The Book Thief

Last updated date: September 19, 2019

DWYM Score
9.4

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We looked at the top 1 Fiction Books and dug through the reviews from 11 of the most popular review sites including Good Reads, The Guardian, Kirkus Reviews, The New York Times, Indenpendent, Common Sense Media, New York Journal of Books, Literary Traveler, The Book Smugglers, Critical Mass, My Pen Speaks and more. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Fiction Book you should buy.

Overall Take

“The Book Thief” is an outstanding fiction novel with a beautiful literary approach. The characters come to life in a way that makes you feel as if you know them. Also featuring tons of historical references, you will find the book takes you to a place where civil strife wasn’t enough to kill the spirits of the people. In our analysis of 98 expert reviews, the Markus Zusak Alfred A. Knopf The Book Thief placed 3rd when we looked at the top 10 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

Editor's Note September 19, 2019:
Checkout The Best Fiction Book for a detailed review of all the top fiction books.

Expert Summarized Score
9.2
11 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.2
18,071 user reviews
Our Favorite Video Reviews
What experts liked
This is a beautifully balanced piece of storytelling with glimpses of what is yet to come: sometimes misleading, sometimes all too true. Unsettling, thought-provoking, life-affirming, triumphant and tragic, this is a novel of breathtaking scope, masterfully told. It is an important piece of work, but also a wonderful page-turner.
- The Guardian
This big, expansive novel is a leisurely working out of fate, of seemingly chance encounters and events that ultimately touch, like dominoes as they collide. The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor.
- Kirkus Reviews
It's the kind of book that can be life-changing, because without ever denying the essential amorality and randomness of the natural order, "The Book Thief" offers us a believable, hard-won hope. That hope is embodied in Liesel, who grows into a good and generous person despite the suffering all around her, and finally becomes a human even Death can love.
- The New York Times
While ambitious and knowingly post-modern - it includes typographical symbols, illustrations and handwritten passages - The Book Thief has an innocent sensibility. It wears its heart on its sleeve, which feels entirely appropriate for a novel about a child.
- Indenpendent
This is a devastatingly powerful book that bears several re-readings, and should become a staple of literature discussion groups for sophisticated teen and adult readers.
- Common Sense Media
The Book Thief is a marvelous work that will touch readers of all ages. In his use of imagery and language Markus Zusak has created a highly accessible vehicle for some complex issues.
- New York Journal of Books
Small triumphs are made all the more beautiful by his prose. Childlike play is turned into something greater, a snowball fight in the basement is more than a frigid mock battle—it’s a moment that borders on magical.
- Literary Traveler
January 22, 2013 | Full review
The Book Thief is complex in its intertwining of symbols, thoughts and messages it offers. Getting used to the voice and candor of Death, the narrator took some getting used to. However by the end of the story the narration spoiled me. It made me wish that all books I read had a voice, one that reasoned and revealed.
- The Book Smugglers
August 21, 2009 | Full review
Liesel and her acts of thievery form the heart of the resistance in The Book Thief. She commits her first act of defiance against the Nazis at her brother’s funeral, where she steals The Grave Digger’s Handbook, the book from which she learns to read. In the process, she finds her moral center, and risks all for what is right, and inspires others to do so as well. And even as those she most loves are dying, she writes down their stories—stories Death steals from her, book thief to book thief, and shares with us.
- Critical Mass
I liked the story for many reasons. Death as a narrator, the foreshadowing style, and the very detailed descriptions made me feel part of the story myself. Zusak did a good job crafting every single sentence in the book. I was glued to the story at many occasions I bare managed to put the book away.
- My Pen Speaks
What experts didn't like
Readers are introduced to this Death-as-storyteller concept in a too-long invocation that begins "The Book Thief." Death is so innocuous that he's not very absorbing. Or affecting. His periodic soliloquies aren't the most effective moments of the novel, and if he took an M.F.A. class, Death would doubtless be criticized for telling instead of showing.
- The New York Times
My only caution would be that it begins fairly slowly- I had to tread through about 60 pages before I was pulled in.
- The Book Smugglers
August 21, 2009 | Full review

From The Manufacturer

Markus Zusak is the international bestselling author of six novels, including The Book Thief and most recently, Bridge of Clay. His work is translated into more than forty languages, and has spent more than a decade on the New York Times bestseller list, establishing Zusak as one of the most successful authors to come out of Australia. All of Zusak’s books – including earlier titles, The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, When Dogs Cry (also titled Getting the Girl), and The Messenger (or I am the Messenger) – have been awarded numerous honors around the world, ranging from literary prizes to readers choice awards to prizes voted on by booksellers. In 2013, The Book Thief was made into a major motion picture, and in 2018 was voted one of America’s all-time favorite books, achieving the 14th position on the PBS Great American Read. Also in 2018, Bridge of Clay was selected as a best book of the year in publications ranging from Entertainment Weekly to the Wall Street Journal. Markus Zusak grew up in Sydney, Australia, and still lives there with his wife and two children.

