This doozy of a book, clocking in at 1,280 pages, chronicles the rise of Adolf Hitler from homeless vagabond to warlord of Germany, which he came to control for 12 years. Hitler was legally granted power by the state thanks to his political genius, his use of terror, and his masterful lies, where a million things had to fall in his favor for him to succeed. Statistically it shouldn’t have happened, but it did and the entire world had to deal with it.
“That one day he would build [Germany] and rule it he had no doubts whatsoever, for he was possessed of that burning sense of mission peculiar to so many geniuses who have sprouted, seemingly, from nowhere and from nothing throughout the ages. He would unify a chosen people who had never before been politically one. He would purify their race. He would make them strong. He would make them lords of the earth.”
He laid out his full plans in Mein Kampf, a blueprint for how the war would proceed. If Western leaders at the time read the damn thing they wouldn’t have pursued the policy of appeasement, led by the British. The later performance of the Brits during the war was admirable, mostly thanks to Churchill, but it could have been prevented had they not let Hitler take over Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the Rhineland, whetting his appetite for conquer.
While a pass should not be given to the German people, imagine a politician feeding your ego by saying you’re a member of the master race who deserves more land and wealth after your country just got whipped in a war and had to bow down to concessions you thought were humiliating. Hitler was selling the dream and the people happily bought. The bitter irony is that upon the German defeat, “subhuman” Slavic Russians came pouring into Germany to begin the biggest mass-rape in world history of the so-called master race.
The book became more interesting as the war hit, but even then it focused more on diplomatic and political developments than battle action, giving you an eagle eye view on how statecraft is done. Very little detail is given to the major battles of the war. If you like battle scenes, this book will be unsatisfying.
The reader gets a clear picture of how Hitler’s disastrous decision to invade Russia spelled the beginning of the end. Here was a man who thought he was infallible and unbeatable, walking into the Russian war machine that, after some initial defeats, came back to crush Germany (there was a lol moment when the Germans realized that Stalin had twice the number of divisions they thought he had). Even when Hitler’s officers warned him about Russia’s power or his own stupid war tactics, he dismissed them. His judgement could not be questioned.
The Nazi terror wasn’t just against the Jews. The Germans literally enslaved conquered peoples to work in factories, camps, and farms. They also had a medical testing program that, for example, wanted to see how long a man would survive after being dipped in freezing water. The chapter on what the Germans did to civilians and POWs is a sad stain on the human race. Mass executions were the norm. Only the Germans, with their famed efficiency skills, could have killed so many people in such an expedient manner.
“Nazi degradation sank to a level seldom experienced by man in all his time on earth.”
Nazi Germany was a time for crazy people to shine. In most countries the medically insane are not given state power, but in Germany they were the cream that rose to the top. Sixty million people died as a result of Hitler’s war, about 2.5% of the world’s population.
This book contains no American propaganda saying that we won the war. While we played an important role, the Russians won it for the allies in Europe. The reason Stalin got so much of Eastern Europe was because of the immense sacrifice the Russians made in the war, more so than any other country.
What I liked most about the book was that it highlighted the mistakes that leaders made which contributed to setbacks and losses for their side. The 20/20 hindsight nature of history makes it clear to see how randomly made decisions can have profound consequences that weren’t previously considered. War really is a chess game that requires you to see several moves in advance if you want to come out victorious.
This isn’t a history book for newbies because of its exhaustive attention to detail. It’s essentially a Nazi diary that often gives you hourly updates as events unfolded, almost like watching a live news feed. It took a couple hundred pages alone just to get to the war. The minutiae was tiring at times when the author gave mini biographies on tertiary characters who played the most minor of roles, but it was always just interesting enough that I wanted to continue reading. If the point of a history book is to inform and transport you back into time, then this is one of the best there is.
This is a book about how tiny Belgium came to colonize the vast Congo in the early 20th century thanks to their crafty king. Using marketing and political genius, he grabbed a land rich in rubber, ivory, and minerals, enslaving the local population to fill up ships headed back to Belgium. Researchers estimate that 10 million Congolese died. Such a large percentage of the population had perished that the Belgians had to let up on their brutal methods to prevent their extinction.
