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To Name the Bigger Lie
A Memoir in Two Stories
Table of Contents
About The Book
Part coming-of-age story, part psychological thriller, part philosophical investigation, this unforgettable memoir traces the ramifications of a series of lies that threaten to derail the author’s life—exploring the line between truth and deception, fact and fiction, and reality and conspiracy.
Sarah’s story begins as she’s researching what she believes will be a book about her high school philosophy teacher, a charismatic instructor who taught her and her classmates to question everything—in the end, even the reality of historical atrocities. As she digs into the effects of his teachings, her life takes a turn into the fantastical when her wife, Marta, is notified that she’s been investigated for sexual misconduct at the university where they both teach.
Based in part on a viral New York Times essay, To Name the Bigger Lie follows the investigation as it upends Sarah’s understanding of truth. She knows the claims made against Marta must be lies, and as she uncovers the identity of the person behind them and then tries, with increasing desperation, to prove their innocence, she’s drawn back into the questions that her teacher inspired all those years ago: about the nature of truth, the value of skepticism, and the stakes we all have in getting the story right.
A compelling, incisive journey into honesty and betrayal, this memoir explores the powerful pull of dangerous conspiracy theories and the pliability of personal narratives in a world dominated by hoaxes and fakes. To Name the Bigger Lie reads like the best of psychological thrillers—made all the more riveting because it’s true.
- Publisher: Scribner (June 13, 2023)
- Length: 304 pages
- ISBN13: 9781982166595
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Raves and Reviews
"A thrilling, labyrinthine and ultimately illuminating reckoning with what it feels like to be caught up in a vortex of post-truth, conspiracy, and lies, Sarah Viren's To Name the Bigger Lie is a fascinating and deeply disturbing account of our contemporary age of weaponized falsehoods. That what most of us experience only through the news came for her life so personally makes for heart-in-throat reading. This is a memoir, yes, but it's also a view into a terrifying aspect of modernity, and Viren's ability to unspool complicated tangles for the reader is unparalleled."
—Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body
"Sarah Viren’s To Name the Bigger Lie is a work of radical moral philosophy as much as a memoir of one woman’s confrontation with the seeming contradictions of certainty and doubt, truth and conspiracy, of the sometimes unbridgeable distance between the truth we know and the one we can prove. This is one of the most astonishing books I’ve ever read — a beacon in these uncertain times."
—Lacy M. Johnson, author of The Reckonings
“To Name The Bigger Lie is one of the most dynamic memoirs I’ve ever read. At the heart of this magnificent book is an incisive exploration of the concept of truth, a subject that, in an age of proliferating fake news, conspiracy theories, and coerced conflicts, couldn’t be more urgent.”
—Mitchell S. Jackson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Survival Math
"You don't expect a book on the nature of truth to be so darn readable. I could not put this down. It's like Schopenhauer meets Gone Girl. Viren chases into nightmarish places the rest of us try to avoid—she confronts shadows, emails monsters—and brandishes philosophers along the way to make sense of what's unfolding. A breathless and edifying read. You come out of this book different, and also more connected to who you once were."
—Lulu Miller, co-host of Radiolab and author of Why Fish Don't Exist
“A personal and philosophical deep dive into the world of fake news and conspiracy theories, this book takes on the big questions about truth with in-depth research, empathy and humor.”
—Toni Jensen, author of Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land
“I’ve never read anything like To Name The Bigger Lie. A thriller? A philosophy book? A craft book? A perspective like Sarah Viren’s is what’s been missing from the debates around truths vs conspiracy. Viren has written a masterpiece.”
—Javier Zamora, author of Unaccompanied and Solito
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