Sunday, August 3, 2008

Timothy Ryback

Timothy W. Ryback is the author of The Last Survivor: Legacies of Dachau, a New York Times Notable Book for 1999. He has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He is Deputy Secretary General and Director of Programs at the Académie Diplomatique Internationale and cofounder and codirector of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation.

His new book, Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life, will be released in October.

Last month, I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I recently put the finishing touches on my book on Hitler's private library and have been in literary detox since. I reread Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's and Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient, both books which I return to occasionally and come away from each time with renewed awe at the characters, plot, style, not to mention cover design.

I have also been doing random reading in my 20 year old copy of the New Oxford Book of English Verse, edited by Helen Gardner, who weaves familiar classics that underscore the power of human emotion and the magnificence of the English language with lesser known works that can surprise with some of the timelessness of more mundane themes. Take, for example, Gardner's selections for Thomas Gray (1716-1771). In his haunting churchyard elegy, Gray remind us, famously, that the "paths of glory lead but to the grave," but he also observes that lesser creatures are possessed by similar ambitions and equally tragic inevitabilities as in his somberly titled poem, "Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes."

My current bedside book is The Shakespeare Wars by Ron Rosenbaum, which I bought in Paris, where I am resident, at Shakespeare & Co. just across the Seine from Notre Dame. I selected the book both because I love Rosenbaum's passion and style, and also because I wanted a subject as far removed in tone and content as possible from Adolf Hitler. What a rude surprise I experienced when I read the first line of Rosenbaum's acknowledgements: "First I want to thank—well, no, I want to acknowledge the role of—Adolf Hitler." You'll need to buy his book, which is well worth the purchase price, if you want to know his reasoning.

Next on my list is Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, a book my thirteen year old daughter has been urging me to read for some time now. Her last recommendation, Bridge to Terabithia, was a moving reading experience that left me ever attentive to her recommendations.
Among the advance praise for Hitler's Private Library:
Hitler's Private Library is a meticulously researched and highly original focus on one of history's most enigmatic figures. Timothy W. Ryback shines his laser-like perceptions into the library and mind of Adolf Hitler in a way no previous book has done. Anyone even vaguely interested in the uses and misuses of ‘a little bit of knowledge’ and ideology will marvel–and shudder–at Ryback's riveting insights.”
--Steven Bach, author of LENI: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl
Learn more about Hitler's Private Library at the Knopf website.

--Marshal Zeringue