Hopelessly Devoted to Markus Zusak

Within the span of two weeks, I’ve become a Markus Zusak fan for life. He is the only author that has succeeded in making me cry after reading not one, but two of his novels. And believe me, I don’t cry liberally. I may have been known to tear up once in a while, but otherwise, I am quite reserved thank you very much. Markus Zusak made me reach for a tissue and sniffle sniffle my way through The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger.

At one point, my brother turned around from his studies and said: “What the hell is the matter with you?”

In which I replied, “His words are so beautiful.”

My brother probably had no idea what I was talking about, but if you’re familiar with The Book Thief, you’ll understand. I picked up The Book Thief on a whim. I knew beforehand that it was the darling of book bloggers everywhere, but I was still reluctant to read it. Let’s just say I wasn’t in the mood for a WWII related story and a story narrated by Death was a real turn off. I am so glad I overcame my initial preconceptions and continued with The Book Thief because it is one of the best books I’ve ever read…in my life.

The narrator Death chronicles the adventures of Liesel Meminger. Liesel is orphaned at 9 and taken to live with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood in Nazi Germany. She develops a propensity toward stealing books and gradually transforms into the “book thief” in question. This is a story about the power of words.

I was surprised at how much I got into The Book Thief. I’m more inclined to shy away from novels written from a 3rd person omniscient point of view because I find it hard to relate to the characters. So I wasn’t too sure about Death as the narrator, but hey, let’s give it a chance. And you know what? It really worked. In fact, The Book Thief is a collection of unusual literary techniques (fragmented sentences, illustrations, a book within a book, etc…) that doesn’t seem to go together and may even distract the reader from the story, yet strangely, all Zusak’s pyrotechnics fit and what results is quite simply, fireworks. What do you get when fancy literary technique and a page-turning story meet? Critical acclaim and skyrocketing book sales.

All this is because Markus Zusak understands the human condition. Man is a contradiction: he is cruelty and compassion, fire and ice—even in his ugliest state, he is capable of beauty.

Markus Zusak is deep. Hands down, he must be the deepest author working today.

I discovered I Am the Messenger because it was advertised on the back page of The Book Thief.

The setting is modern day Australia. Ed Kennedy is a 19 year old cab driver sans ambition and a future. After foiling a bank-robbery, Ed receives an Ace of Diamonds in the mail. Three addresses and three times are written on the playing card. What exactly is he suppose to do with this cryptic information? When he investigates the three addresses, he discovers that each resident is a person or persons in need of help. He delivers the help; he is the messenger.

After Ed performs his duty, the Ace of Clubs arrives in the mail with three more messages and three more lives in distress…

Ed Kennedy is a superhero. Think about the superhero pattern. They protect the lives of the weak and keep watch over the lives of strangers while their personal lives fall apart. With the exception of Bruce Wayne, superheroes never get the girl, work a thankless job, and are never sure of themselves until they are hidden under their masks and doing what they do best. Otherwise, they are uncomfortable in the real world.

Ed Kennedy has no superpowers, but he reluctantly performs a superhero’s line of duty: saving people, changing lives, performing random acts of kindness under the cloak of anonymity. He is the only one who can do it; he’s the only one who cares.

I can confidently say that my life is richer and more textured after reading I Am the Messenger and The Book Thief. This is my highest recommendation and the reason why I am hopelessly devoted to Markus Zusak.


21 thoughts on “Hopelessly Devoted to Markus Zusak”

  1. I agree that The Book Thief is one of the best books that I have read in a very long time. It was so nice to read something so wonderful and astounding. I have I Am the Messenger on hold at the library and can’t wait to read it.

    A wonderful review. Thank you!

  2. I skimmed your review for the first book and I’ll definitely keep it in mind for future reading. I tend to gravitate towards that topic but The Book Thief does not sound like anything else I’ve read.

  3. I’ve had it at home for awhile and have read the first few chapters a couple of times, but I just can’t seem to get into it.

    I’m wondering if I should retry once more. Sometimes I don’t like what everyone else seems to–maybe this is one of those times.

  4. Maw Books: You are really going to enjoy I Am the Messenger! I’m excited for you!

    grezakster: By all means, read The Book Thief. You won’t regret it. I give you my word.

    chartroose: I had trouble getting into the first few pages too, but I’m so glad I stuck to it. After you get use to the writing style, the story becomes so riveting that you can’t put it down.

  5. I was a bit reluctant at first with The Book Thief too because everyone seemed to love it but I was not disappointed at all. It’s such a fantastic story. I am glad to hear you enjoyed his other book as well. I haven’t gotten it yet but it’s on my list!

  6. Iliana: By all means, put I Am the Messenger on your TBR list. It’s different from The Book Thief, but in my opinion, it’s just as good. I would even go as far as calling these two books masterpieces.

  7. The Book Thief is the best well written book i have read in a long time. The book made me think about how the world can be changed by just one person. Even if people were aginst hitler in the holicost, the people at the time could not state their feelings or do anything about the terrible distruction and rage.

  8. The Book Thief is a very great book. It was so good that i wanted to eat it. I really liked the style of the writing and i think that if it was used on any other book, it wouldn’t have quite worked. The way that you portrayed death was very interesting and it made me think differently of the whole situation. Your book also gave me the opportunity to think differently about all the people who belonged to the Nazi Party and how many of them could have not agreed with hitler at all. I hope that you continue to write books as good as The Book Thief.

  9. Madison:
    I couldn’t agree with you more. The Book Thief really opened my eyes to the different people living through the Holocaust. In general, nobody ever portrays the Germans in a sympathetic light. But this book reminds us that we are all people and there were good people within Nazi occupied Germany who resisted; it only takes one person to change things.

    Ooga booga:
    Hi. I’m doing well and you? And yes, this book was wonderful.

    I’m glad you liked The Book Thief. But I didn’t write the book. Markus Zusak is the author. I wrote the review praising Markus Zusak.

  10. I stumbled on your blog when I was Googling Markus Zusak. I’m a devoted fan, too. THE BOOK THIEF is one of the best books I have ever read … and I’m middle-aged, I’ve read a LOT!

    I was trying to find contact info for him, but no luck. He did a reading in Portland last fall, which was amazing. When he took questions, I stood up and asked him for his advice for writers in 5 words or less. He said, in his beautiful accent, “Fail.” Then he elaborated, “Don’t be afraid to fail.”

    I wanted to tell him that since then, I’ve sold a young adult book – he must have brought me good luck.

    ANYWAY! I’ve babbled on your blog long enough, thanks for listening.

    L.K. Madigan

  11. Lisa:
    You are soooo lucky to have seen him in person. He’s on my list of authors I want to meet!

    Since I written this post, I’ve gone on to read ALL his novels and each and every one of them are brilliant…utterly, flawlessly brilliant.
    I think I might have developed a crush on him. He’s a hottie.

    His other books merit a related post. So stay tune to my follow up post of Markus Zusak!

    Happy reading!

  12. Mel:
    He’s a triple threat: literary genius, handsome, articulate….the perfect man!
    I have seen the google video though I’ve never seen him in person. I love his Aussie accent!

  13. does anyone know how to contact markus zusak? i too loved this beautiful book and i would like to tell him.


  15. does anyone know where markus zusak went to school? – elementar, highschool and college?

  16. The Book Thief will always be one of the best books i have ever read. by the end after i’d cried my eyes red (which never happens, mind you) i fully understood the meaning of the words “its a shame you can’t eat books”. if any one has not read this book yet, your missing out on one of the best books of the generation

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