The Book Thief

The Book Thief

Book - 2006
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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.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, c2006.
Edition: 1st Knopf trade paperback ed.
ISBN: 9780375831003
Characteristics: 552, [15] p. : ill. ; 22 cm.

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From Library Staff

Liesel Meminger, a foster child living outside Munich during World War II, scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist--books--in this unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. Zusak changed the narrator three tim... Read More »

#10 most checked-out book for 2014 in Whatcom County.

6 mentions

November 27 2013 release

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.

From the critics

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Jan 06, 2019

This is not a bad book, but the only reason I finished it is that I finish every book I start.

It wasn't the plot. The plot has all the elements needed for a good story. The main characters are complex and stuck in an interesting (and horrible) situation.

It wasn't the characters. Objectively speaking, the main characters were all nuanced and ought to have been interesting.

I'm fairly certain it was the writing style - particularly the choice of narrator. I can understand that having the story told from the point of view of Death emphasizes the tragic disregard for life in Nazi Germany. I can appreciate that it was a creative choice. The problem was that telling the story from such a dispassionate third party perspective (but still in first person?!) prevented me from connecting to the characters. I ought to have become emotionally invested in Leisel's story, but I didn't. I just turned the pages because I was supposed to. I think the secondary culprit was that the choice of narrator allowed the author to jump around at times and/or insert "foreshadowing" remarks, and parts of the story were therefore quite disjointed.

In all honesty, the last 20 pages or so did a better job of captivating me and I considered bumping the rating up by one star for them - but a book as long as this needs to have more than 20 pages that make me care.

Dec 14, 2018

I picked up this book by chance one day - all because I wanted to check out a book with an author with a Z name. This was one of the luckiest things I did; it led me to this book. "The Book Thief" pulled me in from the very first pages and had me in a constant state of streaming tears - but also filling me in with so much hope. I love to read - and this book shows the power of reading stories, sharing stories, and making time to create your own - even if no-one thinks you capable of doing so.

Even though this book is narrated by Death, Markus Zusak paints such a vivid, detailed, enthralling world that you still never see any of the twists coming. It's also a wonderful, educating portrayal of the other side of World War II. After reading so many books about World War II - set from the perspective of a concentration camp survivor - it was enlightening to see the point of view of citizens who had to live with the nightmare of that knowledge.

Nov 03, 2018

A sophisticated read. The author conveys a powerful and realistic message through intricate words. This book made me think about how Death is the key to life, and friendships can be found in the strangest places. This book effectively shows how inhumane and dangerous war is. I now believe that words are extremely powerful, and the author even includes real-life evidence to show this. Books like this should become a staple of our daily reads, not just because they are good, but they teach us what being alive really means. I would recommend this book to everyone as an essential to read.

This is a great book. A young German girl comes to live with foster parents during World War II. Not only does she learn about the world, but also life lessons during Germany’s darkest time. She befriends many around her, including a Jewish man who comes to hide in the family’s basement during the war. Liesel yearns to learn more her surroundings. Encouraged by her foster father; she takes to innovative ways to acquire books. A young boy also steals her attention. All of this is told dramatically and explored through Liesel’s mind, but as a twist, personified death is the narrator. A definite favourite for historical fiction. (submitted by SMC)

Sep 18, 2018

The Book Thief is a thought-provoking novel set in Nazi Germany. The narrator is Death himself, which was surprising but not unpleasant or morbid, and I believe that this was a good choice on the author's part. The picture painted by the words of Death, based on the words of the Book Thief herself that he carries around with him, is grim yet hopeful as the Book Thief watches her world crumble away only to be rebuilt by people she is unsure of. Her story has its ups and downs, and though there are moments when sadness and despair creep up, there are also moments of unparalleled joy and delight, which are things that occur in everybody's lives at some point or another.

I would recommend 'The Book Thief' to anybody who enjoys realistic historical fictions, the story of Nazi Germany, or even those who like a good coming-of-age story. With rich characters and a believable narrative, this book is a highly enjoyable read.

Aug 30, 2018

This was quite the read. The movie trailer prompted my interest, so when I spotted this book I knew I had to pick it up.

The story telling is slightly different from what I am use to. The story is narrated by "Death" and then we see the story told from Liesel's point of view for the most part. This is the story of what it may have been like for a young girl growing up in the increasingly dominating Nazi Germany. As the years roll along, we see the increase in power of the Nazi party and the influence they wield amongst the people. Liesel and her foster parents are caught in the middle of it.

It starts off with Liesel picking up her first book....and from there she learns to read and appreciate books as the years go by and tension against the Jewish and any literature against the "teachings" of the Nazi is banned, confiscated or burned. War time is never easy for anyone, but we got a glimpse of Liesel and the other children being children here and there (playing soccer, getting into mischief, etc).

