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Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life Paperback – Jan 12 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (Jan. 12 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307455262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307455260
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 2.1 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #354,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Elegantly written, meticulously researched. . . . Thought-provoking. . . . Ryback has produced a valuable short addition to attempts to understand this strange man whose impact on the world was so baleful.”
—Ian Kershaw, The New York Sun

“Fascinating. . . . Thanks to Ryback’s imaginative research . . . we come closer to one of the most elusive men ever to shape world history. . . . His effort is worthwhile: one finishes this short, packed book with a firmer take on the sort of intellectual—or pseudo-intellectual—who persuaded the best-educated nation in Europe to make war on civilization and try to exterminate the Jews.”
The New Republic

“Ryback’s portrait is both original and rewarding. . . . Certain to arouse widespread curiosity.”
New York Review of Books

“Intriguing. . . . [Ryback is] the perfect guide, intelligent, well-informed, and careful.”
The Seattle Times

“Finely written. . . . Unique in its focus. . . . A fresh perspective on a figure who has spawned countless biographies yet remains one of the 20th century’s indecipherable enigmas.”
Financial Times

“Remarkably absorbing. . . . A tantalizing glimpse into Hitler’s creepy little self-improvement program. While being a bookworm may not be a precondition for becoming a mass murderer, it’s certainly no impediment.”
—Jacob Heilbrunn, The New York Times Book Review

“Ryback writes gracefully, and the story he weaves around the books from Hitler’s private library . . . offers fresh perspectives. . . . Deftly, and with an economy of words, he sketches the future dictator’s transition from young volunteer to bitter and hardened soldier.”
Boston Globe

“Crisply written. . . . Thoroughly engrossing. . . . Fascinating—and unnerving.”
The Washington Post Book World

“Irresistible. . . . Approaching Hitler from an unexpected angle, Ryback isn’t adding a gimmicky volume to the vast bibliography: he’s shedding more light on the man than I have found in many full-dress studies.”
—John Wilson, Christianity Today

Hitler’s Private Library provides a warning against the dangers of blind adherence to ideology and the damage that a deal of selective reading can do.”
The Sunday Times (London)

“Ryback neatly weaves together Hitler’s political career with his book-collecting habits. . . . He has done a good job maintaining a balance between dispassionate inquiry and moral revulsion.”
The Economist

“Ryback has penetrated the brutality of the Holocaust and found that its origins are inescapably literary. Hitler’s Private Library is not merely a deft intellectual history of Nazism . . . it charts the way reading can undo all that we expect from it.”

“An absorbing account of a reader who professed to love books but burned them anyway.”

“[A] landmark study in the evolution of the Third Reich.”
Sacramento Book Review

“In Hitler’s Private Library, Ryback turns Hitler’s reading into a way of reading Hitler—his mind, his obsessions, his evolution. It’s an original and provocative work that adds valuable context to the skeletal and mystifying historical record.”
—Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler

Hitler’s Private Library is a meticulously researched and highly original focus on one of history’s most enigmatic figures. Ryback shines his laser-like perceptions into the library and mind of Adolf Hitler in a way no previous book has done. Anyone even vaguely interested in the uses and misuses of ‘a little bit of knowledge’ and ideology will marvel—and shudder—at Ryback’s riveting insights.”
—Steven Bach, author of LENI: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl

“Fascinating. . . . Hitler’s Private Library will appeal to anyone interested in what books mean to us, and is ‘must’ reading for anyone who doubts the power of written words to sway the human imagination toward good or evil.”
Sacramento News & Review (A Best Book of 2008)

About the Author

Timothy W. Ryback is the author of The Last Survivor: Legacies of Dachau, a New York Times Notable Book for 1999. He has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He is cofounder and codirector of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation and lives in Paris with his wife and three children.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Normally one starts to read a book from the front and ends with the last page. I suggest one should read the paragraph on page 239 starting with "We will never know ..." It might explain many of Hitler's ideas.

How many books did Hitler possess in his private library, actually libraries in Munich, Berchtesgaden [Berghof] and Berlin? We won't know the exact numbers. In this well researched and well written book, the reader learns of books which Hitler read [some often], marginalized, used for the foundation of his ideas; we are also informed about Hitler's published books and unpublished manuscripts.

