Why You Should Read ‘The Book Thief’

Do you doubt the New York Times? This book is outstanding!

Let me be clear – this will not be a book review. My intent with this and future book recommendations is to lure you in with reasons why you should consider reading a particular book, and nothing more. No one is paying me to talk up (or even talk down!) any book that might appear here. So unfurl your Masterpiece Theatre bubble wrap, because some of the tomes I will recommend are indeed classic literature…

I’m starting with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Quite honestly, I think it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I’ve probably read more books than you have in your home library. Here we go, gentle readers…

Reason #1 – As a Narrator, Death Is a Winning Combination of Dark and Funny: Categorically, this book is considered “Young Adult Literature,” but you should disregard that label, because this book is for everyone. Seriously, it’s for EVERYONE! How can you resist a book that has Death narrating the story with the comedic soul of a Seinfeld or Cosby and the mortal humanity of a Mandela or Mother Teresa? Because the author entrusts his book to this omnipotent specter, he formats it in an unusual way to create narration that will bedazzle you.

Reason #2 – The Main Character Becomes a Reader, Book Lover, and Writer: By name, the book thief is known as Liesel Meminger. She steals her first book at age nine but cannot yet read. Her first pilfered piece is entitled The Grave Digger’s Handbook (A Twelve-Step Guide to Grave-Digging Success). Liesel’s story has a sad start; she notices the book near the spot where her younger brother is being laid to rest after dying during a train ride. Fortunately, Death’s dark humor manages to accompany Liesel to her new home with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Why she decides to steal the books that she does is as integral to the storyline as the use of some choice German words by her foster mother.

Reason #3 – If You Want to Learn to Curse in German, This is the Book for You: While German words and phrases are scattered all throughout the book, the ones you will remember most are the profane words used by Frau Hubermann (Mama) to express, of all things, love. Apparently, pigs are directly correlated to cursing in German with feeling! For example, a girl who is a “filthy pig” is a Saumensch, while the male equivalent is a Saukerl. A Schweine is an actual pig, while someone who is G’sindel is trash. Even if this is your first German lesson, I believe you’ll be able to figure out what Arschloch means on your own.

Reason #4 – This Book Will Make You Feel and Think: Here is a direct quote from the book’s back cover: “It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.” You might be thinking this is another Holocaust novel and that you’ve already read too many of those depressing books. What distinguishes this book from other such literature is that it offers one German family’s politically incorrect perspective during this infamous and well-documented era. The fictional town of Molching (near non-fictional Munich) and its residents together serve as the catalyst for shaping Liesel’s character and encouraging her book thievery. Perhaps the most moving moment of the book occurs when a kiss that the author has restrained indefinitely finally happens. Oh, and Death also becomes a book thief, but returns the particular book to its rightful owner…

I think I’ve said enough – either request The Book Thief from your local library or look for a good deal online and buy it. If you’ve already read the book, let me know what you thought of it and whether or not you agree with my recommendation. What other World War II and/or Holocaust literature do you recommend as read-worthy? Thanks for visiting – please share this with the book lovers in your life.

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