100 books like Origins of Totalitarianism

By Hannah Arendt,

Here are 100 books that Origins of Totalitarianism fans have personally recommended if you like Origins of Totalitarianism. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice

Michael S. Bryant Author Of Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953

From my list on pondering the worst of the Nazis’ crimes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a life-long interest in genocide dating back to my teenage years, when I read Simon Wiesenthal’s book The Murderers Among Us. Wiesenthal introduced me to the idea that governments sometimes murdered innocent people and could elude justice for their crimes. The question of human evil interacted with my theological interest in the problem of evil generally. Both genocide scholars and theologians were posing similar questions: how could people or God permit the occurrence of wanton evil when it was in their power to avoid it? And what should we do about genocide after it has happened? These questions launched my research into genocide and continue to fuel my study of this topic.

Michael's book list on pondering the worst of the Nazis’ crimes

Michael S. Bryant Why did Michael love this book?

In 2019 I published a review of Mary Fulbrook’s Reckonings in the journal HistoryThe review may have been the most laudatory I’ve written. Fulbrook’s study of the Holocaust and its noxious aftereffects lingers with me today. I’ve come to think of Reckonings as the War and Peace of Holocaust histories. Like Tolstoy’s epic, it paints on a sprawling canvas, exhausting the writer’s palette to portray the Holocaust as a searing multi-generational phenomenon. Reckonings does not approach the Shoah as most writers of the Holocaust do, namely, as a monumental but time-limited event. Fulbrook conceives of the Holocaust as a cancer that blights the victims and their families into the second and third generations. The radioactive fallout of the Shoah continues to the present day, poisoning people’s lives so deeply that no human response is adequate to deal with it. She upholds the tragedy of the Holocaust by refusing…

By Mary Fulbrook,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Reckonings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A single word - Auschwitz - is often used to encapsulate the totality of persecution and suffering involved in what we call the Holocaust. Yet a focus on a single concentration camp - however horrific what happened there, however massively catastrophic its scale - leaves an incomplete story, a truncated history. It cannot fully communicate the myriad ways in which individuals became tangled up on the side of the perpetrators, and obscures the diversity of experiences
among a wide range of victims as they struggled and died, or managed, against all odds, to survive. In the process, we also miss…


Book cover of Hitler: A Biography

Robert Gerwarth Author Of Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich

From my list on Nazi leadership.

Why am I passionate about this?

Robert Gerwarth is a professor of modern history at University College. After completing his DPhil at Oxford, he has held visiting fellowships at Harvard, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and the European University Institute in Florence. He is the author and editor of more than ten books on modern German history, most recently November 1918: The German Revolution.

Robert's book list on Nazi leadership

Robert Gerwarth Why did Robert love this book?

If you only have time to read one book on the Nazi leadership, it should be this one. It is not the lightest of books (and it has two volumes), but it is well worth your time. Adolf Hitler was obviously central to the Nazi dictatorship and the number of books written about him reflects that. There are lots of biographies on Hitler – even a lot of good ones – but Ian Kershaw’s two-volume life of Hitler remains unsurpassed in my view. Kershaw skillfully combines his biography of the dictator with a wider social and political history of the Nazi dictatorship, so readers learn a great deal about both the man at the top of the regime and the ways in which the Third Reich functioned.

By Ian Kershaw,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The Hitler biography of the twenty-first century" (Richard J. Evans), Ian Kershaw's Hitler is a one-volume masterpiece that will become the standard work. From Hitler's origins as a failed artist in fin-de-siecle Vienna to the terrifying last days in his Berlin bunker, Kershaw's richly illustrated biography is a mesmerizing portrait of how Hitler attained, exercised, and retained power. Drawing on previously untapped sources, such as Goebbels's diaries, Kershaw addresses the crucial questions about the unique nature of Nazi radicalism, about the Holocaust, and about the poisoned European world that allowed Hitler to operate so effectively.


Book cover of Heinrich Himmler

Robert Gerwarth Author Of Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich

From my list on Nazi leadership.

