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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

Critic Reviews

  • 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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5.0
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    12,110
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Performance

  • 4.7 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.6 out of 5.0
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  • 3 Stars
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  • 1 Stars
    233
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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 03-13-14

Light Genocide

The Book Thief is rather light reading considering it is about death and life in Nazi German during WWII. The narrator is a mildly funny and likable Death who is being overworked by the massive carnage of WWII yet is lovingly careful with each of his human consignments and is hauntingly interested in a few of the living. The protagonist is a young girl growing up with a foster family during the horrors of war and adolescence. The Book Thief seems written for young teens, but is good enough for adults to share with their kids. If you start this, do finish it. The ending is, by far, the most powerful aspect of the book and is worth the prior, less powerful, bits. For a young person this is a compelling and heartwarming and heart wrenching, but not overwhelming, story of war and death and genocide. The narration if quite strong and clear, adding an enjoyable expressiveness to the characters. I liked this book, but did not love it.

29 of 34 people found this review helpful

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  • JOHN
  • Plantation, FL, United States
  • 01-27-08

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.

37 of 44 people found this review helpful

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  • Tina
  • Nibley, UT, United States
  • 04-28-15

Moving and thought provoking

What made the experience of listening to The Book Thief the most enjoyable?

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.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Book Thief?

I love Liesel's books, the books she steals and the one she writes.

What does Allan Corduner bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

WOW! Such a voice for the perspective of Death.

Any additional comments?

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. <br/><br/>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. <br/><br/>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. <br/><br/>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. <br/><br/>A very good book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Really?

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • julie0
  • Commerce Twp, MI, United States
  • 12-16-13

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.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Ryan
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 03-07-12

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

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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~


15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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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.

39 of 49 people found this review helpful

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Great book

The book thief is a story about a little girl, who survived Nazi Germany, although she arguably lost everything in the process. It's a story about human condition, love from the most unexpected places, and suffering.

The narrator did a great job conveying the emotions in the book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Excellent a Must Listen To

Would you listen to The Book Thief again? Why?

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.

Who was your favorite character and why?

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful