Mark Reads ‘The Book Thief’: Prologue, Ch. 1-2

In the prologue (and first two chapters) of The Book Thief, THIS IS GOING TO BE SO AWESOME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start reading The Book Thief.

So, before I jump right into this, I’d like to discuss how this is going down. Quite a few of you let me know, via Twitter and Tumblr, that The Book Thief is not exactly split up like things I’ve done before. There are no numbered chapters, though chapters exist. And they are short. REALLY SHORT.

I’ll be copying the general format that I use for Infinite Jest, in a way. I’ll number the chapters myself, but I will break up the review with the names of those chapters so you know which ones will be in each post. I’m actually excited about this book for a number of reasons, but it’s also nice to force myself to use some altered formatting as well. This is a PLEASANT CHANGE.

Anyway, this should make sense after this first review. Shall we?


It’s absolutely impossible to ignore the fact that the sheer formatting of this book is unlike anything I’ve seen in a good while. It’s not House of Leaves strange, but it’s not at all like Harry Potter. Or Twilight. Well, nothing is like Twilight. I APOLOGIZE FOR SAYING THAT.

First the colors.

Then the humans.

That’s usually how I see things.

Or at least, how I try.

Ok, what? Who? What???

And I suppose I’ll have to get used to it, but these very short, prose-like passages have these bolded…interjections? I don’t know what to call them. The first one looks like this:

* * * HERE IS A SMALL FACT * * *
You are going to die.

There are four of them in this first chapter. They seem to be signs of narrative shifts, subtle ones at times, or as an aside by the narrator.

Oh. Right. The narrator is Death. DEATH. What the holy fuck? Ok…ok, I have an open mind. It’s…different? It’s a total change from what I’ve read before. AND I REALLY LIKE THINGS THAT ARE BLEAK, AMIRITE?

I could introduce myself properly, but it’s not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your shoulder will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.

This is where we’re first introduced to the concept of colors and how that relates to death. Apparently we all have a “color” when we die. I don’t know what that means quite yet, but only death can see it when we die.

Personally, I like a chocolate-covered sky. Dark, dark chocolate. People say it suits me. I do, however, try to enjoy every color I see—the whole spectrum. A billion or so flavors, none of them quite the same, and a sky to slowly suck on. It takes the edge off the stress. It helps me relax.

Ok, this is interesting. Death is the narrator and it has personal conflicts. Death. I’m intrigued already. What on earth could stress out DEATH?

It’s the leftover humans.

The survivors.

They’re the ones I can’t stand to look at, although on many occasions I still fail. I deliberately seek out the colors to keep my mind off them, but now and then, I witness the ones who are left behind, crumbling among the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair, and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs.

So…people who cheated Death? LOOK I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING AT THIS POINT!

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

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

I saw the book thief three times.

Well, shit. Death? Nazis? A book thief? COLOR ME INTERESTED.


I’ll have to get used to such brief chapters. I like the flow of this so far. It feels like someone is actually telling me a story in person. It’s different. I like different. Death seems very willing to interrupt itself to correct something it has said, or to provide further context, such as when it brings up the color white:

White is without question a color, and personally, I don’t think you want to argue with me.


Please, be calm, despite that previous threat.

I am all bluster—

I am not violent.

I am not malicious.

I am a result.

Death is sure anxious to make sure it doesn’t offend us. Also…I’m unsure what pronouns to use. Death isn’t a human, so he/she doesn’t work, right? They? It? Hir? Ze? I DON’T KNOW. (Don’t spoil that if it later becomes apparent, please.

This particular chapter introduces us to a lot of nameless people. It’s the railway line. Two guards. A mother. A daughter. And a dead boy. I can guess pretty certainly that we are in Germany. There’s no explanation for why the boy is dead or if he is related to the other two, but it’s our first introduction to the book thief. She is the young girl in this story, surrounded in white, and something about her intrigues Death.

I studied the building, white-snow sky who stood at the window of the moving train. I practically inhaled it, but still, I wavered. I buckled—I became interested. In the girl. Curiosity got the better of me, and I resigned myself to stay as long as my schedule allowed, and I watched.

Twenty-three minutes later, when the train was stopped, I climbed out with them.

A small soul was in my arms.

I stood a little to the right.

There’s a weird sense of poetic symmetry to the way this is written. Very matter-of-fact in a way, but the sentences flow from one to the other. Why is Death so interested in this girl?

Perhaps ten meters to my left, the pale, empty-stomached girl was standing, frost-stricken.

Her mouth jittered.

Her cold arms were folded.

Tears were frozen to the book thief’s face.

Well, this is a great, joyous start, right? Seriously, I had to go and pick a book that starts off with Death taking a boy away from a young girl. What is wrong with me.

(Monday’s review will be much longer; I didn’t realize that these chapters where so short.)

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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176 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Book Thief’: Prologue, Ch. 1-2

  1. Pip_Harper says:

    This sounds very interesting. I may have to get hold of a copy before the reviews get too far ahead.

  2. Emily says:

    I'm so excited!

  3. Rosieglow says:

    I am so glad you are reading this book! I love it. <3 Now time to reread! 😀

  4. knut_knut says:

    Ever since seeing HP: Deathly Hallows Part 1, I can only picture Death the way it was depicted in the movie

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    Also, this chapter/prologue is really bleak considering what is happening today. I hope everyone and their friends and family are safe!

