The Best in Holiday 2012 Gift Finds: The Desktop Digest of Despots and Dictators

The Best in Holiday 2012 Gift Finds is an ongoing series until December that celebrates the practical to the extravagant, the unusual to the commonly needed items of everyday life.

From food, wine and spirits to beauty, clothing and even home goods and appliances, we have been trying and testing and ultimately weeding out the good stuff you should consider for giving this holiday season. Take us shopping with you.

“The Desktop Digest of Despots & Dictators” is a veritable A–Z of Tyranny compiled and written by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert and illustrated by Steve Krakow (Skyhorse Publishing, January 2013).  This is a must-have for anyone who loves history, art and politics.


Combine colorful and quirky pop art portraits with mini biographies of history’s darkest and most powerful criminals, and you get The Desktop Digest of Despots & Dictators 

Plus, you can fashion a New Year’s Eve drinking game with “Ten Things You Never Knew About History’s Most Heinous Dictators” driven by little known facts like Qaddafi renaming the months of the year, as in the case of January – because of the coldness – was dubbed Where is the Fire?

Benito Mussolini banned drawings of skinny women in Italian newspapers, ads and government publications under threat of jail! Menelik II of Ethiopia died after swallowing the Bible’s Book of Kings in an attempt to cure himself after suffering a stroke! There was a Spanish despot named Pedro the Cruel too.


In a handsome hardcover format, we see Hitler to Hussein, the pharaohs to the ayatollahs, and everything in between.

The book is your completely unapologetic guide to history’s most notorious absolutist rulers and authoritarian regimes, a mini encyclopedia as informative as it is titillating, a lurid panorama of history’s most malignant autarchs with original full-color portraits and accompanying biographical profiles.

On a more somber note, in the present day, the idea of dictatorship has assumed aspects of the comic opera, but there is no denying the ongoing reality.

Only recently in Iraq, a survivor of Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers had both his arms amputated joint by joint, starting with his fingers. In Iran, a Christian missionary was blinded by Moslem zealots who tied him to a table, spread honey on his eyes, then placed ants on his face. Here are the profiles of history’s most warped personalities and their shocking crimes, covering:

·         Fidel Castro

·         Mao Tse-tung

·         Napoleon Bonaparte

·         Vladimir Lenin

·         Nero

·         Josef Stalin

·         Cleopatra

·         And many more!

This is the perfect gift and handbook for educators, armchair historians, and pop-culture pundits.

Gilbert Alter-Gilbert is an essayist, anthologist, and humorist whose inventive parody Poets Ranked by Beard Weight was published in 2011. The Desktop Digest of Dictators & Despots is Alter-Gilbert’s second pictorial for Skyhorse, touching on the ultimate unknowability of history and the relationship between history and myth.

Steve Krakow, aka Plastic Crimewave, is the creator of Galactic Zoo Dossier, a hand drawn psychedelic culture mag published by Drag City, as well as numerous album covers, posters, and illustrations. Krakow is also the creator of the Chicago Reader comic/info-strip The Secret History of Chicago Music and has written and illustrated for Arthur, Stop Smiling, Roctober, Signal to Noise, and Time Out Chicago.