The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that is now a major motion picture, Markus Zusak's unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.
Nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.
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
About the Author
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.
Read an Excerpt
The Book Thief
By Marcus Zusak
Random HouseMarcus Zusak
All right reserved.
DEATH AND CHOCOLATE
First the colors.
Then the humans.
That's usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.
***HERE IS A SMALL FACT ***
You are going to die.
I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that's only the A's. Just don't ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.
***Reaction to the ***
Does this worry you?
I urge you-don't be afraid.
I'm nothing if not fair.
-Of course, an introduction.
Where are my manners?
I could introduce myself properly, but it's not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.
At that moment, you will be lying there (I rarely find people standing up). You will be caked in your own body. There might be a discovery; a scream will dribble down the air. The only sound I'll hear after that will be my ownbreathing, and the sound of the smell, of my footsteps.
The question is, what color will everything be at that moment when I come for you? What will the sky be saying?
Personally, I like a chocolate-colored sky. Dark, dark chocolate. People say it suits me. I do, however, try to enjoy every color I see-the whole spectrum. A billion or so flavors, none of them quite the same, and a sky to slowly suck on. It takes the edge off the stress. It helps me relax.
***A SMALL THEORY ***
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-spat blues. Murky darknesses.
In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them.
As I've been alluding to, my one saving grace is distraction. It keeps me sane. It helps me cope, considering the length of time I've been performing this job. The trouble is, who could ever replace me? Who could step in while I take a break in your stock-standard resort-style vacation destination, whether it be tropical or of the ski trip variety? The answer, of course, is nobody, which has prompted me to make a conscious, deliberate decision-to make distraction my vacation. Needless to say, I vacation in increments. In colors.
Still, it's possible that you might be asking, why does he even need a vacation? What does he need distraction from?
Which brings me to my next point.
It's the leftover humans.
They're the ones I can't stand to look at, although on many occasions I still fail. I deliberately seek out the colors to keep my mind off them, but now and then, I witness the ones who are left behind, crumbling among the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair, and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs.
Which in turn brings me to the subject I am telling you about tonight, or today, or whatever the hour and color. It's the story of one of those perpetual survivors-an expert at being left behind.
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
I saw the book thief three times.
BESIDE THE RAILWAY LINE
First up is something white. Of the blinding kind.
Some of you are most likely thinking that white is not really a color and all of that tired sort of nonsense. Well, I'm here to tell you that it is. White is without question a color, and personally, I don't think you want to argue with me.
***A REASSURING ANNOUNCEMENT ***
Please, be calm, despite that previous threat.
I am all bluster-
I am not violent.
I am not malicious.
I am a result.
Yes, it was white.
It felt as though the whole globe was dressed in snow. Like it had pulled it on, the way you pull on a sweater. Next to the train line, footprints were sunken to their shins. Trees wore blankets of ice.
As you might expect, someone had died.
They couldn't just leave him on the ground. For now, it wasn't such a problem, but very soon, the track ahead would be cleared and the train would need to move on.
There were two guards.
There was one mother and her daughter.
The mother, the girl, and the corpse remained stubborn and silent.
"Well, what else do you want me to do?"
The guards were tall and short. The tall one always spoke first, though he was not in charge. He looked at the smaller, rounder one. The one with the juicy red face.
"Well," was the response, "we can't just leave them like this, can we?"
The tall one was losing patience. "Why not?"
And the smaller one damn near exploded. He looked up at the tall one's chin and cried, "Spinnst du! Are you stupid?!" The abhorrence on his cheeks was growing thicker by the moment. His skin widened. "Come on," he said, traipsing over the snow. "We'll carry all three of them back on if we have to. We'll notify the next stop."
As for me, I had already made the most elementary of mistakes. I can't explain to you the severity of my self-disappointment. Originally, I'd done everything right:
I studied the blinding, white-snow sky who stood at the window of the moving train. I practically inhaled it, but still, I wavered. I buckled-I became interested. In the girl. Curiosity got the better of me, and I resigned myself to stay as long as my schedule allowed, and I watched.