    Anyway, I love this book and I'm so excited for these reviews!!

    • Joanie says:

      This was hands down my favourite part of that movie. I was just in awe.

      • knut_knut says:

        Me too! For a good month after I saw the movie whenever I read something I pictured it in the same shadow puppet-y style as this scene

        • eleventysix says:

          I completely agree. This part of the movie was far and away the best part for me, I was kind of spellbound watching it.
          Interestingly enough, it was shown and my college, and as you can imagine, a few students decided to test the limits of their alcohol tolerance during the movie. They generally got rowdier as it went on, but during this scene it was dead silent.

          Anyways, I LOVE this book. I didn't realize how much I'd been enjoying it the first time until I'd finished it, so I had to read it again right away, and then give it (rather enthusiastically) to all my friends; and I may reread now with Mark. I hope he enjoys it!

    • Saber says:

      I totally see death that way too

  5. potlid007 says:

    Sometimes when I reread this book I imagine Death speaking in Alan Rickman's voice and it makes everything go 10x longer than it should. I recommend it highly.
    And Death reminds me of the Doctor in a way. He sees the bigger picture, and is ancient. Just a thought.

    • knut_knut says:

      I just tried it with the "Personally, I like a chocolate-covered sky" paragraph and just to hear my faux Alan Rickman say "chocolate" is worth it

    • suzanne says:

      The audiobook is read by a man whose voice is a little reminiscent ofAlan Rickman’s voice.

  6. Mauve_Avenger says:

    I don't remember if I said this earlier (and Intense Debate is being kinda screwy right now so I'm having a hard time checking if I did), but the sections in The Book Thief follow a pattern. The prologue and epilogue are four chapters each, and all the parts in between (ten in all, I think) have eight chapters each.

    My first thought was that Death has some sort of synesthesia, since he seems to experience people's deaths as colors (and said something like "the sound of the smell," suggesting a different kind of synesthesia altogether), but I really don't know whether Death is a kind of being who would be susceptible to that sort of thing.

    It's also interesting that Death makes a sort of distinction between "amiable, agreeable, etc." and "nice."

    And can I just say how amazing the sentence "You will be caked in your own body" is?

    • ldwy says:

      The way Death seems to perceive the world is beautiful and strange and yet the words make it feel very natural. I haven't read The Book Thief before, but so far I am utterly struck by the loveliness of the writing.

  7. Treasure Cat says:

    I havent read this book, but in my head those bolded asides Mark highlighted are Glados' voice…
    I wish I didnt have so many books on the go already right now or I'd totally be reading along, this sounds super awesome.

  8. Kaybee42 says:

    So happy you're reading the book thief. I took it to uni with me in september because I'd been aiming to read it for ages and kept getting frustrated by the confusing-ness of the first chapters. Eventually I settled down into it. And it was awesome. I've re read it twice since then. And annoyingly I left it at home when I went back 2 weeks ago. No matter! So yeah- DEATH is narrating- crazy! I tend to say 'he' 'him' etc but I don't think it matters what gender you go with. I do think he counts as a person though, even if he isn't a human…I mean, he has thoughts and emotions! And he says 'I'.

  9. Mitch says:

    I saw "the leftover humans" as the ones who were left behind when Death took the one who actually died. Which is an awkward way to phrase it. Not that they cheated Death, just that they are left to mourn, based on the "realization, despair, and surprise" note. IDK, though. I've just started this book myself, and am excited to see if I can actually read along with you, rather than rushing ahead!

    • knut_knut says:

      That's how I read it too. I saw the leftover humans as the people who affected by someone's death, the mourners basically.

    • SecretGirl127 says:

      That's how I read it too, but I also found it touching that Death seems to feel their pain and doesn't want to look at them. I mainly think of the Grim Reaper as just giddy with delight to come across a new corpse. It never occurred to me that Death would have a conscience or be sentimental.

  10. Asta says:

    WHAT? YOU'RE READING THE BOOKTHIEF?I realized it was going to happen but I didn't know that it would happen now. Has there been an official post about this? Was it only mentioned in other reviews? I only just got Mockingjay, I am so behind.
    Anyway, I'm really excited about this. This is one of my absolute favorite books ever next to Paper Towns and I Am The Messenger and I'm just really excited that you're finally reading it.

    • Megan says:

      Oh my gosh, I Am The Messenger was FANTASTIC. (Mark should read that next, haha. Have a Markus Zusak reading fest.) I have to say that Book Thief is my favorite of the ones I've read of his, but it's a really close call.

      • Hermione_Danger says:

        I love Book Thief, but Messenger narrowly edges it out as my favorite for several spoilery reasons.

    • Emily Crnk says:

      OOOHHHH Paper Towns was SOOOOO good!!!!!!!! Add it to the list Mark!

    • trash_addict says:

      The Messenger was seriously great. I read The Book Thief first so it had already taken up a large proportion of my heart, but when I went and read The Messenger I realised that TBT was not just a blip of awesomeness and Markus really, really needs to keep working on his next book (which he was talking about when I went to see him speak in the end of, oh, 2009).

    • Arione says:


  11. Marina says:

    YAY! I'm so glad you're reading this book. It's one of my favourite books I've ever read, and the fact that you like it already makes me happy to be re-reading it with you.

