Book Review: “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

What is it about books that makes them so tantalizing?

What is it about them that begs to be picked up, to be enjoyed, to be READ?

I’m not quite sure what it is…but it is a powerful force.

It’s the force that made young Liesel Meminger perform her first act of thievery: picking up a book lying half hidden in the snow by her even younger brother’s grave.

What follows in The Book Thief is a masterful tale of the power of written words snatched from snowy seclusion, from a censor’s fire, from a kindly cruel neighbor’s library.

The illiterate Liesel is taught to read by her near-illiterate foster father. Liesel reads to the Jew her foster parents are hiding in their cellar. And both the Jew and Liesel write as death looks on.

For this story is set within Nazi Germany, while the Grim Reaper is busy across the whole of Europe.

The Book Thief is a fascinating story, not the least because it’s narrated by the Grim Reaper himself.

An excerpt from the beginning of the book:

“As I’ve been alluding to, my one saving grace is distraction. It keeps me sane. It helps me cope, considering the length of time I’ve been performing this job. The trouble is, who could ever replace me?….The answer, of course, is nobody, which has prompted me to make a conscious, deliberate decision–to make distraction my vacation. Needless to say, I vacation in increments. In colors.

Still, it’s possible that you might be asking, why does he even need a vacation? What does he need distraction from?

Which brings me to my next point.

It’s the leftover humans.

The survivors….

Which in turn brings me to the subject I am telling you about tonight, or today, or whatever the hour and color. It’s the story of one of those perpetual survivors–an expert at being left behind.

It’s just a small story really, about, among other things:

  • A girl
  • Some words
  • An accordianist
  • Some fanatical Germans
  • A Jewish fist fighter
  • And quite a lot of thievery

I saw the book thief three times.

The Reaper tells the story of all his dealing with Leisel–the Book Thief, as he calls her–from her first act of thievery to her last breath. Along the way, he tells a story of men and women and little girls and boys who risked much and gained much in silent resistance to the Reich.

I found it wonderful.

Rating: 5 stars
Category:Historical fiction
Synopsis:The Grim Reaper tells the tale of a young girl inside Nazi Germany who finds herself enamored with books–and willing to go to great lengths to obtain them.
Recommendation: I greatly enjoyed this book–although it took a bit to get accustomed to the Reaper’s unique style

Interesting note about this book–This was my first, and last, adult fiction book with last name “Z”. Just so happens, all the other books my library owns by authors with last names starting in Z are either sci-fi or mysteries–books I determined from the outset that I wouldn’t include in my personal challenge. So there you have it :-)

Flashback: Bookworm Reminisces

I’m a reader and I’ve always been, which makes Linda’s book-related Flashback prompt this week kinda fun for me!

Flashback Friday buttonPrompt: Did you like to read when you were a child? What were your favorite genres, books or series? Did you read books because of the author or because of the title/plot? Did you own many books?…

I learned to read at my mama’s knee, and once I had completed the final reader in the “Little Patriots Read” series (I think it was the purple covered Sounds of Joy), I was allowed to get a library card. From then on, I was an avid reader and library patron.

I’m a binge reader–always have been.

The Little House books, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess were some of my earliest favorites. (I own several copies of each of these today.)

Then I had times of serial mystery binges: Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and the rare Trixie Belden I could find at a garage sale or used store. (A couple years ago, I finished re-reading all the Nancy Drew mysteries–now I’m working on both the Boxcar Children and the Hardy Boys from my local library.)

By my pre-teen years, I was avidly reading Christian romances: Janette Oke, Lori Wick, Gilbert Morris, Michael Phillips. (Lori Wick was one of the first authors I “closed out” on my “read every book” goal–and I’m currently working my way through Oke.)

In fifth or sixth grade, I became addicted to popular pablum. My sister and I collected way too many Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twins and Friends books. (We threw them all away under conviction in our seventh?, ninth?–sometime during Junior High or High School.)

