So you’ve finished Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and are looking for more great historical YA fiction? Then you’re in luck because we’ve picked out the top 20 books like The Book Thief that you can enjoy right now. Keep scrolling to read more about Zusak’s novel and find our top 20 recommended readalikes below.
The Book Thief follows Liesel Meminger, a young girl growing up in Hitler’s Germany. Liesel’s foster parents, the Hubermanns, elect to shelter a Jewish man named Max Vandenburg in their home. While Max hides from the Nazis, he befriends Liesel, who shows an interest in books and reading. Hans Hubermann helps Liesel learn to read, and she soon begins to write her own book—a task that ultimately saves her life when tragedy strikes.
Markus Zusak’s novel first appeared on shelves in 2005. It took home several honors, including awards from School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Book Council, and the American Library Association. Twentieth Century Fox released a film adaptation directed by Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) and starring Marie-Sophie Nélisse (Yellowjackets) as Liesel and Benjamin Schnetzer (Y: The Last Man) as Max in 2013.
Here are the top 20 books like The Book Thief that you can read right now:
Top Books Like The Book Thief
Bluebird by Sharon Cameron
Sharon Cameron’s Bluebird centers on Eva and Inge. One is a German American teenager living in New York City during the Cold War. The other is the 16-year-old daughter of a Nazi doctor who performed heinous experiments on victims imprisoned within the Reich’s concentration camps. When the United States turns to Nazi medical research as a means of winning the Cold War, both Eva and Inge find themselves spurred to action.
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
We Are Not Free weaves together a collective account of World War II-era America, as told by 14 Nisei teenagers living in 1940s San Francisco. The American-born children of Japanese American immigrants, these teens have grown up straddling worlds—caught between Japan and the United States, between Japanese and English, between immigrant and citizen, and between Japantown and San Francisco at large. After America enters the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, the country forces more than 100,000 citizens—all ethnically Japanese—out of their homes and into concentration camps spread across the American West. The legacy of Japanese internment is laid bare in this historical YA novel.
Even as We Breathe by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle
Set in World War II-era North Carolina, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle’s Even as We Breathe follows Cowney, a Cherokee teenager, as he takes a job working at Asheville’s Grove Park Inn. The mountain resort turned luxury detention facility houses high-ranking Axis diplomats and their families, who were caught behind enemy lines when the United States entered the fray. Before the season is out, however, a diplomat’s young daughter will go missing, turning all eyes on Cowney.
For Lamb by Lesa Cline-Ransome
A Black teenager’s interracial friendship goes pitifully awry in For Lamb. Eponymous heroine Lamb Clark is a 16-year-old bookworm growing up in Jackson, Mississippi in the final years of the Great Depression. When she accepts a book loan from a white girl, Lamb can’t help but hope that their budding friendship might help Jackson overcome Jim Crow. Unfortunately, Lamb and Marny’s relationship sets in motion an unstoppable chain of events that can only end in tragedy.
They Went Left by Monica Hesse
Zofia and her brother lost everything the day they arrived at Auschwitz; they were the only members of their family not sent to the gas chambers. Now that Hitler has fallen and the camps have been liberated, Zofia has a single mission: to find her brother, Abek. They Went Left follows Zofia as she wrestles with her missing memories of her time in the camps and searches for Abek among the throng of survivors.
The Red Palace by June Hur
Set in 18th-century Joseon, June Hur’s The Red Palace centers on Hyeon, a young nurse tasked with clearing her mentor’s name after a grisly murder. Hyeon joins forces with Eojin, the handsome young detective working the case, but the pair quickly find themselves in dire straits. The evidence implicates the Crown Prince, but can a nurse and a policeman accuse the most powerful man in Joseon without losing their lives?
Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland
The Great Rust changed America forever, nearly obliterating the Dynamism from whence mages pull arcane power. In its aftermath, American mages have risen from the ashes to champion a new practice, Mechomancy, which eschews tradition in favor of science and progress. Set against this ever-shifting backdrop, Rust in the Root follows Laura, an up-and-coming mage, as she works to repair the Dynamism—only to find that the country’s most evil magicians may still be in practice.
A Million to One by Adiba Jaigirdar
When the H.M.S. Titanic sank in 1912, it took Gabriel Weis’ one-of-a-kind copy of the Rubiyat down with it. The gilded book, its cover inlaid with jewels, has never been recovered. Adiba Jaigirdar’s A Million to One follows four young women—Josefa, Hinnah, Violet, and Emilie—as they board the doomed ocean liner with a singular purpose: steal the Rubiyat from the ship’s guarded vault.
As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh
As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow follows Salama, whose life has been completely upended by the Syrian Revolution. Now working as a hospital volunteer, Salama desperately wants to quit her war-torn country and immigrate to Germany. The clock is ticking, however. Every day, her sister-in-law’s due date draws nearer, and their hopes of safely escaping Syria grow thin. Salama’s anxiety peaks, leaving her with Khawf, a personification of her fear, who urges her to flee and never leaves her side.
Butterfly Yellow by Thannhà Lai
As the war in Việt Nam came to a close, Operation Babylift saw thousands of seemingly orphaned children from Việt Nam adopted into western families. Six years ago, Hằng entrusted care of her younger brother, Linh, to the evacuation program. Now, she’s made her way to Texas, determined to find him. Linh is the only family Hằng has left. But what will she do when she learns that he has no memory of their time together? Find out, in Butterfly Yellow.