  12. lilygirl says:

    Love that you are getting the formatting, it is such an integral part of the experience. Wow, just love this book.

  13. mugglemomof2 says:

    Death. I’m intrigued already.
    I was so intrigued about the fact that Death was the narrator. I thought it was a great twist
    i will admit I forgot that the formatting was so different with this book. It will make it interesting for you to post reviews.

  14. azurefalls says:

    I cannot stress how much I love this book. GAAHH so awesome, I love its poetry and simple but effective narration. 🙂

  15. Megan says:

    I remember first reading it (just a few months ago) and getting addicted after that first "You are going to die." What a pleasant little interjection…

    But oh my goodness, you will just get hooked from here on out. It's not quite a book for me to shout phrases like "YOU ARE NOT PREPARED" at you, but it really does get… so much more intense. So much more amazing. I really hope you love it.

  16. affableevil says:

    I flat-out adore Zusak's prose, and am super excited that you're reading this book! Right away, his writing style is quirky and there are lines to pick out as beautifully phrased.

  17. lindseytinsey says:

    I think I'll read this book with you, Mark. I haven't heard anything about this book and I basically know nothing about it. Seems interesting so far.

  18. Joanie says:

    This book grabbed me from the very start and I'd recommend this to everyone. LOVE.

  19. Ali says:

    I saw this book on my friend's bookshelf and decided that I must thieve it! OK, OK, so I borrowed it, I didn't steal. It took me quite awhile before I got used to the writing style, but I really enjoyed the book despite feeling kind of out of sync at the beginning.

    I haven't been able to follow along with you for awhile since I don't own The Hunger Games books, so I am happy that you are reading something familiar to me. I will get around to reading The Hunger Games eventually and go through your archives… I've been away from home for nearly a year for work and I can't access a library since I don't have a local ID. I'm going back in a few weeks though, yay!

  20. Albion19 says:

    Just downloaded this today and started reading. I lovelovelove when a novel does something a little different with structure and narration. This is fascinating.

  21. maript says:

    I started listening this book today on the train (daily hour-long trips got so much better with the advent of audiobooks) and even the way the book is spoken is different that others I've heard; it really feels like sitting there in the train while this stranger you've just met – Death – tells you a story. So many beautiful images. Thanks for picking this one, Mark, and thanks to whoever recommended it to you!

    • trash_addict says:

      '(daily hour-long trips got so much better with the advent of audiobooks)'

      Oh, agreed! Stephen Fry's been helping me re-read the entire Harry Potter series this year 🙂

  22. scholastika says:

    It's been so long since I've read this, I'd forgotten how beautifully it's written. My copies at home so I won't be able to reread until I get back in 2 weeks :'( But I'll be reading your reviews anyway! I really think you'll love it.

  23. Openattheclose says:

    I'm going to try to keep to your pace this time, Mark. I failed with The Hunger Games, and read them all in one go. It seems very interesting so far. I agree with others that by "survivors," Death meant the mourners/faimily/loved ones of those he takes.

    • ldwy says:

      I thought the same about "survivors," and it seemed to me so far that Death seems to feel some kind of sorrow or pity for them.

    • MelissaK says:

      Don't feel bad about failing to keep Mark's schedule with the Hunger Games. I finished them long before Mark did. If anything, I almost see this blog as kind of a litmus test. If I finish the book before Mark does, then that's how I know that I really must have liked it.

  24. @Zippy8604 says:

    Alright, so this is the first time I am actually reading along so now I can say stuff without worrying about spoilers.
    I love the idea that death tastes and smells colors, it really tripped me up at first but I love the idea of it.

  25. doesntsparkle says:

    I'm a first time reader, so I'm as unprepared as Mark. The only things I know about the book are who the narrator is Death, and it's set in Nazi Germany. So far, I really like Death. I see some really subtle dark humor in the narration, but I could be completely wrong.

    • Pip_Harper says:

      I wasn't sure about that either – some of the lines for a moment I thought Death might be being sarcastic, but overall I think he/she/it's just being tragically serious.

      The bullet-pointed section I think was meant to be slightly humorous. The whole "some words" and "jewish fist fighter' especially.

      • doesntsparkle says:

        The line that struck me was:

        * * * HERE IS A SMALL FACT * * *
        You are going to die.

        It's such a dark statement, but it's written in a matter of fact way. After I got over the shock, I was like that's kind of funny. It could just be me projecting my sense of humor on the text. We'll see.

        I'm going to have a really hard time not reading ahead.

        • Pip_Harper says:

          Yeah, that was one I thought "Death's poking fun at us mortals in his own dark humored way", but then in light of the rest of the very bleak and sad view Death seemed to have about everything, I reevaluated it as simply being a cold, matter of fact statement of fact. Personally, I'd prefer it to have a bit more of an edge of dark humor, but I suppose that would make Death just too similar to Pratchett's Death, and what with the book appearing as if it's going to be at least in part about the Holocaust, it probably wouldn't be in good taste to have Death cracking morbid jokes every couple of paragraphs.

          • doesntsparkle says:

            Pratchett has been on my "to read" list far too long.

            The humor I see is very, very subtle.

        • RunningJayhawk says:

          Hit the nail on the head.

