March 8, 2015

Why I Didn't Read The Book Thief

I've never really written a controversial post before. And while I wouldn't call THIS a "controversial post", it still may not be met with agreement...
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Over the last year I've heard The Book Thief mentioned a LOT. Everyone seemed to love it, everyone seemed to recommend it, everyone seemed heartbroken over it, but still considered it a new favorite.
So, I wanted to try it too! It's set during World War 2 and is about books? How much better could it
get, right?

Whenever I'd read a review for this book or someone would recommend it, they would say the only bad thing about it was that it had some bad language in it. I was like, "All right. I can deal with that, if it's not too bad." So I checked it out from the library and started reading it (with the mention to my mom that it had a few particular "words". She said that's fine as long as it didn't get worse.).
So, it started out with some "mild" profanity.  I mainly ignored it and tried to gloss over any parts like "he swore...." Well, it kept getting a little worse until they finally starting using Jesus' name casually and THEN they used God's name in conjunction with the d-word.

Aaaannnd.....that's when I closed the book.

I don't like profanity in books. I avoid it as much as I can. But when they're blaspheming the name of our Lord? That's just too much for me. I mean, where do you draw the line?

And trust me, I REALLY wanted to read TBT. It sounded sooo good, and I loved the author's writing style. It was so unique and creative and beautiful-why did he have to spoil it with blasphemy and profanity?

Yes, this was Germany in WW2. Yes, I'm sure people talked like that and much worse during that time (and today). But I really don't want to read it. I don't want to desensitize myself to people using God's name casually.

But that's just me. Maybe some of you can easily ignore those parts. And that's fine. I don't want to point fingers or make people feel guilty. I'm just simply wondering why people mention the profanity but not the blasphemy? Blasphemy seems a bigger deal that profanity to me. (not that I'm condoning profanity, of course!)

“Do not blaspheme Gode or curse the ruler of your people." Exodus 22:28

So, if you still enjoyed this book despite its flaws, that's fine. I'm sure it was a REALLY good story. I honestly still want to read it. But I feel like I'd be lowering my standards (based on God's Word) if I continued to do so.


And just to be clear, many of my favorite bloggers have mentioned their like/love for this book, and PLEASE understand that I don't think any less of them for doing so!!


I'd love to hear YOUR opinions/convictions about books like this. 
Have you read The Book Thief
Where do you draw the line about when to read or not read a book?

27 comments

  1. I watched the Book Thief a while ago and loved it. (The movie is wayyy better than the book because of the lack of profanity/blasphemy and bad stuff.) So I bought the book, not knowing about its issues... When they started saying the bad words, I took a pen and crossed them out. But soon I had multiple black lines on every page :( I then skimmed ahead and found some other content issues, so I threw it away. I'm really sad that I had to do that, and I don't think worse of anyone who read it, but I just couldn't do it. Maybe someone will make a kids version of it one day, and I can read that one!
    Most of the books I read are classics so besides the occasional d-word, I don't usually run into issues. And if I do read a book that has issues, I try to skim those sections. However, if there are too many to skim, I stop. This post was great!

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  2. Obviously that's not to say that all classics are clean. Mainly the ones I've read are though.

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    1. Ashley,
      Thanks so much for your comment! I'm so happy someone can sympathize with me. Oh really? That's so interesting that the movie is better. Maybe I'll check that out instead. :)
      Haha, after I decided not to read it I actually tried to look up a "clean" version of the book. No such luck. :(
      Yes, I too read a lot of classics, and the d-word is usually the only word used at all. Which of course, I could do without, but I'm able to overlook it.
      Again, thanks so much for your comment! It makes me glad I wasn't the only one who had to quit reading it! :)

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  3. OH HOW I AGREE. There were farrrr too many swearing words. Sorry, I should have warned you, shouldn't I? But I personally love the book too much too let that bother me - I mean, it's dreadfully annoying and why can't they just stop?!!!! but despite it I find the book just amazing.

