The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

88%

69 Critic Reviews

The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that is now a major motion picture, Markus Zusak's unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
 

About Markus Zusak

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Markus Zusak es un joven autor que vive en Sídney, Australia. Con su obra anterior, I Am the Messenger, ganó uno de los premios más prestigiosos que su país dedica a la literatura juvenil. La ladrona de libros, que se inspira en lo que sus padres vivieron en Alemania y Austria durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, ha sido un gran éxito en todos los países donde se ha publicado.
 
Published December 18, 2007 by Knopf Books for Young Readers. 578 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Literature & Fiction, War, Children's Books, Education & Reference, History. Fiction
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for The Book Thief
All: 69 | Positive: 66 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 20 2010

The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by John Green on May 14 2006

Many teenagers will find the story too slow to get going, which is a fair criticism. But it's the kind of book that can be life-changing, because without ever denying the essential amorality and randomness of the natural order, "The Book Thief" offers us a believable, hard-won hope.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Mar 27 2006

It deplores human misery. It celebrates the power of language. It may encourage adolescents to read. It has an element of the fanciful. And it's a book that bestows a self-congratulatory glow upon anyone willing to grapple with it.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Ghostofemily on Nov 09 2015

If you can see the end of the novel through your tears, you’ll find that the family Liesel had carefully crafted for herself is slowly torn apart, as Death claims the members of her family for himself. The humour in the novel stops it from being morbid, but it definitely leaves you feeling both raw and cleansed.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by for the love of books on Feb 20 2015

The author, Markus Zusak, writes with huge imagination and a passion for writing. A wonderful page turner, I can't recommend it highly enough.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by HannahLoveBook on Jan 29 2015

If you haven't read The Book Thief then you should since if you are looking for a powerful book which will emotionally tie you in then I suggest you do because this book will attach itself to your heart and never let go!

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by acornsized on Jan 04 2015

The Book Thief is one of my favourite books ever and if I could give it higher than 5 stars I would!

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by ThoughtfulReader on Oct 29 2014

The end of The Book Thief left me in tears. It was so beautiful, moving and emotional, and it left me convinced that I had read one of the best books I would ever read in my life. Markus Zusak led me on a journey that you can only experience in the most wonderful books.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Rose Perry on Apr 01 2014

The story is beautiful and sad, at the same time. It mixes your emotions; you feel sad, and angry, and suddenly very happy and hopeful, and then you get sad again. But anyway, it's wonderful. You HAVE TO read this book if you're over 12 years old. Happy reading!

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by HorseLover3000 on Mar 17 2014

I found this book a bit of an eye opener. It is one of the first books about the war that I have read that is from somebody living in Germany's point of view...I would rate it 8/10, and recommend it to anyone aged 13 and upwards, as it is a serious story, and may not be fully understood by those younger.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Philip Ardagh on Jan 05 2007

Unsettling, thought-provoking, life-affirming, triumphant and tragic, this is a novel of breathtaking scope, masterfully told. It is an important piece of work, but also a wonderful page-turner. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by PetrovaFossil on Feb 04 2013

This book is one of the best that I have ever read.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by ManOfLaBook on Feb 11 2013

The strength of The Book Thief is its wit and understated horror...It is an impressive book and I appreciate Mr. Zusak’s ability, but a few lesser moments of the author trying to get the audience to tear up would have worked in its favor.

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NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Phil Constable on Jun 16 2014

he Book Thief is a marvelous work that will touch readers of all ages. In his use of imagery and language Markus Zusak has created a highly accessible vehicle for some complex issues.

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All About Romance

Good
Reviewed by Rachel Potter on Mar 29 2014

Zusak's descriptions of a childhood in Nazi Germany were absorbing...This one adds another layer and shows that suffering wasn't limited to those the Nazis sought to invade or destroy. For that reason and for all the ones I outline above, I highly recommend The Book Thief. I can say without hesitation it's the best book I've read all year.

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Examiner

Good
Reviewed by Joseph Scalise on Aug 23 2013

A wonderfully compelling, interesting and creative novel, The Book Thief follows a young white girl trying to cope with the events of the Holocaust rapidly unfolding around her...I would highly recommend checking out this book as soon as you can.

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Examiner

Excellent
Reviewed by Kristin Wilson on Sep 17 2012

Beautifully written, The Book Thief is a sad story that takes place during a cruel period of world history. While there are horrific events described about WWII and Nazi Germany, there is also the hope of a young girl and the story of her ability to continue to love through all this pain and brutality.