          I had a similar moment with the "I am a result" line.

          I like the candor in the narration. And he speaks in a way that put you strangely at ease.

      • Integrity1584 says:

        I thought of Mark first thing when I saw that list. It reminded me of his previous predictions that "there will be words". I quite enjoyed the strange yet lovely narration so far.

        • Pip_Harper says:

          Ah yes, I'd forgotten about that – and they were both in bullet point form as well! Does this unlikely coincidence mean that Mark is by day a mild-mannered minor internet celebrity, but at night he adopts his secret identity as a fictional personification of Death?

  26. ldwy says:

    I don't know what's going on so far, so there's not too much to say.

    Most importantly, I LOVE THE WRITING. I am reading an ebook at the moment, and a lot of the formatting was lost, so I didn't realize certain parts were bolded and separated. Once I get my library copy (soon. soon. soon.) I'll have to go back and see if these nuances change any of my feelings, but for now, moving on. The language flows so beautifully. You hardly know you're reading, it's like you're just thinking it. Sometimes language is a lot more cumbersome than this, you have to wade through it, you're very aware of your progress through the words. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I found Tolkien to be very heavy, slow writing, but I still loved the stories. One of my favorite authors, Marion Zimmer Bradley is much the same. But this, this is very liquid (for lack of a better descriptor). I love it so far.

    • Hermione_Danger says:

      "Liquid" is a wonderful word. The other Zusak book I've read, I Am the Messenger, isn't as fluid or poetic, but is still lovely writing.

      • ldwy says:

        So many people have mentioned that book as well…I think I will have to read it also. I feel another library trip coming on 🙂

        • Hermione_Danger says:

          It's very good but very different. I have a huge library list myself, so I feel your pain! 🙂

          • ldwy says:

            I'm lucky I live in a city, and so there's several different libraries in easy reach. Plus I'm in the tiniest of tiny states, so all the libraries in the state act as one giant interlibrary loan system, so I can order copies of things from all over, it's wonderful.

  27. ThreeBooks says:

    "A Jewish fish fighter"

    Pffff. Sorry, just… fish fighter. You mean FIST fighter?

    (And of course, my mind jumps from someone fighting fish to someone fighting huge, floating fists. What the hell, brain?)

  28. Pip_Harper says:

    Have now got hold of the book.

    The first things that struck me about these first few (refreshingly short) chapters were:

    1) I'm already very intrigued (especially the last line of the first chapter).
    2) Zuzak's style is superb.
    3) For some reason that probably has something to do with the rather informal style, the short one-line paras, the bold interjections, the succinctness of the chapters, and the fact that I'm reading the novel in ebook format, it feels very much like an internet journal/blog sort of thing, if that makes any sense. Not that this is in any way a bad thing.
    4) I'm not so sure about the portrayal of Death so far. It's just my personal taste, but he/she/it feels a tad too… human. I mean, the character doesn't seem to have any gravitas or mysterious, inhuman Deathiness.
    5) This section annoyed me slightly:

    "It helps me cope, considering the length of time I’ve been performing this job. The trouble is, who could ever replace me? Who could step in while I take a break in your stock-standard resort-style vacation destination, whether it be tropical or of the ski trip variety? The answer, of course, is nobody, which has prompted me to make a conscious, deliberate decision —to make distraction my vacation."

    It's just such a blatant Mort rip-off it makes me want to grind my teeth.
    6) Apart from a few very minor quibbles, this looks to be fantastic, and I'm looking forward to reading onwards.

  29. coughdrop says:

    I have a deep deep love for this book. It is gorgeous and I am so excited you are reading it, Mark!

  30. Hermione_Danger says:

    Oh, stylistic preferences, how you inspire heated opinions…

    • BradSmith5 says:

      Does this worry you?
      I urge you––don't be afraid.
      I'm nothing if not fair. 😉

      • deleted2934595 says:

        Haha, no, I just always think it's funny to see how different people react to style. It's so strange, right, that we can have heated arguments about things like line breaks and font weight? 🙂 No, I've read enough of your comments to bow before your superior fairness and hilarity.

        • BradSmith5 says:

          Yes, Miss Danger, it is quite hilarious. 😉

          Now what was that about fonts? Oh man, I didn't even notice that they changed thickness! How long were you planning on keeping this important literary secret to yourself!?

      • momigrator says:

        That was almost a haiku. 😀

        • BradSmith5 says:

          It's from page three of "The Book Thief." Yes, I am already having fun quoting the book that I complained about this morning, ha,ha,ha.

  31. theresa1128429 says:

    So excited to be reading along this time!!
    So far I love:
    the writing style
    death as a narrator

    can’t wait to leave more substantial comments during the week!!

  32. Lemone says:

    I am pumped to fuckdom about you (and thus me) reading this book. Death is the narrator and the prose is so so good and omggggggg…

    I’m going to TRY and read along, but I’m made of fail and when things get really really good like I know they’re going to I’ll end up chugging the pages down like a college frat boy.

  33. Andrew says:

    I've only just started this book and It's great to see your perspective on it, especially as I have no idea what's happening so I'm not cackling and muttering "You are not prepared" under my breath.

  34. andreah1234 says:


    I love this. It's so interesting to make Death the narrator, because it's something I haven't seen before. And it has that vague and poetic style that I find beautiful.

