The Visible World and The Book Thief

Two amazing books about Central Europe in WWII.

The Visible World combines a man’s search into his family’s past in Bohemia followed by a novel that actually gets at the deeper meanings of what he finds. Mark Slouka’s writing often approaches poetry. Highly recommended. I thought it was the best book I’d read all year, until…

Last night, I finished The Book Thief. It’s mis-categorized as youth fiction. It’s actually one of the most moving books I’ve ever read. The loving treatment of the characters, even the narrator, Death, that Markus Zusak makes the ending one of the most moving I’ve ever read. I was actually glad to be ill the last two days so I had an excuse to laze about reading it in a couple of huge gulps. Has just replaced The Visible World as my favorite recent book.

As someone interested in history, I really appreciated the view Zusak gives us into the lives of poor German citizens just trying to get by and remain human during the war years. That he then ties in the power of words to comfort or control makes it all the more interesting.

I highly recommend both of these books.

I buy many books used. Why not when you buy a lot of especially older titles? However, these books I’ll buy new in hardback, after having read Heather’s copies, because I want to vote with my dollars and give a tiny bit of money to these authors and their publishers.

These titles are what books can and should be about. They look into our collective stories, our histories, and shine light on the best and worst in us all. Only by authors thoughtfully, lovingly shining this light for us and we as readers looking clearly and honestly at what’s illuminated can our civilization heal itself by connecting us to one another across physical, cultural, and temporal distance.

What a summer it has been for reading. Our time in Port Townsend was full of lazy days at the beach and at home reading as the kids played and Katie gestated.

Thanks again to Heather for these and so many other great recommendations and the loan of so many bound treasures.