Book of the Month – June 2019

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It is 1939. In Nazi Germany, the country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier – and will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, nine-year-old Liesel's life is changed forever when she picks up a single object, abandoned in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, and this is her first act of book thievery. So begins her love affair with books and words, and soon she is stealing from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, and wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times, and when Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, nothing will ever be the same again.

Narrated by Death, it is a superbly crafted novel that burns with intensity. Rubbing the minutiae of everyday life in Nazi Germany against the terrible events of the time Zusak uses his fiction to cast a new light on history. In doing so, he has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

First published in 2005, The Book Thief has sold over 1 million copies in the UK to date and spent 375 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

"Unsettling, life-affirming, triumphant and tragic. This is a novel of breathtaking scope, masterfully told." – Guardian

Read it? Loved it? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #HayBookoftheMonth.

Buy the book

Listen to Markus Zusak speaking about The Book Thief at Hay Festival 2009

Markus Zusak at Hay Festival 2009

Further reading...

"Books don't care how educated you are", The Hindu (2017)

Markus Zusak reflects on his iconic novel, Paste Magazine (2016)

Call Me Death, NPR (2006)

About the author

Markus Zusak is the bestselling author of six novels, including The Book Thief and his latest, Bridge of Clay. His books have been translated into more than forty languages, to both popular and critical acclaim. He lives in Sydney with his wife and two children. Find him over on his blog, Facebook /markuszusak and Instagram @markuszusak.

Markus Zusak

About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we've loved and think holds added resonance today. While many recommendations celebrate the new, this is a chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old – that reaches through time to touch the present.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HayBookoftheMonth and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

Over on Hay Player, a special playlist of talks to view online offer additional perspectives on the books from some of the greatest writers and thinkers around the world.

If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please email

Happy reading!