    IT'S A GOOD START, AMARITE?!?!?! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

  35. Ali says:

    Ahhhh, I am so happy you're reading this! I got this book for Christmas a couple of years ago and fell in love with it. 🙂

    Death as the narrator kind of reminds me of Death from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett? I have to say, I was kind of pre-disposed to see him as a non threatening figure because of those books. He's not some evil force, just a person doing a necessary job.

    • Pip_Harper says:

      Yeah, this portrayal of Death instantly reminded me of Pratchett's Death as well, although from what I've read so far (very little, admittedly) I do prefer the Discworld Death.

      The paragraph in the first chapter about wanting to get a holiday but not having anyone else to fill in for Death is very reminiscent of Mort, I thought.

      • ffyona says:

        Reaper Man!

        • Pip_Harper says:

          To my eternal shame, I have yet to read Reaper Man. It's on my list… so many Discworld novels, so little time.

          • Hermione_Danger says:

            Reaper Man is my second-favorite Death novel. Hogfather is my first favorite, but RM is wonderful.

            • ffyona says:

              For some reason, I could never get into Hogfather. It's one of the few Pratchett books that I just have a block with: I can never finish it.

              It's odd because for the most part, I am ALL OVER that man's work but certain books… just can't get through. Masquerade and most of the witches ones as well. It bugs me because I know I'd love them if I read them.

              The Watch/Vimes ones are always gonna be my favourites, specifically Night Watch. LOVE.

              • Hermione_Danger says:

                See, I'm like you but in reverse. Can't get into the Watch at all, but the Witches and Death? GIMME GIMME

              • Pip_Harper says:

                I'm exactly the same. All the Watch ones (and the wizards, in the main) I love to bits, but I have real trouble with the witch ones and more recent ones such as Going Postal.

                Then again, Hogfather is probably my second favourite, second only to Night Watch.

          • ffyona says:

            You just… must. I won't go into it in case Mark ever reads them (GO ON YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO) but it's one of his more, um, conceptual ones. A lot of my Pratchett-loving friends weren't so keen but I think it's one of the absolute best.

            • Pip_Harper says:

              It has moved up several places on The Never-Ending List now (conceptual is one of my many middle names).

              And Mark should totally read some Pratchett. If nothing else, it might provide some relief from all the horrific depressiveness of everything he's been reading recently. That and it would be awesome.

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      I'd love to see Mark read some Pratchett. But you know we could never decide on which series of books to go for. 😀

      Just to throw in my two cents, Going Postal and The Fifth Elephant are my favourites. But I've bought, read and loved them all…except for 'Small Gods' which I couldn't get into at all. Weird huh? I guess everyone has at least one.

  36. @widerspruch says:

    THIS BOOK. This book is amazing and brilliant AND OMG MARK! I'm so excited that you're reading it!


    • @widerspruch says:

      Gaah. I don't know what to say by this point that doesn't spoil something but this I can say (though it may sound weird): Deaaaaath. Death is amazing <3

  37. @audzilla says:

    Grabbed this book on Kindle so I could follow along. I immediately got addicted and therefore am far ahead.


  38. qwerticle says:

    I actually put off reading this book for a long time, mainly because I'm fascinated by this period in history and get so engrossed in history books that I find it hard to read fictional accounts of WWII. In the end too many people recommended to me so I gave in. And gave up! I didn't like the style AT ALL, like I've noticed a few people mention above and just couldn't get into the story. I think I got about a third of the way through and put it down and didn't pick it back up again.
    Then about 6 months ago I acquired a super doublesided bookcase on wheels (like in a library/school! Excited me way too much) and it kind of stood out on the shelf, mocking me. That one book I couldn't get through. So I tried again and completely fell in love with it, the lay out and the prose. Oh my god, the prose in this book is stunningly beautiful, there are so many sentences in this book that have stayed with me.
    I think my problem first time round was that I was reading fresh from about a year of reading nothing but history books, with super long paragraphs and notes and information overload. And I wasn't ready to get back into fiction.

    • trash_addict says:

      'I think my problem first time round was that I was reading fresh from about a year of reading nothing but history books, with super long paragraphs and notes and information overload. And I wasn't ready to get back into fiction.'

      It took me maybe 5 months after finishing my thesis to be able to read fiction again, even though I desperately *wanted* to. Then I spent months and months devouring classics that I'd never got around to 🙂

  39. Laura says:

    I just have to say I'm psyched about this book. I read it last year, and I thought it was one of the most beautiful books I'd ever read. This is going to be a stunning read.

  40. Oh. Right. The narrator is Death. DEATH. What the holy fuck? Ok…ok, I have an open mind. It’s…different?
    Ha, I love how you didn't even know this.

    And quite a lot of thievery.
    One of my favorite phrases in the book.

    It feels like someone is actually telling me a story in person.
    Yeah, Death is right there in your room, pointing his bony finger IN YOUR FACE.

    Also…I’m unsure what pronouns to use. Death isn’t a human, so he/she doesn’t work, right?
    Perhaps not, but I usually picture Death as male, myself, Sandman notwithstanding.

    There’s a weird sense of poetic symmetry to the way this is written.
    Get used to it! Death is a fucking poet. On my re-read, I'm finding some of it a little forced at times, but I still dig the style, and I am intrigued by Death's perspective.