Then I started reading Harlequins. First, the “Love Inspired” Christian twaddle–and then clean Regency romances that my mom had pre-screened. Then I moved to the not-so-clean Regencies. While I still love certain aspects of the genre, I deeply regret the thoughts and images I allowed into my mind during this period.

In ninth grade, we started a co-op literature class taught by my aunt–and my reading grew up a bit. I started reading Hawthorne and Austen and Beowulf and Hemingway.

I’d read non-fiction throughout my life, but I became a real fan in my late teenage years. Educational theory, medical innovation, grammar, history, memoirs… I loved it.

And most recently, I’ve been binging on…theology.

With regular snacks of all my old favorites, that is!

Visit Linda and follow the links to read some more stories about books!

In Which Rebekah Says Much (Little of Note)

I got home rather late last night and decided to take apart my planner. It’s started to get a bit ratty, and I’m a young professional and feel I should try for a more polished look. Problem is, I love my planner and I hate spending money. I’ve been considering making my own planner using the old shell–last night I just made it official by taking a utility knife to the planner so I can figure out how to make my own.

So far, I’ve got…

Cardboard planner

The finished product is intended to be covered in black vinyl, with lots of interior pockets, room for pens and pencils, etc. There’ll be a large flap that closes on the front with a frog closure (aren’t frogs just the funnest things?)

Now that I’m officially working and unofficially residing in two towns, I’ve decided I need to get the blogs I follow into a format that allows me to easily read them on the road (when I’m away from my desktop). So I’ve been resubscribing to all my blogs on GoogleReader.

Not that I expect to do much blog reading on the road. I’m gonna be working 20 hours out of the 43 I’ll be there. Hopefully I can get 7 hours of sleep each night, which will leave me with 9 extra hours to eat, go to Bible study, dress each morning, pack my stuff up, grade a few papers for my other job, etc. etc.

I’m also considering going back down to one post a day. Two is a lot to keep up with while working–especially with a commute. On the other hand, I want to keep up a mix of “thinking” and “fun” posts–and have a hard time doing that when I’m just writing one post a day. Grrr!!!

Why have I never noticed all the agains in Matthew 13?

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…” (v. 44)

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…” (v. 45)

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea…” (v. 47)

This suggests that in each of these parables, Jesus was RESTATING His original point. Which is curious since His original point was explaining the parable of the tares to His disciples.

I’m looking into this further…

In other news…

On Tuesday I asked whether anyone could guess which two Dewey Decimal categories account for over half of my nonfiction reading.

A total of 3 people guessed–and came up with a total of 4 categories amongst them: 200, 300, 700, and 800.

The answer?

300 and 600

Nobody guessed 600–but the 600s contain some of my favorite types of books (although not always ones that I blog about.) I have read 173 books from the 600s, including books about medicine, nutrition, time management, cooking, sewing (for the home), and parenting.

My second highest category was the 300s with 103 books read. These books included books on politics, marriage and family issues, money management, and books of etiquette and traditions (I read Emily Post for fun. Honest.)

Coming in third was the oft-guessed(?) 200s (religion) with 53 books. I only started reading items from this section in earnest this year–along with my goal of exercising my mind towards the things of God. Furthermore, I tend to take longer with these books since I really want to fully explore the issues the books raise. These are, however, the books I’m most likely to blog about–so it makes sense that my readers would guess them!

As for 700 and 800? They’re fourth and fifth (go figure!)

So y’all are pretty good guessers. Give yourselves a pat on the back you who participated.

And the rest of you? I really like comments. Please comment, even if it’s not much. (Although you’re certainly welcome to take a page from the spammers’ book–“This is the most fascinating treatment of this topic that I have ever heard. I have read a lot about ____, but no one has ever explained it as well as you do.”)

Reading Meme

Borrowed from Carrie, who borrowed it from Barbara, who got it from a Booking Through Thursday prompt.

What are you reading right now?

Founding Faith by Steven Waldman.

Oddly, that’s all I currently have going. I expect that to shortly change :-)

Do you have an e-reader?

