Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Young Adult > Historical Fiction

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 book 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.

Literary Awards: National Jewish Book Award, Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children’s Literature (2007), Buxtehuder Bulle (2008), Prijs van de Kinder- en Jeugdjury Vlaanderen (2009), Printz Honor (2007), Exclusive Books Boeke Prize (2007), The Quill Award Nominee for Young Adult/Teen (2006), Zilveren Zoen (2008), Teen Read Award Nominee for Best All-Time-Fave (2010), Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (2009), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2007),ASSOCIATION OF JEWISH LIBRARIES NEW AND NOTABLE BOOK for Teen Book Award (2006), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2010), Kathleen Mitchell Award


I didn’t think I could read another World War II book after The Diary of a Young Girl. I was just not into these kind of reading. You know? depressing, dreary, sad. But there’s also hope. So surmounting my prejudice, I picked up The Book Thief… and my goodness it was just as expected. and more. Well, I didn’t cry (in case you are wandering). But the despair lingered. so did hope.

She ran the back of her hand along the first shelf, listening to the shuffle of her fingernails gliding across the spinal cord of each book. It sound like an instrument, or the notes of running feet.

Liesel‘s affair with books (and stealing) was tantamount to her survival to the war, and to life itself. Any book lover would be scandalized to burning of books. All that knowledge! Any child would have mourned the loss of her family. And yet Liesel was brave, far braver than I would’ve liked her to be. It was admirable.

Good God, Liesel thought. This is my punishment for all that stealing. It’s finally caught up with me.

The Book Thief has its funny moments. And Liesel finally realizing the consequence of her book stealing was not an exception. Her parents (the Hubermanns) were strangely hilarious to me, but I adored them more on their unconditional (and tough) love they gave to Liesel.

Even the enemies were an inch away from friendship.

When Max entered the story, reading became hard. It was just so difficult to manage the stirring emotions Markus Zusak evoked from me. Sometimes I have to stop so I can breathe, because truly Max’s life was gripping me in more (bleak) ways than one.

Standing above him at all moments of awakeness was the hand of time, and it didn’t hesitate to wring him out. It smiled and squeezed and let him live.

I have to love Max. I have to! He didn’t understand why him and his people were being persecuted for something that they didn’t do. Still, he trusted that human goodness will come through for him, and what he didn’t expect was to find a family from the most unlikely place (or people).

He must have longed for it so much. He must have loved her so incredibly hard. So hard that he would never ask for her lips again and would go to his grave without them.

I cannot accept what happened to Rudy. It was so abrupt, but aren’t all endings like that? It didn’t take for me to like (and eventually love) Rudy. He was as integral part of Liesel’s life as Max.

God never says anything. You think you’re the only one he never answered?

The uncertainty of war finally dawned to Liesel and her loved ones. The aftermath was heartbreaking. Markus Zusak certainly knew how to drop his bombs (pun intended).But the ending was a winner for me. So, so good.

Can a person steal happiness? Or is it just an internal, infernal human trick?

If I read The Book Thief in one sitting, I might have sulked, mourned, and locked myself in my room just to exercise my grief. It would’ve been too much. But I read it gradually in four weeks, and it was the right thing to do. I avoided the emotional wreckage similar to Liesel’s.

There was no recovery from what had happened. That would take decades; it would take a long life.

Goodreads – The Filipino Group Book of the Month (March)


THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak

Kindle Edition, 576 pages

Published December 18th 2007 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

4.5/5 stars


10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    • Aww, Louize! well, I miss you as well. ❤ Been awhile since we last met, huh?

      I may not be active in the online discussion, but I loved the Book Thief. It's not everyday I love a sad book, LOL.

  1. Pingback: Elated: Best Reads of 2013 | reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

  2. Pingback: The Book Thief- Markus Zusak | Lucybird's Book Blog

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