Today’s consensus view is that what the Belgians did were horrible, but if we were Europeans living a couple centuries back, would we have thought slavery was evil? In another 500 years, what behavior that we do today, without question, will be seen as evil by humans of the future? How much are we a product of our times?
Initially there was little sympathy for the plight of Africans because they used slavery themselves. It made it easier for Europeans to write them off as “savages.” The great white man got little resistance in their efforts to “civilize” them, ironically by being uncivilized savages themselves through mass murder and torture, in particular the chopping off of hands as both a punitive and accounting measure. I find it interesting how every atrocity has its own flavor. The Nazis had the gas, the Communists had the frozen gulags, and the Belgians with the cutting off of the hands.
“In the Congo, as in Russia, mass murder had a momentum of its own. Power is tempting, and in a sense no power is greater than the ability to take someone’s life. Once under way, mass killing is hard to stop; it becomes a kind of sport.”
In perhaps a low point for humanity, the Belgian king brought a couple hundred Africans and put them on display for the world fair:
“When the king was told that some of the Africans were suffering indigestion because of candy given them by the public, he ordered up the equivalent of a zoo’s don’t-feed-the-animals sign. The placard said: ‘The blacks are fed by the organizing committee.’”
This occurred less than one-hundred years ago.
Some men who visited the Congo began to spread the word of what the Belgians were doing, leading to one of the most successful humanitarian movements of the 20th century. The second half of the book describes the series of events that eventually led to Congo’s independence. This is where the shining light of America—the CIA in particular—makes its appearance to keep corrupt dictators in power that are friendly to U.S. interests, with the Congolese forever suffering.
In the end this isn’t just a history book but a story of will, how one man from an insignificant country landed a colony the size of America east of the Mississippi to become exceedingly wealthy. He used much of that wealth to construct magnificent monuments that today will impress many foreign tourists in Brussels. On their organized tours through the capital, however, they will not learn that the targets of their many photographs cost millions of African lives.
“The urge for more can become insatiable, and its apparent fulfillment seems only to exacerbate that early sense of deprivation and to stimulate the need to acquire still more.”
Say hello the real life version of 1984. An American working in Moscow’s United States embassy after WW2 was kidnapped on the street and declared a spy. He was put through unspeakable suffering and torture until being shipped off to the gulags where it became a game of survival. The U.S. government completely sold him out and even lied to his family about the circumstances involving his capture, all to maintain smooth American-Soviet “relations.”
In this book I learned what to do in case I get imprisoned:
- Keep yourself busy by creating little tasks, no matter how meaningless they may be.
- Try to outwit your captors to have the feeling that you still have control over your life. Don’t give them the satisfaction. (“I often wanted to cry for relief but I knew that if they saw me crying through the peephole then they would know I was beginning to crack.”)
- Review all your memories to take your mind off the suffering you’re facing.
- Never lose the will to survive. Many gulag prisoners dropped dead for no apparent reason because they lost that will.
What struck me about this book was how there was a system created for the sole purpose of crushing the human spirit. And it worked. It’s hard to comprehend how so many millions of lives were destroyed because of the power that Stalin was able to attain.
I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re the type of person who is prone to complaining about stupid shit and have lost touch with reality in your comfortable iPhone existence. It was one of the more powerful books I’ve read.
“I believe it was at that time that my eyes and my mouth began to settle into a grim cast which is still my normal expression when I am not excited or laughing, and even then I am told it lingers around my eyes. My iron mask never came off, and I can see that it never will.”
This book is meant for guys in high school and college who have not received good advice on what to major in. It tells you which majors to avoid (liberal arts, business, psychology) and which to study (STEM), assuming you want a good income without depending on your parents or the government.
It is no accident that majors involving math have the best opportunity for employment:
“It is through math you will achieve financial stability and an increased chance of life-long happiness.”
Majors with math—particularly engineering—are hard and avoided by most college students. Even college administrators are eager to push you into a useless liberal arts degree because of the lower cost for them in doing so (no laboratories or special computers needed). Lots of parents let their students major in something dumb like Communications and then wonder why their kid can’t find a job four years later.