Twenty-three minutes later, when the train was stopped, I climbed out with them.
A small soul was in my arms.
I stood a little to the right.
The dynamic train guard duo made their way back to the mother, the girl, and the small male corpse. I clearly remember that my breath was loud that day. I'm surprised the guards didn't notice me as they walked by. The world was sagging now, under the weight of all that snow.
Perhaps ten meters to my left, the pale, empty-stomached girl was standing, frost-stricken.
Her mouth jittered.
Her cold arms were folded.
Tears were frozen to the book thief's face.
Excerpted from The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is probably one of the most unique books I've read in like¿forever!
The story is narrated by Death and centers around the events of Nazi Germany in the 1940's.
I rarely give a book five stars. In that same token, I try to steer away from recommending books that have a morose tone, but this is a true exception. As much as you hope for, long for, and pray for a happy event to occur, you need to keep reminding yourself that the story is being told by Death, so chances of that happening are slim-to-none.
The main character of the story, Liesel Meminger, captured my heart. I loved the way the author, Markus Zusak, developed Liesel's character throughout the story and by a slight-of-hand, he added a side kick to the story, Rudy, who out of no where comes be one of the favored characters of the story. Great technique Zusak!
The premise of the story is unique and captivating. The narrator, Death, is much like Liesel where he/she has a way with words. Both of them recognize words for what they really are¿they can be used to stimulate good or evil. Through the power of words, we see how Hitler was able to control a country and persecute people.
Great book, awesome character development, insightful recount of Nazi Germany, and a life-long lesson¿what else can you ask for in a book?
I was hooked right away by the unique narrator, Death, who provides a running commentary. Every character in this story was endearing and I fell in love with them, Liesel, Rudy, Hans, Max and Rosa. The story of Leisel, a small, young German girl who watches her brother die and her mother disappears, then lives with a foster family that barely manages to survive. In the process of scrounging for a living, Liesel begins stealing books in Nazi territory. She and her friend, Rudy discover the power and excitement that words and language provide. A book begins the story. Daily chores of survival, Liesel experiences her fragile childhood under oppressive and endless horrors of war. There is so much hopelessness, suffering and despair. She bonds quickly with her foster father and slowly with her strict foster mother. He helps her to trust and teaches her to read a souvenir she steals at her brother's funeral. This story is an inspiring display of how something as small as a book and reading can be the last life line in a young girls life. This beautifully written, complex book is a haunting revelation and once read will not be soon forgotten!
I loved reading this wonderful book! It is a story that keeps you entertained for hours.
This one may go down as a classic. The way the story is told is so compelling, and it handles a topic that has done in so many ways before in a way that is fresh and young but will appeal to everyone. It is of course dark but I couldn't put it down. Loved it!
This book was very good, but a little confusing. It is best if you try to not take breaks inbetween, and reread it again to better comprehend the story. The beginning talks about the end, and i only realized once i looked again. The vocabulary was extremely high, but self-explanatory. The ending was so emotional that i cried 3 times! I SUGGEST THIS BOOK HIGHLY!!
Ok, I loved this book so much! At first, I thought it was going to be dull, but I was way off. Zusak's story is unforgettable, making you feel as if I really lived through the holocaust through the life of, not a jew, but a little German girl. Liesel and Rudy, along with the rest of the book's characters will warm your heart until the very end. Death is narrating the entire story through his point of view of the young book thief who changed her entire town's life, along with her own. This is truly one of my new favorite books for 2010! It just goes to show you, that when death tells a story, you just HAVE to listen!
