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City of Thieves

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  111,154 ratings  ·  11,048 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 June 1st 2008 by Viking Books (first published 2008)
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Linda C Haven't read the book yet but sorry, this is a question that simply sets my teeth on edge. If you want your child to be a reader, let them decide what…moreHaven't read the book yet but sorry, this is a question that simply sets my teeth on edge. If you want your child to be a reader, let them decide what they want to read. If you want a TV watcher or video game player, then by all means censor their reading material. A good reader can decide for him or herself, no matter the age.(less)
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Doug Bradshaw
Jun 14, 2008 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
Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 29, 2014 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
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 back
Jul 29, 2014 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
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
May 24, 2009 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.
Feb 10, 2010 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
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful book and why have I not read it before? It reminded me of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas both for its remarkable story and the quality of the writing.

The book is written as a retelling by the author of his Grandfather's early life, more specifically "one week in 1942, the first week of the year, the week he met my grandmother, made his best friend and killed two Germans." During that week the Grandfather, Lev, was just 17 years old and living in Leningrad which was enduring the
Jun 16, 2014 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
David Putnam
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. This is one of very few that when I see it in a thrift store, or a Friends of the Library store, (I haunt these stores on a regular bases, my wife says I have a genuine problem) I buy them. I give the book to friends and fellow lovers of books. Not one has said they didn't love it.
During the battle of Stalingrad in WWII two young adults are captured by their own side and sentenced to death. A Col. in the military, stays the order if the two find some chicken eggs for a cake. It'
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
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Bring back some eggs he said. My daughter needs them for her wedding cake he says....

Sounds simple, right? Except this is wartime and eggs are nowhere to be found. The Nazis have invaded Leningrad and Lev Beniov has been arrested and thrown in a cell with a slightly older and more experienced deserter named Kolya. The men are tasked with finding eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel instead of facing the firing squad.

Thus, begins Lev and Kolya's journey through the rough and extremely dangerous str
Nov 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, read-2014
"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 Lening
Dec 29, 2012 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
Matthew Quann
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthew by: Josh Bragg
I regret not reading David Benioff's superb City of Thieves at an earlier date. I'm hot and cold with WWII stories, which accounts for some of my reluctance in getting this one started. Luckily, my steadfast, book-recommending friend, Josh Bragg, prompted me to pick it off my shelf and give it a read. It is both the most entertaining WWII story I've read in recent years, and the most emotionally hard-hitting. Benioff is able to bring to life his grandfather's story with enough playful fudging of ...more
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Omg. May, 2018 This got nominated AGAIN for one of my book clubs, so yes, I did the audio for the fourth total time through this. If you know anybody who hasn't read this, buy it for them.
When you’ve read a book THREE times, that’s a pretty decent barometer of one’s love level! Im founding a 2nd book club as of next month & wanted to kick it off with an easy read that includes laughter amidst fear, historical curiosities you've never heard of, and dee
"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 i
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

Russia is also the place where a defector and a looter became an unlikely duo on a quest for . . . .

More specifically, this is the story of . . . .

“One week in 1942, the first week of the year, the week he met my grandmother, made his best friend, and killed two Germans.”

If cellmates Lev and Kolya can supply a dozen eggs in time for the Colonel’s wife to bake a cake for their daughter’s wedding they can save their hides.
Mar 03, 2013 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
Chris Horsefield
As a storyteller, Benioff's got the complete package: mastery of setting, pacing, plotting, psychology, and especially dialogue. Here, inspired by his Russian grandfather's murky experiences during the siege of Leningrad during World War II, he creates a captivating story of adventure, hope, survival, and humor in a tautly effective short novel.

The brutal siege setting is quickly established in the opening chapter, and when the corpse of a German pilot lands near his apartment, teenage Lev Beni
Probably the only book I've read in this genre which goes beige and blue instead of all pretentious purple. A penis is a penis and not 'manhood', this sort of writing is a luxury for a book set in WW2 backdrop. I can't think of a single bad thing about City of Thieves. All the literary talks (mostly Russian), cool first-person narration, coming-of-age stuff, Leningrad setting, the characters and everything else makes this a masterpiece; and the fact that David Benioff is the showrunner of Game o ...more
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
Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen)
3 Stars


“Truth might be stranger than fiction, but it needs a better editor. ”

Inspired by David Benioff's grandfather, this story takes place during the Leningrad Blockade, which occurred from 1941 to 1944 and resulted in up to 4,500,000 deaths. In the midst of this, Lev is a Jewish 17-year-old who is arrested for looting a German corpse. The Soviet police pair him with Koyla, a deserter with artistic ambitions and gives them a mission: Find 12 eggs in the desolate, war-torn city.
Andrew Smith
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’d long known of the Siege of Leningrad but I never really knew much about it, so before reading this much praised novel I decided that a little research was prudent. The first thing I learned is that Leningrad (formerly and in the present day known as Saint Petersburg) is largely surrounded by water. This must have aided the prolonged blockade of the city by German and Finnish forces. The siege lasted from September 1941 to January 1944 and it was the aim of the invading armies to force surren ...more
Will Byrnes
Jan 29, 2010 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
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

Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
City of Thieves is a really entertaining book that not only takes into account a period in the Second World War, that has its own defining history, but it concentrates on the relationship that develops between 2 men under these unique circumstances. It is an exhilarating but fearful story where the main 2 protagonists, Lev and Koyla, have been tasked to undertake a mission in war-torn Leningrad which is strangely abstruse. It is Russia, winter, people are starving, freezing, the city is
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5000-books, nov-18
City Of Thieves, by David Benioff, was the perfect mix of sadness and humour in a story set during WWII.
In the dead of winter, during the siege of Leningrad, two young men Kolya and Lev, are pulled out of a Russian jail right before they were sentenced to die. They were ordered by the Commander to acquire two dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. An impossible task! They have no choice but to begin this hazardous journey in search of the unattainable eggs.
In this unexpected adventure they
Jan 16, 2011 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.
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, war, action
“If you want to talk about Leningrad, we talk about Leningrad.”

So begins the story of Lev and Kolya in what I will say is the best book I have read this year. I’ve read a number of books that are in some way related to WWII over the past 12 months. This happened without planning. It’s just that some of the very best books are in this category, so I wanted to read them: Vonnegut, Philip K Dick, Wiesel & Kristin Hannah. Vonnegut wrote a satire based on reality. Dick wrote a science-fiction pie
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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 25th Hour starring Edward Norton and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. In 2005, Viking Press published Benioff’s collection of short stories, When the Nines Ro

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