Sunday Book Review – On Tyranny – Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Book reviews by D.G. Kaye


These are certainly trying times for many of us politically in many parts of the world, notably, the United States of America.


I came across this book quite by accident while I was reading my morning emails and landing on Amazon to check something else out. This book was only published in March of this year and has already garnered over 430 reviews at the time I purchased it, and still growing, with mostly 5 star reviews.


If you’re at all like me, interested in the state of what’s going on in the world, and what has already been, you may well be interested in this well written, concise recounting about how fascism, communism, and nazism governments seemingly came to be and the potential for any of them to rise again.


The Blurb:

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism.  Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.


About the Author


Timothy Snyder is the Levin Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. Snyder is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.

A few Editorial Reviews:


“Easily the most compelling volume among the early resistance literature. . . . A slim book that fits alongside your pocket Constitution and feels only slightly less vital. . . . Clarifying and unnerving. . . . A memorable work that is grounded in history yet imbued with the fierce urgency of what now.” —Carlos Lozada, The Washington Post

“Snyder knows this subject cold. . . . It is impossible to read aphorisms like ‘post-truth is pre-fascism’ and not feel a small child about the current state of the Republic. . . . Approach this short book the same you would a medical pamphlet warning about an infectious disease. Read it carefully and be on the lookout for symptoms.” —Daniel W. Drezner, The New York Times Book Review

On Tyranny


Get this book on Amazon!

My 5 Star Review:

A Cautionary Tale


History has a tendency to repeat itself, and this book, although small is mighty with researched information by the author, Yale Professor, Timothy Snyder, political historian. In this book, Snyder reminds us about how easily threats to democracy can turn into an authoritarian and dictatorship government, using the Hitler and Stalin regimes to demonstrate how societies fall into fake promises of something better.

Snyder reminds that often democracy is taken for granted – a relaxed type of acceptance believing that we will never go backwards into less modern political times, but due to the current political climate, many of same circumstances of the past have manifested and gather followers and believers which have the potential to lead to diffusing democracy. Often the power of authoritarianism is freely given by surrendering our defenses and being blinded by false hopes and promises.


Snyder cautions:

Don’t look away from what is changing right in front of you

Beware the evils of the past, and stand out – don’t get yourself lost in a crowd as a follower

Abandoning truth is abandoning freedom

Be original, don’t follow the masses

Search for the truth

Creating alternate realities leads to fascism

Protest – be seen and heard – tyrants must feel resistance

It is not patriotic to admire foreign dictators


Regardless of our political preferences in parties, if we value freedom and democracy this book is a compelling read.





39 thoughts on “Sunday Book Review – On Tyranny – Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

  1. That sounds powerful, Debby. Great review and really liked the lines of Snyder’s at the end there. Feels like a book we should all read (as you say, regardless of where we stand politically.) Glad you found it and shared it.


  2. This is definitely a must-read, Deb. Thanks so much for bringing it to our attention. Hopefully ~ given the number of reviews ~ this book will give a lot of people pause and spur many into action. Great post, great review ?


  3. A timely learned book, Debby and many thanks for sharing your excellent review. One of the kind of books I want to read but know in all honesty I probably won’t get round to. I love catching sight of them through reviews like yours. ?


  4. Debby, this does sound like quite the read! It would tell me a lot about world events, I’m sure, that I didn’t already know. And you’re quite right that there is a lot of unrest, especially in the U.S. Thanks for telling us about the quality read!


      1. Good to hear Michelle. Do let me know what your husband thinks about it. 🙂 It’s quite a popular book. Imagine a book getting close to 500 positive reviews in 2 months! 🙂


    1. Thanks so much Michelle. Although that video wouldn’t play for me (I’m guessing because I’m Canadian, lol). But funny enough. I did see Timothy interviewed on TV last week, I think it was on Bill Maher’s show. Fantastic! 🙂


    1. Thank you Balroop for sharing your comment here. And I am glad my review interested you enough to read the book. That’s exactly my one word summation on this book, powerful! ❤


  5. This looks like a very timely book and a great “discovery”, Debby. The author sure has his list of credentials and I like the idea that the book is not too thick, yet to the point, informative and eye-opening. We must not turn our heads to what is happening in the US right now. While I still don’t understand (believe me, I tried hard) how Trump managed to become president, I hope common sense and understanding of the past and the consequences for the future will prevail in every American soon!! This book will help.


    1. Thank you Liesbet. I’m with you on your thoughts. Yes, I think it would benefit many Americans to read this book. 🙂 It’s short and succinct and a great reminder of how fascist, authoritarian and independent governments are so easily formed by people who ‘go with the crowd’.


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