No sirree, Bob! I’m a paper and ink girl–a semi-Neo-Luddite (as much as one can be while being an avid blogger, that is!)

Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

I’m always reading several books at once–but I like there to be only one fiction title going at a time. I have a harder time keeping fiction plots and characters straight if I’ve got more than one going at a time. So fiction generally gets read in fits and bursts instead of a few chapters a day like the rest of my reading.

Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

Yeah–I started keeping my books out of the library forever so that I could get them all reviewed! I also occasionally wonder “How will this look in my Nightstand post?” But I never censor my reading for Nightstand posts, even though I’ve thought of doing so. What you see is what you get–although it doesn’t always mean what you think :-)

How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

Less often than I’d like. But there are just too many books to be read–and too many IN my comfort zone to keep me busy.

What is your reading comfort zone?

Girlie novels (certain Christian romance novelists, chick lit, stuff that’s all about interpersonal relationships), Juvenile and YA fairy tale adaptions, memoirs, sociological type stuff. Okay–my reading comfort zone is pretty wide. It’s easier to say what ISN’T in my comfort zone than what is.

What ISN’T in my comfort zone is mysteries, suspense, science fiction, smutty romance novels, and fiction that makes you think. (It’s the fiction that makes you think that I’d prefer to read more of, by the way).

Favorite place to read?

In the bathtub.

What is your policy on book lending?

I only lend books I own :-)

and books that I know the library doesn’t own.

Otherwise I direct people to the library.

Christian living/theology/doctrine books, I lend out carefully on a few conditions:

  1. I have to know who has what
  2. The person I loaned the book to has to actually read the book
  3. The person I loaned the book to has to be willing to either write notes in the margins or discuss the book with me once they’re done or both!

Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

Of MY books, absolutely. Generally, though, I only write in nonfiction titles–I write arguments, Scripture references, other thoughts, etc. And, as I mentioned above, I beg anyone I loan books to to do the same.

What makes you love a book?

I love a book that I don’t have to work too hard to get into =). And I like if it portrays good and evil as good and evil. I like…

Man, that’s a hard question. I’m not sure what makes me love a book. I just know that I love it.

What will inspire you to recommend a book?

For fiction, if it is well-written, engaging, accurately depicts reality (good and evil, interpersonal relationships, etc.), and has some cross-genre appeal. Otherwise, I tend to qualify my recommendation as to where it fits within the genre.

For nonfiction, if it is well-written, engaging, and addresses a valuable topic in what I deem to be a thoughtful (or at least thought-provoking) manner.

Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

Fiction that makes me think. I tend to want to turn off my brain when it comes to fiction–but from my brief forays into fiction that makes me think, I know that it’s worthwhile. I just don’t take/make the time and mental energy to read them.

Favorite biography?

That’s a tough one. I tend to remember the person being “biographed” rather than the biography itself. The only thing that comes to mind is not strictly a biography–more an autobiography or a memoir. But I love Corrie ten Boom’s Hiding Place

Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

I haven’t read much from the “inspirational” front this year. I’ve been more into the “get down to the nitty-gritty, challenge your faith, figure out what you believe” front. Lots of exercising my mind towards the things of God, not a lot of “heart-warming” stuff.

How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

Not sure how I feel about it. I do give negative reviews. But whether I should, and how I choose which books to review (even though I had a negative impression of them)? I guess I give negative reviews when I think there’s a good possibility that some people could be led astray by the book if they don’t read some truth about it, or if a book had pros and cons, or if I expected a book to be good based on other reviews, book jacket flaps, whatever and was disappointed.

Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

Plato’s Republic. I was in sixth grade. I wasn’t intimidated then. I am now! Then, of course, I didn’t feel the challenge of having to understand it. I read it, but didn’t understand it. Now I’m frightened.

Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Despite reading and enjoying everything my library owns by Tolstoy apart from these two titles, I’m still intimidated. It’s a Russian novelist thing. I’ll get over it eventually.

