The best books on paranoia 📚

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

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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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Book cover of A Head Full of Ghosts

A Head Full of Ghosts

By Paul Tremblay

Why this book?

One problem inherent to stories involving exorcisms is the task of making the unbelievable believable. How does an author get past the barrier of making a non-religious reader buy into the premise that a Catholic priest is the only person worthy of defeating evil incarnate? Paul Tremblay cracked the exorcism code with his 2015 tale of sisterly love, demonic possession, and reality TV. If the writer can ground the reader in enough realism through character and setting, suddenly those preconceived belief systems begin to melt, at least temporarily. By telling the story from the perspective of an eight-year-old girl watching…

From the list:

The best books to prepare you for demonic possession

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Book cover of Walking on Glass

Walking on Glass

By Iain M. Banks

Why this book?

I love Iain Banks’ work and this book seems to encapsulate the best of his early work: epic sci-fi, mental breakdown, and fantastic comedy. Switching between three storylines, one of which contains the best imagery in all SF and fantasy, Walking On Glass mixes reality with insanity and imagination with the every day to superb effect.

From the list:

The best books for expanding the mind through pleasure and strangeness

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Book cover of Brothers

Brothers

By William Goldman

Why this book?

Agent Scylla was dead, but they brought him back because someone is holding a contest, a contest to see who can create the deadliest weapon. As Scylla navigates a world he’s been out of touch with for too long, he finds that there’s something on its outskirts, pulling all the wrong strings. A thrilling espionage adventure drenched in paranoia, this was the most fun I ever had being terrified to learn the truth. The only book I ever read that I literally could not put down. Its momentum – the need to find out what the contest was about and…

From the list:

The best books about a world under secret control

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Book cover of Paranoia and the Destiny Programme

Paranoia and the Destiny Programme

By Richard Godwin

Why this book?

My take on a future society in which a shadowy group conducts mass surveillance and is experimenting on turning a musician into a serial killer. 'I see no butterfly wings in the Rorschach test, but a mountain of bones.' So says Dale Helix, who is convinced he is being abducted by a shadowy group of rulers called The Assembly. The novel is set in a dystopian city, and is an exploration of totalitarianism, paranoia, and social engineering in a society where it is impossible to gauge the truth. The aim of the programme is to study the link between serial…

From the list:

The best totalitarian novels since George Orwell’s 1984

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Book cover of Hellfire

Hellfire

By Leesa Gazi, Shabnam Nadiya

Why this book?

This novel starts out in an almost Mrs. Dallowayish way—Lovely has gone out for the day to buy something. Then you realise that Lovely at the age of forty has never gone out by herself for a day. Then, as the day unfolds, the novel brings you backward into the past as you find out about Lovely and Beauty’s paranoid and controlling mother, the oppressiveness of their home life, the dark secret at the heart of their parents’ marriage…

From the list:

The best books that are riddles, wrapped in a mystery, inside an engima

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