City of Thieves

City of Thieves


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 saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.

By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, “City of Thieves” is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.  (Summary and book cover courtesy of


Every time I see an old bookbinding peeling at the library I think of the “library candy” described in “City of Thieves”.  They peeled off the binding glue, boiled it down and reformed it into bars that tasted terrible, but it had protein and protein kept you alive.

This was one of the many vivid descriptions from “City of Thieves” that has stayed with me long after finishing the book. During the Siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Germans encircled the city and waited patiently to starve it out.  The siege lasted 821 days and two million Russian soldiers and civilians perished in the battle for that one city.  To put it in perspective, the United States has only lost about 800k in all wars combined.

This book tells the incredible story about a 17-year-old boy who provides his observations and often-ridiculous situations as he searches for a dozen eggs to save his life.  In this search, Kolya accompanies Lev and teaches him the way of the world.  The story provides an incredibly historical context and a realistic feeling of what it must have been like to live during the siege.  I’d highly recommend this book both for the fantastic story and the insight to the historical situation that is often overlooked when being taught about World War II.

Warning: Contains graphic violence, desperate acts and harsh realities that will haunt you for years after reading the book.

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? People who don’t understand the magnitude of the role Russia had in World War II.