Favorite fictional character?

Elizabeth Bennet

The longest I’ve gone without reading.

Summer 2006, Jacksonville Florida. Two months. Only read the Bible. Challenging. Growing. It was my “Summer of One Book.”

Apart from that? I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than a day since I learned to read. And I’m not exaggerating at all. (Just ask my mother and siblings!)

What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

My sisters shrieking wildly because my brother had just proposed to his girlfriend.

Other than that, I am NOT easily distracted. I was one of seven children, homeschooled, in an 1100 square foot house, remember?

Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

A&E’s Pride and Prejudice

Most disappointing film adaptation?

I’d ditto Carrie and Barbara and say Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story. I don’t know that you can even call that an adaptation.

What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?

Absolute boringness or complete and utter heresy. I’ve done it with only a handful of books: Oz Garcia’s The Healthy, High Tech Body, Larry McMurtry’s Books: A Memoir, and Joel Osteen’s Become a Better You. Those are the only books I can remember stopping reading (without writing myself a note to pick them back up again.)

Do you like to keep your books organized?

Yes–but the organizational system varies. My fiction is ordered by author’s last name. My nonfiction is ordered by topic. My Biblical reference/Christian living is ordered partly by topic, partly by last name, and partly by what looks good on the shelf :-). My library books are ordered either by size or by due date, depending on how confident I feel that I’ll be able to get everything read before it’s due back!

Executive Summary

My dad claims to have only finished one book in his lifetime–a Hardy Boys mystery he finished in high school.

It’s not that my dad isn’t smart. He’s just not a reader. He says he never opened his textbooks–he just attended lectures and explained things to his roommates. He’s not sure reading would have done him any good.

He loves information, loves learning, but he reads slowly, laboriously. It requires a huge amount of work from him.

So he finds other ways of getting information. He listens to lectures, podcasts, and sermons. He reads short chunks online. He listens to talk radio discussions of books. He watches the history channel or documentaries.

And occasionally, he has his children read for him.

I have always been a voracious reader. I started reading in kindergarten, and by first grade, I was sneaking out of bed to read late into the night with the light that streamed from the cracked open bedroom door.

In sixth grade, I read Plato’s Republic and had my dad borrow copies of Jonathon Edwards’ sermons from the University Library.

Shortly thereafter, I became my dad’s designated reader.

He’d buy a book, bring it home, present it to me, and inform me that he wanted an executive summary. (This, of course, was after he’d spent dinner times of my entire elementary years attempting to teach me the concept of “summary”–particularly that a summary was shorter than the original work.)

And so I’d read a book and then give Dad the summary. We’d talk about what I’d read, the ideas found within. I’d read a few quotes aloud and he’d ask questions when my summary wasn’t clear.

It was a fantastic teaching strategy–and a way for Dad to read without reading.

The only problem was that since Dad didn’t actually see the book he was “reading”, he sometimes forgot that he’d “read” it. One day, in my later teen years, he brought me home a book, Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare. I congratulated him on his purchase and told him that he now had a copy for himself. I had my own copy–it was one of the first books I’d summarized for him.

After I went away to college, I had other things to do and the habit of reading and discussing my reading with my dad fell by the wayside.

Until one day, I got a yen for the executive summary. I’m not sure how much my summaries enriched my dad’s mind–but I know that it had an indelible impact on me. I learn so much more when I engage the material, when I talk or write about it, when I discuss it with someone else.

So I started writing executive summaries. This time they’re on my blog. And instead of my dad, you are now my unwitting partners in learning.

Maybe Dad learned from my summaries, maybe he didn’t.

Maybe you enjoy my summaries, maybe you don’t.

But I’m gonna keep writing them, because they keep my mind alive.

(Some examples of books I’ve written executive summaries of in the past year include The Cross of Christ, Forgotten God, Unveiling Islam, and Why We Love the Church)

Nightstand (July 2010)

On last month’s nightstand:

On my nightstandOn my nightstand

What I actually read this month was…
(Click on the titles to see my reviews.)




