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The Book Thief: Memphis Reads Public Author Events

MEMPHIS — Each year, Memphis Reads chooses a novel that is read by the Memphis community and celebrated by a month-long series of book-related events including panel discussions, art-related happenings, and film screenings. This year, Memphis Reads has selected the international best seller The Book Thief by Australian writer Marcus Zusak as its 2017 community read book. Appearing on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 500 weeks, The Book Thief has received numerous awards, including the Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children’s Literature and the Michael L. Printz Honor from the American Library Association.

The novel, set in 1939 Germany, is the story of a young girl, Liesel Meminger, who becomes the foster child of an accordion player and his wife following the death of Liesel’s brother. The kind-hearted foster father uses a book that Liesel steals to teach her to read. Liesel continues her habit of stealing books, and eventually befriends both a neighborhood boy and Max, a family friend. Max is a Jew who is hiding from the Gestapo in the foster family’s house. Max and Liesel have much in common — they are both traumatized by past experiences and both have nightmares. Both, too, are lonely and far from home. Narrated by Death, the story gets more complicated as Leisel continues to steal books, which she shares not only with Max but also with other families during bombing raids. 

Karen Golightly, director of Memphis Reads and an associate professor of English at Christian Brothers University, says, “We choose a book that looks at issues that we, as Memphians, face today. Even though The Book Thief takes place in Germany during WWII, the issues of racism and intolerance are still ones that need to be addressed in our current society. We also choose books with authors who are dynamic and can speak to a variety of audiences. Markus Zusak touches readers of all ages, ethnicities, geographies, and socio-economic classes with The Book Thief. We hope these issues will spur on discussions on tolerance and kindness in our community."

The highlight of the month will be a pair of public presentations with book signings by Mr. Zusak at Christian Brothers University on September 11 and at Rhodes College on September 12. These events are free and open to the public. 

Memphis Reads 2017 is supported by presenting pponsor International Paper, with additional support from the Tennessee Arts Commission, South Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and Follett. Memphis Reads is funded under a grant contract with the State of Tennessee and is funded, in part, by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission. 

Memphis Reads partners include Christian Brothers University, Rhodes College, Southwest Community College, University of Memphis, Shelby County Schools, Memphis Public Libraries, Friends of the Library, City of Memphis - Parks & Neighborhoods Division, Facing History and Ourselves, and the Southern College of Optometry.


Markus Zusak Talk and Q & A
Monday, September 11, 2017
7:00 p.m.
Christian Brothers University, University Theater

Markus Zusak Brief Talk and Q & A
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
6:00 p.m.
Rhodes College, McNeill Concert Hall

For more information about Memphis Reads or any of its events, visit or contact Karen Golightly at

Posted by Cory Dugan at 8:52 AM