Why I love The Book Thief

I first saw Markus Zusak when he still had pimples, giving an author talk at a Sydney library. Way before he’d written The Book Thief.

Having read The Underdog, I knew Markus had a way with words. But The Book Thief is unique and will surely acquire the status of a classic. I knew it was a specially crafted tale when I first read it in 2005, and am so glad it’s finally going to be released as a motion picture.


Why is The Book Thief special, besides making me cry?

It’s not just the story, but how it’s written. I could tell you The Book Thief is narrated by death (yes, death), set in Nazi Germany, and is the story of a young girl who steals books and lives with her foster parents who protect a young Jewish man at their peril. You would correctly assume the topic to be dark and depressing.


Markus Zusak
Photo credit: smh.com.au

But Zusak saves the day by balancing his quirky playfulness and humour without detracting from the unimaginably atrocious subject. They say nothing holds a story together better than a likeable narrator. Death has me hanging on his every word throughout the book. Death’s narration is insightful, witty and congenial – to the point where I believe him, that I’m getting useful tips for the afterlife, that he would make an interesting dinner guest…

See what I mean about unique?

the book thief

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1d8XJ8q

Zusak’s spare but poetic descriptions delight:

Curtains of rain were drawn around the car’, ’empty hat-stand trees’, ‘delivered by a soft, yellow dressed afternoon’, ‘coat-hanger arms’ ,’murky snow spread out like carpet’, ‘the crowd did what crowds do’. This is only a small sample from the first few pages.

Even Zusak’s formatting is original. His chapters offer featurettes. The contradiction between the subject matter and childishness of his illustrations is nothing short of haunting. Death offers headings which explain, emphasise and intrigue, sometimes offering cryptic hints of what is to come –


Not-leaving: An act of trust and love, often deciphered by children.

Another of The Book Thief’s strengths is point of view. Death contemplates humanity in this sordid period of history, as only death could. Experience the richness of how all Zusak’s characters react to their desperate situations, especially children, even the well-meaning Germans.

If you haven’t read The Book Thief, do yourself a favour and read it before you see the movie (which I’m sure will be wonderful). Savour it, don’t rush reading this treasure. 

Been wanting to say that for ages.  Has anyone read it?

This entry was posted in book review, Markus Zusak, The Book Thief and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Why I love The Book Thief

  1. Hello Mick. I’m very proud to say I introduced Lee-Anne to The Book Thief.
    Watch, she will rave about it. 🙂

    • Lee-Anne says:

      Lee-Anne doesn’t “rave”…she gives a sensible, measured response! 😀
      While I found Death as the narrator quite affectatious and annoying initially, I soon forgot this as I got further into the text. I’ll be seeing the film soon but I know it won’t be as good as the book (it never is).

  2. suzjones says:

    Not read it yet but the Tween and I want to see it. 🙂

  3. Imelda Evans says:

    I haven’t read it but I certainly will now! Thank you!

  4. Thanks for visiting Imelda. Markus Zusak’s style is one of a kind. 🙂

  5. Not yet. Where to find the time?

  6. Peekiequeen says:

    I’ve actually had this on my nice big reading list for a while. The title caught me immediately. Thanks for the push 🙂 cheers!

  7. Its on my list. I cannot wait to read it. Soon! Great post!

  8. snowing here…might be a good day for a movie…Would rather read first as you say…but, probably won’t happen!

  9. I wanted to catch the movie. I knew nothing about it until a friend pointed me to it. I should get the book. Great review. Did you ever watch Rush?

  10. I saw the movie a few days ago. It is a GRAND movie. The actress, Sophie Nelisse is wonderful and Death is also very captivating. I haven’t read the book yet, but if it is as usual that the book is better than the movie than it should make for an outstanding read.
    Thank you for following my blog. I am happy that you found me so that I have found you. Such is the magic of blogging 🙂

    • Hello Carol, found you via Suz Jones’s blog. Thanks for following me! I was just told that the movie got bad reviews so must go and see for myself. Was wondering how Death would be portrayed in the movie. Ever since Mamma Mia got 2/5 stars I don’t trust reviews, ha ha.

  11. I’m reading The Book Thief at the moment. I’m determined to finish it before I see the movie. That way I can compare how it is created by the director to how I think it should be done. Always prefer to read first when I ca otherwise I find my reading interpretation is tainted by the screen image in my head (which is someone else’s interpretation).

  12. D.E. Cantor says:

    When I saw “The Book Thief,” my heart skipped a beat over the idea of a world where books are considered so valuable that people steal them the ways they steal stereos and TV sets.

    • Thanks for following and dropping by. I saw the movie last w/e and was reminded of the same thing. Imagine before the printing press! I cried in the movie, scared I was going to howl. My daughters were the same.

  13. suzjones says:

    Hey chickie, you’ve been quiet lately. Hope all is good 🙂
    Did you see the review I did on the movie?

    • Hi Suz, nice of you to check on me, gorgeous girl. 🙂 I’ve been concentrating on finishing the sequel to Arafura. Have to ride that wave when it comes. Just reblogged your interview avec toi. 🙂

  14. andy1076 says:

    I’ve seen the movie release about it and I had no idea what it was about, but now? Oh now I’m very interested! 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s