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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  48,772 ratings  ·  6,302 reviews
A historian of fascism offers a guide for surviving and resisting America’s turn towards authoritarianism.

On November 9th, millions of Americans woke up to the impossible: the election of Donald Trump as president. Against all predictions, one of the most-disliked presidential candidates in history had swept the electoral college, elevating a man with open contempt for dem
Paperback, 126 pages
Published March 28th 2017 by Tim Duggan Books (first published February 28th 2017)
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Amy Thompson Yes. I think everyone should read this. We are being pushed one step at a time towards tyranny and everyone needs to realize that it is really happeni…moreYes. I think everyone should read this. We are being pushed one step at a time towards tyranny and everyone needs to realize that it is really happening if we are to have any hope of preventing what is clearly coming our way.(less)
Irma Sturgell Yes. Historical connections throughout to illustrate the author's points. My concern is if it is even still possible to have a discussion of these 20 …moreYes. Historical connections throughout to illustrate the author's points. My concern is if it is even still possible to have a discussion of these 20 lessons in our current climate or, if like climate change, we may be too late. (less)

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Sarah Jessica Parker
Some people say this book should be on your person at all times. It's so worth reading and provokes great conversation. ...more
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
“If young people do not begin to make history, politicians of eternity and inevitability will destroy it. And to make history, they need to know some. This is not the end, but a beginning.”

The closing lines of this extended essay, divided into twenty lessons on history in its relation to current happenings, speak to me on a personal level. That is what I have been thinking about, and working for, as long as I can remember. Learning from the past is not only a widely neglected subject in school
Bill Kerwin
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics

As Duncan Black ("Atrios" at Eschaton) phrased it a few days ago, “I veer from ‘haha Trump's a big dumdum’ to ‘oh shit we're all going to die.’” Is Trump a clown or an autocrat? A buffoon, or a despot-in-training?

I can’t give you a definitive answer, but I am sure of one thing: for those worried about totalitarianism in the good ole USA, historian Timothy Snyder’s little book On Tyrrany is an excellent guide to what to do and what to watch out for.

Snyder is an excellent source for such advice, f
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder is a 2017 Tim Duggan Books publication.

As a Professor of History at Yale University, Professor Snyder uses his expertise to lay out the importance of learning from the mistakes made throughout history, and to warn against a cavalier attitude towards the strength of our own democracy.

The author lists habits we need to develop, and continually practice, in order to protect ourselves and our country, from falling prey to tyra
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a very short, well written, clearly structured, powerful warning and call to action, written shortly after Trump was elected. There are punchy and quotable epithets on every page.

Image: The twenty lessons (chapters)

Snyder is a Yale professor, specialising in 20th century history, including the Holocaust. He looks at the rise of Nazism and, to a lesser extent, Communism, to show parallels with 21st century USA, especially Trump: the tactics of leaders and the response of ordinary people.
Peter Bradley
Please give my review a helpful vote on Amazon -

Post-script: January 20, 2020 - The transition from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration occurred - as I predicted - without the imposition of a dictatorship - as I predicted.

Snyder's book now stands proven by history as an exercise in hysteria.

On the other hand, given the statements by those with power and influence over the new administration about purging, re-education camps and truth comm
History teaches us the tricks of authoritarians. We can’t allow ourselves to fall for them.

(from a recent interview with the author; worth reading!)

Reading this book is imperative. You may not get another chance.

In twenty small lessons Timothy Snyder, history professor at Yale university and specialized in East European history and the holocaust, illustrates how oppressive regimes and authoritarian governments worked in the past and what might be done to avoid and crush them in the present. The
Kevin Kelsey
Probably the most important book you could read this year. Please read it, then give your copy to someone else to read.
Elyse  Walters
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had read Timothy Snyder before. I still remember that even though much of it was challenging to read - much of it gave me chills to. The book I'm speaking about is
"Black Earth":The Holocaust as History and a Warning...published in 2015.

And..... here again, Snyder is giving us a warning...and what's even more scary is some of the things he said in "Black Earth" give me more concern for those chills -- because I never thought those warnings would manifest in our country just two years later.

Dave Schaafsma
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
“History does not repeat, but it does instruct”--Snyder

“I love the poorly educated”--Trump

I carried this little book in my back pocket at the recent Chicago march against the incarceration of children and separation of families policy of the current U. S. administration. It’s a pamphlet written by a Holocaust historian to help us look for and mobilize against fascist tendencies. It contains twenty lessons he has gleaned from his historical study about how a well-educated and highly “developed” s
May 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: on-deck
If this is the response to creeping fascism in America, we are in trouble.

