The Book Thief

Review  tbtbmz The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Alfred A. Knopf 2005, 550 pages.   Winner of a bunch of awards including the CFWP** for 2009.

FIVE PIEs.   Five WHOLE Pies, not mere slices.   This book is some kind of awesomeness.   You may have noticed that the last few reviews (or blabberings) I have presented were also for books that I bestowed the Five Pie Rating to and I will stick by those.   But of these three books (all this month, too), I adored The Book Thief the most.

I can’t review this.   Ich habe keine ahnung*  how to start this.   I made the mistake of reading other reviews here in lit-o-blog-o-sphere.     So let me introduce you to this book with other’s words.

The Koolaid Mom at In the Shadow of Mt. TBR loved this book and shares lots (including a companion post of excerpts) of why she loves this book:    “… Zusak writes with a poetic beauty that captures the way children take in the world around them.  He often crosses the communication of the five senses”.

I so agree!     What made this book amazing to me was how the author created a physical world of sensations with words and descriptions counter to their flat lettery two-dimensional black-and-whiteness.     He gave taste and shape to the words and their meanings; like stumbling and pouring out a different dimension of the universe.      The narrative is creative and sensation-able.

I knew I wanted to read this book after seeing tons of praise for it.      The Book Lady has also read some of these ‘it-will-change-your-life’ reviews but wasn’t quite as impressed as the hype lead her to expect to be.     She still enjoyed the book but “would have liked a bit more complexity” and less bluntness, more subtlety from Death, the narrator:    “Instead of foreshadowing or hinting at events to come, he flat out tells us what’s going to happen”.
Personally, I didn’t find this style at all off-putting.     It worked for me and made me eager to keep reading;   a page-turner throughout.      Softdrink, too, found it a bit long – and I admit that when I realized the page count exceeded 500, I was hesitant!   I’m so not a chunkster-reader.    But I sailed right through this.

The Bookfool was braver than I;  she admitted that she was intimidated to review this but did a wonderful job! In  her summation, The Book Thief is a thought-provoking book, full of stunning imagery and, in my opinion, technically perfect with not the slightest deviation in tone. It’s worth talking about, passing around, setting up on the good shelves for a future reread; and it has just rocketed to the top of my list of best books read in 2006.”

Well, this has rocketed to the top of my list of best books read in 2009.     I highly recommend this.   If not on YOUR tbr, put it there.   If it IS on your tbr, MOVE IT UP.

And, since I keep editing this post and finding more reviews to read, I’ll add just one more thing:    Serena of Savvy Wit and Verse and Anna of Diary of Eccentric are coordinating the challenge War Through the Generations and they post bits of reviews from submissions.   So, click here for even more thoughts, enticements, and critiques of The Book Thief.

* Ich habe keine ahnung –>   I have no idea.   or…    I have no NOTION.   I only took a bit of German in high school.    Knowing a smattering of the language and being of German heritage might be more reasons I loved the book.    Zusak sprinkles some German words into the text but almost always immediately defines it for the reader.   Without disrupting the flow of the narrative.

** CFWP = Care Five Whole Pie

33 thoughts on “The Book Thief

  1. Yeah, my major German expression is, “Ich habe probleme mitt meinen wagen,” and I apologize for any mispellings at that… lol. I learned the expression in college at a culture fair. They had expressions on strips of papers, and that’s the one I pulled. It means, “I have a problem with my car” and, at the time, I was on like the 3rd or 4th car in a couple years, so it seemed so apprapo.

    As to the book, It’s my all-time favorite book! I still daydream about it. In response to the Book Lady’s criticism, I think that was an on-purpose thing. I thought it more of a poetic kind of book and less of a thriller, so the bluntness of Death was simply an outsider giving an account. It wasn’t off-putting for me, either. The size wasn’t terribly intimidating, either, considering I’d just recently read Brisingr and HP and the Half-Blood Prince, The Book Thief was almost a short story, lol. And it flowed so beautiful I never noticed the passing of pages, anyway.

    Enjoyed your review and thanks for the quote 😀

    1. oh thank YOU! your review was the first I read when I searched and I was agreeing with EVERYTHING you said. except, I don’t yet know if it will be my favorite of all time (Ha, I’m MUCH too young to make such a claim!) but it was everything I love about a reading experience. I almost started out my review with this: “Death is a sarcastic bastard, but he tells a good story.” Whadda ya think? Yea, I panned it.

      You could easily use the word AUTO in your German sentence there: Ich habe probleme mit mein Auto. (you’d pronounce it ‘ow – toe’.) and I might have the masculine/feminine thing wrong. If my nieces would visit my blog, they’d be sure to correct me…

  2. I loved this book because it was full of these small, brave rebellions – like the palimpsest book Max creates for Liesel on the pages of Mein Kampf. It’s not just a gift, it’s saying no to Hitler.

    Markus Zusak’s other books aren’t as good as The Book Thief, but they are all really good. I am excited for his next, which is supposed to be coming out in November of this year.

    1. hee hee – I had to go look up palimpsest even though the definition provoked one of those ‘oh yea, duh’ reactions. I am now excited about his next, too!