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    1. Naomi! Oh, no, no, you DID warn me about the swearing! So don't feel bad. I just didn't realize that included the taking-of-God's-name-in-vain and that's where I usually draw the line. I was a bit nervous about posting this, because I didn't want to hurt your feelings since you recommended the book to me, but I wanted to be honest and give you (and my other readers) my opinion.
      Thanks so much for commenting! :)

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    2. You haven't hurt my feelings at all, Natalie! Everyone has different convictions! I'm glad you wrote the post. :-)

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    3. Oh, good, I'm so glad. :) Thank you!!

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  4. Good for you for standing on your convictions and putting it down! To be honest with you, I own a well worn copy of The Book Thief. Despite this, I have never recommended the book to anyone. Personally, I can read my copy and enjoy it, passing over the language (and other things), but for many others the book could be a problem. If only Zusak had left out the language--a totally needless flaunt of modern callousness, I think.

    The movie has a lot less language and mostly stays true to the book. I think I could recommend it.

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    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate your comment. I think that's fine that you own the book-everyone has different convictions about those sort of things. Yes, I agree-the swearing and blasphemy added NOTHING to the book. It wouldn't have detracted from the story's appeal at all if he had left those things out.
      I'll probably try the movie next! I'm disappointed the book didn't work out, but the movie is the next best thing, I'm sure.

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  5. I haven't read the book yet, so I couldn't say, but I admit that mild language doesn't bother me anymore. I dislike taking the Lord's name in vain, but I usually don't let that stop me from reading a book. If there's an unhealthy quantity of F words, then I'll stop. The only reason I haven't read it yet is time constraints and I've heard it's boring. I've heard other complaints about this book that have kept me from reading it

    The movie itself is really amazing, though. I had no prior knowledge of the plot when I went to see it with my sister and we ended up crying our way through the ending. So sad, but brilliant just the same.

    Good for you standing on your convictions, though. That can be hard to do.

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    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Carissa! I'm definitely going to check out the movie. I still find the story very intriguing despite the failure of the book working for me. And I usually love sad/bittersweet stories, so I'll probably like it. :)

      Thank you! I admit I was a bit nervous about posting this (since the book is so popular), but am so happy and grateful for the kind feedback I received from everyone! :)

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  6. Great post!

    I watched the movie before I read the book, and the movie has almost no language in it. Then, some friends recommended the book to me, with the mild warning, "The only problem is that they swear in German." Ahaha, well, actually, no, they swear in English. A lot. And yes, more importantly, use God's name in vain.

    I love TBT, despite the language, BUT I've decided to go through my copy and mark out the swearing and using God's name in vain. I really wish there was an edited version...thanks for writing this post! I'll rethink my convictions on this book and see if they change. I have a feeling I'll stick with marking out the language with a permanent marker, but we'll see. So far I don't think God has imparted to me that He doesn't want me reading the book, but I'll ask Him:)

    Again, wonderful, thought-provoking post! (Oh, and I highly recommend watching the movie, as it's virtually the same, but with little or no language that I can recall.) :D

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    1. Hahaha, yes, they definitely do a lot more then just swear in German...
      I know! I wish there was an edited version, too! Thanks so much. I honestly just wanted to share my conviction about the book (not guilt trip anyone or hurt their feelings) and perhaps just provide food for thought. I think marking out words in books works very well, but with this one it was just too much for me....plus it was a library book, so....... that wouldn't have worked!
      Thanks! I can't wait to check out the movie!

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  7. Great post, Natalie!!! I'm so proud of you for taking a stand and writing about something that could be controversial. : )

    I think I fall under the category of "fellow bloggers who have read, loved, and recommended TBT." *sheepish grin* I always tell everyone I recommend it to that there's language, though (and language, by my definition, includes blasphemy as well as profanity). I first got TBT from the library and, to tell the truth, I wanted to mark through the language with a pen in the library copy. In the end, though, I fell in love with the story. I ended up buying a copy, marking through the language (and gluing a few pages together that contained an unnecessary description), and making my siblings read it. (I've even loaned out my edited copy before as an alternative to a library copy when I recommend it to my friends. I'd do the same for you if I lived close to you!!!) All in all, I loved the story. I loved the characters. I loved the overall moral of the story. I did NOT, however, like the language and blasphemy, which I felt was unnecessary. But that only made me love the book slightly less, because I thought it was so amazing. So I'd echo what Ashley said and TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY recommend the movie. It only has one omg and another word (that you'll miss unless you've got the subtitles on). While it doesn't have quite the emotional impact of the book, it's still amazing and the overall themes are still there.