Overall Product Rankings

1. R.J. Palacio Wonder
Overall Score: 9.8
Expert Reviews: 10
2. Marc Sullivan Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Overall Score: 9.6
Expert Reviews: 10
3. The Book Thief
Overall Score: 9.4
Expert Reviews: 11
4. Delia Owens Where the Crawdads Sing
Overall Score: 9.3
Expert Reviews: 9
5. Kristin Hannah The Great Alone
Overall Score: 9.3
Expert Reviews: 13
6. Lauren K. Denton The Hideaway
Overall Score: 9.2
Expert Reviews: 10
7. Rick Riordan Percy Jackson And The Olympians
Overall Score: 9.2
Expert Reviews: 3
8. Leslie Wolf Dawn Girl
Overall Score: 8.7
Expert Reviews: 1
9. Georgia Hunter We Were the Lucky Ones
Overall Score: 8.5
Expert Reviews: 11
10. John Boyne The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Overall Score: 8.0
Expert Reviews: 9

An Overview On Fiction Books

Although choosing a book can be a very personal experience, the best fiction books are loved by many people. There is nothing like a great story to captivate your attention and imagination and keep you wanting to read more. When you start to discover the fiction genres, you will find they all have several main characteristics in common. Outstanding themes, characters and excellent execution make the top fiction books something that everyone can enjoy.

First, if you aren’t familiar with the fiction genre, let’s explore it. The definition of a fiction book is, “literature comprising works of imaginative narration”. This could be in the form of a novel or short story. There are multiple categories of fiction for readers to discover including adventure story, biographical novel, ethnic fiction, gothic, historical fiction, horror, mystery and science fiction, to name a few. It’s just important to keep in mind that the main characteristic of a fiction book is that it is not a real story, but entirely creatively written.

For those who enjoy a great sci-fi thriller movie or a graphic horror television series, turn your attention to the popular horror fiction or science fiction novels of today. Picture the “Goosebumps” series, “1984” by George Orwell or “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. These novels are still famous today and attract new readers every year with their science fiction stories and characters. You will surely find excitement in this sub-genre of fiction.

When you want to read a book that keeps you guessing at the answers, a mystery fiction novel is for you. A phenomenal author is John Grisham. Although his angle is legal writing, most of his books have an excellent element of mystery to make the reader unable to put the book down. For a world-renowned author, turn to Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. James Patterson, Michael Connelly and Agatha Christie are others in this genre. Look for their names among others when you need a good mystery to solve.

Young adult is another subcategory of the fiction genre. These books often capture the attention of teenagers with an adolescent storyline and relatability factor. “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio is a prime example of a top fiction book in the young adult subcategory of the fiction genre. This fiction book became so popular that it inspired a feature film.

If you don’t mind deciphering fact from fiction, a biographical fiction book is what will catch your eye. In “Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel” by Mark Sullivan, the story is based on an actual person but enhanced with made-up events and characters. The sign of a good biographical fiction is not knowing where the truth is and the imagination of the writer. The drama and historical facts should combine in a symbiotic relationship to create an outstanding literary adventure for readers. This was accomplished so well in “Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel” that it also came alive on the television screen. Similar titles in this category include “Unbroken” and “The Nightingale.”

Historical fiction is a well-loved sub-genre of fiction books. These often tell the story of society as it battles strife or prosperity during certain notable time periods. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak is everything a historical fiction should be, with excellent depictions of Germany during the Nazi Regime and the true struggles of a foster child. “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens is another historical fiction that is just simply beautiful. It will evoke intense emotions and bring you right back to that rocky time of the late ’60s early ’70s. If you have a favorite part of history, you will surely find a historical fiction novel like these that will really captivate your senses.

There are many more excellent fiction books to discover. These are just a few of the top fiction books, recommended by fellow readers. You won’t regret picking one up as you’ll discover, you’ll not be able to put it down.

DYWM Fun Fact

The very first fiction novel is thought to be the “Tale of Genji” by Murasaki Shikibu. She wrote the 54-chapter novel in the early eleventh century about an aristocrat, Hikaru Genji. Murasaki Shikibu was said to have used her experiences in the imperial court to write the book. It is a masterpiece to the Japanese culture.

“Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes, is at the top of the list of best-selling fiction books of all time. With over 500 million copies sold, this book can be found everywhere. It’s followed by “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens at 200 million copies sold. “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien remains in the third spot, with 150 million copies sold to date. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” appears on the list at number eight with 100 million copies sold. Among the rest on the list are works by Agatha Christie, C.S. Lewis and Dan Brown. These top-sellers are rated in order of copies sold and do not include religious staples, such as the Bible and The Quran.

The Fiction Book Buying Guide

  • One of your greatest resources for finding the top fiction book is recommendations from your closest friends and family. Ask them before you embark on the task of finding a good book to read. Friends especially will hold similar interests as you, so their taste in literature may line up with your own.
  • Before you buy a book, visit your local library to ask a librarian for references. They are a fabulous resource if you are entirely new to the fiction genre.
  • Always read the book summary before blindly buying a fiction book. These summaries tell a whole lot without spoiling the entire story.
  • Find reviews online of fellow readers, so you don’t waste your money on a book that got a mediocre response.
  • When building your personal library with fiction novels, try to vary your collection with different authors and/or sub-genres. This will give you a well-rounded selection of the entire fiction genre.