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Dictator Style: Lifestyles of the World's Most Colorful Despots

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Welcome to the fabulous lifestyles of the cruel and despotic. Running with the idea that our homes are where we are truly ourselves, Peter York's wildly original and scathingly funny look at the interior decorating tastes of some of history's most alarming dictators proves that absolute power corrupts absolutely, right down to the drapes. Mining rare, jaw-dropping photogra Welcome to the fabulous lifestyles of the cruel and despotic. Running with the idea that our homes are where we are truly ourselves, Peter York's wildly original and scathingly funny look at the interior decorating tastes of some of history's most alarming dictators proves that absolute power corrupts absolutely, right down to the drapes. Mining rare, jaw-dropping photographs of interiors now mostly (thankfully) destroyed, York's hilarious profiles of 16 inner sanctums of the scary leaves no endangered tiger pelt unturned, from Saddam Hussein's creepy private art collection to General Noriega's Christmas tree to the strange tube and knob contraption in the Ceausescu bathroom. All your favorite dictators are here: Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Tito, Mussolini, Mobutu, Idi Amin, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos—each with their own uniquely frightful chic. An interior decorating book like no other, Dictator Style is a welcome tonic for a world in need of a good laugh at the expense of the all-powerful.


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Welcome to the fabulous lifestyles of the cruel and despotic. Running with the idea that our homes are where we are truly ourselves, Peter York's wildly original and scathingly funny look at the interior decorating tastes of some of history's most alarming dictators proves that absolute power corrupts absolutely, right down to the drapes. Mining rare, jaw-dropping photogra Welcome to the fabulous lifestyles of the cruel and despotic. Running with the idea that our homes are where we are truly ourselves, Peter York's wildly original and scathingly funny look at the interior decorating tastes of some of history's most alarming dictators proves that absolute power corrupts absolutely, right down to the drapes. Mining rare, jaw-dropping photographs of interiors now mostly (thankfully) destroyed, York's hilarious profiles of 16 inner sanctums of the scary leaves no endangered tiger pelt unturned, from Saddam Hussein's creepy private art collection to General Noriega's Christmas tree to the strange tube and knob contraption in the Ceausescu bathroom. All your favorite dictators are here: Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Tito, Mussolini, Mobutu, Idi Amin, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos—each with their own uniquely frightful chic. An interior decorating book like no other, Dictator Style is a welcome tonic for a world in need of a good laugh at the expense of the all-powerful.

30 review for Dictator Style: Lifestyles of the World's Most Colorful Despots

  1. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    Fun Book! This made me laugh in the same way that Manifest Destiny: A Guide to the Essential Indifference of American Suburban Housing amused me. The author has a lot of fun ridiculing dictators for their design choices and we benefit. The effect is that while the dictators profiled are very dangerous people, they seem safer and more human and in some cases, more juvenile, because we are getting a glimps of them doing something they are bad at: architectural and interior design. Almost every dic Fun Book! This made me laugh in the same way that Manifest Destiny: A Guide to the Essential Indifference of American Suburban Housing amused me. The author has a lot of fun ridiculing dictators for their design choices and we benefit. The effect is that while the dictators profiled are very dangerous people, they seem safer and more human and in some cases, more juvenile, because we are getting a glimps of them doing something they are bad at: architectural and interior design. Almost every dictator in this book (I think Lenin might be an exception) is a Non-U, as defined by Nancy Mitford (this description is noted by the author, Peter York), but instead of their lower class being evidenced by their speech patterns, we see that these men lack the cultural capital of understanding upper class design, despite the amount of money they spend trying to fool people.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Don

