Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Book Thief

Although I only listed one book title in the name of this post, I will actually be giving two book reviews (Nice gift to my readers after being gone so long.  BTW, studying Plato has probably been the 4th worst experience of my whole, entire life.)  One for those people who visit my blog, and one for those people who visit my mom's blog.  And as the ratio of my mom's blog's visitors to my blog's visitors is about 100:1, it seems fitting I shoud spend a lot more time writing a review for her visitors than mine.  Accordingly, I'll try to hurry through the first of the two reviews.  If you're a die-hard-great-books-geek/weirdo/Socrates lover, you should definitely skip down until you see a photo of the Book Thief cover.

The Halo Encyclopedia (Stupid, I know. I made a link as if ANY of you would actually want to buy it) is based off the bestselling FPS video games series by Microsoft and Bungie.  The Halo series is one of the greatest video game series ever, along with the Mario series, WoW, Myst, and a couple others.  The Halo encyclopedia is a big guide to a stunning universe, full of intersting stories, background, concept art, and colorful illustrations from Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo Wars, and Halo 3: ODST.

(For all upcoming images, I really wish I had my mom's skill with collages)


This guide is mostly complete and satisfying in details, but failed to give much insight into Halo 3: ODST.  In fact, the lack of info surrouding this game in the series makes the reader wonder whether they the writers purposefully gave such little attention to ODST to encourage the reader to burn fifty bucks and get the game.

Other than that folly, the book is very satisfying. The story of the games might initally seem complicated and hard to understand, but after a look through the Halo encylopedia, the story makes much more sense. The book is illustrated with a mix of concept art, drawings, and screenshots. All images are very colorful and vibrant. For $20 or less, it serves as a very nice companion to the game series.

Now a more serious review.

The Book Thief is not your average YA Holocaust novel.  In this book, Death is represented as a character narrating the story of Liesel Meminger, an orphan girl with a passion for stealing books.  Death is not the Grim Reaper you would imagine him to be.  In looks, he is like any ordinary man.  Death is sarcastic, solemn, and weary of the job he is eternally to work.

Death's workload remarkably increases when WW2 begins.  He is taking up souls all around the planet.  Death first meets Liesel Meminger on a train headed for Munich.  Liesel was only 9 years old when her brother died on that train.  A brief funeral is held, during which Liesel picks up a small object in the snow.  That object is The Grave Digger's Handbook, and it is the first in Liesel's notorious career as a book thief.  Liesel's mother, who is in trouble with Hitler, gives her daughter over to Hans and Rosa Hubermann, who raise her as their own.  The Hubermanns are not a rich family, and their problems with money escalate when they give a Jew shelter in their home.

If you don't like spoilers, you're going to have some trouble reading this book.  Death, as the narrator, makes frequent use of foreshadowing to tell the fates of the characters.  He mentions three times he saw Liesel.  The first time he saw her was on the train and at her brother's funeral.  The next time he saw her was in a field.  Fittingly, someone else had died, this time an Ally pilot.  The last time Death saw Liesel was in Munich, after the German town was bombed by Allies.  Liesel survived the attack, but all her loved ones were killed.  Once again, there are a lot of spoilers, but Markus Zusak uses foreshadowing so masterfully and effectively that it's hard to be disappointed with it.

Markus Zusak has also proven himself a master of figurative language.  In The Book Thief he uses all varieties of similes and metaphors that expertly convey the image he is trying to give the reader.  In an interview at the back of the book, he said that he liked the idea that every page in a book can have a gem on it.  Methinks The Book Thief has just that.

The author has also done a terrific job of crafting his characters.   The friendship between Liesel and Rudy, the boy with lemon-colored hair infamous for "The Jesse Owens incident", is one of my favorites of all time, next to Frodo and Sam in LOTR.  At the end of the book, you end up loving Liesel's foster parents as much as she does, and you are as much grieved at their deaths as Liesel is.  A departure from the cliched portrayal of the Germans as brutal, ruthless killers, Markus Zusak gives a wonderful example not only of the evil side of human beings but also of the good in The Book Thief.


  1. I've never played Halo but I love Mario! :)

    The Book Thief is one of my all time favorite books.

  2. As ALWAYS, I'm IMPRESSED with your writing. I finally got around to going to your Blog. I will definitely try to check in more often. I'm looking forward to seeing you soon and getting to spend some Special Days with my grandsons. Love, Nana


Please be aware that Google/Blogger has a regrettable habit of crashing before you hit the Preview or Publish button, so writing out longer comments separately before entering them into the browser is well advised.

Moderation is to combat spam, not to muzzle dissenting voices.