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City of Thieves

4.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  64,177 Ratings  ·  7,255 Reviews
From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour, a captivating novel about war, courage, survival — and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime.

During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at sav
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Hardcover, 258 pages
Published May 15th 2008 by Viking Adult (first published 2008)
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Ren Keller
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Christi Lots of profanity and sexual content although it is not gratuitous, it really fits with the story. I would be more concerned about the violence of…moreLots of profanity and sexual content although it is not gratuitous, it really fits with the story. I would be more concerned about the violence of war. It is awful what people will do to each other.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Doug Bradshaw
Jun 22, 2008 Doug Bradshaw rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Especially men, but women will like it too.
Recommended to Doug by: NY Times, EW
I have read some good fiction lately, but this one is special like "Catcher in the Rye" or "The Curious Incident" or maybe "The Kite Runner". Instead of telling the story, I will make observations as to why I loved it:

1. Many historical fiction novels are written from the perspective of the thinking of the time. Although it is interesting to observe how people think people thought in the past, it can be a little too un-modern and sometimes boring, like reading "Moby Dick" or some other great, b
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Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 03, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
”How could you fear anything more than death?
Everything else offered moments of escape: a paralyzed man could still read Dickens; a man in the grips of dementia might have flashes of the most absurd beauty.”


Lev Beniov wants to live. He may not be clear about anything else, but he knows that to be true. Life becomes more precious when being anywhere, not just in the wrong place, but just existing in space, can turn into a death trap at any moment. When his mother and sister fled the city he decid
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Stephen
in the aftermath of my tryst with this beautiful, intelligent novel, I was hobbled by lancinating pain stemming from a burning, itching question repeatedly sounding off in my head…why didn’t I love this book MORE?

Why?

I love historical fiction, especially tales set in WW the Sequel, and Benioff’s crisp, effortless prose is smart and pleasurable without ever become overly clever or self-indulgent. The plot device of surreal "forced" shopping expedition to track down a dozen eggs against the backdr
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Jen
Mar 07, 2016 Jen rated it it was amazing
This is what happens during war: people will do anything to survive -from murder to stealing, to going on exhaustive food hunts. Absurdly as it sounds, this becomes the cultural norm.

It's the Soviet Union 1942. Tension is thick with famine and war. The Germans are beginning their invasion. Two soviet thieves, Lev and Kolya are captured and thrown into the same cell. However, instead of death, they are given a 4 day reprieve with a mission to find a dozen eggs for a wedding cake for a colonel's d
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Carol
CITY OF THIEVES is a coming-of-age story that centers around one eventful week in 1942 Leningrad and the search for a dozen eggs that will mean freedom for a young Jewish (virgin) teen "thief" and a handsome, over-sexed, funny, talkative Russian "deserter" if they secure their prize.

As the war ensues and their trip unfolds, fighting both hunger and fatigue, the two unlikely partners in crime end up behind enemy lines encountering some despicable horrors and near death experiences while sharing s

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Maciek
Growing up in Poland you couldn't escape but be exposed to Polish war movies and dramas. The war defined this country and its people, with the country being completely destroyed and around 5,6 million people dead; because the Western powers trusted Stalin the country borders also changed, with parts of eastern Poland being ceded to contemporary Ukraine and Lithuania. But the rotten top of the cake came when the country fell under the influence of the USSR, and disappeared behind the Iron Curtain ...more
Jeff
Apr 24, 2015 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s all about the quest.

When I read books, I like to do a little research about the author, time period, the book itself, etc. I was interested to learn that the creator of the video game, The Last of Us, drew inspiration, in part, from this book.

The Last of Us is a game my son keeps begging me to play. It takes place in the near future, has nothing to do with World War II era Leningrad, and from what I’ve watched bears no resemblance to the book.

It’s all about the quest.

In the book, the quest
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Diane S ☔
Apr 17, 2016 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
4+ With this one I feel like I have come inexcusably late to a party, since all my friends on this site have already read and loved this book. And they were all right. This book is special, the characters, Kolya, Lev and Via are now some of my favorites in fiction. The story, loved the way it was laid out, a grandfather telling his story to his grandson, so special. The siege of Leningrad, such a brutal time. Russian citizens with little to eat and yet Kolya provide some much needed levity to th ...more
Ken
Feb 26, 2010 Ken rated it really liked it
You know how annoying it is when a book’s ending is so unrealistic that you say to yourself in disgust, “This would never play out like this in real life!”? It’s happened more than once, right? But a funny thing sometimes happens on the way to the forum. Sometimes your peevishness gets assassinated. Sometimes you’re so damned entertained by a book that you act like a sailor on leave and say, “Ah, what the hell!” Sometimes you’re so amused by the characters that you see that suspension bridge of ...more
Diane
Dec 27, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it
It's a World War II caper, everybody!

I highly enjoyed this novel set during the Siege of Leningrad, even though I had just been complaining to my book club friends that I was sick of reading books set during WWII. I thought I had hit my limit of Nazi-related stories, but I was happy to be proven wrong.