    Dictator style is an under researched subject. This book takes great strides towards remedying this problem. Most of the great ones are here: Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Tito, Mobutu, Franco and Bokassa and plenty that some may be unfamiliar with like the erstwhile dictator of Mexico. The individual strongmen's styles are as varied as their regime: Franco's gaff is tasteful and understated, Stalin had a lovely Edwardian dacha while Mobutu went in for fake pagodas and plenty of red and gold. The top m Dictator style is an under researched subject. This book takes great strides towards remedying this problem. Most of the great ones are here: Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Tito, Mobutu, Franco and Bokassa and plenty that some may be unfamiliar with like the erstwhile dictator of Mexico. The individual strongmen's styles are as varied as their regime: Franco's gaff is tasteful and understated, Stalin had a lovely Edwardian dacha while Mobutu went in for fake pagodas and plenty of red and gold. The top man; however, must be Tito and the photos of his lair look like nothing so much as surrealist photomontages. Buy and it and be amazed and delighted

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Snarky, punchy writing on such a specific topic! I've always wanted to write a collection about dictator hair/beard/mustache styles (DON'T YOU STEAL MY IDEA!), and this dry Brit's tone is exactly what I'd aspire to (largely mockery by someone who knows his interiors well, but with a healthy dose of appreciation for the monstrous things these folks did). The photos are, unsurprisingly, not top quality, but that shouldn't prevent anyone from enjoying some of the phenomenally bad taste these awful Snarky, punchy writing on such a specific topic! I've always wanted to write a collection about dictator hair/beard/mustache styles (DON'T YOU STEAL MY IDEA!), and this dry Brit's tone is exactly what I'd aspire to (largely mockery by someone who knows his interiors well, but with a healthy dose of appreciation for the monstrous things these folks did). The photos are, unsurprisingly, not top quality, but that shouldn't prevent anyone from enjoying some of the phenomenally bad taste these awful men and women exhibited. Seeing some of Sadaam Hussein's fantasy porn art on the walls of his den -- that alone made the book worth it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Don

    Dictator style is an under researched subject. This book takes great strides towards remedying this problem. Most of the great ones are here: Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Tito, Mobutu, Franco and Bokassa and plenty that some may be unfamiliar with like the erstwhile dictator of Mexico. The individual strongmen's styles are as varied as their regime: Franco's gaff is tasteful and understated, Stalin had a lovely Edwardian dacha while Mobutu went in for fake pagodas and plenty of red and gold. The top m Dictator style is an under researched subject. This book takes great strides towards remedying this problem. Most of the great ones are here: Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Tito, Mobutu, Franco and Bokassa and plenty that some may be unfamiliar with like the erstwhile dictator of Mexico. The individual strongmen's styles are as varied as their regime: Franco's gaff is tasteful and understated, Stalin had a lovely Edwardian dacha while Mobutu went in for fake pagodas and plenty of red and gold. The top man; however, must be Tito and the photos of his lair look like nothing so much as surrealist photomontages. Buy and it and be amazed and delighted.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Mersey

    This is a fabulous addition to any bookshelf: a compendium of arch, illustrated pieces about the interior design tastes of the world's most colourful tyrants. Like Cheshire-based footballers with more money than taste, this is all gold taps and leopard print. And it's crying out for a post-Gadaffi updated edition.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Robert Wolfe

    A fine edition to any cosmopolitan coffee table. Style is just as (and maybe more) important as the history, and while my knowledge of fine decors of the past is nil, I still enjoyed these parts a lot, sprinkled as they are with hilariously razor sharp judgment. To be a dictator in the eyes of the writers is of course bad, but to be a tacky one with schizophrenic approach to the ostentatius and gross display of power is worse. In between the style, there is an abundance of interesting history, s A fine edition to any cosmopolitan coffee table. Style is just as (and maybe more) important as the history, and while my knowledge of fine decors of the past is nil, I still enjoyed these parts a lot, sprinkled as they are with hilariously razor sharp judgment. To be a dictator in the eyes of the writers is of course bad, but to be a tacky one with schizophrenic approach to the ostentatius and gross display of power is worse. In between the style, there is an abundance of interesting history, some of which iare well-known and others obscure. It amounts to a light, but finely presented, survey of the increasingly megalomaniacal dictators of the last one hundred years or so. It was as if as the century progressed so did the absurdities and contradictions and evils of these men. But of course, whatever their differences, they all showed themselves through their style preferences, tacky or not. Insightful and entertaining this book is, but dont expect it to last you mucb longer than an afternoon.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Astrid