(Note: for suggested alternatives see comment stream below.)

Obviously, Hitler is bad. And some of the advice is unassailable (Contribute to good causes, etc.) But beyond that, the little essays that make up this book seem pretty messy.

-Before Hitler comes to power, it makes sense to stand up, speak out, etc. But after, it's more about getting out or going underground. If the author really believes that Trump is Hitler and
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Ted by: David Rubenstein
If young people do not begin to make history, politicians of eternity and inevitability will destroy it. And to make history, young Americans will have to know some.

"The time is out of joint. O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right."

Thus Hamlet. Yet he concludes,"Nay, come, let's go together."

conclusion of Snyder's Epilogue, "History and Liberty"

NOTE: This is the review which drew me to the book:

For a real time source for the previously unthi
Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University, has written a pamphlet reminiscent of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense which was written in 1776, at America’s beginning. Snyder’s pamphlet contains twenty admonitions for us to consider as we pay attention to the political environment we see right now in the United States. The first sentence of Snyder’s Prologue brings us right back to our founding fathers, the Constitution, and the democratic republic they envisioned.

It’s a small book, the quarter-
Richard Derus
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: borrowed, returned
Rating: 5* of five

Not for its perfection of style but for its perfection of wisdom and its amazing timeliness. As I write this today, 24 March 2018, I saw the face of our future president in Emma Gonzalez as she stood silent, focused, determined, at a march made by young people to demand their lives be protected from ammosexual assholes. She spoke for six minutes and twenty seconds in total, the same amount of time that it took one piece of shit human being to slaughter seventeen of her classmat
J.L.   Sutton
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“The hero of a David Lodge novel says that you don't know, when you make love for the last time, that you are making love for the last time. Voting is like that."

Timothy Snyder on Modern Tyranny

Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century feels unbelievably relevant. Delivered in twenty very short chapters, it's a very quick read that stays with you. While making distinctions between nationalists and patriots, On Tyranny makes clear that democracies are fragile and, like our institutions, need to be d
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a marvelous little book about how to avoid allowing one's homeland to sink into tyranny. The book really does contain twenty short lessons, practical ways to recognize tyranny and ways to fight it. This book was written after Donald Trump was elected president. Timothy Snyder, a celebrated historian, shows how Trump's ascendancy is on a slippery slope toward fascism. Snyder is an expert on the Holocaust, and he shows how the administration's policies are increasingly on a parallel course ...more
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
2019 (almost 2020) update: My sense is that most folks who (bothered to read ... or took seriously ... or, even more so,) appreciated this (to my mind, excellent little) book in 2017 should consider, in anticipation of the of the 2020 election, (pre-ordering or) buying (and sharing) Sarah Kendzior's Hiding in Plain Sight - It's not as succinct or dispassionate as Snyder's book, but ... if you wanted a concise, compelling (and, arguably, scary or dish ...more
Michael Perkins
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
spot on: fascism is already here....


New article by Timothy Snyder...


"The service of a good citizen is never useless: by being heard and seen, by his expression, by his gesture, by his stubbornness and by his very walk, he helps.”

— SENECA: Tranquillity of Mind


I highly recommend this short book to everyone. The author is an expert on Nazi Germany. He susses out social and political traits fro
Jan Rice
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book at bottom is a version of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,
But the times are out of joint, so I forgot--
It didn't all happen at once. The soil was prepared:
In my time and place--maybe every time and place--confusion was sown,
The way to clear thinking not made straight.
Once we knew, though, that everyone in the class should get a valentine card (if anyone did)
And everyone should be invited to the birthday party--
Black, Muslim, the religious in all their denominations
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm going to go a bit against the grain on this one. This book is like the Tuesdays with Morrie version of political activism. Its message boils down to this: Americans are not special; if we don't actively defend our democracy, we can fall into the same trap of authoritarianism that ensnared 20th century Europe (because apparently the lessons we can learn from the 20th century don't include the likes of Pinochet, Castro or the Khmer Rouge). Author Timothy Snyder lists 20 plans of action to "fig ...more
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every reader on our globe and especially every American

With hundreds of reviews* of this little book on Goodreads and 1,800 on Amazon, what can I say that has not already been said before?

Well, first of all, I would like to say: “Thank you, Timothy Snyder, for writing these so very necessary twenty lessons and writing them in an easy-comprehensible way, in a small booklet that can be read in a few hours.”