I especially enjoyed how Liesel found ways to describe what is happening in the outside world while poor Max is forced to hide in their basement. The description of the clouds, the sun and the weather. Plus all the little souvenirs she brought back and told stories about were really neat. The book and stories that Max wrote and drew was really interesting, honest and provided a glimmer of hope in a bleak period of history.

In actuality Liesel didn't really steal that many books, and most of the books she "stole" had very interesting and unusual titles for sure. There were a few parts of the story that seemed to drag on a little too long, but still an enjoyable and interesting read.

Aug 26, 2018


Jul 06, 2018

Writing perfection. Genius narrator idea. Amazing unforgettable story. Doesn’t matter that I cried...the book was fascinating because of all the unique figurative writing and imagery by Death, the narrator. In my opinion....this is a must read for all ages.

Jun 30, 2018

The Book Thief was a dark, enjoyable read. Having Death act as the narrator added a grim beauty to the story, and the wry, dark humor was right up my alley, making me laugh out loud at times at the statements Death makes in their narration. This aspect of the life of a family living in small-town Germany was interesting and quite new to me. Liesel's character is complex and well done, as are the other characters and her relationships with them. The ending was heartbreaking and somehow perfect, leaving none of the loose strings that are sometimes found in other such stories. Wonderful.

Jun 27, 2018

This was an interesting book and well written.

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Add Age Suitability
Jul 10, 2018

green_cat_5616 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Jun 14, 2018

swilson1975 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Apr 28, 2018

green_panda_1079 thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over

Feb 16, 2018

PeggyCarter16 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Feb 12, 2018

BudgiesNbooks thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Dec 13, 2017

tkuku0407 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Nov 25, 2017

Boekwurm_1 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Nov 14, 2017

blue_dove_464 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Apr 04, 2017

Tawesome thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

RobertELPL Mar 05, 2017

RobertELPL thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

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Add a Quote
Jun 14, 2018

"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."

Aug 26, 2017

I am haunted by humans.

susanbayridge69 Oct 04, 2016

First the colors.
Then the humans.
That's usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.

Jan 05, 2016

"It was a Monday, and they walked on a tightrope to the sun."

Aug 05, 2015

Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.

Jul 28, 2015

A small announcement about Rudy Steiner. He didn't deserve to die that way.

Jul 28, 2015

How about a kiss, Saumensch?

Jul 28, 2015

Even death has a heart.

Jul 03, 2015

" How about a kiss, saumensch ? "

Jun 28, 2015

“If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter. ”
― Markus Zusak

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Add Notices
Apr 04, 2017


susanbayridge69 Oct 04, 2016

Coarse Language: Some curse words

Jul 28, 2015

Violence: Some whipping.

Jul 28, 2015

Frightening or Intense Scenes: a few gruesome deaths, bombings, lifeless bodies.

Jul 28, 2015

Coarse Language: The bad language is in German, but Death translates it to English. Nothing serious, but certainly not for younger readers.

Jul 01, 2015

Frightening or Intense Scenes: The "parade" of Jews was a bit frightening, and the whipping and war.

Jul 01, 2015

Violence: Some whipping, fights, and other violence related to war.

Jul 01, 2015

Coarse Language: Quite a bit of German swearing and some English translations, too.

Jul 25, 2014

Other: Not enough violence to put under violence. But some.

Jul 25, 2014

Coarse Language: Sl*t, b*tch, sh*t

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Add a Summary
Jan 03, 2018

Liesel Meminger is only nine years old when she is taken to live with the Hubermanns, a foster family, on Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, in the late 1930s. She arrives with few possessions, but among them is The /Grave Digger's Handbook/, a book she stole from her brother's burial place. During the years that Liesel lives with the Hubermanns, Hitler becomes more powerful, life on Himmel Street becomes more fearful, and Liesel becomes a full-fledged book thief. She rescues books from Nazie book-burnings and steals from the library of the mayor. Liesel is illiterate when she steals her first book, but Hans Hubermann uses her prized books to teach her to read. This is a story of courage, friendship, love, survival, death, and grief. This is Liesel's life on Himmel Street, told from Death's point of view.
(Summary in back of book.)

geniusgirl613 Jul 23, 2014

The story of a young girl under Nazi Germany. When her family hides a Jew in the basement, her life changes forever. Her thirst for books begins when she was illiterate. Slowly, books play an enormous part in her story.

Jul 14, 2014

About a Germany girl during WWII who is living with a foster family hiding a Jew.