After the war, so the author of this book reports, 3000 books from Hitler's library were discovered in a salt mine near Berchtesgaden. The Library of Congress houses 1200 of those. Thousands more books lie in attics and bookshelves of houses of veterans across the US.

The library of the Reichs Chancellery -- an estimated 10 000 volumes -- were shipped to Moscow and were not seen again until the early 1990s, when these books appeared briefly in a Moscow church, then disappeared once more. How many of these books could also have been of Hitler's private books?

The reader also learns that Hitler loved to read the books of Karl May; this author, known to many youngsters in Germany as a writer of adventure novels who had never visited the US when he wrote his famous books about his North American heroes like Winnetou, Old Shatterhand, etc. Yet Hitler believed these writings reflected the life in North America.

Hitler's Private Library is a well researched nonfictional book and worth to studying.
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Format: Paperback
I was pleasantly dissapointed with this book. Expected scope of curious facts and some insight into Hitler's reading habits. The book goes much further, detailing the spiritual development of this uextraordinary person trough his books. It is really fascinating to discover the enormous, even fatal influence books can exert on human personality.
Very profound and interesting
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Format: Paperback
*This book will allow you to peer somewhat into Hitler's head!
*You'll learn the books he read, those he wrote, those he received as gifts but didn't open, and so on.
*Lots of surprising information, like the heavy influence of some american books on the dictator's mind.
*Truly fascinating.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa35a7e04) out of 5 stars 29 reviews
75 of 75 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa35c3450) out of 5 stars A fascinating read, and not just for Hitler specialists Oct. 26 2008
By spinoza - Published on
Format: Hardcover
How better to understand the mind of a significant historical personality than through his private library! Ryback literally happened upon a large portion of Hitler's library while doing research at the Library of Congress. This is a well written and fascinating approach to the mind that unleashed fascism in what was arguably the most civilized country in the world at the time. Indeed, "Hitler's library" comes across as an oxymoron; we've so demonized Hitler that one would think from Hitler's anti-intellectual reputation there would be little one could say about his reading interests. Ryback's book goes far in dispelling this popular representation. As August Kubizek is quoted as saying, "Books, always more books! I can never remember Adolf without books."

The author brings out a number of nuances in Hitler's mind and personality by looking at what Hitler read. Rather than 'humanizing' Hitler in this manner, Ryback demonstrates how Hitler arose from the same Weimar intellectual milieu as a Thomas Mann or a Heidegger, how a Hitler could occur from the same intellectual crisis that deeply swept through early 20th century Germany. From a study of his library we learn that Hitler highly valued Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, and Shakespeare (even more than Goethe and Schiller!). We also learn, not surprisingly perhaps, that he was intensely interested in religion, the occult, and the nature of divine providence.

After reading Ryback's book, it's hard to believe that, after the dozens and dozens of books written about Hitler, no one has yet taken the time to analyze his library. This is not only a must read for specialists concentrating on WWII, but it is also a valuable and fascinating study for those interested in general European history.
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa35c3390) out of 5 stars Much More than a Listing of Hitler's Books Dec 5 2008
By Ronald H. Clark - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The title of this excellent volume is a bit misleading, since it contains a far richer tapestry of material than merely telling us what books Hitler owned and read. Rather, proceeding chronologically, the author has written a series of interconnected essays which take their theme from various of Hitler's books. And make no mistake about it, as a reading of "Hitler's Table Talk" confirms, the man was a great reader, knocking out in midnight reading sessions as much as a book a night. It seems Hitler was always surrounded by books, whether in Berlin, Munich, his mountain retreat, or at the battlefront.

The book begins with Hitler during the first war and his acquisition of a tourist guide to Berlin, which he employed on several trips to the city while on leave. We learn a bit about what Hitler actually did in the first war and why he was proud of his service. Sometimes, a chapter springs from the dedication in a gift book to Hitler, such as that from his early mentor Dietrich Eckart in the 1920's. This leads to a valuable discussion of Hitler's successful quashing of a competing leader for his party, one Otto Kickel, who had written "Resurgence of the West," and who almost displaced Hitler from party leadership. A third very interesting chapter looks at Hitler's own writings--much more than I was aware of. In addition to "Mein Kampf," there was a second volume devoted to Hitler's view of the future of Germany, a partial volume of war reminiscences, and a third volume of "Main Kampf" devoted to foreign policy issues that resided in a bank vault for decades after the war. The author's discussion of how Hitler wrote, and improved as a published author, is quite helpful.

