The best about the perils of fascism

Who am I?

I've found the creep of authoritarianism to be very disquieting. One would have to be willfully blind to not see its manifestations both here and abroad. I wanted to better understand how this phenomenon cast its shadow over the world and I found the '33 Chicago World's Fair an ideal lens to view this through. I've been fascinated by world's fairs since I was a child and the '33 Fair was the first to consciously feature the future. I'm also strangely drawn to this period – if I believed in reincarnation it might provide answers, but I don't. The Zeitgeist just before the full, brutal ugliness of fascism broke over the world, fascinates me.


I wrote...

Broken Icarus: The 1933 Chicago World's Fair, the Golden Age of Aviation, and the Rise of Fascism

By David Hanna,

Book cover of Broken Icarus: The 1933 Chicago World's Fair, the Golden Age of Aviation, and the Rise of Fascism

What is my book about?

In Broken Icarus, author David Hanna tracks the inspiring trajectory of aviation leading up to and through the World’s Fair of 1933, as well as the field of flight’s more sinister ties to fascism domestic and abroad to present a unique history that is both riveting and revelatory.

“Interweaving colorful anecdotes and incisive cultural analysis, this entertaining history strikes a cautionary note about the promise and peril of technology.” - review in Publishers Weekly

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

David Hanna Why did I love this book?

The first half of the book is like watching a slow-motion car wreck. There were so many missed opportunities to stop Hitler before he did his worst, I wanted to shout ‘Stop this guy before it’s too late!’ Alas… Shirer was our man in Vienna and Berlin from the late 1920s-early 1940s, which adds an intimacy to his words that I find lacking in other similar accounts.

By William L. Shirer,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was Hitler's boast that the Third Reich would last a thousand years. Instead it lasted only twelve. But into its short life was packed the most cataclysmic series of events that Western civilisation has ever known.

William Shirer is one of the very few historians to have gained full access to the secret German archives which the Allies captured intact. He was also present at the Nuremberg trials.

First published sixty years ago, Shirer's account of the years 1933-45, when the Nazis, under the rule of their despotic leader Adolf Hitler, ruled Germany is held up as a classic…


Book cover of The Plot Against America: A Novel

David Hanna Why did I love this book?

I had this book recommended to me by a student. It’s counter-factual historical fiction, but all too believable. Roth conveys a sense of creeping dread that feels uncomfortably familiar in the 2020s. Charles Lindbergh’s role in the story is central, as his America Firsters take over the Republican Party, and then the country.

By Philip Roth,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Plot Against America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'He captures better than anyone the collision of public and private, the intrusion of history into the skin, the pores of every individual alive' Guardian

'Though on the morning after the election disbelief prevailed, especially among the pollsters, by the next everybody seemed to understand everything...'

When celebrity aviator, Charles A. Lindbergh, wins the 1940 presidential election on the slogan of 'America First', fear invades every Jewish household. Not only has Lindbergh blamed the Jews for pushing America towards war with Germany, he has negotiated an 'understanding' with the Nazis promising peace between the two nations.

Growing up in the…


Book cover of The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s

David Hanna Why did I love this book?

Brendon’s Magnus opus on the 1930s is both comprehensive and full of the telling anecdote. I found this to be one of the most informative, and best written, works of history that I have ever read. I can’t recommend it strongly enough, whether you’re researching this period or just looking for a very good book to read.

By Piers Brendon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dark Valley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 1930s were perhaps the seminal decade in twentieth-century history, a dark time of global depression that displaced millions, paralyzed the liberal democracies, gave rise to totalitarian regimes, and, ultimately, led to the Second World War. In this sweeping history, Piers Brendon brings the tragic, dismal days of the 1930s to life.

From Stalinist pogroms to New Deal programs, Brendon re-creates the full scope of a slow international descent towards war. Offering perfect sketches of the players, riveting descriptions of major events and crises, and telling details from everyday life, he offers both a grand, rousing narrative and an intimate…


Book cover of Bread and Wine

David Hanna Why did I love this book?

This famous novel tells the story from the other side, a socialist on the run, in fascist Italy. Certain unforgettable scenes portray the bullying and humiliation at the core of fascism and its human cost. I first read this in college, then re-read it when I was conducting research on Mussolini’s Italy.

By Ignazio Silone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bread and Wine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bread and Wine is an anti-fascist and anti-Stalinist novel written by Ignazio Silone. It was finished while the author was in exile from Benito Mussolini's Italy. It was first published in 1936 in a German language edition in Switzerland as Brot und Wein, and in an English translation in London later the same year. An Italian version, Pane e vino, did not appear until 1937.


Book cover of Parallel Journeys

David Hanna Why did I love this book?

This is a book written for adolescents that everybody should read. Alfons Heck (a former member of the Hitler Youth) and Helen Waterford (a Holocaust survivor) recount their stories to Ayer. It is Heck, though, who provides crucial insight into how totalitarian leaders gain control of whole generations and use them to achieve their wicked aims – a form of mass child abuse.

By Eleanor H. Ayer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Parallel Journeys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

She was a young German Jew. He was an ardent member of the Hitler Youth. This is the story of their parallel journey through World War II.

Helen Waterford and Alfons Heck were born just a few miles from each other in the German Rhineland. But their lives took radically different courses: Helen’s to the Auschwitz concentration camp; Alfons to a high rank in the Hitler Youth.

While Helen was hiding in Amsterdam, Alfons was a fanatic believer in Hitler’s “master race.” While she was crammed in a cattle car bound for the death camp Auschwitz, he was a teenage…


You might also like...

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

Book cover of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

Ashley Rubin Author Of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

New book alert!

Who am I?

I have been captivated by the study of prisons since my early college years. The fact that prisons are so new in human history still feels mind-blowing to me. I used to think that prisons have just always been around, but when you realize they are actually new, that has major implications. This is nowhere more clear than at the beginning: how hard it was to get to the point where prisons made sense to people, to agree on how prisons should be designed and managed, and to keep on the same path when prisons very quickly started to fail. It’s still puzzling to me.

Ashley's book list on the origins of American prisons

What is my book about?

What were America's first prisons like? How did penal reformers, prison administrators, and politicians deal with the challenges of confining human beings in long-term captivity as punishment--what they saw as a humane intervention?

The Deviant Prison centers on one early prison: Eastern State Penitentiary. Built in Philadelphia, one of the leading cities for penal reform, Eastern ultimately defied national norms and was the subject of intense international criticism.

The Deviant Prison traces the rise and fall of Eastern's unique "Pennsylvania System" of solitary confinement and explores how and why Eastern's administrators kept the system going, despite great personal cost to themselves. Anyone interested in history, prisons, and criminal justice will find something to enjoy in this book.

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

What is this book about?

Early nineteenth-century American prisons followed one of two dominant models: the Auburn system, in which prisoners performed factory-style labor by day and were placed in solitary confinement at night, and the Pennsylvania system, where prisoners faced 24-hour solitary confinement for the duration of their sentences. By the close of the Civil War, the majority of prisons in the United States had adopted the Auburn system - the only exception was Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, making it the subject of much criticism and a fascinating outlier. Using the Eastern State Penitentiary as a case study, The Deviant Prison brings to light…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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