100 books that stare deep into the minds and lives of people in dictatorships

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The Dictator's Handbook

by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

About the book:  Explains the theory of political survival, particularly in cases of dictators and despotic governments, arguing that political leaders seek to stay in power using any means necessary, most commonly by attending to the interests of certain coalitions.

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Before We Were Free

by Julia Alvarez

About the book:  Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her 12th birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have emigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government’s secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition of el Trujillo’s dictatorship. Using the strength and courage of her family, Anita must overcome her fears and fly to freedom, leaving all that she once knew behind. From renowned author Julia Alvarez comes an unforgettable story about adolescence, perseverance, and one girl’s struggle to be free.

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The Dictators

by Richard Overy Ph.D.

About the book:  Half a century after their deaths, the dictatorships of Stalin and Hitler still cast a long and terrible shadow over the modern world. They were the most destructive and lethal regimes in history, murdering millions. They fought the largest and costliest war in all history. Yet millions of Germans and Russians enthusiastically supported them and the values they stood for. In this first major study of the two dictatorships side-by-side Richard Overy sets out to answer the question: How was dictatorship possible? How did they function? What was the bond that tied dictator and people so powerfully together? He paints a remarkable and vivid account of the different ways in which Stalin and Hitler rose to power, and abused and dominated their people. It is a chilling analysis of powerful ideals corrupted by the vanity of ambitious and unscrupulous men.

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A People's Tragedy

by Orlando Figes

About the book:  Unrivalled in scope and brimming with human drama, A Peopleâe(tm)s Tragedy is the most vivid, moving and comprehensive history of the Russian Revolution available today. âe~A modern masterpieceâe(tm) Andrew Marr âe~The most moving account of the Russian Revolution since Doctor Zhivagoâe(tm) Independent Opening with a panorama of Russian society, from the cloistered world of the Tsar to the brutal life of the peasants, A Peopleâe(tm)s Tragedy follows workers, soldiers, intellectuals and villagers as their world is consumed by revolution and then degenerates into violence and dictatorship. Drawing on vast original research, Figes conveys above all the shocking experience of the revolution for those who lived it, while providing the clearest and most cogent account of how and why it unfolded. Illustrated with over 100 photographs and now including a new introduction that reflects on the revolutionâe(tm)s centennial legacy, A Peopleâe(tm)s Tragedy is a masterful and definitive record of one of the most important events in modern history.

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Everyday Stalinism

by Sheila Fitzpatrick

About the book:  Focusing on urban areas in the 1930s, this college professor illuminates the ways that Soviet city-dwellers coped with this world, examining such diverse activities as shopping, landing a job, and other acts.

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A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet

by Rita Gabis

About the book:  In prose as beautiful as it is powerful, Rita Gabis follows the trail of her grandfather's collaboration with the Nazis; a trail riddled with secrets, slaughter, mystery, and discovery. Rita Gabis comes from a family of Eastern European Jews and Lithuanian Catholics. She was close to her Catholic grandfather as a child and knew one version of his past: prior to immigration he had fought the Russians, whose brutal occupation of Lithuania destroyed thousands of lives before Hitler's army swept in. Five years ago, Gabis discovered an unthinkable dimension to her family story: from 1941 to 1943, her grandfather had been Chief of Security Police under the Gestapo in the Lithuanian town of Svencionys, near the killing field of Poligon, where 8,000 Jews were murdered over three days in the fall of 1941. In 1942, the local Polish population was also hunted down. Gabis felt compelled to find out the complicated truth of who her grandfather was and what he had done. Built around dramatic interviews in four countries, filled with original scholarship, and mesmerizing in its lyricism, A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet is a history and family memoir like no other, documenting "the holocaust by bullets†? in a remarkable quest as Gabis returns again and again to the country of her grandfather's birth to learn all she can about the man she thought she knew.

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