Book Review: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

First Published 2005

on The New York Times Best Seller list for 375 weeks


When I read The Book Thief I didn’t know what to think since I had not read many books that took place in World War II. It was strange to read a book from the perspective of Death, but it allowed me to consider how we react to our environment. This novel brought me to tears even though Death himself tells readers how the story ends, and it is true to the horror that takes place in this period of history. Every emotion the characters feel, sinks into my heart and pushes me to reading more. This is a book you can’t put down until it’s finished.

The story follows Liesel Meminger, a book thief that lives with her foster family in Germany. Her adoptive father learns that Liesel can’t read, so he teaches her the wonders of the written language. As her new family struggles to survive, her world turns upside down when her family decides to hide a Jewish man in their basement.

One of the many strengths of The Book Thief  is the way the story is told from the perspective of Death. As a character, Death is companionate, funny, and humane. Whenever Death carries the souls of children, he cradles them in his arms, picking them up carefully. There are times when Death is funny, like when he depicts the relationship between Liesel and Rudy, “The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy who loves you.” As the narrator, he also taps into his humanity. Death explains, before collecting souls he looks for colors in the sky to distract himself. He does this so he doesn’t have to look at the “leftover humans…the survivors.”

I thought about this fact for a while and I’ve come to the conclusion that we do the same thing. We don’t like looking at those who survive a horrible event. It makes us sad to look at how much pain they are in. These details in the book portrays Death in a more human way. The relationship between Liesel and her foster father is cute to me; like they’re best friends instead of father and daughter. Rudy is a rascal and Liesel’s mother is a character you can’t help but love despite the German curses she yells. There’s a reason everything happens, and that’s one of the reasons this book gets a special place in my heart.

To me, this book has no weaknesses except the German words that are sprinkled throughout its pages. They are hard to pronounce and I believe you would need to have an understanding of the German language to get the full effect of the story. This is just a minor point in my mind, and I’m sure the people who don’t like the book as much as I do would probably have more to say on its weaknesses but to me, I love this book for what it is. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I cried, and I would honestly read it again to relive the inspiration I got from Markus Zusak.