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City of Thieves

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  56,573 ratings  ·  6,662 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
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published May 15th 2008 by Viking Adult (first published May 2008)
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31st out of 1,421 books — 6,823 voters
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Best Historical Fiction
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Doug Bradshaw
Jun 22, 2008 Doug Bradshaw rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Steve Sckenda
“I was built for deprivation.”

“For Mother Russia!” I toast. Gulp. Slam down my vodka. Twenty million Russians sacrificed their lives in World War II, and I do not know the name of a single one of them. I can do nothing but gawk at and salute such heroism and endurance. David Benioff gives us a story about friendship and coming of age in a time of deprivation.

Many of us are interested in dystopias, but City of Thieves is about a real one—the Siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) during World War I
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?


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
Jeffrey Keeten
”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
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
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
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 Librarian
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
"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
"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
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
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.
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Apr 29, 2014 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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 5 of 5 stars
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

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
Will Byrnes
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
Nov 14, 2009 Rose rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rose by: NYTimes best seller list
This book has it all; a perilous quest, a “buddy story”, history, romance, comedy and drama. I looked at it as an anti-war novel. The beauty of youth innocence set against the brutal and gruesome truths about the cost of war.

A reviewer on amazon put it best with this:
“As Americans, we often have a very one-dimensional view of World War II: "we" took out the Nazis and the Japanese. That the Soviet Union -- soon our enemy for the next forty-plus years -- was our ally, and probably had more to do
Jun 21, 2008 Cynthia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in literary fiction, historical fiction, or World War II.
I literally could not put this book down. I started it one night and stayed up much too late to finish it the next. (My poor husband kept asking me to turn off the light, and I kept telling him, "One more page, one more page.") I had almost no knowledge of this period of history, but Benioff brings it to life in a way that's compelling and moving. I never knew what was going to happen next. The characters are unique and richly drawn, full of dark humor and life. In other words, though the book's ...more
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
B the BookAddict
Apr 29, 2014 B the BookAddict rated it 5 of 5 stars
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:

My own advice is I Highly Recommend this superb fiction. 5
From start to finish THIS is a great book!

I just deleted a quote I was going to plug in here because I didn't want to give too much away. You have to read this book. For those who follow my reviews and have been waiting for the "go ahead", "Do it!" This is a book that I could not put down.

My own self assessment has not revealed as of yet why exactly I, within my favorite genre Historical Fiction, have this affinity for the sub genre of WWII. I don't know. But my curiosity has brought me to t
I have never been a World War books fan. tell me about a War book and I’ll start running in opposite direction before you finish your first sentence. So why I read this one? first it is a small book of less than 250 pages and second the blurb for the book was one of a kind for a War book which goes something like this:

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 an
Loved this book. This was a different twist for me on WWII. I had not read anything from the perspective of Russia during this time period. Just when I finish reading a book where Russia was considered the enemy, along comes this book showing the Russian people as victims. Everyone was a victim in this war, no matter who we want to take sides with, because ultimately it's the common people who suffer, who become pawns in a political play for power and dominance.

While this book showed the ugly si
"There are cannibals in every building," said the driver. "Welcome to Leningrad. Now step aside."
If there is a more miserable place in the 20th century than winter 1942 Leningrad apart from Nazi death camps, I am unaware of it. Cut off from the outside world and bombarded by the Germans the citizens of Leningrad (or Piter as the natives call it, short for the city's old name, St. Petersburg) must also endure the world famous Russian winter.
There were two theories on the fat versus the thin.
Mona Temchin
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
Oct 12, 2014 Tania rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tania by: sonja
...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.

3.5 stars. A very sweet, yet harsh coming of age story. I loved all three the main characters, especially Vika - so different than most of the teenage female protagonist we read about these days. The book was also a reminder that humans will always keep on with the business of living no matter what the situation is - so if you're a teen
War is never nice. But some wars seem worse than others. The Siege of Leningrad was one of them. The conditions in the city itself were deplorable. The cold, the hunger, and the desperation of the people marked the attributes of this particular time in history.

The impact of the siege is unveiled as Lev & Kolya go in search of a dozen eggs on orders of the general. We take so much for granted, that it's difficult to conceive that this task is almost impossible and life threatening.

I found t
I was so afraid this book would be unbearably grim. I mean, come on, it's the siege of Leningrad, everyone's starving to death, and it's only 1941--the war will just go on and on. Nazis. Russian winter. Are there any OTHER ingredients for grimness in a book.

But this book strikes the perfect balance of brutality and joy. It's all about Kolya, of course, one of those over-the-top characters who is always doing something nonsensical that works out just fine. I won't say he carries the book, because
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Good story. Kind of clever to have a quest for a dozen eggs lead them on their journey of friendship and danger. The most interesting thing about the book for me was learning about the Siege of Leningrad, which lasted three years. Three years of starvation with no food to be had at any price; corpses everywhere, just left to rot; and brutal cold, with every bit of wood, including the trees, already hacked up and used for heating.

Those who are offended by crassness will probably want to avoid th
Aug 11, 2008 Edan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Edan by: Patrick Brown
Taking this to Kauai...

...This book is incredibly fun to read--at every turn there was something to discover (Will they be killed? What's in that cabin?), and the characters were well-drawn and interesting.

I was going to give this book 4 stars, because it's pleasantly readable, and the prose itself is really nice, but something about it felt, in the end, not real. Maybe a little antiseptic? Not sure--Patrick said it feels like an old movie about the siege of Leningrad, rather than a real story
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Why You Enjoy Reading War Literature? 14 180 Feb 27, 2015 03:10PM  
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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
More about David Benioff...
The 25th Hour The Kite Runner: A Portrait of the Marc Forster Film When the Nines Roll Over and Other Stories 25th Hour [screenplay] City of Thieves: A Novel

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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.” 872 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.” 188 likes
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