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The Reader

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  132,314 Ratings  ·  7,980 Reviews
Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany.

When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she
...more
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published June 26th 1997 by Pantheon (first published 1995)
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Erin ☕ *Proud Book Hoarder* I took it to mean there are situations you shouldn't involve yourself in, unless you are forced to (because of a hefty price like protecting your life…moreI took it to mean there are situations you shouldn't involve yourself in, unless you are forced to (because of a hefty price like protecting your life and self-defense.)(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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karen
booring. is that a review?? this was just very flat to me. i wasn't offended by the subject matter - i could care less about the "scandalous" elements. but the writing was so clinical and thin. at one point, i blamed the translation, but c'mon - its not that hard to translate german to english (i can't do it, of course, but it's supposed to be one of the easiest translations) i have nothing helpful to say about this except i was bored bored bored. the characters were unappealing, the "twists" we ...more
Whitney Atkinson
Sep 05, 2016 Whitney Atkinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
This is the deep character development and type of writing that i've been craving. A book that made me think and ask so many questions. Sometimes I felt like I was struggling through really heavy writing, but the actual story itself and the moral questions that arise from its telling were really, really interesting and I surprised myself with how much I found myself contemplating this novel. Someone told me there's a movie with Kate Winslet and she is my actual wife so i'm gonna go track that do ...more
Emily May
I'm not really sure why this book is considered one of the best books of all time and managed to make into the big 1001 list. Most of the time, even if I don't like a book, I tend to understand why someone else picked it. In this case, I'm rather clueless. Is it, perhaps, that people see in it some message about humanity when Hanna won't purchase her freedom with the secret she has kept hidden for years? Is it the vivid sexual tale of a teenage boy with an older woman? Are we supposed to be shoc ...more
Lavinia
Feb 01, 2009 Lavinia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, fiction
I have the feeling there's more than one way of looking at this book. On one hand it can be viewed as a bildungsroman, it follows Michael Berg since the age of 15 till full maturity. On the other hand, it's the post-war German generation coming to terms with their past, the Nazi crimes and their parents' guilt. Guilt, actually, is a recurring theme in the novel: Hanna is guilty of war crimes, Michael is guilty for betrayal (plus he feels guilty for having loved Hanna and asks himself if that mak ...more
Apokripos
There are some books you know will stay with you forever, and Bernhard Schlink's The Reader is definitely one of them. It has been highly critically acclaimed, winning the Boston Book Review's Fisk Fiction Prize, and it deserves all the praise it has received.

The Holocaust is a difficult, though much covered, subject matter, and this novel has a sure touch and an appealing lack of judgment with it. The story begins in the world of almost-childhood of fifteen-year-old Michael Berg, recovering fr
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Jennifer
Mar 28, 2008 Jennifer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book just fell short with me, on oh so many levels. One thing that did intrigue me and that I have not yet seen much of is the perspective of Germans after the Holocaust and their views on the Third Reich and Hitler's agenda, especially of the younger generation of that time. That was really the only thing that struck me about this book. The rest was just not enough. For one, the affair between MIchael and Hanna was deplorable. Is it supposed to not be as bothersome because it is an older w ...more
Britany
Aug 15, 2015 Britany rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, books-to-film
An Intensely powerful story and I'm still thinking "What do I do with this one??"

15 year old Michael Berg becomes sick and suddenly meets Hanna Schmitz, a much older woman who lives in his neighborhood. She helps him and they begin a relationship. He reads to her, and the intimacy is so strong that I'm not even sure how I should feel about it. It feels real and raw, and dripping in lust, while at the same time, it feels wrong, and I'm left feeling something hollow and wondering if the moral que
...more
Matt
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it did not like it
It's too simple to say I read any single book because I want to read it. There are dozens of reasons I'll pick up a particular title: I like the author; I like the subject matter; the book is an award winner; the book comes with many trusted recommendations; I was supposed to read the book in high school and I feel guilty because I played Goldeneye on my N64 instead. I will freely admit that I read War and Peace simply to say I read War and Peace. I'd take it to the cafeteria every day and let p ...more
Stewart
Dec 04, 2008 Stewart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whenever a film is coming out that is based on an acclaimed book, I try to read the book first (knowing that the reverse order almost never happens for me). The Reader is the latest such circumstance, and I'm glad I made the time for this quick read. The book centers on the reflections of a man who, as a teenager in post WW-II Germany, had a passionate love affair with a reticent and mysterious older woman. Mere months later, she disappears from his life. The rest of the book explains why, and t ...more
Arun Divakar
Apr 01, 2012 Arun Divakar rated it really liked it
The concept of love never ceases to amaze. From the cradle to the grave, a human being is guided,driven, motivated or annihilated because of it. Even when the presence of this feeling is what makes life tick for all humanity, we tend to call the romantic variant as 'falling in' love. This has always seemed ironical to me for if this feeling was as spiritually uplifting as it is believed to be, why don't we call it 'rising in' love ?

