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Publisher's Summary

Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany.

When he falls ill on his way home from school, 15-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover--then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder.

©2008 Bernhard Schlink; (P)2008 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"A formally beautiful, disturbing and finally morally devastating novel." (Los Angeles Times)
"Moving, suggestive and ultimately hopeful. . . . [The Reader] leaps national boundaries and speaks straight to the heart." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Arresting, philosophically elegant, morally complex. . . . Mr. Schlink tells his story with marvelous directness and simplicity." (The New York Times)
"Haunting. . . . What Schlink does best, what makes this novel most memorable, are the small moments of highly charged eroticism." (Francine Prose, Elle)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Ella
  • toronto,, Ontario, Canada
  • 12-09-08


When I was finished this book I felt empty. I couldn't decide if I liked it or not, however, it continues to pop into my thoughts and haunt me, and that is a sure sign that the book affected me.
Being a second generation holocaust survivor from both of my parents, I was raised with the holocaust in my veins, always learning and feeling the emotion of what my parents, their families and friends went through, one horror story after the other. I never took the time to understand what the second generation German people went through, a completely different perspective.
This dysfunctional "kid" (as he is referred to in the book), who even as an adult could not come to terms with his relationship with Hannah, was full of unresolved feelings and emotion too. Hannah herself could not admit and own up to what she had done. Also dysfunctional. A very dramatic book, which more than once, sent chills through me.
I am not sure if I would recommend this book to everyone. It is different. I can't quite put my finger on why. The narrator was fine, nothing special, but not a hindrance either.
What I will say is for a 4 hour book it certainly packs a punch. Will definitely see the movie.

26 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Reader, whew

I had no idea that this book was already in theaters. I can't imagine how it will be on the big screen, but as for the book, the writer and the reader, all I can say is that I could not put the book down. How courageous this book is! I cannot say that it answers the questions posed, but I very rarely have heard or read the questions asked. I read a lot, I totally recommend this book. Warning, it is heavy.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Barbara
  • Marietta, GA, United States
  • 11-20-08

Not for everyone

The Yahoo group for Audible users highly praised this book, and since it was short and inexpensive, I bought it and listened to it right away. I was not as impressed as some. It's a tenderly told coming-of-age story about some very damaged individuals in Germany, in the decades following WW2. Campbell Scott reads beautifully, without resorting to any dialects, which is refreshing, and the narrative is plaintive but fulfilling. In many ways an autopsy of a society, the novel excuses no one and gives a rare glimpse into the souls of a hapless persons in circumstances beyond their control and understanding.

23 of 31 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


My audio library is 900 books. This is the first time I have felt so compelled to comment that I can't not do so. The author's detailed examination of one human's obligations to another is cast upon backgrounds large and small, each easily identifiable thanks to meticulous thought and writing. This is also the first book I have listened to a second time and will do so again and again. It is not for everyone, only those who are up for thinking and whose natural curiosity is drawn toward human dynamics. Thank you, Berhnard Schlink, for taking the time and making the effort to develop your talent for our benefit.

12 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Dreary and depressing, after an intense beginning

I wanted to like The Reader, but toward the end especially, I just couldn't wait for it to be over. Too much inaction, and too much unsaid.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Chris
  • Jefferson Hills, PA, USA
  • 02-18-09

The listener

Though I purchased the book at the same time the movie was in theaters, I profoundly enjoyed listening to it. I was surprised by the ending and felt a sense of loss for one of the main characters. I would recommnend this book to anyone.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

wonderful experience.

this book deals with one of the most difficult on subjects. very thought-provoking. I find myself still thinking about this book weeks after we finished reading it

  • Overall

Intriguing and controversial

I really enjoyed the story and the characters came to life because of the fine writing of Bernhard Schlink.

A very realistic and emotional story, and just the perfect length. Excellent plot.

