Hugh Winig

I feel compelled to write this very brief review in order to share this book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder with my OLLI classmates because of its prescience, relevance, and constructive nature. It is prescient because it was written in 2017, yet has accurately predicted what is happening in our country today in 2020; it is relevant because it discusses the dangers that our democracy imminently faces because of the rise of authoritarianism; and it is helpful because it gives the reader strategies to cope with and resist the threats to our freedom that are increasing. The book is a very fast read, around several hours.

Timothy Snyder is a well-known Yale historian who has written 12 previous books on European history, the best known of which is The Bloodlands about the devastation that occurred to the countries that geographically sat between Germany and Russia during WWII.

On Tyranny puts one on guard about the current risks to our freedoms and that one should not assume that our democratic heritage automatically protects us. Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans were in the mid-20th century when democracies yielded to fascism, Nazism, and communism.

This book presents 20 lessons from the 20th century, adapted to our 21st century circumstances; it advises us all as to what is at stake and how to respond to and manage these current threatening realities.


Hugh Winig, MD is a retired psychiatrist and is the author of a book of short stories and a book of humanistic aphorisms. He was a founding Trustee of the Lafayette Library and Learning Center and a past President of the East Bay Psychiatric Association. He has been an OLLI @Berkeley member for 10 years.