Ah ! But I digress from the point here ! This book is fuelled by
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Cristiana de Sousa
Apr 29, 2016 Cristiana de Sousa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Já se passaram vários dias desde que li esta estória, mas parece que continuo com dificuldade em exprimir os meus sentimentos. Lembro-me que ha vários anos atras tinha visto alguns pedaços do filme e fiquei bastante emocionada com a estória. Então quando decidi ler o livro já tinha uma vaga ideia que iria marcar-me profundamente. Adorei o ambiente da estória; a escrita do autor toca-nos profundamente e as personagens são soberbas. A Hanna e o Michael vão permanecer comigo durante vários anos, te ...more
Miguel
Nov 24, 2014 Miguel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
O romance libidinoso, lascivo e improvável entre Michael Berg, de 15 anos, e Hannah, de 36 anos, dá azo a uma tese e a uma reflexão intensa acerca da mentalidade alemã, estigmatizada pelo holocausto.

Em abono da verdade, o holocausto, nos dias que correm, é tão popularizado e vulgarizado que os traços trágicos e sinistros que o qualificam desagregam-se da verdade e instalam-se na imaginação. São tantos os livros que abordam o assunto que o clima da calamidade, intencionalmente provocada por xenóf
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Friederike Knabe
Oct 02, 2012 Friederike Knabe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: german-lit
The topic of the Holocaust is raised almost every day in some manner. Many books have been written about the topic. Whether in studies, documentaries or fictional accounts, finger-pointing at the perpetrators of the crimes against millions has been part of the process of coming to terms with the Nazi atrocities. For Imre Kertesz, renowned author and Nobel laureate of 2002, there is no other topic. Yet, when he reflects on the traumatic impact of Auschwitz, "he dwells on the vitality and creativi ...more
Becky
When I first saw this book at the thrift-store months ago, I thought to myself that it had to be amazing. The cover image intrigued me, I'm interested in reading books that pertain to the Holocaust, and at only 218 pages, it's short so I felt sure that it would pack a punch.

The first part interested me, due to the fact that I felt the book was leading up to something really dramatic and exciting, but I never felt that spark that makes a book great. Everything felt a bit rushed, and matter-of-fa
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Priscila Jordão
Dec 09, 2013 Priscila Jordão rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: alemã, favorites
If Hanna’s illiteracy was used by the author as a metaphor to portray the ignorance that allowed an entire generation to perpetrate, or, at least, to comply with the crimes of WWII? I’m not so sure about it. After all, the germans were not more ignorant than other people at the time. Far from it.

My hypothesis is that Hanna’s illiteracy represents the inability of reading behind daily events and interpreting their possible consequences, which may sometimes be catastrophic.

For Hanna, there was n
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Aubrey
This is a curious book, curious in its effect on people. The large age difference between the lovers brings to mind Lolita; it's astonishing how much the choice of the genders of the old and the young affects the reputation of the two books. People are much more likely to forgive Hanna than Humbert, although Hanna's statutory rape receives much more (straightforward) description(view spoiler). Although it's true that Hanna didn't kidnap her youngling. B ...more
Chloe
This is not a book that I wanted to read. So many times while reading books about the Holocaust, I feel a disconnectedness from the events. It's a mixture of two things. The first is that the sheer scope of events is just too large, too horrific, for one person's words to do justice to it. The second, and this could partly be due to the first problem, is that I detest being manipulated by my books. With a lot of Holocaust literature the villains are stock characters; the malevolent Colonel with ...more
Susan
I'll start my review by telling you that I have not seen the movie based on this book - I thought I wanted to, but now I don't really see the appeal.

15 year-old Michael Berg becomes ill on his way home from school one day and is rescued by Hanna Schmitz, a streetcar conductor more than twice his age. When he is well again, he seeks out Frau Schmitz and becomes her lover. Michael eventually spends more time with friends from school and feels as if he is betraying his relationship with Hanna, and
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Chrissie
ETA: I am a bit of a perfectionist. I wanted to make sure I hadn't missed some detail, so I listened to parts two and three again. It was not boring listening a second time; the writing is beautiful and there is so much to ponder. It is about the holocaust so do not expect an easy, light read! It is about second generation Germans and how they view their parents and their actions during the war. This is done with both honesty and humility; it is an important issue to address. The central topic r ...more
Vimal Thiagarajan
Aside from throwing light on lesser known post-war ramifications of the Nazi regime, this short, compact book surprised me with the number of moral, ethical and behavioral conundrums that it posed. These conundrums, if explored do not lead to answers but might lead to a sense of improved understanding - an understanding that is not limited to Nazi crimes, but can be applied to a whole host of mass crimes and post-war genocides where exploration isn't even an option. Bernhard Schlink's prose is s ...more
Lau
Aug 15, 2016 Lau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lau by: Oprah's Book Club
«Quería tener sitio en mi interior para ambas cosas: la comprensión y la condena. Pero las dos cosas al mismo tiempo no podían ser.»