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Examiner

Excellent
Reviewed by Cindi Rose on Jan 26 2012

The narrator, who will not be revealed here, is superbly drawn and will cause readers to stop and wonder at his observations.

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Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Brian Farrey on Sep 10 2007

...his greatest triumph is delivering a reminder that no writer enters this world quietly. Writers are born of eruptions and detonations, and the truly exceptional ones, like Zusak, continue to channel these explosive energies to craft a truly remarkable book that will be admired for generations.

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Kings River Life

Good
Reviewed by Terrance Mc Arthur on Nov 09 2013

The language they speak is coarse, but the characters are from the “wrong” side of town. Zusak plays with words, with, meanings, with expectations, and with the characters.

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Chamber Four

Excellent
Reviewed by Sean Clark on Oct 23 2009

The Book Thief certainly ahas a lot to say about World War 2 and about human nature in general, and filtering these ideas through a uniquely sentimental Death is an excellent approach to this.

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BookDragon

Good
Reviewed by Terry Hong on Mar 26 2012

Just know that Zusak’s writing is so affecting and glorious that you’ll smile, hope, mourn, laugh, weep … and thoroughly, unabashedly, savor this extraordinary treasure.

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The Age

Good
Reviewed by Paul Byrnes on Jan 11 2014

He has said his parents were very young during the war, but it is clear that the book is both a tribute to, and a reflection of, their experiences and memories, however richly reimagined. A labour of love, in fact.

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Persephone Magazine

Good
Reviewed by Mary on Sep 21 2012

If you’re looking for a book with historical heft, some slightly fantastic moments, and some tearjerker moments, check out The Book Thief.

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http://childrensbooks.about.com

Good
on Jun 15 2014

What I love most about this book is Zusak’s brilliant choice of a narrator. By allowing Death to narrate the story and giving him the ability to wonder at his connection to Liesel, Zusak brings to his story a haunting and heartbreaking quality.

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My Entertainment World

Good
Reviewed by Borah Coburn on Sep 13 2013

You should read it before you see it because The Book Thief is beautiful for so much more than its plot. It’s often beautiful for the things that make it a book. The prose Zusak uses, the tone and color of Death’s narration, Zusak’s arrangement of text on the page, and Zusak’s books-within-the-book would be difficult to translate to film.

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Red Dirt Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Lisa DelCol on Jan 03 2014

Nobody is a stereotype or caricature; each character is has strengths and flaws, and no one is spared Death’s detached yet empathetic, critical yet perceptive observations.

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The Copperfield Review

Good
Reviewed by Meredith Allard on Dec 11 2013

His writing in The Book Thief is both funny and poignant, and his use of metaphorical language is perfect at painting pictures with words. I have already bought two more of his novels, and I’m looking forward to reading his new books as they’re released.

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CLP Teensburgh

Good
Reviewed by Corey W on Apr 19 2012

The Book Thief is sure to surprise any reader because of how unique it is. Everything to the main characters, the narrator, and to the way it’s written is different and unique. This book is must-read!!

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http://yareviews.wikispaces.com

Good
on Jun 14 2014

The Book Thief is highly recommended for young adult readers, high school history and English classrooms, and adult readers alike.

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Idaho Statesman

Excellent
Reviewed by Rachel Bennett on Oct 20 2013

My take: It’s true that “The Book Thief” is a young-adult book, but that doesn’t mean it’s light or full of fluff. No, this book is dark and heavy, and at times gritty. But most of all, it’s good. No, FANTASTIC is a better word.

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Uloop

Excellent
Reviewed by James Barasch on Sep 05 2012

With this tale Markus Zusak reminds us of the extraordinary power of the written word – that books themselves are so much more than paper, binding and ink. They can, as Zusak shows in his abrupt and wrenching finish, even save lives.

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Teen Ink

Good
on Jun 16 2014

Throughout this book, it made me laugh, smile, and even weep to the countless events that occurred in it. The novel followed Liesel's footprints throughout her life of the excitement, love, fright, and even demise.

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Teen Ink

Good
on Jun 16 2014

What truly makes me love this book is that it made me think. One of the main points of the book is the importance of words and how people can use them.

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Teen Ink

Excellent
Reviewed by Georgemoran on Jun 15 2014

This book is more than something you read- it is something you experience; something you live with for the duration of The Book Thief. Impulsive reading- occasionally tough going but the wealth of originality makes this a masterpiece which rivals any artwork of Picasso.

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Teen Ink

Excellent
Reviewed by mereCat on Jun 11 2014

As I sat with the devoured novel, I shook it as though hoping more words would fall from its covers into my hungry lap. I wanted them to keep coming...

