Stalin’s Library: A dictator and his books
Yale University Press, US$30 hb, 268 pp
The books we read and collect can provide telling insight into our lives. Indeed, bookshelves often draw the immediate attention of our guests, who seek to discern clues about us from the titles that we have accumulated. With Stalin’s Library: A dictator and his books, Geoffrey Roberts takes on the role of a curious visitor perusing the impressive library of Joseph Stalin (1878–1953), who, as head of the Soviet Union, amassed a collection of some 25,000 items. 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’.