February 5, 2012

The Book Thief

Pre-unemployment, I borrowed my roommate's copy of The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.  I cannot do this book justice by writing my own review, so I'm going to borrow one, which I'll get to in just a second.  One day last week, when I had nothing to do since I no longer have to be at work from 8:30am-5:30pm, I stopped in at Barnes & Noble for a coffee and for some browsing.  I was a few chapters in to The Book Thief so I decided to pick up a copy and read at the store while I sipped my coffee [for those wondering, this is entirely legitimate and even encouraged by Barnes & Noble staff; I know because I've asked].  

Trouble was, I couldn't find the book.  It's had a bit of buzz so I thought perhaps it was sold out; I pulled out my trusty iPhone to make sure I was spelling the author's name correctly, when I realized that The Book Thief is actually a young adult novel.  Cue surprise.  The novel doesn't read like The Twilight Saga or Judy Blume, so I was surprised, but upon reading the author's biography, I realized that he is a young adult author, therefore causing this novel to fall into the young adult genre.  Regardless, I finished the book (not at Barnes & Noble) and have to recommend it.  This story is heartbreaking, heartwarming, funny, and very sad, but overall it's a wonderful book about one girl's struggle to survive Nazi Germany and how the power and comfort of the written word helped her through it all.  

I told you that seemingly random story about not being able to find the book so you'd understand why this review is from Teenreads.com:
"A human doesn't have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both."
So muses the narrator of Markus Zusak's powerful and moving bestselling novel of 2006, THE BOOK THIEF, which is now out in paperback. As you might guess, this is no ordinary narrator. The contemplative first person guiding you through this book is Death, an at-once fitting and ironic vanguard for a tale that both celebrates the power of words and agonizes over the consequences of their use. 
Set against the tragedy-stained canvas of World War II, Death tells the story of young Liesel Meminger (the eponymous book thief) growing up in Nazi Germany under the watchful eye of a staunch foster mother and kindly foster father who teaches her to read. She attends meetings of the BDM, a youth group aimed at indoctrinating young girls into Hitler's ideology. She plays soccer with the boys on her street, holding her own in any disputes that arise. And all the while, dreams of her dead brother haunt and goad her into a fascination with reading and words that inevitably leads to her life of crime. 
While other writers have employed Death as a narrator, Zusak makes his own indelible mark on the technique in the dimensions he gives to the character. Death is simultaneously dispassionate about his work and the impact it can have while striving to understand humanity's resilience. Death boasts an omniscience of what will happen in life but also a naivety about what can happen in the human heart. 

Read this book.  That is all.


  1. Also enjoyed this book.

    Sorry to hear about your job; I'll be thinking about you. Birmingham has a good job market right now...just saying.

  2. "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.