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.
©2006 Markus Zusak; (P)2006 Random House Inc. Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group
"The astonishing characters, drawn without sentimentality, will grab readers." (Booklist)
"Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers....An extraordinary narrative." (School Library Journal)
"The Book Thief will appeal both to sophisticated teens and adults with its engaging characters and heartbreaking story." (Bookmarks Magazine)
I find myself scratching my head at all of these five star reviews. I found this story to be slow and meandoring. It was an interesting historical perspective but I had a hard time keeping interest in the story. I also wasn't crazy about the story being told from the point of view of death and portraying everything in terms of colors. Too abstract and annoying. This book was just "meh" for me.
I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
This book didn’t quite live up to its billing, but was a very good listen nevertheless. I always struggle to know where to look for fiction, and I chose one this on the back of its being a best seller.
The character who narrates this book is death. He tells the story of a young girl orphaned by the political turmoil in Nazi Germany, who is then fostered by a Munich housepainter and his wife. They are simple, unsophisticated working class folk who swear at each other constantly, but underneath this rough exterior is a deep well of love and courage, the courage to risk their lives by sheltering a Jewish man in their basement.
So why is it called the book thief? The heroine, Lisa (forgive the spelling, I didn’t see the written name), begins by being illiterate and gradually develops into an avid reader. But books are scarce in this time of immense upheaval, poverty and strife. Not just scarce but also dangerous to own, and she rescues them from the burning bonfires of books lit by the Nazis in their rampant, frenzied campaign to enforce their ideology onto their people.
It’s a sad and moving story of a young girl trying to grow up in this bizarre and dangerous environment. Germany is locked into a war against the rest of the World, a war which they are starting to lose. All men, young and old, are susceptible to conscription to fight in Russia, the remaining civilians face the threat of increasingly frequent Allied bombing raids, and Jews are being transported to concentration camps. Against this background Lisa somehow enjoys some of the ordinary experiences of childhood and early adolescence, but you know all along that this small community, like the rest of Germany, is doomed and that there will be few survivors.
Audible Member Since 2003
For potential listeners this book is a very easy listen that will move along quickly. It has a smooth and gentle rhythm narrated by the nameless character who identifies himself as someone everyone will meet at the last moment of life, i.e. Death. He is very tired and overworked gathering up souls during World War II. He travels nearly invisibly amidst the carnage and is able to offer a unbiased perspective of the people he observes. Nobody is untouched by his presence and a few get to look him in the face before their time. Most resist him, many welcome him to deliver them from suffering.
Death makes a visit to the family of the main character, Liesel, where he comes to observe this special young German girl, her foster parents, her friends and foes. Among the cast of characters in this story is a young Jewish man, Max, who is hidden by Liesel’s foster parents. Obviously this is a very risky venture inside 1940’s Nazi Germany.
Without repeating too much of what other reviewers have correctly written, I must say that this story has a very warm human quality. It offers an insider’s view to the rise of Hitler and Nazism, and is not unsympathetic to the German people who want only to scratch out an existence for their families. They are powerless observers to the explosion of fanatical hatred, with the Jews made as scapegoats for every imagined problem. Their families are decimated as their fathers and sons are unwillingly taken away to fight for this insane Fuhrer.
Still, inside of this war-torn country, simple people try to survive. Children play and their parents struggle to feed and nurture them. They witness the terrible persecution of the Jews, and most all of the citizens are too terrified to offer comfort or sympathy of any kind. Those who do succumb to their natural instincts of humane compassion are dealt with severely.
A wonderful read, full of triumph and tragedy charmingly told.
I don't mean to be rude...but really? This book came very highly recommended and I felt that it was very mediocre. I never really bought in to the characters and felt almost no emotion at the end. I wanted to like it. The narrator was pretty good except for his voice for the kids. He picked the most bratty/snotty sounding voice which became quite annoying.
The depressing story that never let up.
I didn't like any of them.
Being narrated by death was creative.
So depressing I finally just skimmed chapters.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
All eight or so people in my book club enjoyed The Book Thief, which is a first for anything we’ve read so far. While not the most complex novel (being written for the young adult market), it’s a beautifully written one, with appealing characters and a perspective on World War Two that’s not the usual one. For one thing, the story’s set in Germany, with German characters. If your literary experience of WWII is centered around British or American viewpoints, this one humanizes the people on the other side of the war.
