Drawing on previously classified material, Simon Sebag Montefiore's new biography, Young Stalin, follows the despot through his formative years, from Georgian street tough to the Bolshevik revolution. In a "morbidly fascinating" account, he describes how the young Josef Djugashvili dropped out of a seminary, assumed 160 aliases, robbed stagecoaches, wrote poetry, and learned to thirst for revenge, Newsweek writes.
Had Stalin listened to his alcoholic father and worked in a shoe factory, world history would have been different; likewise if he'd stayed in the seminary where his mother sent him. But he had strong inclinations toward the rough life (and women) that ultimately buried his priestly plans. The author explains how Stalin's combination of classical education and street toughness shaped his brutal reign. (Read more Stalin stories.)