Very anxious to listen to his other books.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Vicki
  • williamstown, NJ, USA
  • 12-28-08


I was eager to listen/read this after seeing an interview with kate winslet. She spoke of the book with such high praise. I was intrigued by the characters and held in suspense until the very end.

4 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Left Me Cold

I wonder if something was lost in translation from the German in this book. I just couldn't get too involved with these characters. It was written coldly and left me bored most of the time. I have studied German history extensively and normally the real stories of the holocaust get me so upset that I wonder why I read this or watched that.

This one left me thinking, well, so what? The seduction of a 15 year old boy affected his entire life. That's not unusual. The context of the German holocaust was the difference here.

It was just so unemotionally written that I didn't relate to anyone and I was glad when it was over.

3 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
  • Chrissie62
  • 01-02-09

The Reader

This is the best book I have listened to or read since The Book Thief. I listened to all 4 hours in one sitting. Absolutely briliant!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Peter
  • 01-29-09

Listening to The Reader

The character Hannah loves to be read to, and so listening to this sympathetic reading felt apt. I really like the book, just as I did the film. Wikipedia told me that Schlink is a professor for public law and the philosophy of law, and sometimes works as a judge. And his expertise informs this fascinating work about post war Germany and its moral dilemmas, which among other things is also is a story of doomed love. A proper grown up read. Great stuff.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Clatter Ho
  • 01-21-09

Captivating and moving

I enjoyed this book tremendously; it was both captivating and moving. A story which gripped me from the start and kept me wanting to listen to more; I ended up finishing it a lot more quickly than I would normally. The emotions surrounding the love story, well they were all there: sadness, loneliness, compassion, sympathy, happiness, to name just a few. The narration was wonderful too and even though I finished it a few days ago the story has stayed with me. This is a fantastic book that I would recommend to anyone.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Liam
  • 08-31-09

Short, captivating, moving

A great observation of a character caught within believable yet tragic circumstances, not an easy listen but moving, great human quality to the writing and subjects. Recommended highly but not an easy listen.

  • Overall
  • Nick
  • 03-25-09

Superb - a must read

A book I will read and re-read. It has something to offer of increased depth and insight every time you return to even a few pages. It both entertains as a story at the most superficial level whilst offering the reader who wants it, a profound analysis of the inter-generational problems faced by the Germans of the Second World War and their offspring. At the same time it confronts the evil capacity of every human soul - that possibility that even we, normally pleasant, upright people might get drawn into monstrous acts.

What I really liked was that the book never trifles nor offers simplistic solutions to this enigma. A must read.

  • Overall
  • kieran toner
  • 03-11-09

I lived every up and down!

I loved this book, I haven't watched the movie and I don't think I want to. The emotions were captured perfectly, I related to every anxious moment, fantastic book.

  • Overall
  • Lizzie Bee
  • 02-08-09

Open Your Mind

There may be books that will make you a better person, they may be books that will help you change your life.

But every now and then you should read or listen to a book that challenges your preconcieved ideas about what is wrong and right and makes you think.

Every thing about the reader should make you hate the two main characters - is Hannah a preditor taking advantage of a boy not yet a man? Is Michael morally corrupt because he does nothing to help Hannah when he realises that he could save her from jail?

Or are these two people just human beings with the same faults and failabilities that we all have?

The final twist caused me to audibly gasp.

This is not a book to listen too when you want something light and breezey - this is a book to open your mind.

  • Overall
  • Sue
  • 02-02-09

The Reader

I really enjoyed this and just didn't want it to end. Excellent reading and Brilliant story.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Eddie
  • 01-31-09


A riviting book that I listned to in one sitting. It is difficult not to feel sorry for Hannah, an ex concentration camp guard but we should not lose track of the of the horrors that were committed in those camps especially by the female guards, three of whom were executed after the war for their crimes. This book takes you through the whole spectrum of emotion from tenderness and love to the horror of what she did. All through the eyes of a young German boy whose life was changed for ever after coming into first contact with her. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with even the smallest interest in what is the German collective guilt after the Second World War.