Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: 5/5


I have a confession to make.

When I was in Middle School and High School I loved reading books about World War II and more specifically, the Holocaust. I found the subject infinitely interesting. I could never read enough. I’ve read Elie Wiesel’s Night, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and Number the Stars. I’ve watched Valkyrie, Sophie’s Choice, The Pianist, The Diary of Anne Frank (I’ve also seen the play), The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and countless History Channel specials.

Why did I have this morbid interest nearing on an obsession?

I blame my love for the Dystopian genre.

Here was a point in time in our own history where life was stranger than fiction. We had our own dystopian government going on right under our noses. People suffered, people died, there were rebels, there were heroes, and there were martyrs. There are also just so many stories to tell.

I feel that reading the stories of victims or survivors of the war, Nazi Germany, or the Holocaust is the same as listening to them. The act is a kind of validation to what they went through and it is the least I can do to pay respect to people that have gone through the worst that humanity has to offer.

With that said, I think I am a pretty good judge of character when it comes to Historical Fiction about World War II.

If you read the rating above then you know that I loved this book.

The main reason I loved this book is the perspective.

The Book Thief is not a book about the Holocaust in the traditional sense. It’s not even a book about Jews. It is a book about people, more specifically, Germans.

Growing up learning about Nazi Germany I had the same questions most of my classmates had on the subject. “How could people think this was right? How could people agree with Hitler? Think that way?”

Zusak shows us how a country can be taken hostage by a man with a tiny mustache.

The Book Thief synopsis:

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.


I could write an essay, several essays, on the different themes and stories that this book contains. Neither you nor I have the time for that right now.

The Book Thief is a German story. It’s about a German street that is flipped upside down by the fist of the Fuhrer. Liesel and her family fight for normalcy, their right to live as human beings, and the lives of the people they love.

I’m finding it hard to explain to you just what the book is about because there is just so much that it is about. The book is written in a series of vignettes following Liesel’s experiences as she grows up on Himmel Street, a poor street in Molching, Germany. She steals books because of a longing she has for the power of words. The books she steals help Liesel describe her world and provide comfort in the night.

Markus Zusak’s writing is heavily stylistic in The Book Thief. The narrator is unconventional and non-human. We follow Liesel’s story, but there are details from the larger picture as well as the more specific picture that the narrator intrudes on the story to tell.

The series of breaks through the book in the style of headline- type bullets reveals, foreshadows, and interjects the narrator’s opinion from time to time. Humans are judged, thoughts are revealed, and profound statements on life and death are written that leave the reader stricken by the idea.

(I have also heard that these interjections, interruptions in the main story, have bothered some readers. A few friends have mentioned it makes the book choppy and made them stop when they felt they were on a roll reading. I found the interruptions were purposeful and meant to break up the story. The author wanted you to take a step back and remember the larger picture or meditate on a certain idea before continuing to the next.)

I haven’t read a book that makes me laugh, cry, think, and want to throw it across the room like this one since To Kill a Mockingbird or Great Expectations.

The Book Thief is both beautifully written and highly entertaining.

I recommend it to anyone interested in World War II, Historical Fiction, or any of the books I mentioned earlier in this review.

Also, my friend informed me that even if you already saw the movie you should still read the book. (DUH!) She says there was so much more in the book than the movie and the movie lacks the kind of unexpected humor and powerful observations that the book brings to life.

Check out the book: here

Check out Markus Zusak: here

Thanks for reading!


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

  1. Great review! I too love historical fiction as well as WWII. I took war history and holocaust classes in college and studied the Second World War. TBT was one of the best books I had ever read. It moved me and stuck with me long after I’d put it down. I’m reading Code Name Verity now- review to come. You’d love it!!

  2. I’ve been wanting to read this book for years but for some reason have never got round to it. I love reading books about World War II and this one does sound great! We don’t often get to hear about the German perspective.

    • Exactly, and the book is not overly encumbered with just war. It’s about so much more- family and friendship in spite of the horrors of life like war. I highly recommend it. You’ll whip through it to because it is a fast and encompassing read! Thanks for reading!

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