May 14, 2006

"The Book Thief is unsettling and unsentimental, yet ultimately poetic. Its grimness and tragedy run through the reader's mind like a black-and-white movie, bereft of the colors of life. Zusak may not have lived under Nazi domination, but The Book Thief deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel's Night. It seems poised to become a classic."
- USA Today

"Zusak doesn't sugarcoat anything, but he makes his ostensibly gloomy subject bearable the same way Kurt Vonnegut did in Slaughterhouse-Five with grim, darkly consoling humor."
- Time Magazine

"Elegant, philosophical and moving...Beautiful and important."
- Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"This hefty volume is an achievement...a challenging book in both length
and subject..."
- Publisher's Weekly, Starred

"One of the most highly anticipated young-adult books in years."
- The Wall Street Journal

"Exquisitely written and memorably populated, Zusak's poignant tribute to words, survival, and their curiously inevitable entwinement is a tour de force to be not just read but inhabited."
- The Horn Book Magazine, Starred

"An extraordinary narrative."
- School Library Journal, Starred

"The Book Thief will be appreciated for Mr. Zusak's audacity, also on display in his earlier I Am the Messenger. It will be widely read and admired because it tells a story in which books become treasures. And because there's no arguing with a sentiment like that."
- New York Times
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About Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak is the internationally bestselling author of six novels, including The Book Thief and most recently, Bridge of Clay. His work is translated into more than forty languages, and has spent more than a decade on the New York Times bestseller list, establishing Zusak as one of the most successful authors to come out of Australia.

All of Zusak's books - including earlier titles, The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, When Dogs Cry (also titled Getting the Girl), and The Messenger (or I am the Messenger) - have been awarded numerous honors around the world, ranging from literary prizes to readers choice awards to prizes voted on by booksellers.

In 2013, The Book Thief was made into a major motion picture, and in 2018 was voted one of America's all-time favorite books, achieving the 14th position on the PBS Great American Read. Also in 2018, Bridge of Clay was selected as a best book of the year in publications ranging from Entertainment Weekly to the Wall Street Journal.

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

2,188,335 ratings
4.38 out of 5 stars
5 58% (1,264,417)
4 28% (618,518)
3 10% (218,263)
2 3% (56,664)
1 1% (30,473)