The other unusual thing about the Book Thief is its narrator, Death himself. It’s a strange device, but one that works wonderfully, adding a much-needed layer of poetic remove to circumstances that are normally hard to read about. In this instance, the angel of finality could have been a Bob Dylan character. He has a wry sense of humor and a certain fixation on the facts and statistics of his work, and -- by the way -- doesn’t carry a sickle. He’s neither cruel nor pitying. He meets everyone eventually, and keeps records. He feels overworked in times of war, and has little more insight into God than we do. He’s obsessed with color and skies. And he finds a fascination with a few of the living people he encounters as he makes his rounds, hence the story.
Other protagonists have similar lyrical qualities. There’s an impulsive German boy whose hero is Jesse Owens, the black American athlete. There’s a profane-mouthed washer woman, whose abusive manner hides a decent heart. There’s the book thief herself, whose stealing involves several ironies, not the least of which is that she starts out not being able to read. And there’s the matter of a promise from a long time ago, leading to a Jew in a certain basement. While the plot follows somewhat well-worn lines, Zusak's poetic prose and his reconstruction of daily life's small but meaningful moments kept me absorbed.
Death describes it all, in amiable but unsentimental terms. His superhuman perspective keeps the sheer awfulness of events in that time and place from overwhelming the story, while allowing the reader to experience the joys and sorrows of several human lives in familiar motion in a darkening world.
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I have just five minutes ago finished listening to The Book Thief. I truly do believe this is the best book I have ever read, and I have read many books. There has never been a story that has touched my heart the way this one has. It's heartbreaking in so many ways but it is so uplifting at the same time. The characters became so real to me while I listened... I forgot sometimes that I didn't know them well in real life. I cried at the end and very few books bring me to tears, as I always remember that "I'm just reading a story". This was so real that these precious people and their lives will remain in my heart always... I loved this book and will listen to it again and again in the years to come.
The narration was wonderful, the writing.... absolutely perfect~
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
During WWII, Liesel is sent to live with a verbally abusive foster mother; loving, accordion playing foster dad; and a Jewish fist-fighter hiding in the basement. At the start of her journey, the actual character, Death, comes for her brother and is astounded by and follows her. Liesel's thievery begins when she swipes "The Grave Digger's Handbook" and continues stealing into a neighbor's extensive library to wile away the endless hours.
Beautifully written tale of a little girl's search for friendship, love, belonging, and the hunt for great literature.
The narrator is distracting and sounds like Vincent Price; sample before purchasing. Also, as this is my second time reading/listening to the book, prepare yourself for about 100 pages of repetition. In the print form, you can skim, but not as easy with an audio book. Also, don't like how author begins a chapter by telling you what is going to happen; ruins the element of surprise. Overall, a solid read and good choice for tweens, teens, and adults.
I'm a mom. I have drama in my life. I don't want books with the F-bomb, nor graphic violence. I read for fun and to bring my family together. I read for reducing stress levels. We have never had a television in our home and our children are now mid twenties to 19. We listen together and look for belly-wrenching laughter. So what is it like to live without a TV? Awesomely educational and inspirational. Each new book is a marvel.
This book is narrated from the viewpoint of Death. Capturing souls of those who pass. This wasn't demonic or anything like that, it was Death the facilitator between this world and the next. Interesting.
I love Liesel's books, the books she steals and the one she writes.
WOW! Such a voice for the perspective of Death.
This topic of WWII is difficult at best to write a novel about with compassion to people. During my reading I did some research on WWII and found it is estimated that over 40 million people died in this world war. I can't even imagine this number. This book contained descriptions of how people lived in fear during this time. The book is likely on a reading list for young readers due to the age of the main character but I sure think this book would benefit from co-reading with a young person and an older person to describe more of the details.
There are a number of deaths and while they are not graphic in detail they are described. Even a suicide is described briefly. If this bothers the reader it is best to skip this book.
The people who lived through WWII have my complete respect. They saw and lived through the worst time in history. It want to keep living is an amazing feat considering the horrible things that must have crossed the news and been reality for those in fighting zones.
I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't too depressing and it was enlightening and even fun. I was sad when the book ended. I wanted to know more of the lives of the survivors of WWII and Liesel's family/friends.
A very good book.
Yes I would definitely listen again. This is the second Best Audio Book I have heard. The story is very well developed and easily captures you with every chapter. The narrator secured my attention in such a manner that if I missed a sentence I would go back to listen again. I felt as if I was present with every situation.
The most mysterious character was the Mayor's wife. Her sense of sorrow and interest in the child would play a significant role in her life.
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