    (To add my two cents, though, I think it honestly depends on the person. If you don't feel convicted about reading the language, then - to me, at least - that's fine. Different people have different convictions. That's just how it goes sometimes. There's so much gray area in issues like this that it really all boils down to what individual people feel that God is convicting them of. (And when we come in contact with people who don't agree with us and our convictions, that's when God gives us opportunities to grow. Ha!))

    All that said, thank you so much for blogging about something that might be considered controversial. Great job. : )

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    1. Thanks so much for commenting! :) I'm so grateful for everyone's kind comments, even if their convictions differ slightly from mine.
      That's so great that you "made" an edited version for reading and loaning out! That definitely would have been helpful in my case! :)
      And I'm certainly going to check out the movie now so I can get the basic story. It may not be the same as the book, but oh well.

      Thank you for expressing your thoughts! I agree, different people have different convictions. I wanted to make it clear in my post that although TBT didn't work for me, I realize that's not the case for everyone. And that's completely fine! Yes, learning how to deal lovingly with people who don't share our views is something I think everyone (Christians especially!) should keep in mind.
      Thank you so much!! :)

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  8. Coming from someone who adores The Book Thief, I do approve of this post. I am someone who does not approve of swear words period. If a movie or a book has a large amount of swearing I won't watch or read it. I find it hard to believe that other people can "look past" multiple uses of major swear words. But, that is my conviction.
    I heard about TBT around the time the movie was brig released. It looked like a really intriguing storyline and something I would enjoy. I then found out there was a book written several years prior and I decided I should read it first. Long story short, I put it on my Christmas list without doing much research and, much to my surprise,(I figured my parents would ask me about it) received it on Christmas. So here I owned it an knew nothing about the bad language. I started reading it and was surprise and displeased with the amount of swear words. Once I got to them blaspheming our Lords name I decided to start marking them out. Normally I don't care for blacking out words, I thin you shouldn't read it if you have to black out words. But due to the fact that I owned it and planned on keeping it, I blacked them out. (With what looked like paint splotches, so it's artsy). Now, I would never recommend anyone reading it unless they read my copy. If they do, that's their choice. If someone had warned me I would have not even considered reading it! So now I have a blacks out copy an love the book with the removal of those words. When I tell people I love it i clarify my circumstances.
    I'm sorry you weren't warned, and really I'm with you all the all the way?

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    1. Thank you for sharing your convictions, Evelyn! I love hearing everyone else's thoughts on the matter.

      That must have been disappointing to realize it had language and blasphemy in it after you had bought it-thankfully I got my copy from the library. I agree that if you have to black out a lot of words, it may be best not to read the book at all. I guess that's why I decided to forgo TBT. I'm glad you have your own edited copy, though!
      Thanks for commenting!! :)

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  9. Good post! I've discovered, over the years, that I pay less and less attention to language in books and movies, which bothers me. I try to pay conscious attention, and knowing I'm going to review a book or movie will help me pay more attention to language, but I fear I've become somewhat desensitized. (Hearing a real person in real life swear still shocks me, though.) So good for you for stopping with what makes you uncomfortable!

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    1. Thank you! My mom has always warned me against becoming desensitized to language and such. Yes, hearing a person swear in real life is quite...unsettling. haha Thanks for the encouragement! I really appreciate everyone's supportive comments. :)

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  10. Good for you, putting your opinion out there on a popular book even if you weren't sure how it would be received! I had the same problem--I ended up never trying the book at all due to the language. Too bad, but at least there will always be something else to read. :)

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    1. Thanks, Quinlyn! I appreciate your comment. Yes, that's exactly what I thought-there's still plenty of amazing and epic books out
      there so I suppose missing this one won't hurt. :)

