The best books about deception

8 authors have picked their favorite books about deception and why they recommend each book.

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The Triumph of Doubt

By David Michaels,

Book cover of The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception

If Oreskes & Conway documented the historical trend, Michaels shows what the daily battle over the implications of science for governance is like from within. As former Assistant Secretary for Labor for OSHA, he recounts the never-ending combat over how science is generated and interpreted when it comes to the safety and comprehension of the American public. From dark money to hired guns to compromised scientists, he puts names and faces to the war on science, with truth as the first casualty.

Who am I?

I am an economist who came to realize that the marketplace of ideas was a political doctrine, and not an empirical description of how we came to know what we think we know. Science has never functioned in the same manner across centuries; it was only during my lifetime that it became recast as a subset of market reality. I have spent a fair amount of effort exploring how economics sought to attain the status of a science; but now the tables have turned. It is now scientists who are trained to become first and foremost market actors, finally elevating the political dominance of the economists.

I wrote...

The Knowledge We Have Lost in Information: The History of Information in Modern Economics

By Philip Mirowski, Edward Nik-Khah,

Book cover of The Knowledge We Have Lost in Information: The History of Information in Modern Economics

What is my book about?

This book is a history of how American economists sought to incorporate “information” into their theories of choice and markets. Far from being driven by psychology or philosophy, we argue most of the options were borrowed from the natural sciences. The version which eventually became dominant by the late 20th century was prompted more by the politics of neoliberalism than by any logical or empirical considerations.

The book illustrates my larger interest, which is to explore how claims to know something are often rooted in a curious admixture of science and politics. I continually find that the supposed separation of science from politics rarely holds up in history.

Lady Audley's Secret

By Mary Elizabeth Braddon,

Book cover of Lady Audley's Secret

Often overlooked on detective fiction lists, Lady Audley’s Secret is a hidden gem. My favorite Victorian detective novel, I didn’t discover the book until grad school, and since have taught it in numerous British lit courses. When Robert Audley becomes curious about the beautiful, young bride of his uncle, Michael Audley, he starts investigating her past. He finds surprising ties to his friend George Talbot, who, years earlier, abandoned his young wife and son to seek his fortune in Australia. What I love about this book is how Braddon plays with Victorian anxieties—particularly preoccupations with the unconventional means a woman might go through to escape unhappiness. 

Who am I?

I think the lure of the detective novel lies in our human instinct to problem solve. There’s something satisfying about following a smart, observant, and even flawed character as they solve a crime. We’re working through a complicated puzzle, deciphering clues and theorizing, alongside the detective. Personally, I love detective novels set in richly drawn historical settings. I grew up addicted to Edgar Allan Poe and Sherlock Holmes stories. I remember reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins in a few days because I couldn’t put it down. The following books are a must-have for any Sherlock Holmes fans.

I wrote...

Ripper (A Ripper Novel)

By Amy Carol Reeves,

Book cover of Ripper (A Ripper Novel)

What is my book about?

It’s 1888, and after her mother’s sudden death, Abbie is sent to live with her grandmother in a posh London neighborhood. When she begins volunteering at Whitechapel Hospital, Abbie finds she has a passion for helping the abused and sickly women there. But within days, patients begin turning up murdered at the hands of Jack the Ripper. As more women are murdered, Abbie realizes that she and the Ripper share a strange connection: she has visions showing the Ripper luring his future victims to their deaths—moments before he turns his knife upon them. Her desperation to stop the massacres leads Abbie on a perilous hunt for the killer. And her search leads to a mysterious brotherhood whose link to the Ripper threatens not just London but all of mankind.

The Return of Martin Guerre

By Natalie Zemon Davis,

Book cover of The Return of Martin Guerre

Davis’s history of the crafty peasant Arnaud du Tilh is another reminder that when it comes to history, truth is stranger than fiction. It’s also the book that confirmed my desire to do microhistory. Davis digs into trial documents to narrate the tale of Arnaud, who after being mistaken at an inn for the disappeared Martin Guerre, learns everything he can about the missing man before taking over his life. The real mystery here is not how Arnaud manages to fool the villagers in the small French town of Artigat, but why even those who couldn’t possibly have been fooled – like Martin’s wife Bertrande – go along with the ruse. 

Who am I?

I fell in love with historical fiction as a kid when I spent a week sick in bed reading the entire Horatio Hornblower series. I got hooked on history while studying the French Revolution in college. I remember thinking: these people are absolutely bonkers! I loved it. As a historian, I study the history of identity: the tools people had to craft a self-definition, and how those tools were themselves created. As a novelist, I draw on my research so that I can – like the authors in this list – recreate not just the settings and events of the past, but also the weird and wonderful world inside people’s heads.