Why am I passionate about this?

Robert Gerwarth is a professor of modern history at University College. After completing his DPhil at Oxford, he has held visiting fellowships at Harvard, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and the European University Institute in Florence. He is the author and editor of more than ten books on modern German history, most recently November 1918: The German Revolution.

Robert's book list on Nazi leadership

Robert Gerwarth Why did Robert love this book?

As head of the notorious SS, Himmler’s importance in the Nazi dictatorship was second only to Hitler. He had direct responsibility for the Nazi terror apparatus and was one of the chief architects of the Holocaust. During the Second World War, Himmler also commanded the Waffen-SS and built an economic empire in which concentration camp inmates and other slave labourers were exploited. Peter Longerich is a leading expert on the SS and the Holocaust and he helps us to understand how a seemingly normal, middle-class man from Munich could rise to such heights of power, committing unparalleled crimes along the way.

By Peter Longerich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As head of the SS, chief of police, 'Reichskommissar for the Consolidation of Germanness', and Reich Interior Minister, Heinrich Himmler enjoyed a position of almost unparalleled power and responsibility in Nazi Germany. Perhaps more than any other single Nazi leader aside from Hitler, his name has become a byword for the terror, persecution, and destruction that characterized the Third Reich. His wide-ranging powers meant that he bore equal responsibility for the
repression of the German people on the home front and the atrocities perpetrated by the SS in the East. Yet, in spite of his central role in the crimes…


Book cover of Speer: Hitler's Architect

Robert Gerwarth Author Of Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich

From my list on Nazi leadership.

Why am I passionate about this?

Robert Gerwarth is a professor of modern history at University College. After completing his DPhil at Oxford, he has held visiting fellowships at Harvard, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and the European University Institute in Florence. He is the author and editor of more than ten books on modern German history, most recently November 1918: The German Revolution.

Robert's book list on Nazi leadership

Robert Gerwarth Why did Robert love this book?

Albert Speer is one of the most enigmatic figures within the Nazi leadership. I have always been intrigued by the fact that most biographies of him – including Gitta Sereny’s famous Speer: His Battle with Truth – have been fairly benign in their judgment of Speer’s character and deeds. Although directly responsible for the slave labour programme in the later stages of the war and a member of Hitler’s inner circle until the end in 1945, Hitler’s favourite architect managed to get away with a comparatively light sentence at the Nuremberg Trials, where he admitted partial responsibility. Handsome and well-spoken, Speer was often publicly perceived as one of the “less bad” Nazis. Martin Kitchen’s biography revises that image and convincingly shows the reader how intimately involved Speer was in many of the crimes of the Nazis.

By Martin Kitchen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A new biography of Albert Speer, Hitler's chief architect and trusted confidant, reveals the subject's deeper involvement in Nazi atrocities

"Kitchen, the author of a dozen works on twentieth-century Germany, comprehensively disassembles Speer's alibis and excuses. . . . His mastery of the revisionist evidence against Speer is complete."-John Fund, National Review Online

"Brilliant and devastating. . . . Kitchen lays out a case so airtight that one marvels anew how Speer survived the Nuremberg trials with his neck intact."-Martin Filler, New York Review of Books

In his best-selling autobiography, Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments and chief architect of Nazi…


Book cover of The Russian Tradition

Keir Giles Author Of Moscow Rules: What Drives Russia to Confront the West

From my list on why Russia is the way it is.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professional explainer of Russia. For over 20 years I’ve been studying the country and trying to understand what makes it (and its leaders and people) so intent on attacking those around it and perceived adversaries further afield. That’s never been more important to understand than today when Ukraine and its soldiers are the only thing preventing Russia from once again rampaging across Europe. These books are ones that have helped me understand one part or several parts of the Russia problem, and I think they’ll be helpful for anybody else who wants to, too.

Keir's book list on why Russia is the way it is

Keir Giles Why did Keir love this book?

