A lot of books have been written about conspiracy theories. There isn’t a reason why you would need this right now. Whether they’re teaching you how to spot a convincing hoax, helping you talk your friends and family out of a crazy idea, or skewering a specific idea, they’re a great help to you and your friends and family. As you read, stock up. The ride may not be over yet.
There isn’t a lot of diversity in this field. Most books about conspiracy theories are written by white men about white men. White people, on the other hand, are well-known for their conspiracy theories, but they don’t have all the good ideas. If you want to learn more about conspiracy theories in BIPOC communities, you should listen to Langston Kerman and his podcast, My Momma Told Me. He’s always funny. She also has a very interesting idea about why conspiracy theories in the Black community are so popular at RaceBaitr.
Awful Archives: Conspiracy Theory, Rhetoric, and Acts of Evidence by Jenny Rice
This crazy Trump-pizza-Jewish-laser-something thing should be easy to talk QAnon people out of. We should be able to. A professor of rhetoric at the University of Kentucky says that’s not true. If you have what you think is a lot of proof for the conspiracy theory, you won’t be swayed by evidence from the real world. In order to have a better conversation with people who become conspiracy theorists, you need to know this. The key may even be to get them out.
Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect by Mick West
There is no need to look any further. This book is going to help you get your mom out of QAnon. West doesn’t just talk about conspiracy theories in this book. He also teaches you how to debunk them the right way so that you don’t end up hurting the person you want to help. Don’t go to the Thanksgiving table until you’ve at least looked at the food.
I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture by Patricia A. Turner
You might not want to read this one right now. It’s been a while, but it should still be on this list. A big part of conspiracy thinking about BIPOC is that it’s not always true. As far back as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and COINTELPRO, there have been a lot of conspiracies about Black health and safety that have turned out to be true. In the end, who can blame people for believing a wild-sounding story after a lot of other wild-sounding stories turn out to be true? If you read this book now, it might be a little outdated. But author and UCLA Dean and Vice Provost Patricia Turner is still talking about how the Black community has a lot of collective paranoia, especially about medical conspiracy theories. In COVID-19, critical reading is what she is doing now. Do not miss her recent talk.
The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake by Dr. Steven Novella
If you want to learn how to think critically, you should go to Yale and listen to Dr. Novella’s podcast. This book by him is also a leader in the field of books about conspiracy theories, and it’s one of the best. He was also one of the first people to do research on ASMR. As a quick summary, this guy is very smart and fun. If you want to learn how to think more clearly, this book is for you!
An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi
This book of logical fallacies is a great way to laugh at your old college friend’s chemtrail conspiracy theories when he posts them on Facebook. One by one, you’ll travel through a landscape of straw man fallacies, logical inconsistencies, and ad hominem attacks. You’ll find out what makes each one unique, convincing, and dumb as you go.
They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers by Sarah Scoles
In this book, there is not a lot of debunking of what it says. Because it doesn’t want to hurt, it tries to understand instead, and that understanding often leads to the same end goal. If ever there was a book about conspiracy theories that were debunked with gentle kindness, this would be it. Welcome to a look at the people who make UFOs and other weird things. It isn’t mean, it doesn’t make fun of, and it doesn’t shame.
Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power by Anna Merlan
You knew there were going to be books about conspiracy theories that talked about how our country is now. If you can’t see past the cartoonish characters who are trying to sell you something that isn’t true, you won’t be able to understand what’s going on. When someone says something that’s not true, there’s usually a good reason for it. It’s just that it’s more about feeling isolated and resentful than it is the “deep state.”
Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst, MD
Isn’t the scientific method a great thing? Some of the people who make homeopathic medicine don’t think so. Singh and Ernst think so. The reason they do this is because they want you to think that doctors are out to get you. A conspiracy theory that is against medicine can do real harm to your friends and family. This book will help you learn more about the alternative medicine business.
The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread by Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall
This is important to know when you start a long debunking journey. It helps to know how your uncle came to believe that Hillary Clinton was sacrificing children in the nonexistent basement of a DC pizza place. This book discusses the social forces that drag people into odd beliefs. Even though it’s hard to believe, the Pizzagate idea itself isn’t very convincing. On the other hand, your uncle’s social media friends don’t like you.