The best pseudoscience books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about pseudoscience and why they recommend each book.

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Why People Believe Weird Things

By Michael Shermer,

Book cover of Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time

Michael Shermer systematically addresses why humans believe weird and extraordinary things. He even makes a case that we are hard-wired for it. Further—and this should make most of us feel better about our strange thinking—he shows how even highly intelligent people sometimes believe in pseudoscience and other extraordinary claims. 


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. 

Bad Science

By Ben Goldacre,

Book cover of Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks

This practical, informative, and hugely entertaining book is mainly about the role of journalists, big pharma, “nutrition experts” and others in generating our many false beliefs about medicine and our health. Along the way, though, Goldacre paints a vivid picture of why sloppy, irrational thinking, along with confirmation bias and social bias and framing effects, so deeply infect so much science even before it gets twisted and misreported by outsiders. A goldmine of useful cases and examples, with a simple moral: how much harder it is than it lookseven for those crowned with a doctorate!to think clearly about evidence.


Who am I?

I was once an academic philosopher, but I found it too glamorous and well-paid so I became a novelist and private intellectual mentor instead. I wrote You Are Here because I love what science knows, but an interest in how science knows drew me into the philosophy of science, where a puzzle lurks. Scientists claim that the essence of their craft is captured in a 17th Century formula, “the scientific method”... and in a 20th Century litmus test, “falsifiability.” Philosophers claim that these two ideas are (a) both nonsense and (b) in any case mutually contradictory. So what’s going on? 


I wrote...

You Are Here: A User's Guide to the Universe

By Richard Farr,

Book cover of You Are Here: A User's Guide to the Universe

What is my book about?

Consider: an ant the size of a blue whale would have viruses the size of ants.

A universe is a terrible thing to waste. I wrote You Are Here because it drives me up the wall when people say lazily that galaxies or planets or protons are “just too big/small/complicated/weird” to imagine. Shouldn’t we try? This very short tourist guide to everything will help you get an imaginative grip on what’s out there by tracking away from the human or one-meter scale in both directions at once: upwards, to geography and astronomy and cosmology, and at the same time downwards or inwards to the ant, the atom, and the quantum.

Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System

By M. Chris Fabricant,

Book cover of Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System

Chris Fabricant has written a compelling account of how the “junk science” of connecting bitemarks to human teeth has resulted in dozens of wrongful convictions of innocent people in America. I have known Chris for many years. He is a fierce advocate for truth and justice. This book powerfully exposes how forensic dentists have used methods with no scientific basis to convict the wrong people and the guilty people went free.


Who am I?

I am a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has worked for the past 10 years as the senior researcher for the National Registry of Exonerations. In that capacity, I have written nearly 2,500 individual accounts of men and women and teenagers who were wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit. Some of them were sentenced to death. I have seen and written about these tragedies firsthand.


I wrote...

Hitler in the Crosshairs: A GI's Story of Courage and Faith

By John D. Woodbridge, Maurice Possley,

Book cover of Hitler in the Crosshairs: A GI's Story of Courage and Faith

What is my book about?

Hitler in the Crosshairs is a true story of a courageous soldier who volunteered to lead a raid to take out Adolf Hitler in Munich in the closing days of World War II. It is also the true story of a German-led revolt against the Nazis that saved the city of Munich from the firestorm that destroyed Dresden.

She Comes First

By Ian Kerner,

Book cover of She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman

Written by a man for men, this detailed guide on giving wives oral sex is filled with truths that will rock her world. Broken into short chapters the book covers everything from what to say so that she can relax, to specific ideas to make her tremble. 


Who am I?

When I decided to work on my sex life, I devoured both Christian and secular books looking for answers. I not only wanted to understand God’s design for sex, but I also needed help learning to create the amazing sex life that God wanted for me. Since that time, I have taught Awaken Love classes to thousands of Christian women and heard their stories. I continue to look for resources that are empowering for wives, within God’s boundaries, in line with women’s experiences, practical and thought-provoking.


I wrote...

Awaken Love: The Truth About Sex that will Transform Your Marriage

By Ruth Buezis,

Book cover of Awaken Love: The Truth About Sex that will Transform Your Marriage

What is my book about?

Sex is one of the most powerful forces created by God and yet a landmine of misinformation and shame exist in the church that causes many of us to miss out. 

If you want an intimate, passionate marriage then follow Ruth and the women she has taught in class on this raw, honest look of discovering God’s design for sex. Unravel the lies, go after healing, learn about your body and integrate sexuality with your faith. You will come away with a new mindset, practical tools to create an amazing sex life, and the deep-seated belief that God designed you unique, special – and deserving of delights.

Science Denial

By Gale Sinatra, Barbara Hofer,

Book cover of Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do about It

If you value science, then you’ve probably puzzled over why other people don’t. Why won’t other people wear masks during a pandemic? Or buy genetically modified foods? Or vaccinate their children. Sinatra and Hofer provide answers by delving deep into the psychology of science denial. They explain the shortcuts we take when searching for scientific information, the misconceptions we hold about scientific knowledge, and the obstacles we face when changing our beliefs and attitudes about scientific topics. From their synthesis of empirical research to their consideration of real-life dilemmas, Sinatra and Hofer provide a compelling account of the public’s fraught relationship with science, as well as practical advice for improving it.