If I were as filthy rich as You Know Who, I’d buy 100 mio copies of this gem and have them delivered for free to every American household, as these
Michael Ferro
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's sad how timely and necessary this book is, but that's modern America. We live in a broken country gone hog wild on greed. A book like this can help change that. No matter your politics, fascism and authoritarianism arise when we're looking another way, distracted, numb to history. The only way to get out in front of and stop a tyrant is to know what we're looking for. A book like this can save our country and unite us toward a common goal of change, of striving for democracy, and protect us ...more
Montzalee Wittmann
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder is a masterpiece of what is happening now and this was written before the orange tornado. This book was based on past history and what to expect from tyranny...and boy does it match today perfect. This is one book each and every American needs to read. It is a short but power in its message. Wonderful!
Maximilian W.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
Allow me to preface this short review by explaining that I am not a fan of Donald Trump. In fact, quite the contrary: I believe him to be an idiotic buffoon with no idea of what he is doing or the responsibility he has somehow managed to undertake. That does not make me a supporter of Hillary Clinton or even, as America narrowly defines it, a 'liberal'. As such, I have tried to read this book with as much of a free and open mind as possible, untainted by support of Trump or his policies *or* the ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Once an avid user of GR, it’s now been a while – something creeping up on a year. I’ve been reading some, and recently the pace has increased to pre-The-Traumatic-Event levels; in the weeks to come I’ll be hoping to catch up on both writing my own reviews and catching up with what my dear friends here have been up to and reading.

Of all I’ve read recently, I decided to make this one my first review, so as to explain my prolonged absence to those who care to read about it (which I can’t do in the
Bam cooks the books ;-)
I put a hold on this new book from our library system when it first came out in March and just finally got my hands on it. Either it is that popular or there are very few copies in the system. I was getting desperate and on the verge of buying it for myself. Now that I've read it, I definitely will buy it and stick copies in family Christmas stockings--I believe it is THAT important for everyone to read.

Timothy Snyder is a history teacher at Yale, who has written books on the Nazis and the Holo
Settare (on hiatus)
I read this in the right place at the right time.

This was originally a series of Facebook posts that Snyder published every night for 21 nights right before the American 2016 presidential election. It consists of short, conscience, and neatly written lessons on what makes a fascist (or tyrant or dictator), how fascists come to power, and how tyranny is still a threat in modern times to all of us. He makes examples from Nazi Germany (his area of expertise) to make his arguments more understandab
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Though this wasn't exactly groundbreaking, the author succinctly and thoughtfully outlines what it takes not to succumb to tyranny of any kind, how to foster behaviors and values within ourselves and in our environment to protect and educate ourselves. Snyder is a scholar of fascism, and that comes across clearly in his confidence and ability to illustrate a point with poignant examples. This is a very short book, and I would recommend it as a quick read for just about anyone!

Find more reviews a
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Timely read for what is facing the free world in 2017. A Book to show how to be different, read books, find out the truth and don't be a blind follower, because between democracy and tyranny a thin blue line and many are tempted to cross it.

Be smart
Be a rebel
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
“History does not repeat, but it does instruct,” is the opening line of Timothy Snyder’s short work on tyranny. How apt this is and the examples throughout the piece of writing goes on to further explain what the author wishes to convey. Pulling from examples throughout the 20th century, Snyder effectively argues that the situation in America has some loose—perhaps still germinating foreboding—concerns from the rise of authoritarian regimes in history that sat on both sides of the political spec ...more
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Play Book Tag: Tim Snyder is coming to my house!! 20 48 Apr 13, 2017 07:48AM  

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Timothy Snyder is Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, where he was a British Marshall Scholar. He has held fellowships in Paris, Vienna, and Warsaw, and an Academy Scholarship at Harvard.

His most recent book is Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, p

Articles featuring this book

There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
76 likes · 24 comments
“The president is a nationalist, which is not at all the same thing as a patriot. A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best. A nationalist, 'although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge,' wrote Orwell, tends to be 'uninterested in what happens in the real world.' Nationalism is relativist, since the only truth is the resentment we feel when we contemplate others. As the novelist Danilo Kiš put it, nationalism 'has no universal values, aesthetic or ethical.' A patriot, by contrast, wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best selves. A patriot must be concerned with the real world, which is the only place where his country can be loved and sustained. A patriot has universal values, standards by which he judges his nation, always wishing it well—and wishing that it would do better.” 131 likes
“Post-truth is pre-fascism.” 112 likes
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