The Book Thief – Mark Zusak (Take 2)

Posted 3 February, 2011 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 35 Comments

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Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Published: 2005 Pages: 550
Audio Time: 13 hr, 56 min
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5/5

I’m kind of funny about recommending books to others; with the exception of my immediate family I rarely recommend books and even with family members I pick and choose books carefully. Because reading can be such a singular and personal activity I have to really know a person to recommend a book. But, I make an exception with The Book Thief. It is hands down The book I recommend more than any other—many of my coworkers have read the book, I’ve shoved my copy into so many friends and family members’ hands that my binding is broken and I’ve purchased a hard cover additional copy. True, this book isn’t for everyone (I’ll get to that), but I’ve never had someone I’ve loaned the book to tell me they didn’t like it.

Reason I [re]read it: For work book club—though more than half of us had already read it once before (see above).

Brief Synopsis: Liesel Menimger, a young German girl, is taken to live with foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, on Himmel Street during World War II.  Here she learns to cope with her brother’s recent death, her new mama and papa, secrets from her past, and the fast-changing and cruel world around her.  Cast of characters include little Liesel, Mama and Papa, Liesel’s friend Rudy, the visitor Max, and a very intrusive narrator.  See my original thoughts on The Book Thief for more of a plot summary than I’m willing to give now.  ;)

Thoughts in general: Um. I love this book? I love Leisel, and Papa, and Max…oh Max, and Rudy, and even Mama. I love the writing style, and while many find fault with this book for being overwritten or gimmicky, I disagree and say that’s what gives this book its charm. I love the narrator and how wise and creepy and compassionate he is all at the same time. I love how vividly graphic the descriptions are and how all the pieces are packed with emotion. I love how Zusak can make me cry and laugh with the same paragraph and how days, weeks, months, and years after reading the book I’m still thinking about the message put forth in the book. Of course there are few things I don’t love about the book, but what I do love outweighs them all.

How did reading compare to the first time: I worried that having read this book once already I would be bored with the story. And there were times when I felt impatient with some of the side stories. If I have one complaint about this book it’s the length, but I was able to read through those tangential parts more quickly. The narrator doesn’t try to keep too many things about the book a mystery (he says he doesn’t like mysteries at one point), but even with the foretelling I found myself an emotional wreck while re-reading The Book Thief. I went to Starbucks with a friend to read our books at lunch and I finally had to put my book down because I was constantly fighting back tears–at the beginning of the book! I finished the book before work one day, in my car, and I sobbed and sobbed. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, but such is the nature of this one. Needless to say, I found a re-read just as, if not more, effectual the second time around and will continue to revisit this book in the future.

Special note on the audio: Because I was short on time I half read/half listened to The Book Thief.  I had started to listen to the audio once before (for funsies) but for some reason put it down and had forgotten about it.  The audio is narrated by Allan Corduner and he does a phenomenal job.  His voice was the perfect depiction for the role the narrator played within the novel but the accents were also wonderful.  He voiced Rosa Hubermann so vividly that it was difficult to not be frightened and enamored with her at he same time.  The audio is long, but I would recommend listening if you can’t get your hands on the book.  Though, there are some illustrations and other visual elements of the book you would miss out on. 

Because I half read/half listened to this book I was able to pay attention to my “reading” with each medium.  I was much more emotional while reading the book rather than listening.  I really enjoyed listening but it didn’t quite have the same emotional punch as reading the book did.  Perhaps this goes back to the Processing Reading discussion I had a few Sundays ago?  Nevertheless, the narration is one of the best I’ve listened to thus far.

Some parts that stood out:
    “At times, Liesel wondered if she should simply leave the woman alone, but Isla Hermann was too interesting, and hte pull of the books was too strong.  Once, words had rendered Liesel useless, but now, when she sat on the floor, with the mayor’s wife at her husband’s desk, she felt an innate sense of power. It happened every time she deciphered a new word or pieced together a sentence.
    She was a girl.
    In Nazy Germany.
    How fitting that she was discovering the power of words” (147).

    “She tore a page from the book and ripped it in half.
    Then a chapter.
    Soon, there was nothing but scraps of words littered between her legs and all around her. The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this. Without words, the Führer was nothing. There would be no limping prisoners, no need for consolation or wordly tricks to make use feel better.
   What good were the words?
   She said it audibly now, to the orange-lit room. “What good are the words?” (521).

