- #1 New York Times bestseller
- A Michael L. Printz Honor Book
- Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read
The Book Thief is not based on a true story, but rather it is a historical fiction novel about characters and events created by the author, but set during the real time period of World War II.
Some of the biggest themes The Book Thief explores:
- The power of words
Despite the fact that The Book Thief takes place during World War II-era Germany, where Death, in fact, is always present, Death (the narrator) is more haunted by humans than humans are haunted by death. After all, we all must die someday, but Death is the one who sees all humans at their best and worst.
In The Book Thief, Death is particularly intrigued by a young girl named Liesel who is traveling to her new foster family by train with her mother and brother. Death first makes his presence known during this initial train ride, setting the stage for additional deaths to occur by the end of The Book Thief. And Liesel, who is The Book Thief, steals her first book graveside during this sequence.
She moves in with Hans, a warm-hearted painter and accordion player, and his wife Rosa, who has a much harder exterior. We begin to see the meaning of words in the novel as Hans teaches Liesel to read.
At the same time, Liesel begins to help Rosa with her laundry basket, delivering laundry to wealthy families, including the mayor, who has a library that fascinates Liesel.
She also befriends a local boy named Rudy and engages in mischief like stealing with him.
As World War II escalates, the mayor can no longer be a laundry customer, so Liesel begins breaking into the family’s house to steal books.
Meanwhile, Liesel’s new family takes into hiding a Jewish man named Max. He and Liesel bond over illustrations he draws in Mein Kampf, Hitler’s book, which ironically is tearing the country apart. At the same time, books are essential to the mental and emotional survival of the characters in these dark days.
Here, we begin to really grasp the good and evil forces that words have in this story, and in life.
This is only the beginning of the plot of The Book Thief and, while so much more death occurs as Liesel’s reading journey progresses, I don’t want to spoil the remainder of the plot for anyone new to the book.
While The Book Thief is marketed towards Young Adults, it does, of course, have very heavy themes and can be read by both Young Adults and adults who are comfortable doing so.
The writing style, including illustrations and visual snippets and interjections from Death, make The Book Thief one of the most unique books I have ever read. And the quotes below are proof of the exquisite meaning presented by the novel.
The Book Thief is absolutely unforgettable.
The Book Thief By Markus Zusak Quotes
Below are the best quotes from The Book Thief:
The Book Thief Quotes About Death
One small fact: You are going to die. Despite every effort, no one lives forever. Sorry to be such a spoiler. My advice is, when the time comes, don’t panic. It doesn’t seem to help. I guess I should introduce myself properly, but then again, you’ll meet me soon enough-not before your time, of course; I make it a policy to avoid the living.
I have seen a great many things. I’ve attended all of the world’s worst disasters and worked for the greatest of villains, and I’ve seen the greatest wonders, but it’s still like I said it was: No one lives forever.
It kills me sometimes, how people die.
Even death has a heart.
The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.
Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.
She was saying goodbye and she didn’t even know it.
It’s always been the same, the excitement and rush to war. I’ve met so many young men over the years who have thought they were running at their enemy, when the truth was, they were running to me.
The Book Thief Quotes About Words
It’s a small story really, about, among other things:
* A girl
* Some words
* An accordionist
* Some fanatical Germans
* A Jewish fist fighter
* And quite a lot of thievery
She could smell the pages. She could almost taste the words as they stacked up around her.
The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this.
I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.
Blood leaked from her nose and licked at her lips. Her eyes had blackened. Cuts had opened up and a series of wounds were rising to the surface of her skin. All from words. From Liesel’s words.
But as they walked on, they stopped several times, to listen. They thought they could hear voices and words behind them, on the word shaker’s tree.
Words are life, Liesel.
Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.
Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the gray, the every-colored books. It was one of the most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen.
The best word shakers were the ones who understood the true power of words. They were the ones who could climb the highest.
She didn’t care about the food. . . . It was the book she wanted.
I want words at my funeral. But I guess that means you need life in your life.
The Book Thief Quotes About Kindness
It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on, coughing and searching, and finding.
If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter.
People have defining moments, i suppose, especially when they’re children.
Even enemies were an inch away from friendship.
A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.
Together, they would watch everything that was so carefully planned collapse, and they would smile at the beauty of destruction.
Other The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak Quotes
I am haunted by humans.
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.
Usually we walk around constantly believing ourselves. “I’m okay” we say. “I’m alright”. But sometimes the truth arrives on you and you can’t get it off. That’s when you realize that sometimes it isn’t even an answer–it’s a question. Even now, I wonder how much of my life is convinced.
The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.
Sometimes I imagined how everything looked above those clouds, knowing without question that the sun was blond, and the endless atmosphere was a giant blue eye.
Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.
I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that’s where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate.
Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.
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