Many of my GR friends have already read this book, but for those who haven't, I will keep this review free from spoilers. The short summary is we meet a young man named Lev, who is starving in Leni
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Eve
Dec 27, 2014 Eve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"There is a place beyond hunger, beyond fatigue, where time no longer seems to move and the body’s misery no longer seems fully your own."


City of Thieves was an amazing book! If I wasn't juggling so many other books, I would have easily finished it in a day or two. The World Wars are definite areas of interest for me, but I am always fascinated by the differing perspectives and experiences of individuals depending what country they lived in. This book explores the 900-day Siege of Leningrad
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Trudi
"I was half asleep but I smiled. In spite of all his irritating qualities, I couldn't help liking a man who despised a fictional character with such passion."

"There isn't any good news. Just because there's bad news doesn't mean there's good news, too."
I loved this book. So much. In fact, I'm in real danger of descending into embarrassing fangirl babble and I really don't want to put you through that. This book deserves so much more than my barely coherent praise I want to heap on top of its
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J. Kent Messum
'City Of Thieves' is a rare book, one that fires on all cylinders and almost never missteps. It's a modern textbook example of how to write a great story.

Stories often have their strengths and their weaknesses when all is said and done. They can rely more on character than plot, or vice versa. A story might be strong, but pacing is a problem. Dialogue might come off unrealistic, although narrative hits the mark. In short, most books are a balancing act. There are things done right, and things t
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Kemper
May 28, 2009 Kemper rated it it was amazing
A terrific book that proves you don't have to write 700 or 800 pages to have real depth. I'm fascinated by how Benioff managed to describe the characters enduring terrible hardship and the worst of one of the most brutal battles in history, but the book doesn't read as grim or overly depressing. That's not to say that there isn't real drama, horror and sadness, but the natural humor of characters keep it from being just another book about the horrors of war.
Buggy
Opening Line:"My grandfather, the knife fighter, killed two Germans before he was eighteen."

I came away from this feeling, very cold, very hungry and with an inexplicable need to make sure my pantry was full. CITY OF THIEVES is a fantastic story; set in 1942 during the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad. It’s a coming of age story filled with adventure, suspense, friendship, romance and tragedy all washed down with (from what I understand) a historically accurate picture of Leningrad during the bl
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Jeannie
Apr 10, 2016 Jeannie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeannie by: Doug Bradshaw
This book made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me feel. It is a book about friendship during the worst of times. It is my favorite book so far this year. The writing is fabulous!

"Firelight shone through the mullioned windows, warm and buttery, spilling onto the snow in front of the house. Black smoke plumed from the chimney, barely visible as a curling smudge against the dark blue sky. It looked like the most inviting house ever built, the country residence of the emperor's favorite general, h
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Lori
Nov 12, 2015 Lori rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Really, really enjoyed this. I'm kind of surprise at how much... the characters are very well developed and so likable. Creating humorous moments during a period in history not regarded as such is a difficult thing for an author to pull off. Benioff does it with such ease and ends up leaving you with a smile on your face. Easy 5 stars read for me.
Will Byrnes
Dec 02, 2014 Will Byrnes rated it liked it
This is a lovely, coming of age novel about a young (17) man in Nazi-besieged St Petersberg, Piter to the locals, who finds himself accompanied by a Soviet army deserter, named Kolya as they try to survive the horrors of war. It is, of course, a bleak landscape, with people driven mad by hunger and desperation, some to the point of cannibalism. What are people capable of? What is our young hero capable of? Can he kill?

I quite enjoyed this book. It was engaging from front to end, with nicely dra
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Melanie
Dec 28, 2015 Melanie rated it really liked it
I could never do this book justice. Highly recommend. This story is set during WWII and tells of the unlikely friendship between a Jewish teenager and young soldier. They are on a mission to find a dozen eggs in order to save their lives. There are many other interesting characters they meet along their journey. The author made me feel like I was treking along with Lev and Kolya through the woods in freezing cold Russia. He also managed to make me smile at the banter between the two guys while t ...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Apr 29, 2014 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cultural: Russia Circa WW2 - good buddy story
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Doug Bradshaw
The 1st third of this book I was forcing myself to keep reading, it’s like this coming of age story on steroids. While I liked Lev immediately I couldn’t relate to Kolya; rather than comic relief I thought his humour just crass, but I kept reading and I was hooked. I think it was the bootless prisoner trudging through the snow with feet turned into blocks of ice when I finally got it…. It’s a horrendous story of unimaginable hardship and the author throws you right in the thick of it. Once I l ...more
Nick Pageant
May 22, 2015 Nick Pageant rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Nick by: Alona
I'm on a run of great books lately and this was no exception.

