The best books on political correctness

2 authors have picked their favorite books about political correctness and why they recommend each book.

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Smokepit Fairytales (Volume 1)

By Tripp Ainsworth,

Book cover of Smokepit Fairytales (Volume 1)

Smokepit Fairytales is one of the most provocative, original and surreal works of military science fiction I’ve ever read. Written by US Marine veteran Tripp Ainsworth, Smokepit Fairytales is the first book in an epic series following the trials and tribulations of a small band of Marines. Each of the characters in this book are normal, flawed human beings trying to pass the boredom in between deployments with anything they can do to distract themselves. When a war unexpectedly breaks out, they must face down their fears and band together to get the job done and get home in once piece.

This book is not for the fainthearted, but from the sheer volume of 5-star rankings on Amazon, it is not one to be missed.


Who am I?

I served for seven years in the Irish Reserve Defence Forces, finishing as a weapons specialist in the infantry. I’m very grateful for the time I served in uniform and the lifelong lessons I learned that have helped me in my personal and professional life. Being a lifelong fan of military science fiction, I wrote Big Red from the point of view of a young Irish soldier thrown into a genocidal war on Mars. I’m a co-founder of the British and Irish Writing Community and our online magazine Bard of the Isles.


I wrote...

Big Red

By Damien Larkin,

Book cover of Big Red

What is my book about?

Traumatized by the effects of Compression travel, Irish soldier Darren Loughlin holds the key to the fate of Earth’s Martian colonies. With his Battalion decimated, his fractured memory holds the only clues to the colony-wide communications blackout.

With time running out, Darren pieces together his year-long tour of duty with the Mars Occupation Force. Stationed in the Nazi-founded New Berlin colony, ruled by the brutal MARSCORP, he recounts his part in the vicious, genocidal war against the hostile alien natives and all who question Terran supremacy. But as his memories return, Darren suspects he is at the centre of a plot spanning forty years. He has one last mission to carry out. And his alien enemies may be more human than he is…

The Rise of Victimhood Culture

By Bradley Campbell, Jason Manning,

Book cover of The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars

Campbell and Manning are sociologists who trace how a new moral culture of victimhood has given rise to political correctness. The new moral culture combines the properties of the old culture of honor and the old culture of dignity in a uniquely toxic way. The new victimhood culture borrows from honor culture its extreme sensitivity to insult, but borrows from the culture of dignity the tendency to call upon authorities and institutions to resolve disputes, rather than deal with them on a personal level. The victimhood culture is what has spawned the repressive campus environment of micro-aggressions, deplatforming, and bias response teams.


Who am I?

I’m an emeritus professor living in Portland, Oregon, officially retired, but still writing articles and books. Although I am a lifelong US citizen, I spent the heart of my career as the Canada Research Chair of Applied Cognitive Science at the University of Toronto. Most of my books are about aspects of rationality, especially cognitive biases. I have also worked on tools for measuring individual differences in rationality. Lately, I have focused on ways to reduce political polarization by taming the myside bias that plagues all human thought, and by reforming institutions (especially universities) that are currently failing in their role as knowledge adjudicators. 


I wrote...

The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

By Keith E. Stanovich,

Book cover of The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

What is my book about?

Myside bias is the tendency to evaluate evidence, generate evidence, and test hypotheses in a manner biased toward our own beliefs. When studying the cognitive biases that indicate poor thinking, my research group discovered that myside bias was the strangest of all the cognitive biases. Unlike virtually all the other biases, the avoidance of myside bias is not correlated with high intelligence, education, or knowledge. It is just as prevalent among the cognitive elites of society as it is among nonelites.

Faculty in universities don’t recognize their own biases, and this has contributed to declining public trust in university research. It is also a factor in fueling our current ideologically polarized politics. 

The Once and Future Liberal

By Mark Lilla,

Book cover of The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics

Lilla’s goal in this book is to show how identity politics threatens the electoral prospects of the Democratic Party. He argues that the party has thrown citizenship—the “we” in political conversation—out the window in favor of “personal identities in terms of the inner homunculus, a unique little thing composed of parts tinted by race, sex, and gender,” and that this will be electorally disastrous for the Democrats. But Lilla’s arguments show that it is disastrous for our national conversation as well. When we give personal identity weight in an argument (Lilla is superb at eviscerating the shopworn phrase “speaking as an X”) we turn the intellectual clock back to premodern times when arguments were settled by power and force.


Who am I?

I’m an emeritus professor living in Portland, Oregon, officially retired, but still writing articles and books. Although I am a lifelong US citizen, I spent the heart of my career as the Canada Research Chair of Applied Cognitive Science at the University of Toronto. Most of my books are about aspects of rationality, especially cognitive biases. I have also worked on tools for measuring individual differences in rationality. Lately, I have focused on ways to reduce political polarization by taming the myside bias that plagues all human thought, and by reforming institutions (especially universities) that are currently failing in their role as knowledge adjudicators. 


