Markus Zusak

Australian Writer

Markus Zusak is the youngest of four children and was born in 1975 in Sydney Australia. His parents were emigrants as his mother had migrated from Germany and his father from Austria. It was through his parents that he heard the stories about World War II. Zusak’s father was a house-painter (like Hans Hubermann in the story) and none of his parents spoke English very well, but they made sure their kids did plenty of reading.


Life Facts

  • Markus actually started writing fiction at the age of 16.
  • Zusak is the author of six books: The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, The Book Thief, When Dogs Cry, The Messenger, and Bridge of Clay.
  • Zusak lives in Sydney with his wife and two children.
  • The Book Thief is his best-known work by far and has been translated into more than 30 languages.
  • He worked as a painter, janitor, and English teacher before settling as a professional author.
  • He has published 6 books in total.

Interesting Facts

  • Markus Zusak found difficulty in writing an autobiography because he doesn’t find himself inspiring.
  • He likes surfing and playing soccer in his free time.
  • He is a dog person, though he owns two cats.
  • When he was younger he liked to be called Frank, his middle name, because he didn’t like his first name.
  • He rewrote the first 90 pages of The Book Thief 150-200 times.
  • Amelie, Run Lola Run, and The Big Lebowski are his favorite movies.
  • If he could meet anyone who ever lived it would be Michelangelo.
  • His favorite number is 13.
  • At age 16, The Old Man and the Sea and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape influenced him to be an author.
  • In 2005, he wanted to read 52 books but called it 53 killers.
  • He waited seven years before he could publish his first novel, The Underdog.

Read more interesting facts about Mark Zusak.


Famous Books by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief: This is, without doubt, Zusak’s best and most famous book. It’s a story that recounts the horrors of suffering and death that many people experienced during the Holocaust. It also followed the events that occurred during the second world war and it was all narrated by a character called death. The protagonist was an orphan Liesel Meminger who became fascinated with reading after her foster father taught her, then began stealing books.

The Underdog: This was the first book of Markus Zusak published in 1999. It was published after many initial rejections. The story in the book is told by Cameron Wolfe, the youngest child in the Wolfe family. He is the underdog of the title, and the narrative follows his struggle to define himself within his family and society. The relationship between Cameron and his brother and best friend Ruben was a reflection of his relationship with his own brother.

Fighting Ruben Wolfe: This is Zusak’s second novel and the second book in the trilogy about the Wolfe family. It was published in 2000 as The sequel of the Wolfe family stories. ‘Fighting Ruben Wolfe’ tells of the brothers’ participation in an illegal boxing ring as a means of supporting their family.

When Dogs Cry: This is the final book in the trilogy about the Wolfe family. It was published as Getting the Girl in the United States in 2001 and shows the complications of loss, love, and death.

The Messenger: This is Zusak’s fourth book, and it was published in the United States as I Am the Messenger in 2002. It is a novel about a destitute teenage cab driver Ed, who gets cryptic messages through playing cards that direct him to help strangers in need. In deciphering the clues and completing the tasks, he ultimately discovers his purpose in life.

After the Wolfe Brothers trilogy, Zusak published The Messenger which was distributed as I Am the Messenger in the United States in 2002. It is the story of an average teenager, Ed who works as a cab driver, who receives cryptic messages through playing cards that direct him to help strangers in need. In deciphering the clues and completing the tasks, he ultimately discovers his own purpose in life.


Early Life

Markus Zusak is the youngest of four children and was born in 1975 in Sydney, Australia. His parents were emigrants as his mother had emigrated from Germany and his father from Austria. It was through his parents that he heard the stories about World War II. Zusak’s father was a house-painter just like Hans Hubermann. None of his parents spoke English well, but they made sure their children did plenty of reading. Zusak wanted to be a writer when he was a teenager.

Zusak got various awards for The Book Thief, including the Michael L. Printz Honor and the Kathleen Mitchell Award (Australia). In addition, it was named a Best Book by the School Library Journal and the Young Adult Library Services Association and was the Editors’ Choice in the Kirkus Review and Booklist. Zusak lives in Sydney, Australia, with his family and continues to write fiction.


Literary Career

Markus Zusak became interested in writing when he was a teenager. During his career as a teacher, he started writing during his spare time and thus came about his first book – the Underdog. The novel was rejected by publishers many times, but it was finally published in 1999. This first book is about a young boy Cameron, who was the youngest child in the conventional Wolfe family. He is the underdog of the title, and the story follows his struggle to create a personality for himself within his family and the society at large. The relationship between Cameron and his brother and best friend Ruben was based on his relationship with his own elder brother.

The sequel of the book, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, tells of the brothers’ participation in illegal fighting in order to support their family. The last book in the trilogy, When Dogs Cry was published as Getting the Girl in the United States, studies the difficulties of loss, death, and falling in love.

After the Wolfe brothers trilogy, Zusak published The Messenger which was distributed as I Am the Messenger in the United States in 2002. It is the story of an average teenager, Ed who works as a cab driver, who receives cryptic messages through playing cards that direct him to help strangers in need. In deciphering the clues and completing the tasks, he ultimately discovers his own purpose in life.


Honors, and Legacy

Markus’ books have received wide acclaim and recognition starting from his native Australia and worldwide. His book, The Messenger, received the Michael L. Printz Honor and the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award in Australia and was named a Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year.

Zusak got many awards for The Book Thief, such as the Michael L. Printz Honor and the Kathleen Mitchell Award in Australia. In addition, it was named a Best Book by the School Library Journal and the Young Adult Library Services Association and was the Editors’ Choice in the Kirkus Review and Booklist. Zusak lives in Sydney, Australia, and continues to write fiction.

He received the 2014 Margaret A. Edwards Award in honor of his significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens for the books – The Book Thief, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl, and I Am the Messenger. He also received other honors such as Older Readers Honor Book of the Year, Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA), 2001, for Fighting Ruben Wolfe; Older Readers Honor Book of the Year, CBCA, 2002 and Young Adult Book of the Year, Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, both 2002, for When Dogs Cry; Older Readers Book of the Year, CBCA, and Ethel Turner Prize, New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards, both 2003, for The Messenger.


Influence from Other Writers

Markus Zusak was notably influenced by writers such as Graham Greene, Sylvia Plath, and Morris West.


Literature by Markus Zusak

Explore literature by Markus Zusak below, created by the team at Book Analysis.