I wrote...

Eagle (Saladin Trilogy)

By Jack Hight,

Book cover of Eagle (Saladin Trilogy)

What is my book about?

The Middle East in 1158 is a land riven by civil war and infighting. Two kings sit uneasily on their thrones: Baldwin in Jerusalem and Nur ad-Din in Aleppo. War between the kingdoms is inevitable. It is a world balanced on a knife’s edge, where one man can be the difference between victory and defeat. 

That man is Saladin. Arriving at court as a young warrior, he will navigate webs of intrigue, survive epic battles, and form a lasting friendship with John, the Saxon slave who becomes his best friend. This is one man’s incredible journey, set against the backdrop of world-changing events. Great leaders are not born. They are made. This is the story of the making of Saladin.

Pseudoscience and Deception

By Bryan Farha,

Book cover of Pseudoscience and Deception: The Smoke and Mirrors of Paranormal Claims

Instead of “writing” this book on each subject myself, chapters are written by the most noted experts in the field of the subject matter. Some of the topics include claims of astrology, psychic ability, alternative medicine, after-death communication, psychotherapy, and pseudoscience. Mostly, I’ve never seen people so excited to study critical thinking as when the subject matter involves the paranormal. 

Who am I?

As a licensed mental health professional, I once had a client claiming to be demonically possessed, and requested that I get an exorcist to drive the evil spirits out of her body. Instead, I utilized a therapeutic approach to challenge “irrational” beliefs. The problem was gone. I realized that people were prone to strange beliefs and started to read and listen to “experts” who were skeptical in nature. To my surprise, I saw Carl Sagan distinguishing astrology (pseudoscience) from astronomy (science). His talk was clear, convincing, and logical. I was hooked.

I edited...

Pseudoscience and Deception: The Smoke and Mirrors of Paranormal Claims

By Bryan Farha,

Book cover of Pseudoscience and Deception: The Smoke and Mirrors of Paranormal Claims

What is my book about?

Pseudoscience and Deception is a compilation of some of the most eye-opening skeptical articles pertaining to extraordinary claims and pseudoscience. The articles explore paranormal, extraordinary, or fringe-science claims and reveal logical explanations or outline the deceptive tactics involved in convincing the vulnerable. Topics include claims of astrology, psychic ability, alternative medicine, after-death communication, psychotherapy, and pseudoscience. The contributors to this book are among the most accomplished critical thinkers, scientists, and educators in the world and tackle their respective topics from a rational, logical, and skeptical perspective. Most students are seldom excited to study “critical thinking”—with the exception of allegedly paranormal phenomena as the subject matter. Educators must seize this golden opportunity to witness and experience students’ genuine engagement in studying critical thinking. 

Apple Tree Yard

By Louise Doughty,

Book cover of Apple Tree Yard

Apply Tree Yard is along the lines of The Girl On The Train. A deeply flawed main character. Someone who’s done something she shouldn’t have. As her life hangs in the balance in a courtroom, everything depends on her remembering how and why she had sex with a random man. 

Who am I?

I love to write about crime. I have no idea why. I don’t have any real-life experience of crime. Honest. I enjoy setting books in the places that I love to visit. So Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Nice all feature strongly here. And so far, the two novels I’ve written of which one is available on Amazon, have had strong female protagonists. I guess I find it interesting for a woman to take on a bunch of nasty men. And I studied art and the history of art at college, so everything I have written in terms of novels has been in the world of stolen art. 

I wrote...

To Catch A Storm

By Warren Slingsby,

Book cover of To Catch A Storm

What is my book about?

Janet comes round in a strange hotel room, her memory almost erased by a drug and alcohol-fuelled binge from hell. Unsure which hotel or even which city she's in and no idea how she got there. She's not alone; there's a dead man laying next to her. And there are some eye-opening surprises in the room. Surprises that will lead her to abandon her life as a successful banker and plunge into the unspoken world of stolen art.

She stumbles into a dangerous game of cat and mouse crossing the paths of thieves, thugs, and oligarchs taking her from Glasgow to Edinburgh and onto Barcelona and the Cote d'Azure. During her journey, she'll unlock the secret to the location of the most infamous and valuable stolen painting in the world. 