I wrote...

The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

By Keith E. Stanovich,

Book cover of The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

What is my book about?

Myside bias is the tendency to evaluate evidence, generate evidence, and test hypotheses in a manner biased toward our own beliefs. When studying the cognitive biases that indicate poor thinking, my research group discovered that myside bias was the strangest of all the cognitive biases. Unlike virtually all the other biases, the avoidance of myside bias is not correlated with high intelligence, education, or knowledge. It is just as prevalent among the cognitive elites of society as it is among nonelites.

Faculty in universities don’t recognize their own biases, and this has contributed to declining public trust in university research. It is also a factor in fueling our current ideologically polarized politics. 

The Assault on American Excellence

By Anthony T. Kronman,

Book cover of The Assault on American Excellence

Kronman is particularly good at describing the “tough” reasoning skills that underlie the thinking styles that have produced modern science and modern democracies. An example of these tough skills is what he calls the “ethic of depersonalization”: expressing arguments in a form available to all—a form not dependent on our emotions or personal experience. Identity politics, in contrast, gives weight to immutable demographic characteristics in ongoing political conversations.  It thus reverses centuries of progress in the intellectual march toward open, ecumenical inquiry, where personal characteristics do not trump rational argument.


Who am I?

I’m an emeritus professor living in Portland, Oregon, officially retired, but still writing articles and books. Although I am a lifelong US citizen, I spent the heart of my career as the Canada Research Chair of Applied Cognitive Science at the University of Toronto. Most of my books are about aspects of rationality, especially cognitive biases. I have also worked on tools for measuring individual differences in rationality. Lately, I have focused on ways to reduce political polarization by taming the myside bias that plagues all human thought, and by reforming institutions (especially universities) that are currently failing in their role as knowledge adjudicators. 


I wrote...

The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

By Keith E. Stanovich,

Book cover of The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

What is my book about?

Myside bias is the tendency to evaluate evidence, generate evidence, and test hypotheses in a manner biased toward our own beliefs. When studying the cognitive biases that indicate poor thinking, my research group discovered that myside bias was the strangest of all the cognitive biases. Unlike virtually all the other biases, the avoidance of myside bias is not correlated with high intelligence, education, or knowledge. It is just as prevalent among the cognitive elites of society as it is among nonelites.

Faculty in universities don’t recognize their own biases, and this has contributed to declining public trust in university research. It is also a factor in fueling our current ideologically polarized politics. 

The Breakdown of Higher Education

By John M. Ellis,

Book cover of The Breakdown of Higher Education: How It Happened, the Damage It Does, and What Can Be Done

Ellis chronicles the history of how the university turned from an institution of open inquiry into a political monoculture that requires those in it to adhere to a particular ideology. Ellis is particularly good at showing how the strengths of the traditional university were turned into weaknesses and allowed it to be captured by the adherents of identity politics. Old-style independent scholars are hard to organize, Ellis points out, because they are just that—independent. But these truly independent scholars were no match for the politically organized groups that wanted to use the university to advance a political agenda.


Who am I?

I’m an emeritus professor living in Portland, Oregon, officially retired, but still writing articles and books. Although I am a lifelong US citizen, I spent the heart of my career as the Canada Research Chair of Applied Cognitive Science at the University of Toronto. Most of my books are about aspects of rationality, especially cognitive biases. I have also worked on tools for measuring individual differences in rationality. Lately, I have focused on ways to reduce political polarization by taming the myside bias that plagues all human thought, and by reforming institutions (especially universities) that are currently failing in their role as knowledge adjudicators. 


I wrote...

The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

By Keith E. Stanovich,

Book cover of The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

What is my book about?

Myside bias is the tendency to evaluate evidence, generate evidence, and test hypotheses in a manner biased toward our own beliefs. When studying the cognitive biases that indicate poor thinking, my research group discovered that myside bias was the strangest of all the cognitive biases. Unlike virtually all the other biases, the avoidance of myside bias is not correlated with high intelligence, education, or knowledge. It is just as prevalent among the cognitive elites of society as it is among nonelites.

Faculty in universities don’t recognize their own biases, and this has contributed to declining public trust in university research. It is also a factor in fueling our current ideologically polarized politics. 

Identity Crisis

By Ben Elton,

Book cover of Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis is the most delicious satire! It is so much a send-up of modern times it will unfortunately date, and all too quickly become tomorrow’s history. But I don’t care. I will always find this one of the funniest books I have ever had the pleasure to read - indeed a wickedly witty laugh-out-loud on every page. Anyone who chooses to find the political incorrectness that abounds in Identity Crisis offensive really will need to delve deep in order to discover their obviously lost or sadly under-developed sense of humour.  


Who am I?

