Timothy Snyder: On Tyranny (and Ukraine)

March 16

Free enterprise by free(lance) individuals is an important part of a free society. But democracy is never safe from the autocrats and tyrants, who hate it more than anything else. That is why Timothy Snyder, a highly acclaimed historian, wrote his groundbreaking book On Tyranny, and why Robert Vlach chose it as the first candidate for the book of the year. Here’s his review.

Timothy Snyder's book On Tyranny (Updated with Twenty New Lessons from Russia's War on Ukraine) is the best book I have read this year.

Here's why you should read it, too:

A professional historian, Snyder wrote the original book in 2017 when he was concerned about the threat to American democracy posed by Donald Trump's presidency.

He wrote the short book, and its 20 lessons, as a kind of handbook for his fellow citizens on how to protect democracy.

But there was an unexpected twist:

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, he realized that the need to stand up to tyrants like Putin was more important than ever.

He sat down for 1 DAY and recorded an unscripted addendum to the original audiobook. And what a remarkable day it was!

In the addendum, which is far longer than the original recording, Snyder applied each of the original 20 lessons to Ukraine.

As a historian of Central and Eastern Europe, and Ukraine in particular, he speaks with deep knowledge about the threat to Western democracies from Russia, China, and other autocracies.

The newly added material is so remarkable that it blew me away.

More than that.

I realized how great Snyder's book is as a template for discussions about democracy and past or present tyrants with our 8-year-old son.

We took long walks by the ocean and discussed why we should NEVER take our freedom for granted.

That's how rudimentary and simple most of these lessons are:

  • Do not obey in advance
  • Defend institutions
  • Beware of the one-party state
  • Take responsibility for the face of the world
  • Remember professional ethics
  • Be wary of paramilitaries
  • Believe in truth
  • Investigate
  • Make eye contact and small talk (!), etc.

A truly unforgettable audiobook with 20 timeless lessons for all of us in the free world.

You can get the Expanded Audio Edition from Audible. Also, there’s an excellent PBS interview with Snyder recently released on YouTube:

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