"The Book Thief" is the story of Liesel a German girl living near Munich during World War II. It is also the story of an orphan, a boy, a Jew, a family, a street and a nation told from the detached but enormously intrigued perspective of Death itself. Poignant and sad, yet uplifting and joyful, this novel covers the full spectrum of human emotion. Liesel is precocious and likable as is Rudy, her neighbor and friend. Zusak gives a hauntingly accurate portrayal of life for both Germans and Jews under Hitler¿s regime. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time and would recommend to any reader ready to face the horrors, joys, trials and triumphs of one of history¿s most world changing events.
Mark Zusak's novel 'The Book Thief' is the powerful tale of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl who must learn to deal with the hardships and realities living in Nazi Germany. Before coming to stay with a foster family in Molching, everything near and dear to Liesel Meminger is taken away from her. Liesel is robbed of a brother, and is given up by a mother who cannot afford to take care of her. To settle the score, Liesel steals books and earns the title of The Book Thief. The story is narrated by death, better known as the grim reaper, but Zusak does not play into the stereotypical ideas of how death thinks, sees, or feels. Zusak adds his own whimsical twists to the story by contradicting everything that people believe about the grim reaper. To begin with, Zusak does not outright introduce the narrator. Instead the reader must come to the realization of who their narrator is by themselves. The largest hint you are given as to who exactly the narrator is comes from the part where the narrator describes his 'job'. 'It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.' An unexpected pleasure of the grim reaper is observing the colors of the sky at the time of each person's death. Each time that death claims another soul, the sky turns a different shade of blue, gray, or brown. The narrator does not enjoy dragging the souls out from the dead. The grim reaper uses the colors of the sky to distract him from the task at hand he is sorry for what he must do. One aspect of Zusak's personal writing style that I enjoyed, though I am certain many people would not, is that pieces of information are given away so as to let the reader know what happens at the end of each section or chapter. Some may consider this ruining the ending, but I believe it makes the reader all the more curious and eager to read quickly and discover how the 'ruined ending' comes about. ¿The Book Thief¿ was outside the type of book I would normally read, but it has become on of my favorite books and I highly recommend it.
My 14 yr old daughter is reading this book for a summer reading book list for school. She absolutely loves it. She found it very emotional at times but relates to the love of books the main character shows and how all of us book lovers use books from time to time to escape the harsh realities of life. She highly recommends it. My 11 year old son is reading an action adventure book called, Smitty's Cave Adventures.He loves it!! Great recommendation too!
Not because I didn't understand what was going on-I got that just fine. A nine-year-old girl in Nazi Germany whose communist father was probably sent to one of the earliest concentration camps, who was given to another German family to be raised an "Aryan." Liesel Meminger then finds herself stealing books, partly as an act of rebellion to the dictator she hates, partly because the books-the words, really-provide her an escape from a desperate reality. The characters are well-written. The relationship between Liesel and Max, the Jew her family was hiding in their basement, their connection through shared experience, was real to me. But mostly, it makes a person see both points of view. It was heart-wrenching because even though I knew what was happening to the Jews at the very same time, things that the characters in the book were in essence facilitating, I couldn't help but feel sorry for them. I cried for them, even the most devoted Nazi woman, who lost two children to war. What could you do, in a situation like that? How could you protest, knowing the consequences for yourself, your family? You couldn't. Liesel's and her family's small acts of defiance were enough. It doesn't make the Holocaust okay, or make excuses for what went on. It just says, "Here it is. This is what happened. Take it or leave it." They were all human beings, every single one.
Without really intending to, I tend to veer away from books about the Holocaust because quite frankly, they're depressing. Important material of course, but depressing. The Book Thief, however, is a gem the likes of which I have not seen for a very long time. In writing this novel, Markus Zusak did something extraordinary. Nearly everything about this novel has the stamp of original written all over it--from Death and his musings, to Rosa Hubermann's brutal affection, to Rudy's Jesse Owens run, to even the focus of the novel: books in the Holocaust. Certainly not the typical subject matter for a Holocaust book. Yet within all of these extraordinary things, Zusak never loses his reader in complexity nor loses the focus of the novel. He never forgets his audience, but doesn't belittle what he thinks his younger readers can handle. He does something only the best authors can do: writes a depth that old readers will pick up on and enjoy, but that will not hinder new readers. The Book Thief is a study in which we find that even some of the most covered subjects can become new in the right hands. It's literary worth cannot be overstated, but the reality of the harsh living conditions in the Holocaust which Zusak paints cannot either. If other authors are merely copying the great elements and styles of the masters like Shakespeare, than even the best of them is just a quartet doing a rendition of Beethoven. Zusak is creating his own symphony of sound to be emulated by generations to come. Bravo.