I’ve been an actor and a writer all my life. After many years performing in theatre and television in both Australia and the UK, I turned my hand to prose and revelled in the creative freedom. Thirty years and sixteen novels later I’m still revelling. As both actor and writer, the mix of fact and fiction has always intrigued me and I love travelling my characters through historical times of great impact, particularly upon Australia. In 2015 I was honoured to be made a Member of the Order of Australia for my service to the performing arts as an actor and to literature as an author.


I wrote...

Showtime!

By Judy Nunn,

Book cover of Showtime!

What is my book about?

Showtime! takes the reader on a journey from the cotton mills of England and the orphanages of London to the gold mining towns ‘Down Under’ and the magnificent theatres of Melbourne and Sydney. This work of historical fiction is a trip through the world of Australian show business in its wildest days from the 1880s to the end of the First World War. 

Following the mid-19th century gold rushes, Australia became a mecca for the thousands who rushed from every corner of the globe and Melbourne went from country backwater to the most cosmopolitan, fastest-growing city in the world. And close on the heels of the hopefuls came the entrepreneurs who knew only too well that where people craved gold, they also craved entertainment.

The Pirates of Penzance

By W.S. Gilbert, Arthur Sullivan,

Book cover of The Pirates of Penzance

Before sitcoms, stand-up, SNL, and absolutely any great comedy movie you can name – there was Gilbert & Sullivan. Okay, yes they wrote operas (“light operas” technically; really more like our musicals today), but these works were created to be popular, scandalous, funny, and with hummable tunes for the masses. G&S operas were absurd, fantastic, politically incorrect, hysterical, “topsy turvy” extravaganzas that satirized (much like Wilde) the bourgeois mores of the day. Astonishingly, most of it holds up today, which is why you can still see Gilbert and Sullivan's productions being perpetually staged across the globe. If you can see one of their productions live – or on YouTube – go for it. But the libretto’s themselves are highly readable and funny. The Pirates of Penzance is a good gateway to their other works. It’s full of sex, crime, cops, pirates, bathing beauties, and non-stop earworms; and includes two of…


Who am I?

As a humorist and lover of all things comedy, I know how quickly a good joke can feel dated. (Heck, lots of great bits from last year don’t even work anymore.) Drama almost always holds up better than comedy. For example, you can still get swept up in dramatic narratives as ancient as The Odyssey. But do Aristophanes’ or Shakespeare’s “comedies” elicit even the slightest guffaws? Not from me. So, I hear you cry, are there any written works from more than 100 years ago that remain lol funny today? Well, don’t cry. Because yes, there are quite a few literary treasures that are still hysterically funny. The good news is that I’ve done some of that research for you.  


I wrote...

Miserable Holiday Stories: 20 Festive Failures That Are Worse Than Yours!

By Alex Bernstein,

Book cover of Miserable Holiday Stories: 20 Festive Failures That Are Worse Than Yours!

What is my book about?

Throw another yule log on the fire and let the seasonal suffering begin! Sure, Christmas and Hanukkah are supposed to be full of laughter, generosity, and quality time with friends and family. But everyone knows the holiday season is absolutely depressing, no matter how hard you try. What to do?  Why not curl up with the latest “miserable” collection from the author of Miserable Love Stories, humorist Alex Bernstein.

No matter what holiday you celebrate, this collection of quirky yet bittersweet tales will have you longing for mid-January. Featuring Jewish Elvis impersonators, a kidnapped Santa Claus, confused parents, horrific holiday traffic, unbreakable toys, and the ever-heroic Bicycle Boys, Miserable Holiday Stories will be sure to have you asking, “who ate all the $#[email protected]% figgy pudding?!”

Party Members

By Arthur Meursault,

Book cover of Party Members

Here we have the most politically incorrect of novels, an unflinchingly vicious take on China by a Westerner, though Party Members (pun on the second word) does have an acknowledged precursor in fellow Englishman Ralph Townsend’s Ways That Are Dark, an equally unsentimental account of China published in 1933. We follow the faceless bureaucrat protagonist, Yang Wei, as he inventively combines his passions for sex and KFC (China’s comfort food of choice) at one and the same time, and eggs on the state-sanctioned thugs who set his mother’s house on fire to clear it for developers – with her inside. To be fair, China is evolving out of the nasty pre-2008 Olympics era Meursault is documenting and this is after all satire. But the novel is not only very funny, it’s required reading precisely due to its pariah status.


Who am I?

Having lived in China for almost three decades, I am naturally interested in the expat writing scene. I am a voracious reader of fiction and nonfiction on China, past and present. One constant in this country is change, and that requires keeping up with the latest publications by writers who have lived here and know it well. As an author of three novels, one short story collection, and three essay collections on China myself, I believe I have something of my own to contribute of documentary value, although I tend to hew to gritty, offbeat themes to capture a contemporary China unknown to the West.