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by MaryRoseB. on Jun 13 2014

I bet you that The Book Thief will make you laugh, cry, smile, frown, feel happiness and sadness, hope and fear. You will become engrossed in the story of Liesel, and you will be aware of the impacts of Nazi Germany.

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Yahoo! Voices

Good
Reviewed by Jo Farrell on Nov 29 2013

Before you come to the conclusion that "The Book Thief" is just like any other historical novel dealing with the harsh times the Jews had to endure during World War II, let me tell you that it is much more than that.

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Yahoo! Voices

Good
Reviewed by Eliza Lynn Taylor on Jan 23 2008

Think along the lines of The Diary of Anne Frank (by Anne Frank), The Hiding Place (by Corrie Ten Boom), as well as Schindler's List (by Thomas Keneally), all of which are nonfiction. I highly recommend this fictional book for young adults as well as adults.

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http://www.bookdrum.com

Good
on Jun 13 2014

Zusak’s writing has been judged by some critics to be lengthy, fussy and slow to move the story forward. Yet it is packed with striking commentary, beautifully crafted sentences, authentic and gutsy characters and heart-wrenching imagery. Each of its 554 pages is a pleasure to absorb.

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Before It's News

Good
on Apr 13 2013

The voice is brilliant, and it really makes this story work in ways that are not possible with a normal first or third person narration.

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Fyrefly's Book Blog

Excellent
on Dec 13 2013

I love that there are books like this out there, books that swell our hearts and break them and stitch them up all at the same time, and time after time, and oh goodness, I’m getting teary-eyed just writing about this book.

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Novelicious

Excellent
Reviewed by Amanda Keats on Jan 09 2014

When a book is described to you as one of the greatest novels ever written, it has a lot to live up to, but this incredible book certainly managed to live up to the hype.

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The Book Smugglers

Excellent
Reviewed by Kyle Quon on Aug 21 2009

I would highly recommend The Book Thief, if not for its entertaining twists; for the depth in which its ideas are presented. The Book Thief is complex in its intertwining of symbols, thoughts and messages it offers.

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Sarah Reads Too Much

Excellent
Reviewed by Sarah Reads Too Much on Sep 03 2012

Just on the off chance that I wasn't the last person out there to read this, trust me when I say to go out and start reading this. Now. You will thank me later, I promise!

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The Book Stop

Good
Reviewed by curlygeek04 on Oct 03 2011

Zusak brings poetry, and even beauty, to the horror of the Holocaust. He shows in only a few vivid scenes how much courage it took for a single person to show compassion, and how many ways the Nazis made people afraid to speak against the persecution of the Jews.

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Wondrous Reads

Excellent
Reviewed by Prophecygirl on May 30 2013

I just want to say thank you to Markus Zusak for giving me The Book Thief, and for giving me the most powerful story I will ever read. When I finally meet you, Mr. Zusak, you'll be getting a high five and a drink of your choice. *tips hat*

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Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Excellent
Reviewed by Wendy Runyon on Dec 29 2009

The writing is beautiful, almost poetic. There is a certain rhythm to Death's narration. The book may be long but I savored every word.

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Reading In Winter

Good
Reviewed by Kristilyn on Dec 10 2013

I thought it was a wonderful telling of what happened at that time and it was interesting that the story was told about a German girl, since a lot of the stories I’ve read about this time are told from the Jewish side. In the end, the story was completely beautiful, powerful, and I would say it’s a necessary read for people.

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Reading In Winter

Above average
Reviewed by Kristilyn on Sep 30 2013

While this wasn’t my favourite book (much to the shagrin of those who love it!), I did really enjoy reading The Book Thief. I was actually quite taken with the writing of the book...

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Alexa Loves Books

Good
Reviewed by Alexa S. on Jan 16 2013

While it’s certainly not the easiest story to read (and not just because it’s fairly lengthy), I can assure you that I truly believe it is worth it. The finesse and the cleverness with which the author wielded his words certainly made an impression on me...

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Cuddle Buggery Book Blog

Good
Reviewed by Paul Beimers on Jan 02 2014

...The Book Thief is at its core a story, and it is a good one. It touched me despite its unsettling context and emotional puppetry. Zusak is an adept writer who uses words to great effect, and I love what he has done here.

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YA Love

Above average
Reviewed by Mrs. Andersen on Nov 10 2013

...The Book Thief ends with a sense of hope. But from this story in particular, which I did finish, I needed something more. I will say, however, that the writing it beautiful and the character development is wonderful...