Es muy interesante este libro. Está ambientado en Alemania, pocos años después del fin de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y tiene un ritmo que va variando durante las tres partes en las que está dividido. Si bien al principio puede no parecer más que una historia juvenil de descubrimiento sexual, al ir transcurriendo el tiempo dentro de la vida del protagonista y narrad
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Janie Johnson
Jul 14, 2016 Janie Johnson rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
I decided to pick this book up and read it simply because I had heard some pretty decent things about it, so I looked forward to getting into it. It took me quite some time to get through and even had to put it down for a time because it made me a little slumpy.

Synopsis
When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law
...more
Vanessa
Apr 13, 2015 Vanessa rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-tbr
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink is a sparsely written novel that still has great storytelling power. I haven't read a lot of Holocaust fiction, although it is an area that I am (perhaps morbidly) interested in, so of course this book appealed. I had previously seen the film, but it was several years ago so my memory of certain plot points was a little fuzzy. However, this book is so brilliantly told and paced that I was immediately brought back into the world and time period.

The book is a parable
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Sara
Mar 13, 2016 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. This is the story of a man who is remembering back to when he was 15 years old - he was a teenager in Germany and he had an affair with an older woman. He remembers many years later when she was put on trial for murder and he realized she was hiding a secret that she thought was shameful.

The story is very introspective and mainly seems to be in his head - everything he thinks and feels and doesn't feel. Perhaps the phrase "doesn't feel" applies to much of this as he explains his
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Erin ☕ *Proud Book Hoarder*

“There's no need to talk about it, because the truth of what one says lies in what one does.”

Another excellent book from Oprah's Book Club!

What stands out the most about this book is the beautifully poetic, somewhat haunting, clearly passionately felt writing style. The writer uses short chapters and the tone never alters, following the reader through the pages, heavy on reminiscing about the past, memories, and sometimes veering off into an almost dreamy viewpoint as the scenes take place. A w
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Michael
The Reader tells the story of the teenage years of Michael Berg while recovering from hepatitis and his passionate affair with a mysterious woman twice his age. Later going on to study law and discovering that this woman was involved in the death march from Auschwitz. The book continues on through the war crimes trial and the relationship between the two after her imprisonment.

Bernhard Schlink was born in 1944 (one year before the war ending), studied law then became a professor of public law an
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Traveller
This is a complex book which touches on many thought-provoking issues. It disturbed and moved me on many levels.
Moses Kilolo
Aug 08, 2013 Moses Kilolo rated it really liked it
Every book is different in its own way. Sometimes it depends on who is reading it, and to what extend they can identify with it. This is one of those books that spoke to me. It has a strange way of making me see a bit of myself, a past unspoken (and not really to be spoken of) experience.

A cheeky boy will read this for its eroticism, especially in the first third of the book. But it goes way beyond that to ask some fundamental moral questions.

The Reader is set in Post War German. A place and ti
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Mary
Dec 04, 2008 Mary rated it really liked it
A fast read. Germany post-WWII when they are just coming to terms with their Nazi past, "the reader", a teenage boy of 15 is awakened sexually by a woman twice his age with a secret past. Besides sex, a large part of their time together is spent with him reading literature to her. After an intense affair she vanishes, leaving him devastated and emotionally numb as he moves through the next few years. In college, he encounters her again as a law student at her trial for war crimes as a Nazi guard ...more
Nyamka Ganni
I'm happy that I read it.
This is kind of book that would never be forgotten. Story is just so good that I'm actually in love with it. While I was reading I tried to understand the actions of Hanna and Michael. At some point Hanna's decisions made me angry and made it difficult to understand her. What would I do if was her?...... though, the period was dark, human emotions were real as it can be .

All I want to say is that The Reader is beautiful and unforgettable book! Definitely one of my all
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Bernhard Schlink is a German jurist and writer. He became a judge at the Constitutional Court of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia in 1988 and has been a professor of public law and the philosophy of law at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany since January 2006.

His career as a writer began with several detective novels with a main character named Selb--a play on the German word for "sel
...more
More about Bernhard Schlink...

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“There's no need to talk about it, because the truth of what one says lies in what one does.” 361 likes
“I'm not frightened. I'm not frightened of anything. The more I suffer, the more I love. Danger will only increase my love. It will sharpen it, forgive its vice. I will be the only angel you need. You will leave life even more beautiful than you entered it. Heaven will take you back and look at you and say: Only one thing can make a soul complete and that thing is love.” 250 likes
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