    This is an informative and interesting book. I was very curious about the content (How do these people live? With what do they choose to surround themselves?) And you absolutely have to care about or be at least intrigued by this topic to read this book. Using photographs, research, and background, he describes the life and tries to understand the aesthetic choices of these despots. It is interesting and a curious pursuit; this is far cry, however, from analysis of the aesthetics of fascism. It This is an informative and interesting book. I was very curious about the content (How do these people live? With what do they choose to surround themselves?) And you absolutely have to care about or be at least intrigued by this topic to read this book. Using photographs, research, and background, he describes the life and tries to understand the aesthetic choices of these despots. It is interesting and a curious pursuit; this is far cry, however, from analysis of the aesthetics of fascism. It is, though, a thought-provoking, eye-catching coffee table book that is worth a read if you are curious.

  8. 5 out of 5

    krad

    Like a drunk interior design dropout turned-political science major was locked in a presentation hall with you to gossip. Gloriously irreverent and with more personality than I've read in a while. Minus one point for quality/quantity of photographs.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lara Seven

    lots of gold and important-looking desks. only flaw in that the text is heavy in UK-pop culture references which are confusing to US audiences.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Richard Kemp

    Interesting, but not really compelling. Good coffee table book probably.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Meszaros

    It would seem that, out there somewhere, there is a checklist and letter that your average dictator is sent when they reach a certain level. "Yes," this letter says, "you may rule with an iron fist and have your every bloody whim met. But in return, you will have horrendous interior decorating taste." Right, let's see here: Gilt and flocked wallpaper? Check Dark European paintings? Check French or English antiques (or knock-offs)? Check Enormous, empty rooms with no purpose? Check Stashes of stuff - s It would seem that, out there somewhere, there is a checklist and letter that your average dictator is sent when they reach a certain level. "Yes," this letter says, "you may rule with an iron fist and have your every bloody whim met. But in return, you will have horrendous interior decorating taste." Right, let's see here: Gilt and flocked wallpaper? Check Dark European paintings? Check French or English antiques (or knock-offs)? Check Enormous, empty rooms with no purpose? Check Stashes of stuff - shoes, furs, jewelry, more furniture? Check Vast, ugly bathrooms? Check Of course, not all dictators stick to the list. Some are quiet inventive. Saddam liked fantasy sci-fi art of the sort you pick up at fair booths - dragons, big-busted women, garish colors on velvet. Ceausescu had violet bathroom sinks. Hitler collected Dresden figurines. Whodathunk? Delightfully hideous!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Lu

    This was a coffee table book I just had to pick up for a quick skim... goes to show that most of these guys really are pretty f'ed up in the head. I'd have to bet that the home of Lee Kuan Yew is probably very normal. Maybe this should be the test we have to pass before judging whether a dictator will be benevolent or another one of these madmen. The introduction is pretty hilarious... "Saddam's chandelier was the size of a two-car garage. If a reason to invade Iraq was wanted, felony interior de This was a coffee table book I just had to pick up for a quick skim... goes to show that most of these guys really are pretty f'ed up in the head. I'd have to bet that the home of Lee Kuan Yew is probably very normal. Maybe this should be the test we have to pass before judging whether a dictator will be benevolent or another one of these madmen. The introduction is pretty hilarious... "Saddam's chandelier was the size of a two-car garage. If a reason to invade Iraq was wanted, felony interior decorating would have done." with a rules for how to make your house look like a dictator (Big it Up, Think French, Make it Marble."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Light reading, but with punchy writing--the writer is clearly a dry Brit with a self-assured sense of interior decorating and style. I've long been fascinated with dictator's appalling sense of style and decorum, so buying this in the $5 book aisle was a no-brainer. Worth picking up, if only to see photos of the truly remarkable fantasy-porn art that Saddam Hussein had hanging on the walls of his palaces. Perhaps not the final word in the appalling taste of dictators and genocidal maniacs, but an Light reading, but with punchy writing--the writer is clearly a dry Brit with a self-assured sense of interior decorating and style. I've long been fascinated with dictator's appalling sense of style and decorum, so buying this in the $5 book aisle was a no-brainer. Worth picking up, if only to see photos of the truly remarkable fantasy-porn art that Saddam Hussein had hanging on the walls of his palaces. Perhaps not the final word in the appalling taste of dictators and genocidal maniacs, but an engaging stopgap/