  41. Ha, it's funny. When I first read the book, I LOVED all of the stylistic flourishes. On my re-read, they're bugging me a little for the reasons you mentioned.

    • BradSmith5 says:

      Yeah, I'll just have to get used to it. Some of the ***ANNOUNCEMENT*** lines are really good, but I'd rather find them on my own than be told by the narrator where they are!

      • And as I went on, I got used to it, yeah. And eventually you're more focused on the characters anyway. Once you're really following the story, the ***ANNOUNCEMENTS*** become a little more helpful, entertaining, and heartbreaking.

        • Internet Magpie says:

          I'm hoping I get over the formatting, as well (it sounds like, from your comment and several others, that I will). The bizarre format/font/color changes of The House of Leaves forced me to stop reading that one altogether, and I really want to like this one!

  42. Saber says:

    Kay, I just started THe Book Theif with you, which was something I couldn't say for THG

    First impressions: Death? I though my friend was pulling my leg when she told me that. IDK about this, but I'll try and keep an open mind. Part of me wants to hear the girl's thoughts. But I like Death. I'm allowed to like death. They seem like a pretty cool dude, all things considered.

    Also: Death has a sucky job. Bet you don't even get vacation days

  43. zuzu says:

    Ok I read this book about five years ago, I think, and I didn't really appreciate it then. I wasn't used to reading serious books and I ended up reading most of it in one sitting because my school was on lockdown. When I finished I thought "That was good now what do I do? I'm still stuck here." -there were more thoughts than that but that's spoiler territory. Now, reading it the second time around I'm reading it slower and trying to read deeper into it rather than tear through it to find out what happens. One thing I notice is how beautiful the writing is. Now I'm starting to get why my sister borrowed it and kept it to copy quotes and still hasn't given it back after all this time.
    This is going to be a good Mark Reads.

  44. Megan Mullin says:

    Hey! I'm reading *with* you for the first time, instead of lurking quietly and shaking my head at your unpreparedness. I'm a little further along, but still, JUST started. I'm interested to see your first impression as I make my own.

    Also? Whoever said she hears Alan Rickman in her head as Death is my new hero.

  45. Mustikas says:

    I read this book a half a year ago and it's characters are still living in my head. I'm afraid to say very much because I'm at my parent's right now and don't have the book at hand and I don't want to post spoilers. But I love this book so much and it certainly stands out from the many books about the time period I have read.

  46. Fusionman says:

    Oh Mark… MARK… WE WARNED YOU!!


  47. I was wondering just how you were going to break this up!! Any chance we could get the titles of the natural breaks posted since there are no number chapters?

    I realize that it's sort of a "duh" factor…but the Reassuring Announcement actually stopped me in my tracks for some time after I read it: "I am all bluster— / I am not violent. / I am not malicious. / I am a result."


    I never thought of death as a RESULT. A result of old age. A result of stupidity. A result of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Death is made methodical with this kind of verbiage. And it isn't something to be feared. In a way…the prose makes death seemingly calming…nearly welcoming. Never imagined that death could give me some warm fuzzies.

    As for the colors…I've been questioning if it's tied into the notion of everything having an aura of color around them. Or perhaps the color signifies the way one passes. I don't know.

    But what I do want to know…who is the book thief…and why do they steal the books!? [don't answer. clearly.]

  48. MajorWhoaButWhy says:

    I'm so glad you're reading this. I read it just a few weeks ago and it immediately became one of my very favorite books. I guess I picture Death here as a person, but not exactly… an ordinary one? Human form, but not… mortal? Whatever, doesn't matter. I love how this book is written, very prose-like.

  49. Lady X says:

    Wait, Death gets cheated by people? Threebrothersthreebrothersthreebrothersthreebrothersthreebrothersbuttercupisbetterthanyouthreebrothersthreebrothersthreebrothers!!

  50. Kelly L. says:


    Because it didn't occur to me that I could zip across town to Target or Borders and, you know, buy one.

    Wait, no. My car was out of commission for a week. I went with the only option I had.

    At any rate. This is very intriguing. I shall impatiently wait for my copy so I can read along.

  51. CaptainHammer says:

    You're going to love this–Zusak is a freaking genius.

  52. Phoebe says:

    This book will be unlike anything you've ever read. I AM SOOOOO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  53. SophiePatronus says:

    ffffft Markus Zusak's prose is so beautiful. <3 Good lord, if I can write half that well someday, I'll be fantastic.

    I adore this book so much. This prologue was intriguing to me, and I loved the part where Death talked about the billions of colors in the sky, all in one short amount of time… So poetic.

  54. Gabbie says:

    I got this book title confused with another book, called The Theif, but The Theif has a sequel called Queen of Atolia or something. (I haven't read them) But, THE BOOK THEIF!! My teacher actually suggested this to me yesterday and let me take home her copy. I'm actually as far as you are right now. 😀

    • eleventysix says:

      I. love. The Thief. and The Queen of Attolia. And The King of Attolia. I've read all books more than I should have – their spines are cracked and their pages are bending and they're constantly being shuffled among my different bookcases. And they're all those kinds of books that you see something new every time you reread them; ABSOLUTELY wonderful.

