August 11, 2021 7:36 AM EDT

Narrated by Death itself, The Book Thief offers a unique and profoundly sad fictional window into Nazi Germany at the onset of World War II. The story follows Liesel Meminger, a 9-year-old girl who’s taken in by an older German couple, Rosa and Hans Hubermann, when her mother can no longer care for her. Haunted by the death of her younger brother, Liesel takes comfort in a book that was dropped by one of the gravediggers at his burial, despite the fact that she’s illiterate. That changes when her kindly new “Papa” begins teaching her how to read. The knowledge ignites a passion for books, and stealing them, that serves as a distraction for Liesel from the grim reality of life under the Nazi regime. When the Hubermanns take in Max Vandenburg, a young Jewish boxer hiding from the Nazis, he and Liesel form a bond over their shared nightmares and past trauma that soon becomes unshakeable. Markus Zusak’s insightful 2005 novel is an enduring ode to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of senseless cruelty and violence. A global sensation, The Book Thief has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide, spent over 500 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, and was adapted into a hit film in 2013. —Megan McCluskey

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