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  11. Dear Natalie,
    So this is a very delayed comment, but I did want to say something. :) When you posted this, I didn't comment simply because I had not read it or seen it, nor knew much about it. However, after hearing lots of positive remarks I thought I'd TRY it (showing my parents first, though) so I put it on my to-read list. Only 1 week ago I was able to get it out of the library and handed it over to my Mummy for her to check. At least if she said no, I knew she would have a perfectly good reason. And she did. She said the storyline was very sad and seemed a bit hopeless (as they weren't Christians, they basically had no hope in life!) and left you feeling rather 'down.' She would have let me still read it if it was just that, but she also disliked the language. I was a little disappointed I must admit, (although I suspected that she'd say no) and I still wish I could read about that story (without the swearing). Maybe I'll try the movie someday. But you are not the only one who had to stop reading it, as much as you would have liked to continue. :) I happen to be writing about a World War 2 story in Germany, so I'll just make mine what I wish some of that book was (even though I don't know the story line very well). For now, I am, literally, re-reading Little Women, and enjoying the clean classics (I've only ever read books that infrequently have the d-world, such as Dickens) instead. Anyway, I'm glad you posted this. It's always nice to know there are other people like yourself. :)
    ~Miss Meg March

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    1. Miss Meg March,
      Thank you so much for the comment! I love late comments. :)
      Awww, I'm so glad you can relate too! Yes, the story is rather sad and hopeless. I ended up watching the movie, and while it was soooo much cleaner than the book, it didn't become my favorite story or anything. Comparing it to the little that I DID read of the book, I thought the book was "better" story-wise that the movie, but I don't feel like I've "missed" anything by not reading the book. So, hopefully you feel the same. :)
      Oh! Your book sounds so good! I love WW2 stories. :) It's one of my favorite time periods. I love that The Book Thief inspired you to write your own (clean) story set in the same time and place! Good luck with it! :)
      Ah, yes, aren't clean classics the best? I am the same-I can't think of many books I've read that go beyond the d-word or such.
      Thank you for your sweet comment!!

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  12. I am so glad to hear your point of view on this! My experience with the Book Thief sounds a lot like yours. I started listening to the audio book and loved it. I love the author's style and I really wanted to find out what happens to all of the characters. I too looked past some of the swearing...even the "Jesus Mary and Joseph's." Then the blaspheming got worse to the point of being intolerable and I stopped listening. I was really sad to not finish this book but I couldn't take the disrespect directed at my Savior. I am hoping the movie is better so I can at least find out what happens in the rest of the story.

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    1. Thank you, Anonymous! I agree. Some content I can tolerate to a degree, but blaspheming our Lord and Savior makes me really uncomfortable and sad.
      The movie is much much better! None of the problems I ran into with the book were there, except for very mild language like the d-word. I'd definitely recommend it if you still want to find out what the story is about.

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  13. I'm so sorry for the late response to your post but I had to say something. Trust me when I say that you didnt miss much by electing to not read TBT. I thought the language was appalling, especially with this being a YA book. I am a middle school English teacher and reading TBT is part of our curriculum. However because of the language, I refuse to read it with my classes. Right now I am battling with my Department Supervisor about picking another historical fiction novel and I am not winning the battle. If I read this book out loud with my students, I am afraid they will start using these words. Because if we can read it in class, then why couldnt they start using those words? That is what I am afraid my students will start thinking. I am not a religious person but I respect 100% where you are coming from and your convictions. What I dont appreciate in TBT is how the girls and women are spoken to. Calling a girl a sl*t or a wh**e is not okay. I do not want my boys to start emulating this bad behavior. I understand that might be how they spoke to females during this time period, but that doesnt mean I have to let it continue in my classroom.
    Just voicing my opinion.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Anonymous! I don't mind at all; comments on old posts are fun. :D

      Wow! I certainly applaud you for standing up for your convictions. I know being a teacher (or even a student, for that matter) in the public school system can be really difficult. It takes a lot of courage to go against the system. Good for you!!

      I agree. Personally I think blasphemy is wrong, no matter what the age level. But strong language in a YA or children's book (despite how historically accurate it may be) is definitely unnecessary and harmful. And language of any kind in a children's book is just uncalled for.

      I really hope you are able to persuade your supervisor to allow a different book! There are certainly plenty of very well-written and accurate historical novels that don't contain any language.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts; I enjoyed hearing your opinion. :)

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I love comments as much as I love hot tea and a good book.....well, nearly, anyway!
Please keep your words kind and edifying.