The Book Thief by Mark Zusak

As a lover of historical fiction books, this novel always caught my eye when I passed by the shelves of the library, but I never looked into it because I assumed the book would be generic and clique. Recent famous novels I’ve read tend to follow the same plot line and character development, so most readers are not surprised by the ending. However, The Book Thief, written by Mark Zusak, an Australian writer who won the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 2014, has created a classic that lives up to its recognition, taking an interesting perspective on such a well known historical event. It dives deeper into the heart of World War 2, pushing the novel further through the contradictory and questionable actions of the human race.

Beginning on a train in the 1940s, the main character, Liesel Meminger witnesses the death of her younger brother on their way to Molching, Germany, where she meets her new foster parents. Throughout the story, Liesel grows as a character, unfolding the cruel reality of Hitler and his treatment of Jews and how it ties to her own story, thus encouraging her to write and steal books as an act of rebellion against the Nazis. The book grows through her normal life in Germany, yet slowly intertwines with history in a compelling manner. The main character witnesses the intimate, loving interactions between friends and family, but also the aggressive actions of others blinded by propaganda.

Compared to other historical fiction novels, Zusak provides readers another viewpoint on a historical event many are aware of, making readers acknowledge the other side of the war. The book makes us question ourselves and the validity of our opinions. For example, most believe all Germans were villainous because a majority were Nazi members, but there’s still a good portion of Germans that value all human life. Generally speaking, all of them are still just the same as we are; some were innocent children, others were working middle class jobs, many still wanted to live. But most importantly, what right do we have to villainize them if we don’t even feel sympathy or compassion in return? Zusak was able to brilliantly create a novel, who’s plots and underlying meanings create a puzzle–readers just have to put it together.

Despite the grand amount of pages, The Book Thief should be read slowly and carefully; every page has their own meaning and the slow pace builds up suspense to make the book a worthy read. Also, all of the characters are lovable and reveal their own flaws as humans. Overall, the author made it extremely unique, including a mixture of metaphors, imagery, and specifically, the humanistic characterization of Death. The context of the book was surprisingly poetic, even as it jumped to different passages of time. Zusak wrote a marvelous, emotional story as an ode to humanity itself, a tale that tugs at readers’ heartstrings in ways words can’t even describe.

-Natisha P.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

12 Books to Read in 2020

Happy New Year! One of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend more time reading new books, and I hope that this post inspires you to do the same. With that, here are 12 books you should read during the 12 months of 2020: 

  1. 1984 by George Orwell: This book highlights the importance of individual rights and freedom, and serves as a cautionary tale meant to warn readers of the dangers that the future may hold.
  2. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett: This classic mystery novel is a must-read for any enthusiasts of the genre. This suspenseful story is filled with action and intrigue and will keep you guessing until the very last page.
  3. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton: This is a very popular book read by students, and is known for its authenticity and powerful life lessons. Its characters are very relatable, and teach readers the importance of friendship and family.
  4. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck: Steinbeck tells the story of multiple characters living in Monterey, a town that relied on its fishing and canning industry. This story teaches readers resilience and the importance of a community.
  5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: Oftentimes, history is told from the perspective of the victors. However, this novel illustrates the Great Depression from the perspective of people that are struggling to find work, which makes it feel genuine.
  6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: This popular novel takes place in Nazi Germany, where a young orphan named Lisel learns to read and befriends a Jewish boy named Max that is hiding with her foster family. This story illustrates the importance of friendship and kindness and shows just how powerful words can be. 
  7. That Was Then, This Is Now by S.E. Hinton: Although this is one of Hinton’s lesser-known works, it is an incredibly authentic and moving story that shows readers how our experiences change and shape who we are. 
  8. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: This well-known story is one of the greatest horror stories and works of science fiction in literary history. Frankenstein is an incredibly intriguing story that teaches integrity and compassion.
  9. Life of Pi by Yann Martel: Life of Pi is a survival story that uses metaphor to depict the dark side of human nature. Its gripping suspense and powerful symbolism make it a literary masterpiece, and a must-read for everyone.
  10. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: This book tells the inspiring true story of a soldier in World War II, who is captured and held in a Japanese prison camp until the end of the war. He endures torture and abuse during his time at the camp and teaches readers resilience, strength, and perseverance.
  11. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: The Alchemist tells the tale of a boy on a search for treasure, and along the way, learns about the world and himself. This book teaches the importance of personal growth and discovery and shows that the real treasures in life lie within our hearts.
  12. 12. Wonder by R.J. Palacio: Wonder is an incredibly moving story about a young boy who faces bullying due to his appearance, but finds friends that support and help him. Another version of the book also tells the story from the perspective of one of the boy’s bullies, who is facing difficulties of his own that he tries desperately to hide. This books teaches compassion, empathy, and the importance of friendship, and is an essential read for everyone.

-Katie A. 

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

bookthief_markuszusakThe Book Thief is a truly amazing story by Markus Zusak about a German girl named Liesel Meminger who lived in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Liesel travels to Himmel Street in Molching to meet her new family, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, and her will-be best and reliable friend, Rudy Steiner. Liesel also came with a book, A Grave Digger’s Handbook, and Hans decides to teach her how to read and write. After her first book stealing, she feels encouraged to steal more books.

One thing I like about this book is that it is narrated not by person, but by Death. It shows how Death thinks and his thoughts of collecting souls after a person dies. Death talks about his job and all of the colors he sees while picking up souls. He also mentions that he is interested by Liesel. I think that Death also begins to feel remorseful about collecting so many souls during World War II.

What I also like about this book is that the author tells this story in a straight-forward style. I believe it offers true thoughts of the Führer, aka Hitler, from those who didn’t really support him. This also shows the life of a Jew trying to stay alive and hide from the soldiers. There are some sad parts but there are heart-warming moments as well. I recommend this book for 12 years and older. If you choose to read this terrific book, I hope you will greatly enjoy it.

-Samantha S.

The Book Thief is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360.