Another awesome week of reading non-fiction books, and this week, we have 9 on the list. I read some more books about effective altruism, an excellent book about this first year of the COVID pandemic, and about the psychology of how terrorists are radicalized. I also loved books about, being wrong, the ideas industry and the death of expertise. As someone who reads so much, it’s easy for my ego to make me think I know everything, so I love books that remind me to stay intellectually humble.
Each of the links to the books are affiliate links, so if you use my link to purchase any of these books, some comes back to support what I do (and it also helps fund my reading habit).
Most of us want to help others, but we could be helping in much more effective ways than we are right now, and that’s what effective altruism is all about. Peter Singer’s philosophy of effective altruism is for anyone who is a rational thinker and wants to make sure the money, time, and donations are being as effective as possible. For example, I’ve always found it baffling that a single GoFundMe can get hundreds of thousands of dollars for one person when that amount of money can save many more lives around the world. Then, I realized I’m not the only one who thinks like this, and there’s a whole movement around this called effective altruism.
At the time of writing this review, the book is free in both eBook and audiobook formats. Just go to www.TheLifeYouCanSave.org , but I also highly recommend checking out some other books on effective altruism as well like Doing Good Better.
80,000 Hours: Find a fulfilling career that does good by Benjamin Todd
The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas by Daniel Drezner
At the time of completing this book, it was the 216th non-fiction book I’ve read for the year. I love to learn, I love to create, and I love sharing ideas, so when I heard about this book, it caught my attention. I don’t think I’d ever classify myself as an “intellectual” as I think the label is a little pretentious, but if you like learning, thinking, and sharing ideas, I highly recommend this book from Daniel Drezner. I first learned about this book from the amazing book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas.
The book covers a wide range of subjects from academics sharing ideas and how it’s changed over the years. How being a “thought leader” has become a lucrative business even if you aren’t contributing any new ideas to what Drezner calls “the marketplace of ideas.” But one of my favorite chapters came towards the end when Drezner discussed the challenges of sharing ideas in the age of social media. The Ideas Industry is extremely thought-provoking, and it made me want to read more books in this realm if I can find some.
How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs
Know-It-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture by Michael Lynch
The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Tom Nichols
I read a lot of books, and there are many books that I abandon after a few chapters. Last year, I did that to this book by Tom Nichols, but after seeing an author I respect tweet about this book, I decided to give it another try. Last year, I was clearly in the wrong headspace to read The Death of Expertise because this time, I couldn’t put it down. I haven’t binged a book like this in months. It’s such an incredible book, and it’s one of my new favorites when it comes to intellectual humility.
We live in a time where many of us think we’re a lot smarter than we are because of the fact that we have access to more information than ever. The reality is that we can’t know everything about everything, and we need to trust experts. This book dives deep into that subject from people arguing with experts on social media, to the issues with college students arguing with professors, and there’s also a great chapter about how the media doesn’t help the situation.
My main concern going into this book was, “But will the author hold experts accountable?”. As a recovering prescription drug addict who has seen how experts played a huge role in the current opioid epidemic, I know that even though it’s important to trust experts, we also must hold them accountable. Tom Nicholes did an excellent job throughout the book explaining the checks to keep experts in place, and he even had a whole chapter on expert screwups, and I respect that a lot.
I recommend the books listed above for The Ideas Industry as well as the books below, which are more about subjects to keep experts in check.
Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World by Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West
Medical Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths: What We Think We Know May Be Hurting Us by Dr. Steven Novella
I’ve been trying to learn more about socialism, but more specifically, the work of Marx. This book was a pretty good beginner's book about what socialism is, but I don’t think the arguments were super strong, but it was a good description of what socialism is.
It’s so easy to look at foreign terrorists or even domestic terrorists and just say, “They’re crazy.” Each terrorist has a story, and if we hope to stop terrorism, we need to understand the nuances of what brings someone to that point. Sophia and Clark are the first authors I’ve come across who have taken a deep dive into the psychological research of what’s going on with terrorists.
I think many of us refuse to humanize terrorists and mass shooters because it seems like we’re somehow condoning what they did, but that’s not the case. Moskalenko and McCauley tell individual stories, which humanizes these terrorists and helps us understand what pushed them to radicalized groups. For example, there are stories of people who have watched their families die or their communities get bombed for years, and while it doesn’t justify their actions, if we hope to stop radicalization, we need to know why they’re doing what they do.
Most importantly, this book lays out various solutions for helping to prevent people from becoming radicalized and how to integrate them back into society if they choose to leave the group as well as many other solutions.
As a non-fiction reader, I think it’s extremely important to have a book in the rotation that reminds you to stay intellectually humble. Prior to getting this book, I had never heard of Kathryn Schulz, but as someone who has read many books like this, Being Wrong is easily one of my new favorites in this genre.
The author dissects all of the things our mind does when we’re wrong. She explains the denial, the cognitive dissonance, the identity aspect of our beliefs. This book teaches us the importance of realizing that it’s ok to be wrong, and the only way we’re ever going to truly grow is if we recognize our wrongness on a regular basis. Whether it’s looking at our past our current situations, Schulz reminds us that being wrong is to be human.
Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success by Matthew Syed
The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli
As a psychology nerd, I’m regularly fascinated with how people can believe in such ridiculous conspiracies. For months, I’ve been looking for a book that’s just about the psychology behind conspiracy theorists, and while I’ve read some great books, I never found one that was specifically about the topic…that is until I came across Suspicious Minds by Rob Brotherton. I’ll keep this review short and sweet: if you enjoy psychology and/or just want to understand how the minds of conspiracy theorists work, get this book right now. I can’t wait to start his next book Bad News about why we fall for fake news.
SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable by Bruce Hood
When Prophecy Fails: A Social & Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter
Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live by Nicholas Christakis
I’ve respected the work and writing of Nicholas Christakis for a long time, which is I’ve been anticipating this book for months. At the time of writing this review, it’s the Fall of 2020, and the COVID pandemic isn’t over yet, and Christakis has worked extremely hard to get one of the first books out documenting everything that’s happened. As a layperson, this book answered many questions about how the pandemic started, where mistakes were made, how we learned from mistakes, some unforeseen consequences as well as some unforeseen benefits.
At first, I didn’t think I’d get much from this book because I’ve been following pandemic news pretty closely since the beginning, but I was wrong. I learned a lot from this book. I think for years to come, this book is going to go down in history as some of the best information about the 2020 COVID pandemic.
I also highly recommend Christakis’ other book Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society.
I’ve felt a certain type of way lately, which I assumed was nihilistic based on my remedial understanding of the philosophy. So, I decided to pick up this book from Nolen Gertz. MIT Press releases some awesome books, and this one was a great introduction to the subject. It helped me better understand the difference between nihilism and pessimism, as well as many other misconceptions about nihilism.
I gained a better understanding about how nihilism isn’t this kind of apathy, but some see it as a sign that you do actually care. The book brought up some thought-provoking discussions, and towards the end, there’s an excellent chapter about how nihilism relates to education, work, and other aspects of life. I gained a better understanding of how I see the world and realized that my nihilistic tendencies really just help me pick and choose what I’m going to spend my time on. As someone who almost died 8 years ago from a drug addiction, I realized how much time we all waste on things that really don’t matter.
The Courage to Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
If you need help with your mental health, I highly recommend the service I use, BetterHelp. They’re an affordable online therapy service, and by using this affiliate link, you help support The Rewired Soul.