The Book Thief

Markus Zusak

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

screen shot 2019-01-03 at 4.47.47 pmOn Amazon, The Book Thief is listed as the number one seller in Children’s Holocaust Fiction. After reading it, I can understand how over time it has held this title. I find myself wondering if it because children’s holocaust fiction is limited or because this read it a priceless title?

I liked The Book Thief. If you have a younger reader who is interested in the Holocaust, I recommend this book.  If you know someone who wants to ease their way into Holocaust fiction, The Book Thief is also a good starting point. If you are an older reader who has skimmed past this book, you can read at your own discretion. 

Liesel buries her brother and leaves her mother on her way to her foster family. Over time, she bonds with her foster family. Liesel has a criminal habit, she likes to steal books. Liesel and her foster family face hardships and become a criminal family as they do the unthinkable–harbor a Jewish man. 

Liesel is a tough girl she quickly makes friends with a neighbor boy, Rudy. Together they tackle the street. From stealing, soccer games, and bonfires they experience a one of a kind childhood as a war erupts around them. Over time, Rudy and Liesel become best friends. He deems her “the book thief.” Beyond Rudy, Liesel has an interesting relationship with the Mayor’s wife. BUT The Book Thief isn’t all childhood smiles and games, the story poetically covers heavy/dark topics.

The story is told from the perspective of Death. Zusak braids together the sadness of death, war, and the Holocaust as a whole and balances it out with beautiful smiles and metaphors so even the youngest reader can grasp what is happening. 

Death was a tricky narrator. Things were not always told in chronologic order and often Death interrupted chapters to add facts or details to the situation–this takes some getting used to but is what makes The Book Thief a unique read.

While I did appreciate the literary style of The Book Thief, it is not something I’d read again or recommend for struggling readers. The story was slow and makes for a relatable read for a younger reader but not as exciting as an adult reader. I am glad I finally got around to reading The Book Thief. I understand why this read made it on Time’s 100 best YA of all time, but prefer other books in the genre.


Here are a few other titles to read next if you are interested in YA Holocaust reads:

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

The Boy in The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust by Eve Bunting


Have you read The Book Thief? What did you think of it? Have you seen the movie?






  1. Bryan Fagan

    It was an emotional read. As a writer I thought the approach was pure genius. I kept saying to myself, why didn’t I think of this?

    As a reader I must warn others to prepare themselves. This is an emotionally charged novel. You have been warned.

    Liked by 1 person

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