      That being said, it took me about a year and half to finish the first one, because it was a change in writing style and characters from other books I'd read, and I couldn't bring myself to get through it…but, it was so worth it in the end.

  55. momigrator says:

    Can I just say that I think I will appreciate this book much more than The Hunger Games? -dodges projectiles-

    • ffyona says:

      Agreed. I'm only a few pages in and it's already in a different class. The Hunger Games just weren't my bag, but this? Beautifully, achingly, unashamedly pretentious this? Is my bag.

  56. Sharon says:

    Brad, I'm always fan of your comments I really am, even when I don't always agree with you… like now.

    When I first read the book, I'm going to admit, I found the ***highlightened**** parts really eye catching and different, I liked that… but it also reminded me a bit like a bad fanfiction writter's technique.

    I got the hang of it as the book continued, so let's see how this plays out with you… either way, I think you're going to like this one.

    • BradSmith5 says:

      You're right––it IS possible for me to like a book. Hm, maybe I should just re-read the first chapters all weekend until I get to the point where asterisks no longer startle me. 😉

  57. Yusra says:

    Mark, me be-ith confused. As the chapters are short and all, how many chapters will you be doing in one day? (So I know which chapter to stop at etc)

  58. Emily Crnk says:

    I cannot express my love for this book in mere words. I'm just happy that mark is giving me an excuse to read it again for probably the fifth time. Honestly, no matter how many times I read it, the fluid brilliancy of the prose just takes my breath away, it doesn't get old.
    I forgot how confusing the first few chapters of this book are if you are new to it, just keep muddling through, it all resolves

  59. pennylane27 says:

    I am loving this book so much that I'm already quite a bit ahead of you, but in my defence, I didn't know how much you were going to review. I won't read more until Monday, even if it's killing me. I WILL READ SOMETHING ALONG WITH YOU FOR ONCE.

  60. * * * SPOILER WARNING* * *
    You are going to die.

  61. The narration style of The Book Thief really threw me at first. I didn't hate it but it definately took a lot of getting used too. Thankfully by about halfway through the story I was so absorbed I didn't even care about the narration style and by the end I loved it.

  62. trash_addict says:

    It's really hard to stop yourself reading when the words chapters flow together like this – I'm not sure exactly how I'll keep pace with you on this one but I'm gonna try, I've read the book before so I don't have the same incentive to try and read as much as possible (like, say, with The Hunger Games). I'm trying to take my time and appreciate it more deeply. Markus (whatever, I'm gonna use his first name, I've met him) really does something different with his narrative style and I think it deserves exploring.

    First mind-blowing of this book was when I realised Death was the narrator. Maybe it's been done before, but I'd never been exposed to it. Death narrating a book set in Nazi Germany? Hell. Yeah. (in a grim sorta way).

  63. eeshannon says:

    Is it wrong that I picture Brad Pitt as Death?

  64. daisysparrow says:

    The Book Thief is possibly one of my most favorite books of ALL TIME. And I read a lot of books. Oh, the excite 🙂

  65. Isabel says:

    I love that you're reading this book. I hope that you like the way Death is portrayed in this book, its different and very interesting. (So interesting that I wrote an essay on it 😉

  66. syntheticjesso says:

    This is another book I "read" as an audiobook, back in 2009. I don't remember many details, but I do remember absolutely loving this book. I finally bought a physical copy, and I kind of love the formatting style. I had no idea it had any kind of interesting formatting!

    I'm kind of excited to be reading along with you this time, even though today it did kind of drive me crazy to put down the book after so few pages. I'm a marathon reader (ever since I was a kid and would stay up all night reading), so putting down a book after only 8 pages just feels wrong. But! I'm also in the middle of three other books so I'll just switch over to Zodiac and get my hours of reading in 🙂

  67. Cathy (catd94) says:

    I'm so so so glad you're reading this book.
    I loved the way it was written. The style of narration was so different than I was used to.
    I love it sfm.

  68. gillyweed says:

    Hem hem… try this one:
    Formatting is just like in the original. 🙂

  69. Ida says:

    Oh, Mark, I am so excited for you! This book is one of the best, most original, and beautiful things words have ever created. It changed the way I looked on writing forever. I was totally in live with it at the very first sentence.

    I am also excited because I did not have the ability to tag along for the Hunger Games reading since I was busy with a personal Wheel of Time re-read (them, by the way, you should check out), and I'm happy to be back in the game now. Have a great reading!

  70. Starsea28 says:

    I got halfway through this but stopped. Now I'm going to start again and read along with you. 🙂 Looking forward to this.

  71. steph says:

    i was going to buy it in the kindle but i bought the hunger games instead so i read the sample that the kindle provided of the book thief and i thought it was pretty odd in a way but i like it and if can give you an idea that "death" isn't really a bad thing

    • No worries. You can blow through all three books of the Hunger Games series in less than a week. And the chapters in The Book Thief are short enough where you can easily catch up in a day or two of reading.

  72. canyonoflight says:

    I am so freaking excited about this! I love this book to freaking pieces. I read it over winter break and it is so beautiful.

  73. barnswallowkate says:

    I finally got my copy from the library today and I like it so far. I don't think I can read only some at a time like Mark (plus I'll have to give it back to the library so I need to finish before then) but I'll at least try to write up comments as I go. Yay new book!