  14. 5 out of 5

    Harvey

    - from the jacket: "Running with the idea that homes are where we are truly ourselves, Dictator Style examines the frightening decorating tastes of some of history's most alarming despots - and proves that absolute power corrupts absolutely, right down to the drapes." - P.J. O'Rourke once wrote: "Saddam's chandelier was the size of a two-car garage. If a reason to invade Iraq was wanted - felony decorating would have done." - all your favourite dictators are here: Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Tito, Muss - from the jacket: "Running with the idea that homes are where we are truly ourselves, Dictator Style examines the frightening decorating tastes of some of history's most alarming despots - and proves that absolute power corrupts absolutely, right down to the drapes." - P.J. O'Rourke once wrote: "Saddam's chandelier was the size of a two-car garage. If a reason to invade Iraq was wanted - felony decorating would have done." - all your favourite dictators are here: Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Tito, Mussolini, Mobutu, Idi Amin, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Hussein, Milosevic, etc.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brook

    Dated, but interesting. Shows how "luxury" in other parts of the world simply means "plate it in gold" or "buy a thousand of them" or "buy a thousand of them and plate them in gold." The book has almost no social commentary, but does give brief backgrounds on the dictators and their families. Most of the content is focused on the items/lifestyle itself. Another book that proves "you can't take it with you," almost everyone's place gets cleaned out when they're exiled/deposed/killed.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    i learned some important facts, and the pictures are fantastic - this is a must look at coffee table book that you will never see unless you know me or run a remainder house. So many great theme books get remaindered. Where is my store?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    This exceedingly funny book should, in my opinion, be read by everybody, and should be in particular given to anyone so pretentious as to not be fully aware of the corruption that absolute power can wreak on one's psyche.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    This book was really interesting and really sad. It showed how some of the most notorious dictators lived. It's amazing how many of them had bad taste and sad to see how many of them lived in gaudy splendor while their countrymen suffered at their hands.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    This book is fun to check out from the library. It has the lifestyles and houses of famous dictators. None of them have any taste!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Fishface

    I will treasure this book forever, reading it over and over when I need a good laugh. Long live the interior decorating decisions of our lost, loony dictators!

  21. 5 out of 5

    DoctorM

    Okay--- hilarious, wicked, and spot-on. Scary, too, in a deadpan way.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    POORLY WRITTEN, BUT THE SUBJECT MATTER IS UNBEATABLE (PLUS PICTURES)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This book is a great look into the decorating style of some notorious dictators. I'm looking forward to an updated version that includes Trump's garish penthouse!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ally

    This book was terribly edited and hardly researched. It would have been much, much better as a picture-only coffee table book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jillian

    Money and power can't buy you taste.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris Mcelwee

    Good fun, Dictators have no taste, power can't buy you style! (also a foward by Douglas Coupland!! Can't say fairer than that!)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    A volume of snark, and for a book supposedly about design - rather badly designed, too. Even the Douglas Coupland byline wasn't enough to save this from the remainder bin in his own home town.

  28. 4 out of 5

    jonanna

    This might be the awesomest book I ever read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Smith

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bob

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