Memphis Reads has selected the international best seller The Book Thief by Australian writer Markus 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.
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. The highlight of the month will be three presentations by the author — one at a local high school and two public presentations with book signings at Christian Brothers University on September 11 and at Rhodes College on September 12. These events are free and open to the public. The high school talk, organized by Facing History and Ourselves, will also occur on September 12. More information on events will be forthcoming,
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, “The Book Thief is an important reminder of the power of learning and the written word in the face of intolerance. Author Markus Zusak shows us that human connection is possible even in the most difficult of political climates.”
A new edition of The Book Thief was released by publisher Alfred A. Knopf last spring to mark the novel’s tenth anniversary. This keepsake edition of the novel contains 14 bonus pages including marked-up manuscript pages, original sketches, and pages from Zusak’s writing notebook. It also features a letter from the author and a new book jacket. The anniversary edition will be available at local bookstores, the Memphis Public Libraries (a Memphis Reads partner), and at Zusak’s talks.
Memphis Reads 2017 is supported by presenting sponsor International Paper, with additional support from the Tennessee Arts Commission, South Arts, the 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.
Last year, Memphis Reads featured author Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones.
For more information about Memphis Reads or any of its events, visit memphisreadsbook.org or contact Karen Golightly at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about author Markus Zusak, please visit www.prhspeakers.com.