  74. Kirsty says:

    So awesome that you're reviewing The Book Thief Mark!! I read it a few months ago, such a beautiful book.

  75. Internet Magpie says:

    Mark, do you have any sort of general reading schedule? With the woky formatting of this book and yourhatred of being spoiled, I understand you probably don't want to go flipping through the book to find the ends of chapters, but are you planning on posting every forty pages? Every six chapters? Every twelve asterisked interruptions?

    (I realize I tweeted you this question, like, half an hour ago, but this is the first time I've been able to read along with you! As the kids say, I'm so excite!)

  76. curiousGirl says:

    When I heard you were doing “The Book Thief” next, I immediately googled it. I wasn’t very interested in the story when I read it in Wikipedia, so I didn’t read it. But after reading your review, I was intrigued by the style of writing and the fact that it was narrated by Death himself, (I’m a big fan of death as a character) and that he had a personality, too. I finished the whole book in less than 12 hours. I just coouldn’t put it down!
    Death already spoils the ending of the girl’s story, so I was looking forward to reading the end. I was so sleepy already by three quarters of the book, but I keep saying “just a bit more” “one more part, you can’t stop now” “last 10 pages” etc.
    It was a good read, especially since I’m very curious about the events of world war II. It’s not a “you are not prepared” type of book, but I’m sure that you’ll love this book and can relate to it well.

  77. Madeleine says:

    At the moment, I’m finding this to be really weird. But It’s only the prologue so I’m guessing this is going to be different to the rest of the book. Which I’m kinda thankful for because I don’t think I could stand being confused for the whole novel. I’ve heard this is good so I’m going to trust my peers.

    • Andrea says:

      I was feeling the exact same way after reading the prologue. I might have stopped reading after that if I had not wanted to follow along with Mark so much. So, I guess there is one great thing about Mark Reads because after the next few chapters, I'm starting to really enjoy it and I might have missed out if Mark wasn't reviewing it!

  78. booksofferlife says:

    I have been trolling your site for awhile now and with this I broke down and created an account to comment. I own The Book Thief and have tried to read it, but with the weird formatting and creepy beginning I just couldn't get into it (granted, I didn't give it very long). But I am hoping that I will be able to read it with you and maybe it will be easier.

  79. booksofferlife says:

    Also, since I have never commented on here, let me back comment. I became obsessed with your site when I read through your reviews of Twilight, right after I read the series. YOU EXPRESSED MY PAIN SO MUCH BETTER THAN I COULD! And with that, you won my love. Since then I've been working my way through reading your HP reviews, because they amuse me so. (I wish you and your bf Hagrid love and happiness forever)

    Also I just want to say that your occassional comments of THIS ONE SENTENCE IS ONE MILLION TIMES BETTER THAN THE WHOLE TWILIGHT SERIES! (perhaps slight exaggeration) makes me love you so much more. Because that is TOTALLY WHAT I WAS THINKING!

    As much as I hate Twilight, it has forever changed my view of books, if for no other reason than my first opinion of any book that I pick up is WELL, IT CAN'T BE WORSE THAN TWILIGHT. y/y?

    I guess my point in all this is to say that I appreciate you and your site. (ILUNEVERCHANGE)

  80. demented says:

    I love Death as a character. This writer has created a narrator that is so fun, clever, witty and that I love to read about. I loved the use of color in this bit and all that it symbolizes .

  81. ThatGirl says:

    Markus Zusak is an absolutely incredible writer. I hope you love The Book Thief!
    And may I just say, you are not prepared.

  82. Hotaru-hime says:

    It seems weirdly paced. The "chapters" are really short so I've gotten past you without even intending to…
    It sounds really sad but sometimes hard to follow…

  83. winged_kittycat says:

    I'm super excited for this–been looking for a reason to buy/read this book for a while and now I get to read it along with you! Festations!

  84. Suspicious Cookie says:

    I think this is by an Australian author, which makes me feel patriotic.

    That aside, I'm about halfway through this book, and I'm loving it so far.

  85. @boredrumor says:

    As soon as I found out that you were reading what is currently my favorite book, I jumped for joy. Literally. I hit my sister by accident, too.

  86. karadudz says:

    So this is my first time reading this book after having it in my bookshelf for two years. I'm glad you're doing it because then I'd have more reason to read it (mainly because I don't want to miss any blog posts or be out of the loop with Mark Reads). And it's pretty good that you did the chapter thing so that I don't get distracted with college finals season LOL.

    SO ANYWAY. I wondered while reading your review…. HOW DID YOU CONCLUDE THAT THE NARRATOR WAS DEATH? I keep reading it and reading it (the beginning) and I just don't see how the narrator is presented to be Death. Please someone, enlighten me because all I can come to see is that the narrator is some creeper following a nine year old girl…

  87. Luna Lovegood says:

    You are not prepared. That is all.

  88. Kelly L. says:

    Ugh, I've fallen so far behind that I'm just going to start over at the beginning. I think I'm somewhere around the 20's, chapter-wise. The first few will be a nice refresher, I guess. I WILL CATCH UP.

  89. Lady X says:

    COLOR ME INTERESTED. Oh mark please never change 🙂

  90. whoah this weblog is wonderful i love studying your articles. Stay up the great work! You know, many persons are searching round for this info, you could help them greatly.

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