The best conspiracy theory books 📚

Browse the best books on conspiracy theories as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories

Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories

By Michael Butter, Peter Knight

Why this book?

My book came out around the same time as several others on conspiracy theory from humanities scholars. I could spend all five of my book recommendations on their works—and I’m thinking especially here of books by Clare Birchall, Peter Knight, Timothy Melley, and more recently Michael Butter—but several of the authors are included in this recent collection that also features scholars from throughout Europe. The Routledge Handbook situates conspiracy theories within the political and cultural contexts from which they emerge throughout the world, and it includes in a single volume works from a broad range of disciplines that reveal the…
From the list:

The best books to understand conspiracy theories

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Book cover of The Illuminatus! Trilogy: The Eye in the Pyramid, the Golden Apple, Leviathan

The Illuminatus! Trilogy: The Eye in the Pyramid, the Golden Apple, Leviathan

By Robert Shea, Robert Anton Williams

Why this book?

Williams’s trilogy of fantasy novels from the 1970s is both incredibly dated in its retrograde sexual politics and prescient in its depiction of a world gone mad with paranoia and bizarre conspiracies. The trilogy’s confusing plot, sense of humor, and shifting and challenging politics trigger the kinds of bewilderment and excitement that conspiracy theories engender. More fun and intellectually challenging than the rabbit holes that the Internet regularly invites us to climb into, Illuminatus! can force a reader to doubt received history and human perception. Erik Davis’s recent book High Weirdness offers context and biography for Wilson and his work,…
From the list:

The best books to understand conspiracy theories

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Book cover of Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil

Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil

By Paul Levy

Why this book?

As someone who campaigns for a better way to operate spaceship Earth, Dispelling Wetiko was the precise slap in the face I needed to break free from the spell that has captured so many would-be change-makers like myself. It’s so easy to look around and point the finger at those who benefit most from the world’s problems as being the cause agents when nothing could be further from the truth. 

It is our collective hopes, our weaknesses, and our fears – multiplied in their billions – that create the super-structure that billionaires enjoy. Levy defines this as a collective psychosis…

From the list:

The best books to alter your world view

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Book cover of A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy

A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy

By Nancy L. Rosenblum, Russell Muirhead

Why this book?

Extremist movements today are not just driven by violent hate and ideologies—they are also deeply embedded in a wide range of conspiracy theories. Muirhead and Rosenblum’s book helped me understand how those conspiracy theories spread and why they are so dangerous to democracies around the world—especially for the ways they disorient individuals, delegitimize expertise, and carry antisemitic and Islamophobic ideas into the mainstream.

From the list:

The best books on radicalization and extremism

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Book cover of Department of Truth, Vol 1: The End of the World

Department of Truth, Vol 1: The End of the World

By James Tynion IV

Why this book?

It’s the post-modern apotheosis of all conspiracy theories: convince enough people something is true, it becomes true. Doesn’t matter how far-fetched – the Earth is flat, the world is overcome with Bigfoots, shape-changing lizardmen are secretly controlling everything – convince enough people, and it happens.  Except, who’s trying to convince people? And who’s trying to stop them? And are either of them on our side? It’s really a bottomless hole in the most enjoyable way (if paranoid fables are your thing): no matter how bad you realize it is, it’s actually worse. But wait, it’s even worse than that. And…

From the list:

The best books about a world under secret control

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Book cover of The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory

The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory

By Jesse Walker

Why this book?

Hofstadter’s Paranoid Style is more a work of historiography than history and attempted to explain the rise of a right-wing “paranoia” to a liberal intellectual audience in the early 1960s. By contrast, Jesse Walker’s book offers a more detailed, engaging, and sympathetic history of U.S. conspiracy theories and the individuals and groups who have made and circulated them. It’s funny and deadpan, with a keen eye for subcultural details and the singular American oddballs that have traveled from the margins to the mainstream. As Walker demonstrates, Qanon is not the first example of a bizarre, syncretic set of beliefs that…
From the list:

The best books to understand conspiracy theories

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