True, not everyone loves this book as much as I do.  But I do recommend it. Highly recommend it.
Now that I’ve talked your ear off…

I am an Amazon Associate and if you purchase The Book Thief or any other Amazon product through this review I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no additional cost to you. Thanks!

35 Responses to “The Book Thief – Mark Zusak (Take 2)”

  1. I love this book too, though I’m not sure it’s possible to love it as much as you. :-) When I started reading it I thought it would be too gimicky, bit it wasn’t at all. It was a perfectly executed unique idea.

  2. I’m with you 100%. I heart this book. I sobbed and appreciated it all the more on my second time, too.

  3. oh, one more thing. I just wanted to comment how cool it is that you have a friend you can read with. It’s lovely, yes?

  4. It seems this has been on my shelf forever. Why haven’t I read it yet? Starting to think I need to extend the tbr dare…

  5. I often wonder how I would react to second readings. I remember being sort of turned off at first by the idea of Death as narrator, but after I got used to it, then I really liked the book. I should try it again also!

  6. I listened to this book an loved it. It did take a while for me to get used to Death as the narrator. But I loved Papa and Rudy. What a great book!!

  7. I wish I liked this book. I was just middle of the road on it when I read it two years ago, but the more I think about it the less I like it. Ah well.

  8. I rarely recommend books either, but I’m not afraid to recommend this one. I’m sure not everyone will love it, but I don’t want anyone to miss out on the chance to read it.

    My mom just read it a couple of months ago and I loved being able to discuss it with her. It was a really powerful read the first time. I’d love to revisit it. I may have to buy this one. I’d love to have it for my kids to read when they are old enough.

  9. I must admit I did not adore this book; although I did like it. Like you, I am much more invested in what I am reading than what I am listening to. It’s one of the reasons I really don’t do audio books.

  10. I bought this book a while ago and haven’t read it, but really need to soon. Even though it’s been out a while, it still seems to get lots of buzz.

  11. *Vivienne – It’s hard for me to see why people don’t like this book, but I know they exist. Certainly I don’t want to oversell it and raise expectations to high!

    *Joanna – I think this one has grown on me over time, you know, the more I think about it the more I like it. Does that ever happen to you? (of course sadly sometimes the reverse happens, too!)

    *Care – Glad you loved this one just as much—it really is a touching book! And it was fun to have the lunch date—most days I read solo instead of going to lunch with coworkers, but most times it’s the only time I get to read. :-/

    *JoAnn – I think sometimes a book is so overhyped that there comes fear of reading it and not liking it as much. I’m certainly glad I read this first years ago when there wasn’t so much hype about it.

    *Rhapsody – I like the idea of re-reading books but rarely do so. I’ve learned if I put enough time in between readings then I’m usually OK—otherwise I anticipate too much! Death certainly is creepy isn’t he? Glad you enjoyed it in the end!

    *Laura H – I’m glad to hear someone else’s opinion of the audio version! I wasn’t sure about the narration either when I first started but thought it was done very well.

    *Amanda – I’m sorry you didn’t like it. :(

    *Kristi – How fun that you were able to discuss this one with your mom! My mom and sister recently read it as well, so I understand loving being able to discuss it. I’m trying to convince my 15 yo brother to read it, but I think the length is off-putting to him.

    *Trisha – Audio is definitely tough and I think I would have missed too much had I solely listened to this one rather than reading it as well. Glad to do both, though!

    *Bermuda – This does seem to be a book that people feel passionately about! I had heard once that a movie was being made but don’t know if that fizzled out.

    *Carol – I know just what you mean about recommending this one and having people hate it. My dad is the one who I usually recommend books to but I haven’t been able to pass this one on to him just for that very reason. Glad you loved it, too.

  12. I didn’t love this book when I first read it, but I did the second time through (also for a book club). I wonder how I would have done with it as an audiobook…

  13. I was asked once what is my favorite book of ALL TIME…and I didn’t even think about it. “The Book Thief” I blurted out. This is such an amazing, wonderfully original book…and it made me sob too. I want to re-read it one of these day. LOVED it! Great review :)

  14. I have this checked out of the library right now. I have not been able to make myself start it yet though. I am not sure I will like it and it the hype has me freaked a little out. lol :)

  15. cj

    Dang. Now you got me wanting to read it again…

    Not that that’s a bad thing. I’m just not sure I’m up to the emotional rollercoaster right now.

    If you haven’t read this one, I agree whole-heartedly with Trish. Read it. It’s too amazing not to.