The Kiss of Deception

By Mary E. Pearson,

Book cover of The Kiss of Deception: The Remnant Chronicles, Book One

When I finished this book, I immediately wanted to go back and read it again! Princess Lia flees her home on the day of her arranged wedding, only to find herself falling in love with two handsome strangers. She has no idea one is her betrothed prince and the other is an assassin hired to kill her. In a masterful storytelling move, the reader gets into both the love interests' heads but has no idea which is the prince and which is the assassin.

Who am I?

I started reading young adult fantasy by the likes of Tamora Pierce and Garth Nix in my teens and was instantly hooked. I stuck with it into my adult years because YA fantasy has always been full of rich worlds, complex characters, and fast-paced plots. My younger sister also loved these stories, so when she passed away at a tragically young age, it spurred me on to write my own YA fantasy in memory of her. This list includes some of my favorites—ones I know she would have loved as well.

I wrote...

Elixir Bound

By Katie L. Carroll,

Book cover of Elixir Bound

What is my book about?

Set off on an epic adventure in this award-winning YA fantasy! Katora possesses the subtle magic that marks her as the next guardian of a powerful healing Elixir. The Elixir is such a highly guarded secret that Katora doesn’t know it exists until she’s tasked with leading a quest into a dangerous forest to retrieve its magical ingredient. Will Katora bind herself to the Elixir and become its next guardian or will she abandon her family’s legacy in the name of independence?

Diversion and Deception

By Whitney T. Bendeck,

Book cover of Diversion and Deception: Dudley Clarke's a Force and Allied Operations in World War II

This is perhaps an unusual choice in that it focuses on deception outside the sphere of countries usually covered by historians. Bendeck explores the numerous deceptions around D-Day, in a cluster of operations that were known as Plan Bodyguard. He explores the little-known, but vital, Plan Zeppelin which was the largest and most complex of the Bodyguard plans. Plan Zeppelin, in conjunction with A Force’s strategic deception plans in the Mediterranean, succeeded in convincing Hitler to hold back sixty German divisions from southern France and move them to the Balkans in time for D-Day. Focusing on the years 1943 to 1945, Bendeck illuminates how A Force, under the leadership of charismatic Dudley Clarke, orchestrated both strategic and tactical deception plans to create the illusion of military threats by the Allies to German defences and troops across the southern perimeter of Europe. Her book is a nuanced and important…

Who am I?

Helen is an ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence, a trustee of the Friends of the Intelligence Corps Museum, and a trustee of the Medmenham Collection. Her latest book Spymaster: The Man Who Saved MI6 about one of the greatest spies of the 20th century, was a Daily Mail best biography for 2021. Her history of MI9—the first such history for over 40 years—was shortlisted for The Duke of Wellington Medal for Military History. 

I wrote...

The Walls Have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of World War II

By Helen Fry,

Book cover of The Walls Have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of World War II

What is my book about?

During the Second World War, deception underpinned some of the major operations run by British intelligence. Deception —if successful—could to be of paramount importance in aiding Allied offensives and the final defeat of Nazi Germany. British intelligence used some of Britain’s most creative minds to dream up schemes to deceive the enemy. The unthinkable was put into a meticulous plan and executed with such precision and attention to detail as to completely hoodwink the enemy. What makes us so fascinated by all this—is that the deception worked. Operation Mincemeat is a really good example of that. The British were able to fuse fact with fiction, cast illusion and doubts in the mind of the enemy and trick the enemy into behaving or responding in a particular way.

The File

By Timothy Garton Ash,

Book cover of The File: A Personal History

Although it reads like a spy novel, this is the real-life account of a noted English journalist’s encounter with his own Stasi surveillance file. The file in question was compiled in the early 1980s by the East German secret police on Garton Ash (code name “Romeo”), then a young man living in Berlin and writing about Central European communism. Garton Ash opened his file fifteen years later, after the former German Democratic Republic made Stasi records accessible. Tracking those who tailed him, the book explores the uneasy sensation of reading one’s past life through the photographs, informant reports, surveillance notes, and speculations of those tasked with observing a target of suspicion. It’s a compelling and often chilling chronicle of the costs both of watching and being watched.

Who am I?

I’m an American intellectual historian and professor at Vanderbilt University. I’ve long been fascinated by the history and politics of data: the question of how publicly available knowledge shapes societies as well as individual selves. It’s led me to research the effects of popular polls and statistics on mid-century U.S. culture and to write about how ever-advancing techniques for “knowing” citizens shaped modern privacy sensibilities. My current obsession is with official identity documents—how they infiltrate people’s lives in ways that are at once bureaucratic and curiously intimate. The books I’ve selected lay bare the promise and the peril of documentation in wonderfully vivid detail.