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Murphy's Library

Below average
Reviewed by Maeva on Apr 23 2013

...the narrator tells how the story ends on the first chapter! Besides that, the narrator tells us some characters are going to die like 100 pages or so before they actually die. Talk about spoiling a story!

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Read. Breathe. Relax.

Excellent
Reviewed by Lisa Parkin on Dec 12 2013

The Book Thief is brutal and harsh without being overly graphic or without purpose. You’re heart strings will most definitely be tugged, but I like how everything is described and woven together so well.

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Southern Girl Reads

Excellent
Reviewed by Lisa on Oct 25 2013

The thing that intrigued me the most was that the narrator of this story was Death. In my opinion, that decision took this book to a whole other level. Not only did Death tell the story but also gave insight and even put feelings to the job he had to do.

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Of Books and Boys

Above average
Reviewed by Wendy on Aug 20 2013

I think this book deserves the praise it has been given. While I found it more difficult to latch onto the second time around, it was still a story worth repeating and worth the hard work of getting to the point of caring about the characters and their stories.

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http://readinginthesunshine.wordpress.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Megan on Jan 06 2014

The Book Thief is a powerful and moving book – I feel no words will do this book justice. With truly unforgettable characters, The Book Thief is a novel that will have you hooked to every single word.

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I Eat Words

Good
Reviewed by Farrah on Nov 29 2011

I loved that this story was about books. How they fill us up and keep us hanging on to every word. I loved that Liesel understood that. I loved that she was such a complex character with so many thoughts and feelings. Mostly, I loved her because I started to care about her story, her family, her life.

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The Housework Can Wait

Good
Reviewed by TheHouseworkCanWait on May 20 2012

The Book Thief is a story of regular people doing the best they can during a period of unspeakable evil. It’s a story of Death being fascinated by life. And a story of a child being a child, in a world where innocence is a luxury few can afford. I thought it was beautiful.

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A Book A Week Blog

Good
on Mar 07 2008

Zusak very effectively makes you feel the grinding poverty and desperation, the hopelessness, and the fear his characters experience. His voice is highly original and compelling, and despite the pervasive sadness this is a beautiful book.

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Reading Addict

Good
on Jul 12 2013

The Book Thief is a novel that every reader should explore. Whether you like historical fiction or not, this book examines the truths of humanity and love and its deepest core. It truly is a masterpiece.

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Reading with ABC

Excellent
Reviewed by Elizabeth Rodriguez on Nov 24 2013

I consider it my duty to tell you that if you decide to read The Book Thief, and I hope you do, please have tissues handy...Even now as I think back to the story or as I selected a few quotes to include in this review, my eyes water and I have to hold back tears. That, my dear readers, is powerful. Perfection.

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A Little Shelf of Heaven

Excellent
Reviewed by Kristy on Oct 01 2013

I couldn't explain how much this book affected my heart and my mind. Liesel's story is one that will stick with the reader for a time to come. The Book Thief is worth the hype, 104%.

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It's All About Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Aleetha on Jul 31 2012

I recommend this book to all people who love historical fiction. You have not read it? What are you waiting for? Go grab this book.

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Bookshelves Anonymous

Excellent
on Jun 23 2012

Do you know those rare moments in life where something perfect happens and you can't help but stop and suck on it like a lollipop...That's what finely crafted writing does to me. That's what The Book Thief did to me.

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YA Bibliophile

Good
on Jun 12 2014

In the end I was sitting up on the couch, crouched over, sobbing over the events of the story...The book was just so incredibly beautiful. By missing out on the hard parts I’d deprive myself of too much good as well.

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Fictitious Delicious

Excellent
Reviewed by Amy on Nov 05 2013

THE BOOK THIEF is an absolutely gorgeous story meant to savor as a reading experience. It's one of those books that will change your life, the kind of book that everyone needs to read.

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Manda-Rae Reads a Lot

Good
on Oct 21 2013

Yes, go read this one. I'm excited for the movie now. I recommend this one for more mature teenagers because it requires an understanding of the time period to really appreciate it.

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Reader Rating for The Book Thief
89%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 22353 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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John W 19 Jun 2013

Rated the book as 4.5 out of 5

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Veronica 4 May 2015

Rated the book as 5 out of 5

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A. Berman 25 Mar 2016

Mr Zusak is no doubt well-intentioned and sincere, but the book is too earnest, too self-conciously wrought.

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Alma Marhamati 15 May 2016

Rated the book as 5 out of 5

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