The Books that Shaped his Life
A brilliant and deeply resonant exploration of Hitler’s reading habits; a unique exploration of his life; and a landmark in the study of the Third Reich.
He was, of course, a man better known for burning books than collecting them and yet by the time he died, aged 56, Adolf Hitler owned an estimated 16,000 volumes – the works of historians, philosophers, poets, playwrights and novelists. A passionate reader, his worldview was largely formed by the books he read.
For more than fifty years the remnants of Hitler’s private library occupied shelf-space in climate-controlled obscurity in the rare book division of the Library of Congress in Washington. Timothy Ryback is the first to systematically explore this remarkable collection, as well as several other caches which he subsequently discovered in Europe and elsewhere.
The volumes in Hitler’s library are fascinating in themselves but it is the marginalia – the comments, the exclamation marks, the questions and underlinings – even the dirty thumbprints on the pages of a book he read in the trenches of the First World War – which are so revealing. Together they take us closer to the man and his thinking than ever seemed possible.
Hitler’s Private Library provides us with a remarkable view of Hitler’s evolution – and unparalleled insights into his emotional and intellectual world. Utterly compelling, it is also a landmark in our understanding of the Third Reich.
“Elegantly written, meticulously researched, fascinating”
“Lively and entertaining survey of the dictator's reading ... a wealth of fascinating detail”
Richard Overy, Sunday Telegraph
Clive Sinclair, Book of the Week, Independent
“Ryback has made an original and interesting contribution to the study of this monster, not least by showing that, in some respects, he was just like many of the rest of us”
Simon Heffer, Daily Telegraph
“Ryback's...volume is unique in its focus on a limited number of books and in the forensic attention he lavishes on them”
Bertrand Benoit, Financial Times Review
“the nicely observed snapshots of his private life in which books played so big a part make this biblio-biography far more interesting than it looked when I first picked it up”
Peter Lewis, The Oldie
“Ryback has been able to draw a portrait of Hilter the reader, meticulous, critical and compulsive.”
Alberto Manguel, Spectator
“A fine analysis of the reading habits of a man whom the historian Ian Kershaw has called 'one of the most impenetrable personalities of modern history”
Sunday Telegraph Magazine
“A fascinating exercise in historical deconstruction”
Simon Shaw, Mail on Sunday
“Thoughtful and oddly intimate book”
Mark Mazower, The Guardian
“Ryback has created an intelligent companion to the countless existing biographies of Hitler”
George Pendles, Financial Times, History books of the year
“This fascinating study offers a chilling insight into the mind that conceived such unspeakable horrors.”
Brian Maye, Irish Times