I found the first 100 pages of this book, covering Russia’s early history, to be the clearest explanation anywhere of how the country has developed – or failed to – the way it has.

It was published in 1974, so the frame of reference is the Soviet Union – but the way Tibor Szamuely drew on Russia’s early history to explain the present day is just as valid for post-Communist Russia. That proves the point: that Russia is condemned by its own history, and no social or political upheaval to date has enabled it to break free from that trap and move forward to be a country that can co-exist with others. 

By Tibor Szamuely,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Russian Tradition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This analysis of Russian history traces the essential features of Revolutionary Russia back to medieval times when authoritarian rule first became a prerequisite of survival and is intended as a contribution to our understanding of the Soviet Union.


Book cover of Vekhi: Landmarks

David Satter Author Of Never Speak to Strangers and Other Writing from Russia and the Soviet Union

From my list on understanding the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Satter is a leading commentator on Russia and the former Soviet Union. He is the author of five books on Russia and the creator of a documentary film on the fall of the Soviet Union. He has been affiliated with the Hudson Institute and the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is presently a member of the academic advisory board of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

David's book list on understanding the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia

David Satter Why did David love this book?

In a vain effort to prevent the disaster they knew was coming, Russia’s leading religious philosophers in 1909 called on the increasingly radical Russian intelligentsia to return to religion as a means of grounding the individual. The philosopher, Nikolai Beryaev wrote that the intelligentsia sought a universal theory but was only ready to accept one that supported their social goals. They, therefore, denied man’s absolute significance. Bogdan Kistyakovsky wrote that the intelligentsia’s attraction to formalism and bureaucracy as well as its faith in the omnipotence of rules contained the seeds of a future police state. The authors of the various essays in this classic book, in fact, foresaw all of the characteristics of the future Soviet police state that arose out of the drive of Russian radicals to create “heaven on earth.”

By Frank Semen, Nikolei Berdiaev, Sergei Bulgakov , Mikhail Gershenson , A.S. Izgoev , Bogdan Kistiakovskii , Petr Struve

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A collection of essays first published in Moscow in 1909. Writing from various points of view, the authors reflect the diverse experiences of Russia's failed 1905 revolution. Condemned by Lenin and rediscoverd by dissidents, this translation has relevance for discussions on contemporary Russia.


Book cover of The Seven Days of Creation

David Satter Author Of Never Speak to Strangers and Other Writing from Russia and the Soviet Union

From my list on understanding the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Satter is a leading commentator on Russia and the former Soviet Union. He is the author of five books on Russia and the creator of a documentary film on the fall of the Soviet Union. He has been affiliated with the Hudson Institute and the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is presently a member of the academic advisory board of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

David's book list on understanding the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia

David Satter Why did David love this book?

In this multi-generational novel, Maximov showed what the Soviet system meant for ordinary people whose speech he had a rare gift for capturing. In his portrait of seven decades of the Lashkov family, he showed how the drive of the communists to control the lives of others on the basis of an ideology whose implications they themselves did not understand tore families apart. Pyotr Lashkov, the patriarch, became totally alienated from his alcoholic anti-communist brother.  Vadim Lashkov, a member of the third generation, is put in a mental hospital. A fellow prisoner advises him: “If ever you think of trying to escape, the search will be thorough, very thorough. And they’ll find you… because you’ve found out a little more than ordinary mortals are supposed to know.”

By Vladimir Maximov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Text: English, Russian (translation)


Book cover of Moscow - 2042

David Satter Author Of Never Speak to Strangers and Other Writing from Russia and the Soviet Union

From my list on understanding the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Satter is a leading commentator on Russia and the former Soviet Union. He is the author of five books on Russia and the creator of a documentary film on the fall of the Soviet Union. He has been affiliated with the Hudson Institute and the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is presently a member of the academic advisory board of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

David's book list on understanding the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia

David Satter Why did David love this book?