This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke
An orphaned girl comes of age against the backdrop of the Hungarian Uprising, in This Rebel Heart. Csilla and her family survived the Holocaust, only to be torn apart following the Soviet takeover in 1949. The brave teen has done her best to avoid the authorities’ attention, all while secretly plotting her escape from Budapest. But when Csilla’s stake in the burgeoning revolution suddenly becomes personal, she must decide whether to go through with her flight or remain to fight for a free Hungary.
The Davenports by Krystal Marquis
In The Davenports, debut author Krystal Marquis turns the spotlight on the women of a wealthy Black family struggling to balance their desires with their father’s legacy. William Davenport was born into slavery. He built a business empire before he died. Now, his two daughters, Olivia and Helen, and their closest confidantes—Amy-Rose, a maid in the Davenport household, and Olivia’s best friend, Ruby—find themselves torn between love, duty, and ambition.
Bad Girls Never Say Die by Jennifer Mathieu
Growing up in 1960s Houston isn’t easy for Evie: a member of a girl gang who has spent her whole life on the wrong side of the tracks. The only people she can count on for support are her fellow bad girls, or so she thinks. After Evie is attacked one night, she wakes to find that her wealthy new classmate has avenged her in an unexpected act of solidarity. Everything Evie believes about social class, allegiance, and “good girls” is suddenly called into question, in Bad Girls Never Say Die.
Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink
Angel of Greenwood centers on Angel and Isaiah, a teenage odd couple who fall in love after their English teacher hires them to operate her mobile library for the summer. The teens bond over their shared love of reading and philosophy, never suspecting that their entire world is about to come crashing down around them. This is Tulsa, 1921. Once the summer is over, their lives will never be the same.
Travelers Along the Way by Aminah Mae Safi
Aminah Mae Safi’s Travelers Along the Way transposes the story of Robin Hood to Crusades-era Jerusalem. As the war for control of the Holy Land builds, all Rahma wants is to get her big sister, Zeena, to give up fighting and come home. Rahma’s proposal is unconscionable to a trained soldier like Zeena, so the two reach a compromise: take on one last mission to save Jerusalem from European invaders before quitting the battlefield for good.
The Hunger Between Us by Marina Scott
Criminality is crucial to surviving the Nazi occupation in Leningrad. Aka has a plan that will make her and her best friend, Liza, a lot more money. It could even help them avoid prosecution altogether, so long as they play their cards right. All they need to do is provide the men in charge with a little bit of friendly company and attention. Liza can’t say she’s enthused about the idea. Then Aka disappears, leaving Liza with no choice but to find out what happened to her, in The Hunger Between Us.
I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
Set in the months leading up to Nicolae Ceaușescu’s execution, I Must Betray You centers on Cristian, a 17-year-old writer coerced into helping the Communist government amid a mounting revolution. He can’t refuse unless he wants to risk imprisonment or death, but he also isn’t sure he’s capable of selling out his loved ones to the secret police.
House of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle
Tim Tingle’s House of Purple Cedar traces a turn-of-the-century mystery that unfolds in a Choctaw community in the Oklahoma Territory. In 1896, the citizens of Skullyville find themselves struggling to hold onto their land as white settlers migrate in from the East Coast. Tensions between Skullyville newcomers and long-time residents reach a fever pitch when the New Hope Academy for Girls is set alight, killing 20 Choctaw students. In the aftermath, Rose, a survivor of the fire, watches as her classmates’ deaths—and the local white government’s response—bring irrevocable change to Skullyville.
The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin by Kip Wilson
An orphaned girl finds refuge and family in the world of cabaret in The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin. Set in the final days of the Weimar Republic, Kip Wilson’s novel follows Hilde as she takes her first steps toward independence. Café Lila is a queer-friendly establishment, and Hilde quickly begins to fall for Rosa, a Jewish waitress and cabaret singer. The Nazi Party is on the rise, however, and the two young women may soon be forced to bid their safe haven goodbye.
My Dear Henry by Kalynn Bayron (March 7, 2023)
From This Poison Heart author Kalynn Bayron comes My Dear Henry: a queer retelling of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The story here centers on Gabriel, a young law clerk and former classmate of Henry Jekyll, who drifts back into Henry’s orbit after their joint expulsion from medical school. Unfortunately for Gabriel, his former best friend seemingly wants nothing to do with him. Henry’s new friend Hyde, on the other hand, is a different case altogether…
We hope you’ve found your next historical YA title to read among these 20 books like The Book Thief. Below, we’ve got answers to some of your burning questions about the novel.
Is The Book Thief inappropriate?
Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief takes place in Nazi Germany, where a young girl named Liesel bonds with the Jewish man her foster parents have hidden from the Nazis. The novel touches on themes of war, death, and genocide, and may not be appropriate for readers who are not emotionally equipped to handle such topics.
What grade level is The Book Thief?
The Book Thief has an ATOS level of 5.1, meaning “that it is understandable to individuals who have reading comprehension skills typical of a student in the [first] month of grade .” With that being said, Zusak’s novel does deal heavily with themes of death, dying, war, and genocide, and it is marketed to readers in middle and high school.
Can a 10-year-old read The Book Thief?
The Book Thief is recommended for ages 12 and up, but that does not mean a 10-year-old cannot or should not read it. Ten-year-olds interested in reading The Book Thief should talk to a librarian at their school or local library.
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