  3. I bought this on Buy Indie Day and haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I need to learn to go without sleep. Your review makes me want to read it right now!

    1. How do you decide what book to read next? Do you go in order of acquisition or whim or close you eyes and pick? I’m just curious…

  4. I really loved this book too. I agree with you — I liked the way Death told us what was going to happen. It made the book suspenseful all the way through because I kept hoping what he said was going to happen wouldn’t happen. And I sobbed all the way through the end, even though I knew what was coming. That seems like the mark of a great book to me 🙂

    1. Wait til after the honeymoon! Have an awesome trip! I thought your drive across country WAS the honemoon – your traveling opps are incredible.

    1. oh Nat, I’m sure it was just a mood thing? or maybe it’s just not meant to be. I’m one of a few people that couldn’t get through Pillars of the Earth – does that make you feel better? I think everyone has a book they couldn’t get thru and everyone else loved. Oh, and I’m thinking Char might also have stopped reading The Book Thief. (check Softdrink’s reve?)

  5. I loved “The Book Thief” pretty much without reservation. it is about a lot of things. One of them is how reading changes lives, for good and for bad sometimes. I have tried to talk a bit about “The Book Thief” from that perspective on my blog The Read Life

    1. Thank you Mel. I just visited your blog but was unable to leave a comment. Welcome to book blogging and I will try to check back with you again soon.

      1. Sorry you had trouble leaving a comment on my blog-try again if you possibly can-I have comments set to moderate before posting-

        I just bought a few days ago one of Markus Zusak’s other books, The Messenger and will read it soon and report back. It is also in the young adult classification.

  6. I think it’s worth noting that The Book Thief is still one of my top favorites of the past three years. It’s definitely a book that has stuck with me and one of those rare books that makes me envy anyone reading it for the first time. I’m glad you loved it as much as I did!!!

  7. It does deserve 5 whole pies, doesn’t it? I generally run away from books over 400 pages but I didn’t even realize when this one finished. And I loved the character death. Glad you liked it too Care.

  8. Care, this post rocked! I love how combined others’ thoughts with your own. You might have shied away from “reviewing” it on your own, but your thoughts and feelings about the book sure shone through!

    I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while, but for some reason I can’t seem to make myself read it. And I really do want to! I’m not sure if I’m intimidated by the length or the fact that everyone seems to love it so much or what the deal is. One of these days though…

  9. This is an awesome review! I loved Book Thief, but I couldn’t even string three sentences together coherently enough to say why 😛

    And I am so jealous that you took German in school – our school offered only french *booo* I’d love to maybe take a course in my spare time. My father’s family is from Germany, our name was anglicized when relatives came here and I’ve always considered having it reverted back to the German.

  10. I’ve been hearing nothing but raves about this book and it is on my list to get as soon as I get my Amazon gift certificate I won … if it is that long and that good, it is going on the Kindle. And I love how you pulled off a review using bits of other reviews! Clever!

  11. @Nancy the Bookfool, I expect this book will have staying power for me. It was profound.

    @Melody – yea! I convinced someone! Can’t wait to see if you loved it as much as I did.

    @Mel – great – I’ll be back. 🙂
    I look forward to your thoughts on Zusak’s other books. I will be watching for his newest this Fall.

    @Violet – Yes, a FIVE PIE READ. Dark Chocolate Cream with Kahlua Pies.

    @Debi – oh Debi, thank you. You are so good for the ego. Sometimes, I pick up a book in my tbr and put it down so often, I wonder if I’m taking it in by osmosis and that is why I can’t bring myself to actually read! And then some books come along and I just instantly open and fall in love with the pages. I don’t know.
    One of these days though, I hope it’s just right and you are ready.

    @Joanne – Thanks! Interesting about the German connection; Of course you would have French in school, yes? My bff has a French husband (not like she has any other kind in addition, you know what I mean) and I so wish I could read and and at least pronounce the words – I butcher French from print and they all laugh at me.

    @Jenners – Goodness, thanks so much for calling me clever. hee hee. I was afraid I was just being lazy.

  12. The best thing about this book is that it is different from nearly everything out there! Not only with the use of Death as narrator as well as character, but also with having the main characters being German.

    A really enjoyable read.

    1. Marg, yes! I really enjoyed the creativity on many levels. I also closed this book and asked the universe for “MORE LIKE THIS PLS” but then it wouldn’t be so different. oh well.

  13. I agree, it deserves all those pie slices! I absolutely loved this book. I read it a couple of years ago but I swear if I start thinking too much about it I may start crying all over again. I need to read something else by him.

    1. I will eagerly await the news of when Zusak’s next book is available. Maybe I should campaign to get the ARC? (can you do that?!)

  14. I really loved The Book Thief. Its too bad I read it last year and not this year for the challenge, which thank you for mentioning it.

    I’m glad that you liked this book.

  15. Care, Thank you for a great review. I appreciate the uniqueness of the review. I have not read this, but I have not heard a bad review yet. No wonder it has won so many awards… I need to just buy the book and read it, I have had this on hold for way to long at the library. You are great!

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