How Timothy Snyder’s ON TYRANNY Became a Must-Read Book
This week’s Igloo Book Buzz selection is ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder. Publisher Tim Duggan, who edited ON TYRANNY, says, “Snyder has been making the case for years that the world of the 1930s, especially the world of fascism, is not nearly as far behind us as we’d like to think. There are lots of parallels to today’s world, which are becoming harder and harder to ignore. When he first wrote his ‘Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century’ on Facebook right after the election, it clearly touched a nerve, and readers began asking, then pleading, then practically begging him to turn it into a book. We’re always trying to figure out whether there’s an audience for a new book, but in my experience, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the audience literally come to us first and say ‘Please publish this – we’re dying to read it,’ which is what happened here.”
Timothy Snyder says, “The book is for every American. It starts with our Founding Fathers, and asks us to follow their example in learning from history. What I can add is the historical warnings that came later, those of the dark twentieth century.
“For me this is a sort of homecoming. I’ve spent my adult life learning languages, reading sources, writing about eastern and central Europe. Now I see tendencies I recognize appearing in my own country. And so I have to do something and this book is what I can do. The idea of lessons from history is to give us some place to stand, some leverage, a realization that nothing is entirely new, a program for action. I wrote the book so that Americans could get some distance on themselves, get away from shock and from normalization, and decide for themselves how to preserve democracy.
“The darkness of the twentieth century were the new forms of tyranny: fascism and communism. But we have the wisdom of people who experienced them and resisted. Some of these people were my teachers. The book is meant to put us in touch with people who are wiser than ourselves and who have experienced more.”
Here is a small sampling of what fellow Penguin Random House authors and the media are saying about ON TYRANNY:
“We are rapidly ripening for fascism. This American writer leaves us with no illusions about ourselves.”
—Svetlana Alexievich, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
“Timothy Snyder reasons with unparalleled clarity, throwing the past and future into sharp relief. He has written the rare kind of book that can be read in one sitting but will keep you coming back to help regain your bearings. Put a copy in your pocket and one on your bedside table, and it will help you keep going for the next four years or however long it takes.”
—Masha Gessen, author of THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin and THE BROTHERS: The Road to an American Tragedy
“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