The Book Thief


Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is a meta book—a book about reading books. It's also about Nazi Germany. And, narrated by Death—which you'll think is pretty cool if you're anything like me or anyone else who's read this book.

The Book Thief was longer than a lot of the other novels I've been reading recently but that didn't seem to be much of a hindrance for me. In fact, the pages seemed to fly by. For long periods of time, I wouldn't realize which chapter I was on, or page, or paragraph; everything seemed to flow together. In these moments the experience is more akin to watching a movie than reading. This was bolstered by Zusak's writing style, which is dripping with metaphor and poetry.

This book marks my first week at a new job. Evidently, I am learning how to read on the subway at rush hour. Reading on public transit gets weird during moments of heartbreak. Grappling with heavy material amongst hundreds of strangers is not weird itself, nearly everybody's doing that. What is weird is that the of despair is coming from something external, open to anyone who chooses to look. If I'm being honest, I don't actually think anyone is looking; but it's the fact that they can, that freaks me out.

What I find really interesting about The Book Thief is how Liesel Meminger manages to go from completely illiterate to a proficient writer and the impact this has on her self, family, community, and the world.

At the start of her journey, Liesel is humiliated in front of her peers when she fails to read a required passage. What's key here is Liesel chooses to fail in this situation, taking her fate into her own hands. Afterwards, when Liesel is teased for her failure, she proceeds to give her bully a Watschen and bluntly announces: "I'm not stupid".

The consequences of Liesel's actions: she now knows that there is still work to be done before reaching parity with her peers; she will never be humiliated in this way again. The fact that Liesel truly fails gives her a place to start. This turmoil is what sets the fire that Liesel runs away from while she is learning to read.

I'm emphasizing this because I know from experience the importance of having a fire to run away from.

If you get a job that absolutely sucks; something you hate doing. You will spend every minute on the clock fixating and fantasizing about what you wish you were doing.

(Vlog #49 Special Visitor)

Casey Neistat

Furthermore, it seems to me that negative emotion has more strength—when compared to positivity—in multiple dimensions, not just in terms of motivation. Examples being: books, music, YouTube comments, the news, etcetera.

While the impact on Liesel's family and community is concrete, the global impact Liesel has is more abstract. The book Liesel writes about her life ostensibly affects no one; it is discarded in the midst of chaos and never seen again. However, Liesel's book is actually picked up by none other than Death himself, who takes Liesel's story and tells it to the world (us). In this way, Zusak shows that written word has the power of reaching much further than what you would initially think; power beyond an audience.

There are thought provoking questions in the back of this book. I chose to not answer any of them here because I want my writing to be focused around my own thoughts, not someone else's. Through these books I'm trying to uncover what's important to me. Therefore, the questions I answer are mostly my own.