  • Children’s Picture Books author ARNOLD-ASBURY (42 titles)
    including two books without words by Jose Aruego
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Secret Panel by Franklin Dixon

Currently in the middle of…

On my nightstand


  • American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meacham
    Read some quotes from the introduction. I’m currently about halfway through and am definitely enjoying this title.
  • The Cross of Christ by John Stott
    I expect to be done with this title by the end of the week. Be sure to check out my notes on chapters 1-9.
  • Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris
    My ladies’ book club is still moving slowly through this title.
  • Inside The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by Bell, Pykkonen, and Washington
    Reading this as part of Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge. Carrie doesn’t like the “For Dummies” titles, but this book reminds me of the “Dummies” genre–except that it’s intended as an introduction to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for younger readers (late elementary school, probably?)
  • The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd
    Still working on this with my Monday night book club. We’ve had some AMAZING discussion so far.

On this month’s nightstand:

On my nightstand


  • Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke
  • Love’s Enduring Promise by Janette Oke
  • The Quest by Nancy Moser
  • Second Time Around by Nancy Moser


  • Founding Faith by Steven Waldman
  • The Narnian by Alan Jacobs
  • See What I’m Saying: The Extraordinary Powers of our Five Senses by Lawrence D. Rosenblum
  • Dozens of craft/decorating books


  • Children’s Picture Books author ASCH-?
  • The Animal Shelter Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • Beyond the Wardrobe: The Official Guide to Narnia
  • C.S. Lewis: The Chronicler of Narnia by Mary Dodson Wade
  • The Phantom Freighter by Franklin W. Dixon
  • The Thief Lord by Carnelia Funke

Drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading.
What's on Your Nightstand?

Impromptu Pleasures

Several weeks ago, a general announcement of an upcoming book club showed up on my Facebook news feed. I read through the announcement, and while I was not a particular invitee, the book looked interesting and the announcement stated that anyone was welcome–so I clicked the “maybe attending” button.

I nearly forgot all about it in the intervening weeks, what with preparing for Tim’s graduation and Debbie’s bachelorette party, and working on my thesis and the like.

But on Sunday night, the book club made its way onto my “coming events” sidebar and I realized I had to make a decision. I read through the announcement again and decided that yes, I really did want to attend this book club.

Problem was, it was much too late to try to purchase the book online.

So I searched around all of Lincoln’s stores, trying to find the book. The next morning, I searched again. No luck. None of Lincoln’s booksellers had a copy of Gregory Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation.

When I searched at Barnes and Noble, however, I discovered that there was a copy at one of the Omaha stores.

And thus began my wild hare.

“Rebekah Menter is contemplating driving to Omaha today to pick up a book. Am I crazy?” my Facebook status read.

A friend directed me to a discussion of Evangelical politics featuring three panelists, including Greg Boyd.

I watched a few clips of the event and decided that I was DEFINITELY interested in reading this book.

My next Facebook status? “Rebekah Menter is taking a spur-of-the-moment trip to Omaha. (What I will do for a book…)”

My trip was uneventful, quiet, nice. I got the book and returned home.

What turned this into an impromptu pleasure was that, having spent an extra couple of hours of my day tracking down the book, I HAD to go to the book discussion.

And so I did.

I didn’t know anyone who was going to be there (at least I didn’t think I knew anyone)–so I wasn’t really sure how I was going to find the group in the midst of one of Lincoln’s busiest coffee shops. Thankfully, someone had the book out, so I was able to introduce myself.

“I don’t know anyone here,” I said, “but I’m here for the book club.”

At which the fellow facing away from me looked up and gave a “What are you talking about?” expression.

I guess I was wrong. I did know someone.

“Sorry, Jake. I didn’t realize you were here.”

It turned out to be a wonderful night. I enjoyed meeting new people, getting bit of an intro to the book. But most of all, I enjoyed the passionate discussion that I found myself embroiled in after the “formal” book club portion ended.

