A good litmus test for whether or not I enjoyed a book is to go back and see how often I marked it up. This one passes the test, my pen got a lot of exercise during the reading of Giles Milton’s When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain.
I’d guess just 10% of the writing I do in the margins are words and thoughts, the other 90% are stars and underlines. But in this one I wrote multiple times. It wasn’t anything particularly insightful, just things like holy shit, oh my god, insane, etc, but there was a lot of it. I found myself putting the book down every few pages to Google one of the stories or characters.
What I really loved about this book- aside from learning about history’s unknown chapters – is its format. There were three stories for each topic (for example, “Hell In Japan” or “Just Bad Luck”) and they all contained three really interesting stories that were just a few pages each.
Here are a few examples of what’s in this book:
- 160 people lived through the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- In 1906, the Bronx Zoo put a pygmy, Ota Benga, on display in the monkey house. The New York Times defended it.
- A guy chugged two bottles of whiskey before the Titanic sunk and survived despite spending hours in icy cold waters.
- The story about the last American killed in World War I is unreal.
This book was so much fun, I really can’t recommend it strongly enough. And yea, the title is not hyperbole; the stories about Hitler and Lenin were incredibly fascinating.