About tomsbooks


On this blog, I will periodically post thoughts on some of the books I have read, as an invitation to a larger dialogue with as many people as possible to join and discuss these and related books, and the ideas they contain. I encourage a wide-ranging, civil and respectful exchange of comments. Readers may also wish to suggest other books on related subjects that might lead to a good exchange. If you wish to communicate with me directly, without posting a general comment, you may reach me at:


My interests are largely confined to modern history, politics, especially American and European, and political theory. But I occasionally venture outside these subjects, and even read a little fiction from time to time.

A few years ago, I started writing commentaries — some of them quite short, others not so short – sharing them with friends and inflicting them on my family. Some of those that I have been able to locate will be posted here, but I will also post new commentaries as I finish them. My current plan is to post at least one commentary every other week. In early 2011, I opened a folder on my Facebook page, entitled “My Books,” to begin a discussion similar to that envisioned here. Later in the year, my daughter Chloé suggested that a blog would be a better vehicle to reach a wider audience and precipitate the type of discussion I sought. Two of my closest friends quickly backed up Chloé. I was surrounded, with no place to go. So here we are.

Welcome to Tomsbooks.

3 responses to “About tomsbooks

  1. Carl Reed

    Hey Tom-

    – another interesting review of a book I never would have known about – or, about which I never would have known! I think that while one should try to understand the big picture, there can be a great value in focusing on a small detail to get a better understanding, and this book is an example. A lot of good art does the same thing, in my opinion. Your description of the train car’s organization was hilarious, but very telling. Knowing a little about Scandinavian history I had to wonder: what would have happened if Lenin had not been on the scene? Would Russia have also become a socialist democracy? Probably not, due to its entrenched corruption, enormous size, and diverse ethnicities. 2017 is also Finland’s 100th anniversary, and it went through a civil war in which the Bolsheviks were defeated.


    • Thanks, Carl. Two interesting points on the Scandinavian connection: the Swedes almost didn’t let the train go through, they were sticklers for passports and many of Lenin’s guys didn’t have them. The Germans stepped in and got the Swedes to give them a green light. Also, Merridale indicates that the Brits were aware that the train was going through Sweden and could have stopped it there, but for who knows what reason did not do so. What life would be like if they had stopped Lenin there, or if he had remained in Zurich, is anybody’s guess, a fun parlor game. I think that if Lenin and the Bolsheviks had stayed out of it, there’s a good chance Russia could have evolved into a social democracy, but that’s of course pure speculation. And as I mentioned to David Gross above, if the Bolsheviks had not come to power, you could make a good case that Hitler probably would not have come to power either.

  2. Roboin Cohen

    Thanks for your crystal-clear review of Kitchen’s biography of Albert Speer. I once spent a couple of weeks reading Speer’s The Slave State. The book was disturbing in the way you describe. Speer presented himself as a dull, rational technocrat having (sigh, sigh) to deal with irrational bigots like Himmler. However, every now and again the ruse no longer works. The main difference seems to be that that Himmler wanted to work ‘slave labour’ (we know who this refers to) to death quickly, while Speer wanted to do the same thing, but more slowly.

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