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The Book Thief | [Markus Zusak]

The Book Thief

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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential - One of the best examples of young adult literature that adults will love (as well as more mature teens), The Book Thief alternates between heartwarming and heartbreaking, always packing an emotional punch with each of Markus Zusak’s carefully chosen words – as brilliantly conveyed by Allan Corduner, who takes on Death, and so much more, in this novel set in Nazi Germany. —Diana D.

Publisher's Summary

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.

©2006 Markus Zusak; (P)2006 Random House Inc. Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group

What the Critics Say

  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award, Children's Literature, 2007

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (9575 )
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  •  
    JOHN Plantation, FL, United States 01-27-08
    JOHN Plantation, FL, United States 01-27-08 Member Since 2003

    Audible Member Since 2003

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Pleasure"

    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.

    35 of 42 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 03-31-14
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 03-31-14 Member Since 2008

    College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

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    "I Know This Is The Latest Hot TIcket, But..."

    despite its often soaring lyricism and high poetic qualities (which merit the four-star rating), there are clunkers and awkwardness when the author tries to push things too far. Having Death narrate the story was interesting, but it could have been more so. Death's synesthesia early in the book was a bit disjointed and didn't seem to serve much purpose other than to try to shove some kind of "mysterious feeling" on us, and then it is simply left off later on. I had to laugh out loud when Death claimed to have performed the gathering of souls "millions of times"--only millions of dead people in the entire history of humankind??? And then one has to wonder how Death has the time to take such care with each individual when there are tremendous numbers of people worldwide dying every second of every day. Yeah, I know: it's just a metaphor. But somehow, it just didn't work. And then there was the use of German. Maybe it could come off as a charming, knowing dash of cultural flare for a non-speaker, but as someone who is fluent in German, I have to say it was intrusive and often just silly. The author clearly does not speak the language, given the MINDLESS repeating of a handful of pet-phrases and the overly simplified sentences he puts in the mouths of supposedly native Germans. (The author needs a German thesaurus and grammar guide.) And then, rather than leave the choppy little bits of the Teutonic language, the author goes back and translates every single phrase of German into English for the reader! Just let readers look it up if they want or tell us once they spoke German and then give it all in English so readers don't have to go through the awkwardness of the way it is presented here. There were lots of little clumsy bits like this, and the fact that I am still giving it four stars shows how rich it is when it is going well. I suppose, in the end, The Book Thief is like another little girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead: "when it is good, it is very, very good, and when it is bad, it is horrid..."

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DENNIS Adelphi, MD, United States 02-06-14
    DENNIS Adelphi, MD, United States 02-06-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Pretty depressing"

    This book proves that it is difficult to write a good book about a halfwit orphan growing up in NAZI Germany. It has the flavor and starkness of depression-era and post-war German fiction. I gave up half-way through -- perhaps it got better.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Bartonville, TX 01-15-14
    Susan Bartonville, TX 01-15-14 Member Since 2012

    Myst/thrillers and ✨fun fantasies✨are my favorites but always open for a good story.  

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Classic"

    This a beautifully written book about a young girl who is sent to live in Munich with strangers that could provide for her during WW II. The first half of the book is character driven and how non military Germans lived during the war. Even though they were surrounded by strife and hunger, this story showes that even in the throes of war it is still possible to forge very special relationships through love and kindness.

    The second half is more about the war and how so many people were terribly affected by such a gruesome regimen, and having to live everyday with the fear of being bombed. I normally steer clear of books about this horrible atrocity, however, I was convinced by so many wonderful reviews that I had to give it a chance. Thank goodness I did, this is a wonderful story about complicated relationships, and the passion for the written word. The narrator did an excellent job with the characters voices and helped to add to each vivid personality. Definitely credit worthy.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    julie0 waterford, MI, United States 12-16-13
    julie0 waterford, MI, United States 12-16-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Yawn. I must have missed something."

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bonny 11-12-13
    Bonny 11-12-13

    Addicted to books, both print and audio-.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of the best ever!"

    This is one of the best audiobooks I've listened to. It is a lovely story, funny and sad. It's particularly interesting to have this perspective on life inside Germany during World War II. The writing is stunning; the author continues to find unique ways to express everyday experience through the end of the book. I found myself wanting to write down each new turn of phrase; they are that good.

    Allan Corduner's narration is spot-on. I hope he will do much more audiobook narration. He's one of the best. His voicing of the characters was distinct, moving, often funny, pitch-perfect . . . one of those books where you feel you know each character and miss them when the book is over.

    I can't recommend this one highly enough.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    FanB14 04-25-13
    FanB14 04-25-13

    Short, Simple, No Spoilers

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Girl Loves Books"

    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.

    35 of 43 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 03-07-12
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 03-07-12 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Lyrical and readable"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Highland Lake, NY, United States 11-05-06
    Susan Highland Lake, NY, United States 11-05-06 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "MY MOST FAVORITE BOOK EVER"

    5 stars is not enough - 10 stars - this is phenomonal! Wow, I mean WOW! Do not be fooled by the Young Adult catagory - I have been listening to books for a long time and this is the first time I have been so moved that I needed to write a review. Why is this not on the Best Seller list? I loved it more than the Kite Runner. READ THIS BOOK!

    26 of 32 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mebythesea 09-29-08
    Mebythesea 09-29-08

    Tell us about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This book...."

    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~


    13 of 16 people found this review helpful
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