If the main source of employment for your major is teaching, like in philosophy or women’s studies, that means your field is a ponzi scheme that requires ever more students to keep it going. Ultimately, it offers no tangible value to society. The author cites starting salary figures to support his arguments, but one only needs to read a college graduate sob article to see that just about all the unemployed have a liberal arts degree.
“Why spend $5,000 a quarter on tuition to pay some old, bitter washed-up professors who got suckered into this “profession” 20 years ago to tell you about “Women’s Studies” when you can simply pick up a book at the library and read it for free?”
The author doesn’t pull any punches, trashing majors such as education, political science, and general biology. He holds strong contempt towards the university elite for not giving the young generation skills needed to survive on their own.
“The real reason they make you take prerequisites is to generate more money for other departments, notably departments of worthless majors. Understand worthless degree programs are like zombies. They always need new bodies to enter the program, otherwise the program goes away. So to ensure there’s enough demand to keep these worthless programs going, they force all of you non-worthless degree people to take some token class in those fields.”
I knew the author was plugged into the manosphere because of his many attacks on the women’s studies major (here’s his blog). If you have any doubt that the author is one of us…
“A ‘sexual abuse center’ or ‘shelter’ is usually set up on campus, not primarily for genuine victims of sexual assault, but rather to create jobs for otherwise unemployable women’s studies majors. Worse still, in order to receive additional funding these feminists will lower the bar in terms of what constitutes ‘sexual assault’ on campus to include innocuous things like an unwanted advance from a guy, thereby making it seem like there’s an ‘epidemic’ of sexual assaults on campus.”
The author argues that today’s economic stagnation is partially caused by kids picking the wrong field of study. Those who major in liberal arts become parasites on society because they take away value through their need of massive help in the form of government programs.
“It’s nice and kind to think about society and do charitable things, but the single best thing a person can do for society is simply support themselves and enjoy life.”
I’ve been out of college for ten years but still thoroughly enjoyed this book, which gave me a renewed perspective on the Occupy protesters and the anger they have at holding a psychology degree that can only get them a job at Starbucks. The finance industry should rightfully be blamed for raping taxpayers, but who should be blamed for educating American youth in majors that can’t get them a good job?
The first thing I did after reading this short book was buy a copy for my 15-year-old brother.
This book chronicles his life from birth until his assassination. It’s primarily a biography but also throws in a lot of his beliefs and politics, much of which I read in Malcolm X Speaks. Here we get a good look at the events of his life that led to his activism.
One surprise of the book is his description on female psychology when he was essentially a gigalo to a white woman.
A woman should occasionally be babied enough to show her the man had affection, but beyond that she should be treated firmly. All women, by their nature, are fragile and weak: they are attracted to the male in whom they see strength.
Sophia always had given me money. Even when I had hundreds of dollars in my pocket, when she came to Harlem I would take everything she had short of her train fare back to Boston. It seems that some women love to be exploited. When they are not exploited, they exploit the man.
Yes, Malcolm X was a player. He toned it down after converting to Islam and becoming a dedicated husband, but he never forgot about a woman’s true nature:
Now, Islam has very strict laws and teachings about women, the core of them being that the true nature of a man is to be strong, and a woman’s true nature is to be weak, and while a man must at all times respect his woman, at the same time he needs to understand that he must control her if he expects to get her respect.
He correctly described the entitlement of American women:
I don’t know how many marriage breakups are caused by those movie and television-addicted women expecting some bouquets and kissing and hugging and being swept out like Cinderella for dinner and dancing than getting mad when a poor, scraggly husband comes in tired and sweaty from working like a dog all day, looking for some food.
If only he knew how bad things have gotten in 50 years.
Malcolm X has become a sort of role model for me, not as much as for what he did for black people, which of course was admirable, but for his relentless, fearless pursuit of the truth in the face of intense criticism and later, death threats. He had a cause that he believed in, that knew would lead to his end, but he kept going anyway. He wasn’t in it for the money or the women, but a belief on how a better world should be. If I can accomplish just 1% of what this man did, it would be something I’d be immensely proud of.
