Just how much does a book reflect on its reader?
Timothy W. Ryback addresses this question in Hitler's Private Library: The Books that Shaped his Life. Ryback explores Hitler's private library composed of works on military history, the occult, religion, and artistic endeavors such as architecture, theatre, and painting in an attempt to understand his personal character. Hitler signed and dated the inside covers of the (literally) thousands of books he collected and read. Events in Hitler's personal life and the lead-up, commencement, and close of World War II have become associated to these dated works.
Ryback proposes that "we collect books in the belief that we are preserving them when in fact it is the books that preserve their collector" (xv). What people read may reflect their character traits. For example, Ryback argues that Hitler's strong anti-Semitic beliefs are reflected in his library's copious collection of material on racial hierarchy. If books reflect our interests, Hitler was a man highly concerned with German nationalism, war, racism, supernatural events, and the formation of cities... it sounds oddly correct.
While this does make sense, I find it close minded. People read for many reasons: enjoyment, knowledge, in order to understand a different perspective from one's own, or to better understand the opposition, just to name a few. I personally would hate to think the books I have collected throughout the years reflect my thought processes and personality... if that was the case I'd be a living oxymoron.
And it leads me to think... if we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover... how can we judge a person by a book?
Hitler's Private Library was interesting... but dense and dry. I would recommend it for readers who are deeply interested in history, thought processes, and are accustomed to academic style writing.
- Hitler adored Henry Ford and not because he was a car enthusiast... Apparently Ford was a major anti-Semite who helped inspire Hitler's own tendencies.
- Hitler had a passionate desire to be a writer. However, his writing style, spelling, and grammar were so atrocious that many contemporaries could not read through all of Mein Kampf. If they had read the book many more people would have been aware of Hitler's intentions.
- Hitler's books are currently scattered throughout the world. They can be located in Germany's archives, American libraries, personal collections, and on the black market.
And, oddly enough...
- Ryback found an inch long, thick, and slightly curly hair between the pages of one of Hitler's books... he claims this is one of the few remaining hairs from Hitler's mustache... nice stretch, Ryback.