Vladimir Voinovich was probably the greatest Russian satirical writer since Gogol. After the fall of the U.S.S.R., he was asked if it was still possible to write satire in Russia. He insisted that it was. “The Soviet Union was a giant mental hospital but it was organized,” he explained. “Now, the inmates have been told that they can do whatever they want. So Russia is funnier than ever.”

In this novel, published in 1986, Voinovich demonstrated his stunning ability to divine the future. He described a new Russian regime dominated by state security and based not on Marxism-Leninism but on the teachings of the Orthodox Church. Like Russia today, the regime of his novel tells its citizens that they are surrounded by “three rings of hostility.” The first is the former Soviet republics; the second, the former Soviet satellites, the third, the West – the former “capitalist enemy.” This makes…

By Vladimir Voinovich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Moscow - 2042 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this satire that pokes fun at the future of communism, socialist life, and the Kremlin, an exiled Soviet writer enters a time warp and lands in Moscow in the year 2042.


Book cover of Swastika Night

Dorian Lynskey Author Of The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984

From my list on totalitarianism not written by George Orwell.

Why am I passionate about this?

In The Ministry of Truth, I wanted to bring together two longstanding interests: dystopian fiction and the history of totalitarianism. Nineteen Eighty-Four is of course a landmark work in both categories. In trying to explain how and why Orwell came to write his masterpiece, and its subsequent influence on fiction and political thought, I read a huge range of books that wrestled with the horrors of Nazism and Stalinism and asked how they were able to hold sway, physically and mentally, over tens of millions of people. Many of them are gripping and valuable but these five in particular make for great companions to 1984.

Dorian's book list on totalitarianism not written by George Orwell

Dorian Lynskey Why did Dorian love this book?

The identity of “Murray Constantine” wasn’t uncovered until the 1980s, long after Burdekin’s death, but only a woman could have created such a persuasive patriarchal dystopia, half a century before The Handmaid’s Tale. Burdekin’s futuristic Nazi empire, a brutally misogynist quasi-religion, is dying slowly from within and an English airman named Alfred has been given explosive proof that Hitler was not in fact a Thor-like deity. Though the plot fizzles out, the ideas are extraordinarily ahead of their time.

By Katharine Burdekin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Published in 1937, twelve years before Orwell's 1984, Swastika Night projects a totally male-controlled fascist world that has eliminated women as we know them. Women are breeders, kept as cattle, while men in this post-Hitlerian world are embittered automatons, fearful of all feelings, having abolished all history, education, creativity, books, and art. The plot centers on a “misfit” who asks, “How could this have happened?”


Book cover of The Thirties

Dorian Lynskey Author Of The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984

From my list on totalitarianism not written by George Orwell.

Why am I passionate about this?

In The Ministry of Truth, I wanted to bring together two longstanding interests: dystopian fiction and the history of totalitarianism. Nineteen Eighty-Four is of course a landmark work in both categories. In trying to explain how and why Orwell came to write his masterpiece, and its subsequent influence on fiction and political thought, I read a huge range of books that wrestled with the horrors of Nazism and Stalinism and asked how they were able to hold sway, physically and mentally, over tens of millions of people. Many of them are gripping and valuable but these five in particular make for great companions to 1984.

Dorian's book list on totalitarianism not written by George Orwell

Dorian Lynskey Why did Dorian love this book?

As The Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, Muggeridge exposed Stalin’s man-made famine in 1933; in the 1940s, he became one of Orwell’s closest friends. In between the two, he conducted this caustic post mortem on a catastrophic decade. Some of it still feels timely, like his observation that a cultural obsession with information perversely incentivises the manipulation and fabrication of data. All of it is deliciously quotable: he compares the human rights activists who whitewashed Stalinism to “vegetarians undertaking a pious pilgrimage to a slaughterhouse because it displayed a notice recommending nut-cutlets.”

By Malcolm Muggeridge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In covering the turbulent 1930s, Muggeridge starts by surveying the events that filled the decade and gave it a special character and closes with a description of the outbreak of World War II. 10 cassettes.


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