Stealing is usually thought of as a bad thing, and it is in most circumstances. But in Nazi Germany during World War II, when book burning is the norm, saving a few couldn't be bad. Liesel doesn't steal books as a political protest, though. Each book she steals is either for a specific reason, or it ends up benefiting people more than hurting those from whom she stole.
The first book that she steals is The Gravedigger's Handbook, as it falls from one of the men who dug her brother's final resting place.
"The Book's Meaning: 1. The last time she saw her brother. 2. The last time she saw her mother" (38).
For poor Liesel, this first book is the only remembrance she has of the two most important people in her life before moving to the Hubermanns'. It seems very dark, then, that this is also the book from which she learns to read. Not only does she benefit from learning to read, but it helps her to bond with her new foster father, Hans Hubermann. Without this first act of thievery, Liesel would have had a more difficult time at school, nothing to read or bond over at the Hubermanns', and nothing to help her remember her mother and brother.
The second book she steals is Shoulder Shrug. It doesn't seem like stealing, though, since someone has just tossed it into the city's celebratory bonfire. In that case, it would probably turn into contraband. Yet, it is actually the act of stealing it that later benefits Liesel because the mayor's wife sees her doing it. Liesel goes to collect washing from Frau Hermann and is invited in and introduced into her library of books. This is a perfect answer to Liesel's problem of not having books at home. She is allowed to read in the mayor's library whenever she wants. Had she not stolen that book that night, Mrs. Hermann would not have invited her into her library.
Another good end result from stealing the second book is that it gives Papa the idea to send Hitler's book, Mein Kampf, to Max Vandenburg as a way to protect him while he travels to safety at the Hubermanns'. Death explains as follows:
". . . the act of stealing it triggered the crux of what was to come. It would provide her with a venue for continued book thievery. It would inspire Hans Hubermann to come up with a plan to help the Jewish fist fighter. And it would show me, once again, that one opportunity leads directly to another, just as risk leads to more risk, life to more life, and death to more death" (83).
Finally, the third book Liesel steals is The Whistler from the mayor's library. The benefit of this book is that the book thief uses it to calm people down during air raids. This helps to distract people while they wait for the bombs to finish dropping all around them.
"When she turned to page two, it was Rudy who noticed. He paid direct attention to what Liesel was reading, and he tapped his brother and his sisters, telling them to do the same. Hans Hubermann came closer and called out, and soon, a quietness started bleeding through the crowded basement. By page three, everyone was silent but Liesel" (381).
If Liesel had not stolen this book, she would not have had it in the basement with her neighbors. Then she wouldn't have had the idea to read to everyone in order to calm her nerves and theirs during a very stressful time.