I wrote...

The Mustachioed Woman of Shanghai

By Isham Cook,

Book cover of The Mustachioed Woman of Shanghai

What is my book about?

It is the Shanghai of courtesans and concubines, danger and decadence, updated to 2020. American expat author Isham Cook has disappeared. His last known history is chronicled by an exotic woman who seems right out of 1930s Shanghai herself, Marguerite, a mustachioed Afghan-American who weaves Persian rugs and deals in psychedelics.

As she tells it, Isham's story all began with Luna, a beguiling but troubled Chinese woman who happens to have a mustache herself. Also vying for Isham's affection is the charismatic Kitty, who conspires to entrap him in a cyber web of obsession and betrayal. Fans of Cook's fiction will recognize in this psychological thriller set in modern China his signature world of startling plot turns in an unsettling yet compelling landscape of ideas.

Gunfight

By Ryan Busse,

Book cover of Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry That Radicalized America

Busse offers the new perspective of an insider—an erstwhile gun executive. I’ve always held that the gun industry has gotten far too little attention historically, and that commercial forces substantially helped to create and then maintain the American gun mystique and culture long after the “frontier” closed. Busse’s work shows just how explicitly the gun industry today, since 9/11 and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, relies on “manufactured fear” to push products. The book teems with examples of fear marketing, including endorsements from social media celebrities that created a new breed of “couch commandos,” steeped in the “glorification of violence, the utter rejection of political correctness, and the freewheeling masculinity and objectification of women.” And in Busse’s view it’s not just that gun marketing has changed, but that the gun industry has transformed American culture itself, radicalizing it and shifting it toward authoritarianism.

We’ve seen and felt this malevolence of…


Who am I?

I got interested in American guns and gun culture through the backdoor. I’d never owned a gun, participated in gun control politics, or thought too much about guns at all. Guns might not have interested me—but ghosts did. I was beguiled by the haunting legend of the Winchester rifle heiress Sarah Winchester, who believed in the late 1800s that she was being tormented by the ghosts of all those killed by Winchester rifles. As I scoured the archives for rare glimpses of Sarah, however, it dawned on me that I was surrounded by boxes and boxes of largely unexplored sources about a much larger story, and secretive mystery: that of the gun industry itself.


I wrote...

The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture

By Pamela Haag,

Book cover of The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture

What is my book about?

The gun business was a business, and it acted like one. This book tells the history of the gun titans, especially the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, to show how commercial forces—marketing, advertisement, and the relentless quest for new markets and meanings for gunsshaped the American gun mystique and culture. It describes how the industry “sold” the American gun culture in the early 1900s, especially, infusing the gun with emotional, cultural, and other symbolic values even as its functional uses declined as the US urbanized and the frontier closed. Over time the American gun changed from something needed but not necessarily loved to something loved but not necessarily needed.

Incandescent

By Anna Levin,

Book cover of Incandescent: We Need to Talk about Light

A warm, glowing book, like having a conversation with a sane, intelligent friend. I learned so much about light (and I thought I was an expert!): for example how modern LEDs produce light in a fundamentally different way from all previous human light sources. And I learned about politics too: how a fudge of obfuscated health risks, dodgy carbon-saving assumptions, and eco-virtue-signalling led to other bulbs being banned while light pollution soars. Levin, a wildlife journalist (her descriptions of the rhythm of light in the natural world are just beautiful) was motivated to explore all this because of her own painful, disabling reactions to low-energy bulbs (a deeply politically incorrect problem to have). She soon found she was a) absolutely not alone and b) no one else wanted to know…


Who am I?

I used to be part of the establishment, working in Whitehall for the UK government. Then I became the ultimate outsider, with light sensitivity so extreme that many people dismissed it as “all in my head.” Years on, turns out I've had a physical illness all along – but one only recently recognised. Now I know what I’m dealing with (Mast Cell Activation Syndrome), I’m much better.  My journey’s made me fascinated by the way establishments of all kinds – corporate, political, scientific – react to new uncomfortable truths, and how often they’ll opt for gaslighting and "psychological" labels to keep those truths at bay.  


I wrote...

Girl in the Dark: A Memoir of a Life Without Light

By Anna Lyndsey,

Book cover of Girl in the Dark: A Memoir of a Life Without Light

What is my book about?

I was in my early thirties when my skin gradually became excruciatingly sensitive to light. The condition grew so extreme that I had to spend most of my time in a totally blacked-out room. I tried everything to get out of the dark: doctor after doctor, hypnotherapy, weird diets, internet pills. Lying in darkness, my skin on fire, I often planned my suicide.

My book is about how - somehow - I survived. The love and humour of my partner and my family. The talking books which took me to different worlds. And, during brief periods of improvement when I could venture out (like Dracula) at dusk and dawn, the overwhelming, breathtaking beauty of our own.

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