Jun 29, 2014

Liesel Meminger, an illiterate girl in Nazi Germany loves books. At her brothers funeral she finds her first book, the Grave Diggers Handbook. With the help of her foster father, Hans Hubermann she learns to read and desires more books. However with World War 2 her family is sinking deeper into poverty and cannot afford to buy her books. So she resorts to stealing them. She takes them wherever she can find them, but only what she needs never more. But Liesel's life gets even more dangerous when her foster father repays a debt by taking in a Jew on the run. Liesel then realizes some unsettling facts about Nazi Germany and Hitler. This book is Liesel Meminger's story, told by Death.

Jun 25, 2014

In brief, I will say a few things about this book (I am on my mothers library page) 1. It is amazing
2. Always look at the pictures they feature very intensely in the story.
The Book Thief
the book thief is about young girl, living in Nazi Germany, who, as the title suggests, is a book thief. Or a collector of second hand books, however you wish to put it. Narrated by death, it will guide you through great joys and great sorrows. (A note, death loves colours, Also, I have noticed the colour patterns in a few other books) Liesel steals her first book at her brothers funeral. That was the last time she ever saw her mother. Along her "illustrious career" her foster parents take an old, dead, acordian playing, jewish friends son into the custody of their basement. A basement that will save her alone, well, along with a story. The basement doesn't save her best friend, Rudy Stiener. I'm not telling any more, otherwise I'll spoil it for you.

Jun 22, 2014

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

By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down.
In a superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time." -from the back cover

Jul 19, 2013

"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."

Jul 05, 2012

Introduction: During WWII in 1939, Liesel and her brother are being taken to Molching, Germany with her mother, to live with foster parents. Sadly, her little brother dies on the train and is buried along the way there. This is when Liesel steals her first book, (Gravedigger’s Handbook- marks brother’s death). Entering her new home, Liesel finds most comfort and love with her new father- Hans Hubermann. Stealing books becomes somewhat of a hobby now, as it motivates her to learn to read and write. An important aspect of the introduction is the hint at Liesel’s background. She learns more about why, how, and what actually happened to her real parents. As of right now, all we know is that Hans is gentle/welcoming, and that Rosa may need anger-management classes.
Rising Action: After the book-burning celebration for Hitler’s birthday, Liesel realizes that the Nazis are responsible for all of her losses. At this point, she steals another book (the Shoulder Shrug- marks hatred for Hitler). Along with her friendship with Rudy Steiner, good friend from school, she forms a relationship with the mayor’s wife, who lets Liesel in her library every time she comes by for laundry (as she saw Liesel’s interest in stealing the Shoulder Shrug). But when the wife, Ilsa, ends the laundry service, Liesel is infuriated and begins stealing her books. Eventually though, forgiveness awakes due to a complicated friendship that was always present. Back to Rudy, he’s a fearless boy with lemon hair, and he wants Liesel’s lips. Remember that. Meanwhile, there’s the story of Hans Hubermann and his great friend during WWI who saved Hans’s life and died in consequence. This friend happens to be a Jew, and his son is now seeking help with Hans, in hiding from the Nazis. Expectedly, the family is worried about the potential situation, since the act of housing a Jew in WWII was life-jeopardising. But they do, and Max turns out to be very friendly. So does Rosa. Especially Hans.
Climax: A series of little events tagged along for the journey to the climax. But, everything explodes when Max leaves for safety. Liesel is…she’s devastated. But, there is worse to come. He’s seen in a hoard of Jews on their way to Dachau, and this just tears the girl apart. Soon after, Ilsa gave Liesel a blank book. This saves the girl’s life, keeping her busy writing in the basement in an unexpected bombing. Sadly, all of Liesel’s loved ones die in their sleep. Death takes his time picking up Rosa, Hans, Kurt... Oh yeah, Rudy dies too, but at least he gets his long-awaited kiss from Liesel. Too bad it happens like this.
Falling Action: Well, the climax occurs late in the book, and in consequence, there’s not much to be said in this section. But, it is notable that Liesel drops her book in shock of everybody’s death (book = her life-story painted on the beloved blank pages from Ilsa). Death picks it up. The book is to be remembered. The mayor’s wife takes her in. Liesel talks with Alex Steiner. About Rudy. I’m sorry, am I being too specific?
It’s...well...just that......I love this part.
Resolution: In the epilogue, Liesel dies. But, she has lived a happy life with a husband and offspring. We also see Liesel being reunited with Max, having miraculously survived his sentence at Dachau. The book ends under a fulfilling atmosphere as Death gives back her book and takes her soul away. “I am haunted by humans.”

SharonWarren Jan 20, 2012

I started this book and it just didn't keep my attention, so gave it up, for a time. It had been so highly recommended I knew it would come back on my list. When next I picked it up I was ready for it and absolutely loved it. An engrossing, warm, and thoughtful read about a very difficult time.

Dec 15, 2009

An amazing story that takes place during World War II in Nazi Germany. Death narrates the story of a young girl named Liesel and her life living with her foster parents, the Hubermanns.

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