  16. I too love this book. I have been thinking about re-reading it again soon. I loaned this to my friend and she thought it was kind of boring! WHAT?! I feel the same way about recommending books to people too, like I am responsible for their displeasure in the book. I know its silly.

  17. *Bookingit – Interesting that you liked this one more the second time! I enjoyed the audio but did find my mind wandering a bit on the more tangential places.

    *Wendy – I’m so glad you loved this book, too, Wendy–it’s one of the gems I’ve discovered through blogging and am so grateful. Have you read any of Zusak’s other novels?

    *Valentina – It really is that good, huh!

    *Brittanie – I know just what you mean about the hype–sometimes it’s hard to get on board with a book when so many people RAVE about it. I hope that it doesn’t end up turning you off.

    *CJ – Emotional rollercoaster this is! I couldn’t believe how knowing what was coming next affected me.

    *Michelle – Oh no! I’d feel so badly if I loaned this one to someone and they were bored with it. Brooke borrowed my copy and it took her a long long time to be really entranced with the story, but in the end I think she really loved it. I understand what you mean about being responsible for someone’s displeasure, though–great way to put it!

  18. 3M

    Love this book as well and have been thinking about re-reading it. I don’t re-read many books, but this one is definitely on my list if I do!

  19. Your comments about how others might find this gimmicky or overwritten remind me of our book club’s discussion this week on The Art of Racing in the Rain. Some of us felt that way about it, while others loved it and its message.

    I liked The Book Thief more than Racing in the Rain. I loved Death as a narrator…and his sense of humor.

  20. This book was so amazing to me. I don’t know, I mean, the writing style at first took me a bit to get into but overall the whole idea of lives torn apart because of war and hatred was just so powerful. I was totally crying after I finished this book too.

    I don’t typically re-read books but this is one I wouldn’t mind re-reading one day. I think I missed quite a few things because I was reading at such a fast pace as I wanted to see what happened in the end.

  21. I hear about this book quite often, some good some bad. It’s on the tbr and I will get to it eventually. Books that make you cry…priceless. Great post.

  22. You made me want to reread this book myself. I recommend this book to anyone that asks as well and have nothing but good things to say about it. I think that 2011 just may be the year of rereads for me :) I really, really want to read this one again now after reading your review!

  23. Rae

    Wow, you definitely have my interest. I don’t know why I have such a hard time picking up such lengthy books, but this one sounds really great.

  24. This is one of my favorite books EVER. I’ve only read it once, because I hardly ever reread, but I know I want to visit The Book Thief again someday. I’m glad to know the audio is really good, though I wouldn’t want the book to lose any of its emotional punch! I sobbed my way through the end of this book, and I still remember it more vividly than pretty much any other book I’ve ever read. I’m so glad you enjoyed revisiting it!

  25. This is one of my all-time favorite books. I’m almost afraid to reread it because I loved it so much, but it’s stuck in my memory so well that I probably should give it another go instead of just letting it sit on the shelf, gathering dust.

  26. I’ve read so many great reviews about this book, but just haven’t got around to reading it! (Need to move it up on my TBR pile!!)

  27. *3M – I hope you enjoy the re-read of The Book Thief even more than the first reading!

    *Softdrink – Art of Racing in the Rain felt a bit gimmicky to me. Not my favorite. :( And agreed–Death really makes this book with his narration!

    *Iliana – I had a tough time getting into this one as well but it’s so hard not get to get sucked into the story! I hope you enjoy a revisit of this one!

    *Stephanie – Oh, I hope you fall in love with The Book Thief, too! It’s an amazing book.

    *Jenny Girl – I admit I’m a sucker for books that make me cry. ;) I’ve only seen a handful of negative things about this book, so I hope you like it when you get to it!

    *Samantha.1020 – LOL–there have been many times when I’ve just wanted to re-read books! But then I remember all the books I haven’t read first!

    *Rae – This one is long but it’s SO worth it. Heavy, but good. Pick it up!!

    *Erin – Yes, if you ever find yourself without a book to listen to, find this one! The narration is one of the best I’ve heard. But, you do miss Max’s drawings…! *tear*

    *Bookfool – I was surprised at how many details of the book I had forgotten! Just little things here and there, but yes–re-read it! It’s such a powerful one!

    *Kailana – Haven’t read The Book Thief? Yes! Must!

    *Melody – You haven’t read this one either? ;) I’m surprised at how many haven’t read this one yet. Hope you enjoy!

  28. I’m with you 100% on this one! I loved it and bought myself a copy (a physical one … I read it on my Kindle the first time) so I would have it to lend out.