“I have been more reassured each time the white man resisted me, or attacked me harder—because each time made me more certain that I was on the right track in the American black man’s best interests.”
If you’ve never heard of Frank Abagnale, he was perhaps the greatest American con man of his time. He stole millions while impersonating a pilot, doctor, and lawyer, all before he was 21. Through uncanny street smarts and masterful social engineering, he was able to attain a high-wheeling lifestyle full of travel, women, and expensive clothes, solely by using his cons.
Even when he had enough money and could retire in some tropical locale, he kept doing things for the challenge and personal glory. For some men it’s never enough—they keep going until their ruin. Frank was caught and inevitably sent to jail, but he got a second chance in working for the government to catch guys like him.
The lesson I took from this book is to realize that every system, no matter how secure it looks, has a flaw which can be gamed. When I travel, I look for such flaws or loopholes in the dating culture, where a woman is likely to put out quicker due to some behavior you show to her. Sometimes I find it, sometimes I don’t.
I initially hesitated to read this book because I already saw the movie, but it turned out to be an entertaining read that did a good job of describing Frank’s motivations and thought while performing his brilliant scams.
“The transaction also verified a suspicion I had long entertained: it’s a not how good a check looks but how good the person behind the check looks that influences tellers and cashiers.”
“As long as a man knows what he is and who he is, he’ll do all right.”
I enjoyed The 50th Law so much that I went ahead and bought 50 Cent’s autobiography, focusing on his life before hitting it big with his first album Get Rich Or Die Trying. He talks about how he learned to hustle on the streets of Queens by selling crack, later applying those “business” techniques to when he wanted to be a rap star.
50 gives you a first person view of the inner city and how a life of crime, after doing the cost-benefit analysis, is the best option. Rising above the ghetto, while a romantic notion for those in the white middle class, has about the same odds as winning the lottery. I’m not saying that to excuse thuggery and law-breaking, but this book shows how much men are a product of their environment.
“When we got there, I saw a bunch of niggas with baseball bats and two-by-fours. A few niggas had knives and brass-knuckled fists; one guy had a dog chain. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, Awww, fuck that. Let me out—I’ma shoot all these motherfuckers just on principle. They were out there like it was the seventies, like we were going to rumble or some shit.”
It wasn’t as educational as 50th Law, but sort of like how 30 Bangs was to Bang, it gives you an idea how 50 developed his beliefs. I highly recommend it for its entertainment value, especially if you already like 50. I knocked it out in only a couple days.
“The hard times only seemed hard when I was going through them. Now, they’re just memories. Besides, if I didn’t go through the hard times, I probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy the good times.”
I’m not a hacker or computer programmer but I picked up this Kevin Mitnick autobiography on impulse. Surprisingly, I couldn’t put it down.
Like Frank Abagnale, Mitnick was always obsessed with finding a hole in the system. He started hacking into the telephone system and then later computers. Most of his hacks were not due to code but to social engineering, where he pretended to be someone with authority to extract secret information. It took a lot of charm and social know-how to pull of his hacks, something that is at odds with the stereotype of hackers being fat guys in the basement poring over volumes of code (though in the book he describes such guys). With his ability to create false papers and identities, to use cloned cell phones, and to gain access to just about any computer network, Mitnick came pretty close to a real life James Bond figure.
His hacker stories were interesting without being too technical. Only in a few instances did it really go over my head, but I understood them enough to get the main idea. When he wasn’t describing his hacks he went over the many stints he had in jail, including time in solitary confinement. Even when he knew getting caught again would send him back for a long time, he couldn’t resist one more challenging hack. Because of the way his brain was wired, he would find hacks when not consciously trying. Hacking became a part of him.
What interested me most about the book was the amount of failure that went into a specific hack. There’s a lot of “rejection” when you fail to get access or get discovered by a system administrator. Mitnick didn’t care—he just kept trying until he got in. If one approach didn’t work, he simply tried another. I notice this mindset in a lot of players that I meet.
His ultimate downfall was that his inability to stop hacking constantly supplying the Feds with clues. After getting caught for the last time, he served a few years in jail and is now rehabilitated as a security consultant. Entertaining read.
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