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.
A person’s library can tell us only so much. Mr. Roberts underscores the limitations of book collections and marginalia in illuminating his subject’s mind ... Mr. Roberts makes the obvious but necessary point that underlining a passage about Genghis Khan doesn’t make Stalin a Khan disciple ... Stalin’s Library assumes the reader’s familiarity with the way the dictator’s reliance on book learning led him catastrophically awry. The point is fundamental and deserves to be emphasized ... Books are what readers make of them. They can be disposable entertainments or a lens for understanding the world. Trivia about Stalin’s reading shouldn’t overshadow the way he failed to absorb the knowledge or truth that a lifetime of study can provide.
A truly fascinating study that leaves no doubt that Stalin took ideas as seriously as political power itself ... Roberts makes a convincing case that the key to understanding Stalin’s capacity for mass murder is 'hidden in plain sight: the politics and ideology of ruthless class war in defence of the revolution and the pursuit of communist utopia' ... In an era of dictatorships whose legacy lingers to this day, Stalin was one of the most bookish of them all. Yet to be well-read is in itself no guarantee of a humane approach to politics and life.
Stalin kept no diary and wrote no memoirs, so these scribblings in the margins become invested with greater significance than perhaps they deserve. Roberts warns against reading too much into Stalin’s decision to underline a line attributed to Genghis Khan ... Roberts is startlingly forgiving towards Stalin ... According to Vitaly Shentalinsky...approximately 1,500 writers perished during Stalin’s Terror. There is surprisingly little focus on their struggle in this book. Fascinating in parts, its promised insight into Stalin’s true feelings remains elusive.