Our customer reviews

How does a person review a book that is so beautiful, and yet contains such horrible language that I would now shudder to even mention the book to anyone? 1 star it is. The premise of 'The Book Thief' lures you in. It's a story told from the persona of Death during WWII. Piece by piece, the story of Liesel Meminger comes together, as revealed by Death. "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" Yes, it's a book to quote from. The author's writing style is definitely unique. Everyone will find that particular sentence which tingles inside of them. Actually, it's a story hidden within poetic prose. The poignancy and heartfelt emotion hold time still while you read. Sometimes the writer takes a moment away from the storyline to create an announcement to the reader --- just a bonus sentence in the page's middle, set off from the other paragraphs, to describe the scene in a more direct way. It's a fascinating writing style, but, Mr. Zusak, did you have to include such filthy words? Eye-opening in several areas, the book marches you through WWII right alongside Liesel and her foster family, after she loses her own. I must say that most books concerning WWII are always from the point of view of the Jews, the persecuted, or the other sympathetic allies. However, this story reveals itself from the perspective of the everyday German families who were hurt by their own countrymen. What heartbreak they experienced around them, forced on by their Nazi neighbors. As reflected in the title of the book, there is something to be gained by the power of words. Liesel finds that power within herself, and she aims to do something with that growing ability. I wish I could read it all over again, minus about a tenth of the book to remove the worst of the rotten more
by Tarissa
My heart is broken. Pulverized. Shattered. I�?�¢�¢?�¬�¢?�¢m not surprised, not really. I knew I was in for a ride when I cried while reading the prologue. The Prologue. I mean, seriously? The book hadn�?�¢�¢?�¬�¢?�¢t even officially started yet and I was moved to tears. It could have been the subject matter of the story but, more than likely, it was the words that were used to tell that story. Because, if nothing else, Markus Zusak schools you in the power of words. Not only their ability to tell a story, but the incredible power they have to hurt, to comfort, to inspire, to heal. To Destroy. To Save. �?�¢�¢?�¬�??I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.�?�¢�¢?�¬�?? The Book Thief is the story of a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany. A girl who steals books, befriends a Jew, and refuses kisses from a boy with hair the color of lemons. A normal girl who happens to live during a tragic time in history. And while this story is far from ordinary, the way that it was written is what makes it truly extraordinary. One of my favorite things about this book was the writing. Zusak has this ability to describe things in such a way that they completely come to life. They pop off of the page, get right in your face, and dare you not to get sucked in. �?�¢�¢?�¬�??The crowd was itself. There was no swaying it, squeezing through or reasoning with it. You breathed with it and you sang its songs. You waited for its fire.�?�¢�¢?�¬�?? On top of that, Zusak is a master storyteller. He takes his time weaving his tale, making sure that you are completely invested in his world and the characters that live within it. These people are your neighbors, your friends, and your family. You know every facet of their everyday lives: their worries, their hopes, their fears. You come to know each of them intimately, which is a blessing and a curse, because the more he gives to you, the more he can take away. And take he does, but not without warning. At least he gives us that. But it�?�¢�¢?�¬�¢?�¢s not the sad things that define this book, it�?�¢�¢?�¬�¢?�¢s the reminder that even in the darkest times, the strength and warmth of the human spirit can still shine through. It�?�¢�¢?�¬�¢?�¢s an accordion player with a heart of gold. It�?�¢�¢?�¬�¢?�¢s words painted on a basement wall. Thirteen gifts at the foot of a bed. Stars that burn your eyes. A snowman in the cellar. It�?�¢�¢?�¬�¢?�¢s the bread giver. The word shaker. The book thief. It�?�¢�¢?�¬�¢?�¢s the knowledge that even through tragedy, hope can be found. �?�¢�¢?�¬�??In years to come, he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer�?�¢�¢?�¬�¢??proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water.�?�¢�¢?�¬�?? If you have not read this book yet, do yourself a favor and do it now. The Book Thief is one of those books that will rock your world and, quite possibly, change your life. I know it�?�¢�¢?�¬�¢?�¢s one of the best books that I�?�¢�¢?�¬�¢?�¢ve ever read and has earned a permanent home on my bookshelf. I cannot recommend it more
by Diana
This book was recommended to me as a fine historical novel. I honestly had no idea what to expect except that it was WWII Germany. From the beginning, I was enraptured like I have not been in a very long time. Imagine having Death narrate the book and actually feel sorry for him! And the writing style was very reminiscent of classic literature. The author writes fantastic prose in a way few authors can in this post-modern era. The characters were drawn in such a rich way. Death's grim humor and genuine concern for humanity caused the book to touch my emotions in a way most books cannot. I guess I shall never tire of WWII stories. It is a period of history that repulses and intrigues me. Although this is fiction, I truly found myself caring about the characters. Death's continued foreshadowing of events to come were always executed at exactly the right time. I think this book can touch anyone who decides to read it. it does have some foul language, but I found that every use of it made sense. There were no sex scenes nor descriptive violence, but the book is harsh and real. Violence is there and unfortunately quite more
by Ruth Hill
