Byline: Craig Brown
Book of the Week
Hitler's Private Library By Timothy W. Ryback Bodley Head [pounds sterling] 18.99 . [pounds sterling]17.10 inc p& p (08451550713)***
Last year saw the publication of the wonderful Oscar's Books, about the books that shaped Oscar Wilde's life. The author, Thomas Wright, set out to read all the books in Wilde's library - many still covered with his marginalia - and thus to trace his subject's intellectual and emotional development.
Timothy W. Ryback has now performed the same operation on Adolf Hitler. On the face of it, you could not find two more different human beings than Adolf and Oscar. Yet the pair of them had a number of things in common. Both were keen readers: Hitler had 16,000 volumes in his library, whereas Wilde had only 2,000, but at least two-thirds of Hitler's were unread. Both shared a passion for Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas Carlyle, though little else. Both were imprisoned and read avidly in their cells ('higher education at the state expense', observed Hitler in an uncharacteristically Wildean turn of phrase). Both wrote autobiographies in prison (Mein Kampf and De Profundis). Both their libraries were dispersed within days of their downfalls.
Perhaps most …