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Hitler's Private Library: The Books that Shaped his Life [Paperback]

Timothy W. Ryback
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Feb 2010

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.

For the first time, Timothy W. Ryback offers a systematic examination of this remarkable collection. 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.

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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (4 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099532174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099532170
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 193,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Elegantly written, meticulously researched, fascinating" (Ian Kershaw)

"Lively and entertaining survey of the dictator's reading ... a wealth of fascinating detail" (Richard Overy Sunday Telegraph)

"Enlightening" (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)


In Hitler's Private Library Timothy 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stylish, different and well researched 13 Jan 2009
By Frank D
Although modestly titled and averagely sized - only 278 pages - this book is a true trove of unusual information, uncommon insights and original perspectives.
Ryback clearly knows his subject better than most, and the result is a stylish and informative volume.
Of course, it has the usual `censures' - spaced at necessary intervals - which are probably obligatory given the subject and the age we live in.
Don't let this put you off.
One can do a lot worse than this clever, highly polished book that deserves to be in the library of anyone interested in historical enquiry and understanding.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A weirdly compelling book 22 Feb 2010
By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Feels strange to say, given the subject, but there's something beautiful about this book. Timothy Rybrack decided to track down all the volumes now known to have been owned by Hitler, and to read them. The detailed research he undertook produced this amazing book, full of strange insights; like the sudden moment when, sitting in a library, he notices an inch-long straight black moustache hair on a long-unopened page. He captures the physical power of these items, once owned by one of the most significant figures in history. It's incredibly vivid.

But this book is also an intriguing biographical study of Hitler, a man who was obsessively private, through one of the only sources of personal contact we have with the dictator - his marginalia and underlinings within his books. The deeply-graved black lines beside anti-semitic passages trace the growth of his most repulsive and dangerous thoughts; but there's also lots about his reading of german mythology, and whether he actually ever tackled any Schopenhauer. All of which is used to consider Hitler's self-making, his career, and his eventual downfall. A really balanced, thoughtful, calm, sad book. Wonderful reading, too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitlers Library - is Superb 27 Feb 2009
Hitlers Library is superb , it gives a thoughtful insight into a man better known for burning books, I love the elegant style of writing and the authors descriptions of the books are fascinating. Hitlers library contained around sixteen thousand books of all descriptions which are well researched and superbly committed to page by the author . To be honest I would of love to be able to examine some of the volumes for myself.

The book highlights the total enigma of Hitlers character in that he encouraged the burning of so many volumes but found reading for himself and collecting somewhat of a passion. This is one of those odd books on a subject that i found by accident and once i started reading i found i could not put down, I knew nothing of Hitlers reading habits and to be honest did not expect him to be the reading type, but I can honestly say this is one of the more interesting reads i have undertaken this year.

I highly recommend if you fancy something totally different and stimulating.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars its different ! 13 April 2010
I bought this based on the reviews and I have to say its very enjoyable. The early years are the best. Hitler comes across as very human and normal (controversial stuff here I know ). But as you read on you can see how the books influenced him. Its fascinating and I recommend it.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and chilling visit to a library 12 Feb 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am always interested in the way reading affects people, and also in the psychology of the German people in the build-up to the Second World War. Timothy Ryback has studied the remnants of Hitler's private library, some 1200 books, which occupy shelf-space in the rare book division of the Library of Congress in Washington. In his new book, Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life, Ryback describes the original collection of 16,000 books, and how as the sub-title suggests, they "shaped his life".

I am used to hearing how books educate, inform and enlighten and so it was a surprise to read that Adolf Hitler was "possessed by a voracious appetite for reading". From his earliest years after returning from the First World War battle-front in France, Hitler scoured the book-stalls of Munich to fill two book cases in his rented rooms. He read "intently, even fiercely", usually late into the night, and Ryback records an occasion when Eva Braun interrupted a reading session and was "dispatched with a tirade that sent her hurtling red-faced down the hallway".

Associates recalled, "I can never remember Adolf without books", and "books were his world", with reading being a "deadly serious business".

A list exists of Hitler's borrowings from a right-wing lending library in Munich and shows that between 1919 and 1921, he borrowed over a hundred entries ranging from early church history to first-hand accounts of the Russian revolution. The list includes an large number anti-Semitic texts such as "The International Jew - The Worlds Foremost Problem", "Luther and the Jews" and many others.

Timothy Ryback explains that Hitler was never open to alternative views of life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brave and Illuminating Book 1 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Timothy Ryback has tackled a difficult subject with erudition, sensitivity and remarkable imagination. His study liberates us from the overfamiliar journalistic clichés, and shows instead the inner mind of a man whose simmering rage and fury changed the course of world history. Hitler remains less of an enigma after reading this book, together with Lothar Machtan's exemplary exploration of the dictator's long-concealed homosexuality, "The Hidden Hitler". Both chart with an astonishing command of the sources the curious path from obscurity to infamy. If I have one criticism, it is Ryback's evident weakness on certain aspects of Central and East European history. On p. 209 stage Frederick the Great is given nineteenth-century dates (these could be typos and laid at the door of poor copyediting) and the author also underplays the historical complexities of German minorities that found themselves under Polish and Czech rule after 1918. He treats Hitler's attitude to such matters, along with the shameful settlement of the Peace of Versailles, in standard Anglo-Saxon tabloid manner, whereas they were key factors to the build-up to World War II and deserve a proper, judgment that recognizes the mistreatment of German nationals in these areas. But these are quibbles. A first-rate book in almost every single way, extremely readable and highly informative.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
Serious historian work about the books and people influences in the dictators mind and actions.
Clean and light to read.
Published 4 months ago by David Graca
4.0 out of 5 stars The Making of a Führer
Timothy W. Ryback tells us how Adolf Hitler by the time of his suicide at the age of 56 had accumulated a large library with about 16000 items. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Leif Asbjørnsen
5.0 out of 5 stars The melancholy of books
First of all I must say that it is a very well written book. It is very interesting and captivating.

I. Hitler comes out better than I expected. Read more
Published on 8 Jun 2012 by Bogdan Hagiu
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting little book
I have often wondered how an individual like Hitler, with limited formal education leading a fringe party can end up leading a large European nation and casting such a huge shadow... Read more
Published on 7 Dec 2011 by Bacchus
4.0 out of 5 stars hitler
This book rather depicts Hitler as an intellectual super hero and not the psychotic,murdering,Nazi thug that he was. Read more
Published on 19 April 2011 by G. I. Forbes
4.0 out of 5 stars Who would have thought that books could shape the course of history
I've had this book sitting in my pile of books to read for some time now. Somehow, I could never manage to motivate myself enough to pick it up and get stuck in. Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2010 by J. Cooper
4.0 out of 5 stars Hitler's books.
I like this book so much I sent it by amazon uk to a friend in London
I've always thought WWII was the last war fought with honour
Perhaps not by the Japanese but in the... Read more
Published on 7 Jun 2010 by A. Tay
4.0 out of 5 stars Confirmed in his instinctive Guess
I had long ago promised myself that I would never read anything ever again about this horrible man , but I found the new angle presented in Mr Ryback's new book irresistible. Read more
Published on 7 April 2010 by Roderick Blyth
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Interesting Study in How the Books Helped Shape the Man
Ryback has put together an interesting book on what might be deemed, at first glance, an uninteresting subject. Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2009 by Dr. R. Brandon
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