A Book of the Year for The Times and the Sunday Times
‘The writer is the engineer of the human soul,’ claimed Stalin. Although one wonders how many found nourishment in Turkmenbashi’s Book of the Soul (once required reading for driving tests in Turkmenistan), not to mention Stalin’s own poetry. Certainly, to be considered great, a dictator must write, and write a lot. Mao had his Little Red Book, Mussolini and Saddam Hussein their romance novels, Kim Jong-il his treatise on the art of film, Hitler his hate-filled tracts. What do these texts reveal about their authors, the worst people imaginable? And how did they shape twentieth-century history? To find out, Daniel Kalder read them all – the badly written and the astonishingly badly written – so that you don’t have to. This is the untold history of books so terrible they should have been crimes.