How to Be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century by Frank Dikötter

A good overview of 8 dictators of the 20th century that heavily relied on their 'cult of personality' to hold onto power. I read a lot of history, so for me this book felt light to me. The chapters on Hitler and Mao Zedong weren't all that revealing to me as I have read a lot about those dictators. The other chapters were more interesting to though.

I understand these sort of 'lighter' history novels sell better and it's certainly a good introduction to the history of these terrible men. Why aren't there any women dictators? Or if there are, why don't we hear about them?

The stories sort of blended into one another. Dictators mostly follow the same general steps to seize power. 1. Gather supporters 2. Violently seize power. 3. Change the law/constitution to solidify their grip. 4. Kill those who speak out – intellectuals, journalists, other politicians. 5. Control what people say, do, and think about through surveillance, and violence. 6. Become more and more paranoid and kill more people around them until only surrounded by 'yes' men. 7. Eventually lose power once enough people speak out, and protest.

It's annoying that dictators are so predictable but the World still lets them flourish. Many of these dictators were allowed to continue terrorizing their people because they were anti-communist; others because countries value money higher than freedom.

I did really like the author's style. Dikötter has written a lot of books about China and now I'm more interested in reading his more scholarly works.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #20 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge

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