I finished The Book Thief a long time ago, but I kept postponing the review because, honestly, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to write. Has it ever happened to you to read a book and be so utterly stunned at the end that you first needed to stare into space for a couple of minutes to take it all in, and then found yourself incapable of explaining how, why... what had just happened? I can't say many books did this to me. I'm sure I can count them on the fingers of one hand, but The Book Thief sure did it for all the books out there. How do you even begin to review such a book? I can't say I loved it; it would be far from enough to explain how I really felt about it. I can't say I adored it, or that I'm going to recommend it to everyone I know (because I won't), or that it was the best thing I have ever read (I'm not sure it was). I sound confused, right? Well, let's see if I can explain. I'll never say that I loved or adored The Book Thief because the words that would help me define how this book made me feel have yet to be invented. When I started reading it I genuinely didn't know what to expect. Well, yes, I might have had some expectations because I knew I was about to read a bestseller that would be soon turned into a film, but still, I was quite innocent about it. After the first couple of pages I understood two things: 1. It was not going to be a book that I'd recommend to many people. 2. I would probably read it for the writing style rather than for its story. Why not recommend it? Because the style is highly metaphorical and experimental; it is an entanglement of figures of speech, abstract ideas, dry humor, and preciousness that would normally make me cringe in a book. But not in this book. No, in The Book Thief precious writing works just fine. So fine, that I often felt compelled to draw out a notebook and note down entire quotes, or even paragraphs. But they don't make sense if you take them out of their context; they lose their magic. I guess they belong to the book thief alone. In my experience as a reader who has studied Comparative Literature for five years, I know that not everyone will enjoy this kind of writing. The book starts off slow, the narrator takes her time (I'm going to say her because the narrator is Death and this Death seemed very feminine to me), she builds up the story so slowly and smoothly, as if she had all the time in the world to tell it to the reader. Of course she does, she's Death. She talks about colors, about her job; when you finally think Liesel's story has picked up a bit and is going somewhere, Death makes an invasive comment just to remind you that she's there, in case you forgot. Reading some reviews of The Book Thief on Goodreads, I saw that many people found Death's seemingly random interventions annoying, and some complained that the story is a bit jumpy. No way am I going to complain about these devices. Actually, I'm not going to complain about anything. I found the writing style perfect, and I practically savored each and every word. When my friend (who had lent me the book) asked me what I thought about it, the first thing I said was: "This is real writing. I haven't read something like this in a long time and I'm just realizing how much I've missed it. Read it for the writing!" Now, maybe I should say that at some point I continued to read The Book Thief for the characters and the story, but the truth is that I have read this story one too many times in other novels dealing with World War II. I did read it for the characters because the author managed to make them so painfully real that there were times when I wished I had my own Max in the basement so I could properly take care of him, feed him and set him free because, God, did that poor boy suffer in the book. Why can't we just take characters out of their paper cages and give them the life they deserve? But, most of all, I continued to read The Book Thief for how much the second half of the book made me cry. Seriously, I was a complete mess. There were at least two scenes during which I cried so hard that I couldn't follow the lines anymore, and it got annoying because I just had to continue reading. But no, I had to take a break to rub my eyes and blow my nose. Pathetic... It's unbelievable what some books can do to us, mortals. And it's not like I didn't know what would happen, because if there's something that Death is not good at, that's building up suspense. No, she tells you what's going to happen pages ahead. Still, when I got to that point in the novel, I was still shocked and needed time to process the information. And now I get to another device that not many authors can pull off: ditching the mystery in favor of simply telling you how it's all going to end, and still being able to keep you hooked until the last word. About that last word... I was staring at it as if that could make more words appear on the page. Anyway, thank God I live alone, because if I still lived with my parents and any of them had walked into the room and saw the state I was in and asked me "What happened?" I would've probably answered "What do you mean what happened? The Book Thief happened. This guy... this Zusak guy just made me cry so hard... I wanna marry him." Bottom line: I'm going to re-read The Book Thief until I learn entire chunks of it by more
by Oana
Oh boy, the tears poured with this one! What a great story! I really loved this title. This book was a light, flowing read, and yet it was the kind of book that touched me inside and kept me thinking of the story throughout the day! I found myself remembering scenes from the book and trying to remember which movie the scene I had playing in my head came from, to recall that it actually was part of "The Book Thief". I appreciated that the book painted a picture of probably a very normal household in the second world war. The empathy, sympathy and the human-kindness that was alive and well and bursting to the surface, quietly of its' own accord, made me feel for each and every character in the book. All in all a great read. I would definitely recommend it and not just to young more
by natalie
I love this book so much I wish I could give it more than 5 stars. I was given it as a gift and had never heard of it at the time. I started reading and couldn't stop- not much got done until I'd finished it. It was unpredictable and the characters grow on you so much. Marckus Zusak is a fantastic writer and is a real story teller. It had me crying but also laughing. A great read!show more
by Karen Crawford
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