This book is a page turner! It took me four days to read only because I had to work Monday and Tuesday (finished it Tuesday night), it would have taken me less time if I didn't have to work! With that said, the writing and readability is easy to read and understand but the content of the book is very emotional - to the point, where I would find most "Young Adults" not mature enough to read a book like this.
The story is amazing and touching. This book would be re-read multiple of times. I have already recommended this book to some friends and family. And now, I am recommending this book to you. It is a must read. This book is a page turner and will tug at your heart's strings. And I promis you, you will love this book!
I am so confused. How are there 83 one-star reviews? What is wrong with you people. This book is a creative, fascinating piece of historical fiction. I love Death's narration. The characters are memorable. The time period is both interesting and devastating. It's a coming-of-age story, it's a tragedy, it's a Holocaust book worth reading. I will be scanning book stores for other works by Markus Zusak :)
My book club just read this book and we all thought it was amazing. I was surpised that it was considered young adult. The writing is quite unique and poetic and the story compelling. The characters were well developed. I dont want to give away too much about this story- just read it - you wont be dissapointed
The Book Thief was SOOOO good. This is a book for those of us who value books. This story is very well written, with great characterization and some surprises. It is a very different story because the point of view is from "Death". Many things are inferred, so it is best to have some background of knowledge of WWII. No concentration camp horrors here, even though the setting is WWII Germany. The main characters are good Germans and a good Jew. Lesser characters are Nazis. A family takes in an illiterate little girl, the father teaches her to read, and she becomes a book thief. This is the story of their life and their small town during the war. The family also shelters a Jewish man who makes a huge impact on the book thief. The book thief little girl loses everything, but still has her words.
This moving novel, based in Nazi Germany, is uniquely written. I would highly recommend it for mature teens and for adults alike. Truly a remarkable, thought-provoking novel.
The Book Thief was just the best book that took place during WWII that I've ever read. I am amazed at what this little orphan girl who loved to read would go through just to get some books that would change her life. Wether she was stealing from the trash of rich neighbors or from book burnings she would stop at nothing until she got her hands on a book that she could just pour into and would never let leave her side until she finished. With the help of her friend Rudy they will discover the wonderful majesty of books.
This book is great. Well written and just great. But it was a little tough to get into. It seems to drag on a little bit to much but besides that it's great!
I just finished reading this book...and I could not understand all the one star reviews...This is one of the best reads ever. I was tired of all books/movies on the Holocaust from the Jewish perspective...not taking anything from them and all their suffering, but not all Germans could have been for it and their lives must have been affected, so it was great in that sense. I also enjoyed Death's narration...very refreshing!
When I first started this book, I thought it was rather unusual, but then I realized how innovative the concept is. I could not put the book down. The story of Liesel is very compelling and brought me to tears at the end. This was lent to me by a coworker and it is now circulating throughout the office. Everyone is loving it.
I listened to The Book Thief via Audible. The narrator performed fabulously. He portrayed the characters, situations and emotions impeccably. I have read or listened to many books related to Nazi Germany. Some from a Jewish perspective and some from a German perspective. They are all sad and as humans we should be so far above the events that occurred. But clearly we weren't. The story starts out very strong with many twists and turns in the middle. It does move a little slow during the middle phase but all of it is important to understanding the characters, their world(s), their limitations and their struggles. THEN the conclusion is just one major event after another in rapid succession and I found myself in tears, unable to separate from the story and the emotions involved. In general, man can survive horrific circumstances and conditions but how did they survive this period of time? Many did while so many others did not. The author grasped the time period perfectly with thorough research and well developed characters. I give this book 5 stars.
