BIG LIES: from Socrates to Social Media (Paperback)
A KIRKUS' SELECTION FOR BEST TEEN & YA NONFICTION 2022
NAMED ONE OF KIRKUS' BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2022
PW HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 2022
In his new book for young readers Mark Kurlansky’s lens is the art of the “BIG LIE”, a term coined by Adolf Hitler. Kurlansky has written Big Lies: From Socrates to Social Media for the next stewards of our world. It is not only a history-of, but a how-to manual for seeing through Big Lies and thinking critically.
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.
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. A scientific theory has to be testable, and so does an allegation.
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; 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; up to the equal-opportunity spotlight in America.
“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.”
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.
In this noteworthy guide to media literacy, Kurlansky (Bugs in Danger) details events occurring over the past 300 years to break down the “big lies” that permeate global history and explore how they affect the current U.S. media landscape. Using examples throughout history, Kurlansky breaks down how politicians have repeatedly used propaganda and misinformation to control public perception and offers a checklist for differentiating fact from fiction. Zelz’s (My Monster Moofy) emotive, full-color art depicts humorous caricature portraits of historic thinkers, and distills ideas presented throughout the narrative via comics spreads at chapters’ end. Employing conversational prose, cohesive timelines, and digestible examples, the creators encourage readers to think critically, citing that a “lack of caring what is true or false is the undoing of democracy.
— Publishers Weekly - Starred Review
This book takes on a dense and complicated subject; Kurlansky’s genius is to embrace the complexity and urge readers to question everything they read, including this book.
— Kirkus - Starred Review