Other chapters look at Hitler's philosophical reading, including a set of Fichte gifted on him as a peace offering by Leni Riefenstahl (whom the author interviewed), as well as other gifts from Julius Friedrich Lehmann, a successful publisher who was the guru of Nazi biological racism. A chapter is devoted to a "book war" between Nazi theorist Alfred Rosenberg and the Vatican, that raised tensions substantially. Spiritual and occult readings are the focus of another interesting discussion. Two final chapters are particularly instructive: one deals with Hitler's identification with Frederick the Great who came back from terrible defeats to grab victory--Hitler thought he was another Frederick, especially when FDR died; the second traces what happened to Hitler's various collections of books after the war (quite a bunch ended up in the Library of Congress for example). The book contains wonderful illustrations, 16 pages of helpful notes, a solid index, and several valuable appendices. It is a Knopf book, so the quality of the paper and typography make it a pleasure to read. This is one those rare books where the reader receives a far great dividend than might be anticipated from the title.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7ead204) out of 5 stars An unusually valuable contribution Jan. 10 2009
By Frank D - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If one wants to penetrate beyond a plodding rehash of Hitler and his life, this thoughtful book offers an original perspective filled with many genuine nuggets.....

Given what seems an uninspiring title and subject, Ryback has created an entertaining book which is both clever and polished.

Be warned though, the perfunctory and probably - given our age - obligatory censures and condemnations do appear with necessary regularity.

Still, a book of genuine worth and insight. Recommended.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7ead1ec) out of 5 stars You can tell a lot about a person by what he reads. Jan. 4 2010
By Susanna Hutcheson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I maintain that one of the best ways to get inside a person's head is to know what they read. Now, in truth, most of us read things we disagree with as much as things with which we have a great deal of sympathy and agreement. At least, the most intelligent of us. And, I think we can all agree that for all of his horrible deeds and mad mind, Hitler was intelligent.

Timothy Ryback discovered a priceless collection of Hitler's books that ended up in a hard-to-find section of the Library of Congress. Many books were seized by U.S. officers. But The Soviet army took the lion's share of the Hitler books. They were seen once, briefly, then disappeared forever.

The author neatly uses Hitler's reading habits to give us a vivid view and understanding of his political career and how it evolved. The reading must have taught him and encouraged him. For example, he read the anti-Semite work of Henry Ford. The author even tells us about the books he read and wrote in, making copious notes, while he wrote "Mein Kampf".

Ryback has a superb knowledge of German literature. Moreover, he understands the Nazi era politics. This helps make the book especially telling. Hitler was an avid reader who underlined passages that were especially meaningful to him. A cold, vivid example of that is in Paul de Lagarde's "German Essays". Underlined is: "Each and every irksome Jew is a serious affront to the authenticity and veracity of our German identity."

Hitler had a magpie mind, according to the author. He was a speed-reader and searched for especially meaningful passages and information -- information which would be useful to him. Hitler would discard what wasn't useful to him. Ryback says this was the essence of Hitler: "Not a profound, unfathomable distillation of the philosophies of Schopenhauer or Nietzsche, but instead a dime-store theory cobbled together from cheap tendentious paperbacks and esoteric hardcovers, which gave rise to a thin, calculating, bullying mendacity."

I found one item in the book mildly unsettling. Going through a copy of an architectural history of Berlin Hitler bought in 1915, was found, "a wiry inch-long black hair that appears to be from a mustache".

Highly recommended.

- Susanna K. Hutcheson
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3fe22ac) out of 5 stars Interesting--especially on American influences on Hitler. Feb. 10 2010
By Tom Corwin - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having read dozens of books about Hitler, and hundreds on Nazism and WWII I did not expect to learn much new from this little book. Much to my surprise I learned a lot. Especially about American influences on Hitler's thinking. If you've never heard of Madison Grant, you ought to read this book.