Stupid bias in books is ubiquitous, but it is particularly obvious in children’s literature. There is a reason for that. Not only are most works of popularized history and social sciences low brow, but the level of juvenile books is even lower. For that reason I give my twelve-year-old credit for spotting the obvious bias in The Cold War by Britta Bjornlund, which we got from our local library. Reagan was an “aggressive” leader but Gorbachev gets all the credit for ending the forty year standoff of East and West. Ms. Bjornlund also has a pet cat named “Trotsky.” Go figure.
But there are some good nonfiction works for younger readers if you hunt for them. A truly first-rate study is Albert Marrin’s Stalin: Russia’s Man of Steel which was put out by Viking Penguin in the late 80s (still in print), and which draws heavily on the work of scholars like Robert Conquest—the British historian who was one of the first to tell western readers about the full scope of Russia’s mass murders. I’d recommend Marrin’s work for older readers as well. It provides an accurate and unflinching portrayal of the USSR and the man who came to rule it. Marrin offers readable studies of Hitler, Napoleon, Robert E. Lee and other important historical figures.
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