Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Markus Zusak Writes Me a Note About "The Book Thief." I Follow His Advice Nine Years Later.

The Book Thief came out in 2006. In 2007, Markus Zusak visited a Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop, and I got a copy of the book signed. I admitted I hadn't read his breakout bestseller yet, so he wrote me a joshing note, which I've reprinted at right.

Fast-forward nine years. We're cosponsoring an event with the Milwaukee Public Library this week, and I still hadn't read the book. So I dropped everything to finally be able to speak eloquently about the story.

Now you must understand that I can't read every book for every event. There are only so many hours in a day, and I have other things that need to be done to keep Boswell going. Plus I'm lucky enough to have lots of other great readers, and their recommendations are an equally powerful tool.

But not reading The Book Thief? It felt like a hole in my brain that needed to be filled.

We've had any number of recommendations for The Book Thief over the years, though most were generated back when I was working at Schwartz. Jen told me that The Book Thief was one of her favorite books of all time, while Todd, who currently has a rec on the book, talked about the power for books to sustain people in the most difficult times. And I'm sure that half the booksellers I didn't ask have something to add.

The numbers on The Book Thief are staggering. The novel has been in our top 100 bestsellers for every year through 2014. In 2009, it was #14. and I should note that is a full two years after the paperback came out, which was released 18 months after the hardcover. And I'm not talking about kids books here, but all categories. It's one of those books that has appealed to folks of all ages. On one hand, we've had tremendous orders to schools, but on the other, it's also been one of our most popular book club titles for years.

The new edition, which just came out on Tuesday, has tenth anniversary bonus content in both a newly reissued paperback (same ISBN) and a commemorative hardcover (new jacket, better paper, same bonus content). Included are notebook pages, that mapped which books Liesel read and what they were about, and how the illustrations came together. There's a new introduction by Zusak and even a list of corrections. The paperback jacket must say "anniversary edition" at the top to have the bonus content.

And now when I meet Mr. Zusak again I can be part of the conversation. Our cosponsored event is Friday, March 11, 6:30 pm, at Milwaukee Public Library's Centennial Hall, 733 N. Eighth St. At least I think I can be part of the conversation - I'm on page 400, but should be finished before starting time.

For more information about other upcoming kids events, including bookseller reviews, read the latest edition of the Boswell kids email newsletter.

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