Stalin's Library: A Dictator and His Books.
Geoffrey Roberts

Stalin's Library: A Dictator and His Books.

In this engaging life of the 20th century’s most self-consciously learned dictator, Geoffrey Roberts explores the books Stalin read, how he read them and what they taught him. Stalin firmly believed in the transformative potential of words, and his voracious appetite for reading guided him throughout his years. A biography as well as an intellectual portrait, this book explores all aspects of Stalin’s tumultuous life and politics.
 
Stalin, an avid reader from an early age, amassed a surprisingly diverse personal collection of thousands of books, many of which he marked and annotated – revealing his intimate thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Based on his wide-ranging research in Russian archives, Roberts tells the story of the creation, fragmentation and resurrection of Stalin’s personal library. As a true believer in communist ideology, Stalin was a fanatical idealist who hated his enemies – the bourgeoisie, kulaks, capitalists, imperialists, reactionaries, counter-revolutionaries, traitors – but detested their ideas even more.

Book Details:

  • Author: Geoffrey Roberts
  • Published Year: 2022
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Yale University Press
    • USA: Yale University Press
    • Romania: Corint
    • Greece: Dardanos
Geoffrey Roberts

Geoffrey Roberts

Geoffrey Roberts is Emeritus Professor of History at University College Cork and a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. A leading Soviet history expert, his many books include an award-winning biography of Zhukov, Stalin’s General and the acclaimed Stalin’s Wars:From World to Cold War.
More about Geoffrey Roberts

Book Reviews

  • "  Stalin was a lifelong reader of astonishing stamina and range. In this shrewd and compelling exploration, Geoffrey Roberts finds the key to understanding the despot and his despotism hidden in plain sight in the pages of his books. The love of reading drew Stalin to the revolution and gave him the intellectual assurance that all his ruthless violence was both necessary and justified. Stalin's Library offers a new and fascinating depth of insight into the mind of a fanatic."
    Rachel Polonsky, author of Molotov's Magic Lantern
  • "Innovative and intriguing: the warlord and mass-murderer as bookworm, librarian and intellectual. A fascinating read."
    David Reynolds, co-author of The Kremlin Letters
  • "    A German philosopher once said, "Tell me how you read and I'll tell you who you are." Geoffrey Roberts's study of the remains of Stalin's library, and the angry exclamations and demanding queries made by the tyrant's blue pencil in the margins (and sometimes whole rewritten pages) reveals Stalin as a fanatical proof-reader, a phenomenally gifted interrogator of other persons' opinions."
    Donald Rayfield, author of Stalin and His Hangmen
  • "  This fascinating, original, and meticulously researched study of Stalin’s library offers penetrating insight into the mind of a dictator who valued ideas as much as power. In exploring Stalin as an avid reader of books, Roberts punctures many myths about the man."
    Stephen Smith, author of Russia in Revolution
  • "A truly fascinating study that leaves no doubt that Stalin took ideas as seriously as political power itself."
    Financial Times
  • "Stalin’s Library tilts our image of a paranoid killer interested only in power towards a more nuanced — but even scarier — one: of a deep thinker prepared to turn his ideas into bullets to mow down those who thought differently. "
    Spectator
  • "Stalin’s Library offers a new perspective on the dictator: his intellectual curiosity, his reading, his studying ..."
    Scotsman
  • "a fascinating new study."
    Wall Street Journal
  • "a very useful and informative supplementary volume to the standard Stalin biographies. "
    Complete Review
  • "among the best means we have of accessing the dictator’s inner life."
    Irish Times
  • "Through seven chapters of closely argued analysis,  part-chronological, part-thematic, Roberts builds up the picture of a three-dimensional Stalin, at times abrupt and dogmatic, at others reflective and even self-critical."
    Shiny New Books
  • "  In Stalin’s Library, Geoffrey Roberts…has brought readers yet another Stalin and has done so ingeniously through meticulous research of the dictator’s library of more than 25,000 books…Through these, Stalin has spoken to Roberts from beyond the grave, particularly through his pometki, the annotations he inserted in the margins of books he read. As Roberts puts it: “We may not get to peer into his soul, but we do get to wear his spectacles."
    Dublin Review of Books
  • "  A balanced and informative book, in which Roberts punctures many myths about Stalin. A must read for anyone interested in an accurate, non-partisan history of Stalin’s Soviet Union and the Stalin phenomenon. "
    Morning Star
  • "In its examination of Stalin’s debts to the books he read, this is a pioneering work of scholarship."
    New Statesman
  • "  Conceptualised as a biography and intellectual portrait, Stalin’s Library joins a crowded field of works aimed at cracking the Stalin enigma. Setting this latest biography apart is its focus on Stalin’s personal library as a basis for constructing a ‘picture of the reading life of the twentieth century’s most self-consciously intellectual dictator."
    ABR
  • "Roberts has produced a relatively compact, engagingly written study of the Soviet leader as an intellectual…Basing his interpretation both on what Stalin read and on how he did so, the author contends we can not only “get to know him from the outside in”, but also “glimpse the world through his eyes….The world glimpsed through his eyes was a frightening place. It has become so again. Whether or not dictators of Stalin’s ilk will emerge once more, they are unlikely to be as well read."
    Times Literary Supplement
  • "  Though he never kept a diary or published a memoir, Joseph Stalin did leave behind “a well-marked literary trail” in his social, political and historical writings and readings. Roberts, a British historian, follows the trail to gather a fascinating intellectual history of the determinedly intellectual Bolshevik dictator, who in Roberts’s words “believed that reading could help transform not just people’s ideas and consciousness, but human nature itself."
    New York Times
  • "  Though he never kept a diary or published a memoir, Joseph Stalin did leave behind “a well-marked literary trail” in his social, political and historical writings and readings. Roberts, a British historian, follows the trail to gather a fascinating intellectual history of the determinedly intellectual Bolshevik dictator, who in Roberts’s words “believed that reading could help transform not just people’s ideas and consciousness, but human nature itself."
    New York Times