Who am I?

I’m a professor of psychology at Occidental College, where I direct the Thinking Lab. I hold degrees in psychology from Princeton and Harvard and have published several dozen scholarly articles on conceptual development and conceptual change. I’m interested in how people acquire new concepts and form new beliefs, especially within the domains of science and religion. My research investigates intuitions that guide our everyday understanding of the natural world and strategies for improving that understanding.


I wrote...

Scienceblind: Why Our Intuitive Theories about the World Are So Often Wrong

By Andrew Shtulman,

Book cover of Scienceblind: Why Our Intuitive Theories about the World Are So Often Wrong

What is my book about?

Why do we catch colds? What causes seasons to change? And if you fire a bullet from a gun and drop one from your hand, which bullet hits the ground first? In a pinch we almost always get these questions wrong. Worse, we regularly misconstrue fundamental qualities of the world around us. In Scienceblind, I show that the root of our misconceptions lies in the theories about the world we develop as children. They’re not only wrong; they close our minds to ideas inconsistent with them, making us unable to learn science later in life. So how do we get the world right? We must dismantle our intuitive theories and rebuild our knowledge from its foundations. The reward won't just be a truer picture of the world, but clearer solutions to many controversies—around vaccines, climate change, or evolution—that plague our politics today.

Beyond the Boundaries of Childhood

By Crystal Lynn Webster,

Book cover of Beyond the Boundaries of Childhood: African American Children in the Antebellum North

Historians have charted the long, slow process of emancipation in Northern states. But no one has looked before at how children fared during this process. Webster’s ground-breaking work shows that it was virtually impossible for Black children in ostensibly free states to escape politics: as individuals living in a racist society, and as symbols of African Americans’ future, whatever they did or said was invariably surveilled, dissected, and judged. Racist thinking and racialised structures also severely curtailed freedom for the young.

Many Black Northern children were indentured or bound out, often in exploitative labor arrangements that restricted future possibilities. Others were confined to institutions like reformatories or orphanages, usually segregated based on pseudoscientific understandings of race that marked Black children as deviant, violent, or inferior. Circumventing the way Black suffering has been obscured in historical records, Webster manages to piece together archival fragments that show widespread victimization of Black children…


Who are we?

We are two historians who have been writing together for about a decade now, first on project related to race relations after WWI, then on a book about debates over the enlistment age in nineteenth century America. Rebecca teaches at UCSD while Frances works at the University of Sydney in Australia, but we regularly meet online to write together and talk about our favorite new books.


We wrote...

Of Age: Boy Soldiers and Military Power in Civil War America

By Frances M. Clarke, Rebecca Jo Plant,

Book cover of Of Age: Boy Soldiers and Military Power in Civil War America

What is our book about?

The first study to focus on underage enlistment in the U.S. Civil War, Of Age demonstrates that a full ten percent of the Union army enlisted when below the age of eighteen. Looking at both the Confederate and Union armies, it explains why mid-nineteenth century American society and culture facilitated youth enlistment, even as medical experts decried it. Tracing the heated conflicts between parents who sought to recover their sons and military and federal officials who resisted their claims, this book exposes larger, underlying struggles over the centralization of legal and military power.

The Demon-Haunted World

By Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan,

Book cover of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

It’s not often a world-famous scientist does a great job explaining the scientific method to the general population. Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan teach how to think critically about extraordinary claims. In other words, what’s valid and what’s not. What’s sound logic versus flawed thinking. As Carl famously stated, “…Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”


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. 

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. 

The Invisible Man

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The Invisible Man

Similar in vein, a more opaque story than Frankenstein, and with a more indeterminate morality surrounding the main character, who is, after all, a crackpot murderer, but eliciting perhaps the same complex reactions toward him and the other characters at the book’s tragic ending. 


Who am I?

I am one of those people who always feels sorry for the monster at the end of the movie. I am always more disturbed by the avenging townspeople’s bloodlust than the monster’s destructiveness. At a deeper level, for me these horror stories actually depict compassion, acceptance, and the hysteria whipped up by self-righteous mobs. They are books with very dark themes, and they generally do not have happy endings, but rather than being depressing, I find them instructive, even enriching, and certainly valuable. More than anything, they show me – in bloody detail  the terrifying limits of conformity.


I wrote...

Nothing

By Robin Friedman,

Book cover of Nothing

What is my book about?

For high school senior Parker, anything less than success is failure. A dropped extracurricular, a C on a calc quiz – one misstep, and his meticulously constructed life splinters. The countdown to HYP (Harvard, Yale, Princeton) has begun, and he will stay focused, no matter what.

That's why he has to keep it a secret. The pocketful of breath mints. The weird smell in the bathroom. Only Parker's little sister, Danielle, seems to notice that he's withering away.

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