In his new book for young readers Mark Kurlansky's lens is the art of the "big lie," a term coined by Adolph Hitler. Kurlansky has written Big Lies: From Socrates to Social Media for the
In his new book for young readers Mark Kurlansky's lens is the art of the "big lie," a term coined by Adolph Hitler. Kurlansky has written Big Lies: From Socrates to Social Media for the next stewards of our world. It is not only a history but a how—to manual for seeing through big lies and thinking critically.
Mark Kurlansky's bestselling works of nonfiction view the history of the world through unexpected lenses, including cod, salt, and paper. In this new book for young readers his lens is the art of the big lie. Big lies are told by governments, politicians, and corporations to avoid responsibility, cast blame on the innocent, win elections, disguise intent, create chaos, and gain power and wealth. Big lies are as old as civilization. They corrupt public understanding and discourse, turn science upside down, and reinvent history. They prevent humanity from addressing critical challenges. They perpetuate injustices. They destabilize the world.
As with his book World Without Fish, Kurlansky has written A History of Big Lies for young readers, the future stewards of our world. It is not only a history but a how—to manual for seeing through big lies and thinking critically. "I hope that you will keep asking yourself what is true as you read this book and live your life," he entreats readers at the outset. "If the Age of Enlightenment is not to be followed by the Age of Chaos, we have to think for ourselves."
A History of Big Lies soars across history, alighting on the "noble lies" of Socrates and Plato, Nero blaming Christians for the burning of Rome, the great injustices of the Middle Ages, the big lies of Stalin and Hitler and their terrible consequences, and the reckless lies of contemporary demagogues, which are amplified through social media. Lies against women and Jews are two examples in the long history of "othering" the vulnerable for personal gain. Nor does America escape Kurlansky's equal—opportunity spotlight.
The modern age has provided ever—more—effective ways of spreading lies, but it has also given us the scientific method, which is the most effective tool for finding what is true. In the book's final chapter, Kurlansky reveals ways to deconstruct an allegation. Is there credible, testable evidence to support it? If not, suspect a lie. A scientific theory has to be testable, and so does an allegation. Who is the source? Who benefits? Is there a money trail? Especially in the age of social media, critical thinking counters lies and chaos.
"Belief is a choice," Kurlansky writes, "and honesty begins in each of us. A lack of caring what is true or false is the undoing of democracy. The alternative to truth is a corrupt state in which the loudest voices and most seductive lies confer power and wealth on grifters and oligarchs. We cannot achieve a healthy planet for all the world's people if we do not keep asking what is true."
View Biographical note
Mark Kurlansky worked as a commercial fisherman, longshoreman, paralegal, cook, pastry chef, and playwright, then traveled the world as a journalist and foreign correspondent for The International Herald Tribune, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Based in Paris and then Mexico, he reported on Europe, West Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, Latin America, and the Caribbean from 1976 to 1991. His thirty—four books for adults and young readers include four New York Times bestsellers (Cod; Salt; 1968; and The Food of a Younger Land) and have been translated into thirty languages. He has received a James Beard Award for Food Writing, a Bon Appétit American Food and Entertaining Award for Food Writer of the Year, and the Glenfiddich Food and Drink Award for Food Book of the Year. A master storyteller, Kurlansky is equally adept at writing for children and adults. The New York Times called World Without Fish "a compelling narrative for young people."
Eric Zelz is a designer, illustrator, and educator whose work has been recognized by organizations including the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Society of News Design. His illustrations for three Tilbury House picture books (Pass the Pandowdy, Please; Read This Book If You Don't Want a Story; and My Monster Moofy) have received awards and starred reviews. See more at ericzelz.com.
View Table of contents
Table of Contents
1. Masked Revelers in a Carnival of Lies
From Russia with Love, Part 1
2. The Enlightenment and the Unenlightened
From Russia with Love, Part 2
3. Denial: The Short Way around Science
From Russia with Love, Part 3
4. Favorite Lies About Women
From Russia with Love, Part 4
5. A Snowball in France: The Blame Game
From Russia with Love, Part 5
6. Soviet Mathematics: 2 + 2 = 5
7. The Truth about American Truth
8. Big Dictators and Big Lies
The Prince of Real Estate, Part 1
9. Photographic Lies
The Prince of Real Estate, Part 2
10. Saving Children: A Best—Loved Lie
The Prince of Real Estate, Part 3
11. The Golden Lasso of Truth
The Prince of Real Estate, Part 4