I was in the library one day, and the bell was just about to ring. (School library) I got up from my seat, since I was doing homework. Well, I saw a little book titled "The Book Thief". It was the very last book in the very last corner of the shelf, and I did not think much of it. I looked at my friends, who all seemed busy with homework. Pushing in my chair, I walked over to the book, picked it up, and checked it out. I mean, I am a huge book fan. Everyone says it all the time. So why not? One of the BEST books I have ever read. I love the way Marcus Zusak describes his point of view from not only DEATH itself, but just in a touching way! I loved all of the characters, and the way the swore in German all of the time. It amused me and brought more than one smile to my face. It also made me sad. It smacked me with the truth of reality, and the way he just says, 'THIS IS THE REAL WORLD'. I had never thought much of it. I love romances, and I love Rudy. My favorite character is Rudy, most certainly. I just loved the way him and Liesel are so different! It just it amazing. I never expected to be reading a book about World War II, since death scares me. But now that I know the truth, I am so immensely interested! Thank you Markus Zusak, you are a very talented author. I hope to be like you someday. OVERALL- READ THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak The Book Thief is Markus Zusak's debut novel. The novel is narrated by death. Death will visit the book thief three times. It is an angry but beautiful coming of age tale. I loved this moving and thought provoking book about Lieser and her foster family on Himmler Street in Germany during the Second World War. Lieser is a nine year old girl whose parents have been sent to concentration camps. She witnesses of the horror of Nazi Germany and buries her beloved brother. At his funeral she steals a book her only reminder of her brother. It starts a trend she begins to collect books. Her step father teaches her to read and they spend many pleasurable hours together reading . Her reading is an escapism from the horrors of war. The book reasserts the importance of life and the significance of words to impact on lives. A vivid description of daily survival in Nazi Germany. I highly recommend this book. Reviewed by Annette Dunlea author of Always and Forever and The Honey Trap. Product details from Amazon http://astore.amazon.com/annduniriwri-20 Title: The Book Thief Author: Markus Zusak Publisher: Black Swan ISBN: 978-0552773898 Genre: young adult and adult fiction My Rating : 5/5 Paperback: 560 pages Customer Reviews 452 Reviews 5 star: (338) 4 star: (52) 3 star: (24) 2 star: (20) 1 star: (18) Average Customer Review 4.5 out of 5 stars (452 customer reviews)
I confess that I've been judgmental toward the everyday German citizen during the time of the Holocaust. How could they lead normal lives while people were being murdered in their back yards? This book opened my eyes. I loved all the characters. The writing is beautiful. The narrator is highly unusual, but I got used to that, also. My only problem is that none of my reading acquaintances will read it, because they refuse to read serious literature. I am a 62 year-old Southern lady, and I will read more books by this author.
The Book Thief is a story about a young girl who lives in poor Germany. She is not a Jew which is cool. The story is her life as a German. Her name is Liesel. She is a orphan because her mother and brother freeze to death. She is taken in by the Hubermans, a poor family. She now lives in a new beginning. This part of the book I thought was very kind. Liesel is lucky to have a new home. She is not that smart though when she goes to school. She never had the chance to get a good education so at first she is held back. She makes lots of friends. Her best friend is a boy named Rudy. He and Liesel have a few adventures stealing things, but the thing that Liesel likes to steal most are books. When she was able to read all the books that she had, she wanted more. This is why the book is called The Book Thief. She would practice all of the words that she did not know in her basement. I think the reason the title is what it is because she steals all of her books throughout the story and in the end it sort of helps her. I think that this was a good book because it was really precise in the life of Liesel Huberman.