City of Thieves is set in Russia during WWII. It tells the story of Lev, a boy on his own in the starving city of Leningrad, and Kolya, a young soldier from the Red Army. Both Lev and Kolya are arrested for different reasons and end up in the same prison cell. While they both expect to be executed in the morning, they are instead taken to the home of a top military man and given a task: find one dozen eggs for a wedding cake. If the b
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Mona
Jan 16, 2016 Mona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gripping Tale of Unknown WW II Heroes in Russia

David Benioff, the author of "City of Thieves", is one of those fortunate few who has everything going for him in life. His father headed Goldman Sachs at one time (so presumably he grew up wealthy). He is very handsome and is married to beautiful actress Amanda Peet (and in the photos they look like a happy couple). He is an executive producer and writer for the successful TV show "Game of Thrones".

But none of these things are the reason I read t
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B the BookAddict
Apr 29, 2014 B the BookAddict rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Angela's review
Being a woman, I am not often privy to what goes on inside a young guy's mind - rather, I have to rely on what he tells me. But this novel took me inside a young Russian's mind in Leningrad early 1940s.

I cannot offer my own paltry review when faced with heavyweights like this one; easily one of the best reviews for this novel: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

My own advice is I Highly Recommend this superb fiction. 5
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Viktoria (seelieknight)
“As siege-hardened as I was before my arrest, the truth was that I had no more courage in January than I had in June – contrary to popular belief, the experience of terror does not make you braver. Perhaps, though, it is easier to hide your fear when you’re afraid all the time.”

Unlike anything else I’ve read―within the prologue of this book I just knew that it was going to be a masterpiece. Never mind the fact that this guy is one of the co-writers for the HBO series Game of Thrones (yes, you
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LeeAnne

City of Thieves by David Benioff

Set in the ice cold winter of January 1942 during the brutal Nazi Siege of Leningrad, also known as The Leningrad Blockade and The 900 Day Siege.


Citizens of Leningrad dig for water from a broken main during the winter of 1942

Background on The Siege: Instead of attacking and occupying Leningrad, the Nazis surrounded the city and cut it off from the rest of Russia, leaving the most minimal food and energy supplies for the population trapped inside to live on. The p
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Liz
Apr 04, 2016 Liz rated it it was amazing
If I had to describe this book in two words (because one is never enough), they would be:

1. Brilliant.
2. Extraordinary.

This book hit me on so many different levels that I still can’t believe it’s all the same book. Tension, excitement, heartache and hilarity are all seamlessly wrapped up to create this wonderfully engaging story that I read in just over a day. I might not have put it down at all if not for those pesky life responsibilities getting in the way!

I must first say that these are two o
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David
Feb 07, 2009 David rated it it was ok
A strangely terrible book. I read it from cover to cover, skipping only a few passages, which I almost never do in a book this bad. And there's nothing, on the surface, that is really bad. The plot is compelling, the characters pretty interesting when they're not merely comic book sketches, the atmosphere in a lot of scenes seems just right. The only problem was that I didn't believe a single word of it. People in wartime, in life-or-death situations, simply don't think or feel this way. I could ...more
Angela M
Sep 07, 2013 Angela M rated it really liked it
A harrowing journey of suffering during the Nazi invasion of Leningrad in 1942 is the backdrop of this wonderful story of friendship, heroism, and growing up. Lev is a 17 year old boy is arrested for looting from a dead German paratrooper. In jail, he is paired with Koyla, a Russian army "deserter" and the unlikely duo are offered their freedom if they will bring back one dozen eggs for the Colonel's daughter's wedding cake. They are set free, but will not get back their food ration cards until ...more
Tim The Enchanter
Gavel Award Winner for Best Historical Fiction


Great Story, Unnecessary Content - 3.5 Stars

This really was a very engaging story. I would compare it to the movie, Life is Beautiful. Similar to the film, City of Thieves takes a daunting, depressing and horrid setting and manages to be poignant through humour. Unfortunately, there was content that felt so unnecessary and over the top, that it hurt my rating.

Plot Summary

The story follows Lev, a young, serious Russian Jew and Nikolai the outg
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Liz Janet
Apr 24, 2016 Liz Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
This book is gold, you have Lev Beniov who is just trying to stay alive because of a stupid decision he made at the beginning of the book, and you have Kolya who spends his time either wanting to go number two or wanting to do whatever girl crosses his path.
Also we got phrases like this : “I've always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.” and “Contrary t
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David Benioff worked as a nightclub bouncer in San Francisco, a radio DJ in Wyoming and an English teacher/wrestling coach in Brooklyn before selling his first novel, The 25th Hour, in 2000.

He later wrote the screenplay for Spike Lee’s adaptation of Hour starring Edward Norton and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. In 2005, Viking Press published Benioff’s collection of short stories, When the Nines Roll Ov
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More about David Benioff...

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“I've always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.” 939 likes
“Talent must be a fanatical mistress. She's beautiful; when you're with her, people watch you, they notice. But she bangs on your door at odd hours, and she disappears for long stretches, and she has no patience for the rest of your existence; your wife, your children, your friends. She is the most thrilling evening of your week, but some day she will leave you for good. One night, after she's been gone for years, you will see her on the arm of a younger man, and she will pretend not to recognize you.” 211 likes
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