It’s been so long since I had a real, honest-to-goodness, face-to-face passionate discussion about the issues of our day. It was refreshing, energizing, invigorating (let’s see how many more synonyms I can come up with :-P).

Needless to say, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

I’m so glad I made that impromptu decision to lock myself into going.

Ag-Jon Agee

Reading My Library

Continuing on through the alphabet in my quest to read every book in Eiseley Library, I stumbled upon author and illustrator Jon Agee. I’d heard of him before, read a review of his book The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau–but I’d never read anything of his before.

Unfortunately, my library didn’t have a copy of The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau when I was perusing the stacks–but it did have plenty of other fascinating pieces by Agee.

Agee illustrates in a blocky, just been sketched manner which I find innocently appealing–but it’s the stories that I enjoy the most. Agee’s stories aren’t fantasy, fluffy children’s stories. They’re slightly silly but otherwise relatively realistic stories which include both the young and the old. The stories are well written enough to be enjoyable for adults, and just ridiculous enough to be enjoyable for kids.

The Retired Kid by Jon Agee

The Retired Kid tells the story of 8-year-old Brian who, tired of the hard work of being a kid, goes into an early retirement. He flies off to a retirement community in Florida, where he meets a fantastic collection of old folks. He enjoys certain aspects of retirement (card games, golf, fishing, and movies)–but discovers that other parts are not so fun (prune juice smoothies, knitting classes, and weekly checkups.) He starts to think about the hard work of being a kid–and realizes that maybe his job isn’t quite so bad.

Terrific by Jon Agee

In Terrific, a grumpy old man named Eugene wins an all-expenses-paid cruise to Bermuda. His response is “Terrific. I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.” When Eugene’s ship is shipwrecked and he is stranded, he announces “Terrific”–and comes up with an even more pessimistic prediction for his future. But in the end, Eugene discovers something that is truly terrific–and this time, he’s not being sarcastic.

Nothing by Jon Agee

When Suzie Gump, the richest lady in town, asks Otis what’s on sale in his shop, he looks around and announces “Uh, nothing.” Suzie is eager to snatch it up, whatever the cost, starting a city-wide craze for buying nothing. Shopkeepers throw out all their best goods to make room for more nothing. Eventually, though, something will come back in style–and Otis’ll be ready when it happens!

I’ll be definitely keeping my eyes open for more Agee–his stories are a lot of fun!

Carrie at Reading to Know did an author highlight of Jon Agee when she was going through the AG’s.

What’s on MY Nightstand?

It’s time for taking inventory of our stash of soon-to-be-read’s with 5 Minutes for Books’ monthly meme “What’s on Your Nightstand?”

What's on Your Nightstand?

Not surprisingly, my nightstand is full, packed with a wide variety of library (and a few privately owned!) books.

Adult Fiction

  • Barren Corn by Georgette Heyer
  • The Carousel Painter by Judith Miller
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke

Young Adult/Children’s Fiction

  • Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
  • Mystery in the Sand by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • Mystery of the Flying Express by Franklin W. Dixon


  • Catastrophe by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann
  • Life is Tough but God is Faithful by Sheila Walsh
  • Guinness World Records 2010
  • One Thing by Sam Storms
  • Dave Barry Slept Here by Dave Barry
  • I Married Adventure by Luci Swindoll

I also have a whole stack of children’s picture books by Verna Aardema. I’ve been in the process of reading every book in my local library for a little over 3 years now–but I’ve been doing it rather haphazardly. Carrie’s system of reading through the picture book section of her library struck my fancy, so I’ve started at the beginning–and the beginning is Aardema. I’ve only read two of her books thus far, but it appears that she generally retells African folk-tales. The pronunciation can be a bit tricky, but both stories I’ve read seem okay. Not great enough that I’d recommend them, but not bad enough that I’d recommend avoiding them. Just neutral.

Check out what other women are reading at 5 Minutes 4 Books