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Hitler Hardcover – March 27, 2012

3.1 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Boston Globe
“Distilling his own career-long study into a tight, rapid-fire volume that is both portrait and warning, Wilson delivers a statement on Hitler that is insightful.”

Wall Street Journal
“Provocative…. Noting how much Hitler depended on his speeches (even ‘Mein Kampf’ was dictated), Mr. Wilson calls him the ‘most hypnotic artist of post-literacy.’ Like today’s radio talk-show ‘entertainers,’ Hitler knew there was something about the spoken word that could galvanize millions. Rather than focus on Hitler’s ideology, the biographer brilliantly singles out his subject’s style of attack.”

“[A] sharply focused capsule biography…. A portrait as disturbing as it is succinct.”

Kirkus Reviews
“[Wilson] provides a useful, even entertaining, life of Hitler. He revisits the expected events—his rise, his incarceration, Mein Kampf, his vicious henchman, his anti-Semitism, his enormous prewar popularity (not just in Germany), his poor military judgment, his women, his fall and death—and adds some nasty details (he couldn’t control his farting; he was lazy and dressed oddly).”

Tucson Citizen
“This well-crafted book cuts to the chase and reveals surprising facts about one of the most reviled figures in history…. A fascinating book that underscores the fact that even in a modern era enamored with progress and rationality, the darkest elements of society can sometimes fester and become the most seductive.”

Express (London)
“Wilson has opted for brevity and sharp metal, skewering and brilliantly dissecting Hitler bare in a book you can almost read in a sitting. Wilson cuts to the dark heart of the matter…. A stimulating triumph of the mind.”

The American Prospect
“A.N. Wilson’s biography provides a succinct, quick-reading introduction to Hitler that deftly manages the essentials, and, in its truly terrifying accomplishment, begins to bring the human being behind the monstrous Führer back to life.”

Mail on Sunday
“[An] entertaining, short biography…. [Wilson] bring[s] a witty, novelist’s insight into what made Hitler tick. He seems to understand Hitler’s character in a way many historians never could.”

Providence Journal
Hitler is a slender but insightful volume about the evil instigator of World War II and the murderer of millions.”

Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War
“In the best short biography of Adolf Hitler for three decades, A. N. Wilson goes straight to the essentials to explain what made the Fuhrer the phenomenon he was. His conclusions make fascinating, if occasionally uncomfortable, reading even two-thirds of a century after Hitler’s death.”

Robert Gellately, author of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe
“A. N. Wilson is a born biographer and has an eye for the telling detail. In a book written with verve, insight, and imagination, he gives us a fresh look at Hitler. The story he tells is bound to interest and surprise even those who think they already know and understand this most curious historical figure, one who against all odds rose to become leader of Germany and then promptly brought about the greatest catastrophe in European history."

About the Author

A.N. Wilson is a renowned British journalist and author.  He is the author of several acclaimed biographies, including Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis, Jesus, and Paul. He taught for seven years at Oxford before becoming a journalist. A frequent contributor to the Daily Mail, the Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, The Spectator, and The Observer, Wilson lives in London.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1St Edition edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465031285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031283
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #866,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having not read much on Hitler, I choose this book as I thought it could provide a good overview of his life and views. The author portrayed Hitler as a small, sniveling and undriven man which he may have been but... it makes me wonder if he had insight into the whole of his character. How could such a man, as described, grip the minds of a nation and gain so much power? I would have liked to have known more about his upbringing and his influences to have a better understanding of his philosophical views.

The author, in my opinion, takes a biased and opinionated approach to his description of Hitler.
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Format: Hardcover
The life of the most reviled man in history is always a tricky subject. Not the perspective (which is universally one of the utmost horror) but the manner of its telling. I think because AN Wilson has written "A Short Biography" of Adolf Hitler, that most will look upon this modest, and yes short, 190-page book as inconsequential as such a study of this person must require far more pages to be worth the reading. After all, how to compress the man who arguably shaped the modern world into its current incarnation, into such a relatively short book compared to say, Ian Kershaw's "Hubris" and "Nemesis" books totalling 2100 pages?

Wilson does this by covering the facts in a swift, concise fashion without too much detail or extensive background minutiae than is absolutely necessary. He doesn't miss out anything important but nor does he go into enormous detail which isn't to say that you come away with an incomplete idea of the man but that this book presents an informative biography of Hitler that will appeal to the non-academic and casual student of history for whom someone like Kershaw is intimidating to pick up.

What's interesting about this biography is that Wilson has a biased opinion of Hitler; like all of us he is disgusted with the Nazi regime and Hitler as a person, but unlike other biographers who adopt a neutral, just-the-facts-stance, Wilson frequently editorialises upon the events of Hitler's life as they unfold. He berates the young Hitler for his foolishness and laziness in squandering his family's money in pursuing a fruitless art career and not attempting any form of work.
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Format: Hardcover
Reading about monsters isn't only for kids. Nevertheless it can be uncomfortable walking about with a tome like "Hitler" or "Stalin" under your arm as you head for the beach. Wilson is a prolific "book-by-the-gross" author and even in this short book several edits should have been made. However, for a quick inciteful study of this strange man and his evil legacy, "Hitler" is a good place to start. One caution, Wilson has an obvious antipathy for the Catholic Church. Be wary as he compares Nuremburg rallies with Lourdes processions and finds the genisis of Dachau in the Gospels. This ludicrous axe won't grind. That being said - recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
It should be said right away that I am not the target audience of this book. As a long-time enthusiastic amateur student of World War II, Nazi Germany, and Hitler, I did not expect to find much (if anything) new here, and indeed I did not. Even so, I picked up Wilson's writing to see how it compares to other pop-history Hitler books. Generally speaking, I was unfavorably impressed.

In Wilson's tightly allotted space, there can of course be no question of a rich, nuanced or detailed portrayal of the subject's life. What is retold is the bare bones of the facts and a highly distilled essence of scholarly interpretations, along with occasional more substantial authorial comments. None of it is very impressive; little of the analysis is penetrating, and there are a number of notable errors to be found. There is also a clear undertone of the demonization of Hitler which is common to all too many of his biographers. Certainly it is entirely understandable (to say the least) if people dislike Hitler and the values he represented, but holding him up as incomprehensible or an exemplar of evil does not further our understanding of the man or the movement he created.

Wilson's bias is of a somewhat subtle kind, which results in a slanted reading of his sources rather than any more serious distortion. To his credit, for example, he does not endorse the wholly unsubstantiated, sometimes also provably erroneous claims that Hitler was a homosexual, a syphilitic, maimed in the genitals, etcetera; these seem to have mostly migrated out of the "serious" biographies these days (although they remain alive and well in television and other more sensationalist media).
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Format: Hardcover
This book is aimed, I'm sure, at people like me - someone who knew nothing about Hitler's private life, wanted to learn quickly and not have to delve through a 600 page biography. I wanted the outline, the sketch. I learned that Hitler never worked, that after his parents died when he was a teenager and he gradually squandered his inheritance, he became a layabout, a hanger-on, an outcast, a poverty-stricken young man who found friend's sofas to crash on. Even a kindly Jewish man helped him out. Joining the armed forces appears to have saved him but exactly how he became such an overpowering orator is not explained here. What you do see even before the Second World War is his ferocious cruelty and his ability to rebut any criticism into silence, including those from English politicians. This short biography gave me the basic facts about Hitler, the man.
(Freak out! my life with Frank Zappa by Pauline Butcher)
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