Book: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Synopsis: In Nazi Germany a young girl named Liesel Meminger catches the attention of Death himself, who is also our narrator, though not for Death’s usual reason. What with WWII, Death is pretty busy, and needs all the distraction he can get his hands on. Liesel Meminger, the girl who became a book thief at age nine when she stole a book from her brother’s gravesite, is just such a distraction. Liesel’s first stolen book begins a life-altering relationship with reading and words. (This is the best I can do in terms of summarizing the wonder that is The Book Thief).
Is this a “must-read”?: Absolutely
Why?: The Book Thief is one of those books that actually deserves the “future classic” label. The narrator is Death, and that in itself has the potential to inspire thousands of boring essays. Death doesn’t claim to be human, but he knows quite a bit about them. Death runs the gambit from world-weary and bitter to maudlin yet hopeful. Any wit is dry and dark, but somehow uplifting enough to get you through the book without completely dying inside. (Death also looks a lot like the Grim Reaper, even though he claims he doesn’t. And he sounds like Benedict Cumberbatch, because who doesn’t want to hear a book narrated by Smaug himself?)
The amount of detail packed into everything means there are very few one-dimensional minor characters, which adds a trillion more layers of complexity and richness. It also means you get attached to quite a few of them. I could honestly go on about Hans and Rosa Hubermann, Max Vandenberg, and Rudy Steiner for days. Furthermore, our grim narrator has a very unique way of describing everything, which makes Liesel’s world seem like some kind of impressionist painting, but in a good way. Now, for the book thief herself: outside her title, Liesel is just a girl living her life in Nazi Germany. Life in Nazi Germany is necessarily difficult, but various occurrences make it worse for her....
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