I wrote...

The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America

By Sarah E. Igo,

Book cover of The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America

What is my book about?

Every day, we make decisions about what to share and when, how much to expose, and to whom. Securing the boundary between one’s private affairs and public identity has become an urgent task of modern life. The Known Citizen tracks the quest for privacy in the United States over the last century and a half, revealing enduring debates over how Americans would―and, importantly, should―be known.  

Beginning with “instantaneous photography” in the late nineteenth century and culminating in our present dilemmas over social media and big data, the book uncovers the surprising ways that arguments over what should be kept out of the public eye have shaped U.S. politics and society.  It offers the first wide-angle view of privacy as it has been lived and imagined by modern Americans—with powerful lessons for our own times, when corporations, government agencies, and data miners are tracking our every move.

Apples Never Fall

By Liane Moriarty,

Book cover of Apples Never Fall

This was a literary mystery that renewed my love of the genre. Beginning with an abandoned bike and the disappearance of Joy, the family matriarch, the novel unfolds through the lens of each grown child’s experience of growing up in the Delaney family. When a stranger arrives at the home one night, fleeing her boyfriend, the story is set in motion. The father, a tennis teacher and director of a tennis school, seems the likely culprit of his wife’s disappearance. But as detectives investigate the missing mother’s disappearance and her relationship to the young woman who arrived at the family home, they uncover old wounds in the marriage. Gradually, as the mystery unfolds, Moriarty reveals the family’s fault lines, eventually leading to the mother’s whereabouts while uncovering the truths about each family member.

Who am I?

I've always been a person intrigued by relationships—why some last and others break up. From my perspective, distance in relationships arrives when two people have different expectations. I wanted to look at different kinds of distances in relationships—emotional, sexual, and geographical. As I was beginning to write my first stories, I read a line from my journal: explore the tension between the demands of relationships and the demand in myself to keep growing. I knew that tension was what I needed to write about. As an introvert, one of my deepest struggles has been to feel comfortable with my own boundaries in relationships, and I think that's true for most of us.

I wrote...

This Distance We Call Love

By Carol Dines,

Book cover of This Distance We Call Love

What is my book about?

This Distance We Call Love is a collection of powerful stories where irony and empathy collide. Carol Dines is a writer for our times, delivering masterful, unsettling, and utterly convincing fiction. Told from the perspectives of husbands, wives, siblings, children, lovers, and friends, the thirteen stories in this collection delve into the complexities of family and friendship: sisters battle issues of duty and obligation when one sister becomes homeless; a mother and daughter take a trip to Mexico, only to be followed by the daughter’s stalker; a family living in Rome must contend with their daughter’s rape; parents navigate raising their only child in the age of climate change. While some relationships fall apart, others remain entrenched in old patterns, grappling with notions of self and duty.

The Less People Know About Us

By Axton Betz-Hamilton,

Book cover of The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets, and Stolen Identity

This book hooked me from the get-go. Axton Betz-Hamilton is raised by two parents who are the victims of stolen identities. She lives in a world of paranoia fostered by this incident and watches as the two people she’s closest to begin to turn on each other. Years later, Axton discovers she’s also the victim of identity theft and the journey she takes to figure out why is a nail-biter!

Who am I?

As a female writer, I love digging into the minds of women characters, especially in light of their family circumstances. I think we can sometimes underestimate the importance of a strong, loving family unit in terms of personal development. But what’s amazing is how a person’s story can be redeemed even if they were raised in a less-than-ideal environment. Even though I got pretty lucky in the parent department, I know not a lot of people have. And I love showing others through fiction that despite hardships they’ve had to face along the way, they are still loved and still wanted by a God who knows them better than anyone.

I wrote...

A Violent Hope

By Ericka Clay,

Book cover of A Violent Hope

What is my book about?

Mack Reynolds is battling his demons. After years spent attempting to heal wounds from being abused as a child, he confronts the author of his nightmares-his uncle-leading to a catastrophic decision and permanently sealing his fate. As the reality of Mack’s decision unfolds, his wife and daughter live life in a void, falling into addictions and assessing their pain through ways that only force them farther apart. It’s not until Mack’s mother, Rochelle, can confront her past, that Natalie and Wren can receive the guidance they both desperately need. But is it too late?

Told through the lives of the three women touched by Mack’s struggle, A Violent Hope takes a deeper look into the human heart and the God who repeatedly heals all wounds. 

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