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6 Books That Forced Me to Reconsider My Preconceptions of the World (It was Deeply Unsettling)

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

These books are only for the open-minded who aren’t afraid to broaden their intellectual horizons.


6 Books That Forced Me to Reconsider My Preconceptions of the World (It was Deeply Unsettling)

Your brain is about to be spun like a DJ’s turntable.

These books will force you to break free of your preconceived notions about this world.

From Science to assumption, religion to atheism, and schools to the government, this list of books is bound to make you turn in your seat.

Let’s dig in.


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6 Books That Forced Me to Reconsider My Preconceptions of the World (It was Deeply Unsettling)

Is religion the source of all evil?

This book is a critique of religion and belief in God, arguing for the superiority of science and reason. Dawkins takes many arguments put forth by theists and breaks them down. For the watchmaker argument, he says “The only watchmaker is the blind forces of physics.”

The author uses strong language in the book. It is perhaps his urge to make the world see the ‘truth’.

“If all the evidence in the universe turned in favour of creationism, I would be the first to admit it, and I would immediately change my mind.”

Dawkins’ understanding is that religion is a by-product of evolution. It helped conformity to authority and evolved until its origins were forgotten.

Are we capable of living meaningful lives without religion?

Dawkins says yes. He goes as far as to say that kids shouldn’t be made to follow their parents’ religion. He criticizes religion for much of the harm done by citing examples from history.

“The take-home message is that we should blame religion itself, not religious extremism — as though that were some kind of terrible perversion of real, decent religion.”

Recently, in replying to Jordan B Peterson, Dawkins admitted that there is a ‘religion of the woke’, perhaps realizing that extremism can exist outside the bounds of faith. However, he concludes that he loves truth too much to support religion. He classifies both religion and the woke cult as ‘irrational dogma’.

Even though this book might make some people uncomfortable, I would argue that this is an important read.

New avenues of collaboration and mutual understanding can be opened only by reading those whom you disagree with.



6 Books That Forced Me to Reconsider My Preconceptions of the World (It was Deeply Unsettling)

If your browser knows, the government knows.

In June of 2013, The Guardian published stories, which shocked the average US citizen and the world at large. Edward Snowden, a computer geek turned intelligence officer, decided to leak the classified documents that entailed global surveillance programs.

This is how the world came to know of PRISM, a top-secret program by the NSA (National Security Agency).

This helped them tap into user data on servers of major companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and more.

These companies denied knowing of any such access.

“Ultimately, saying that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say.”

This book is Snowden’s autobiography. It starts from his childhood in a military family. It talks about his interest in video games and computer hacking. As an adult, he got a job with the CIA and later joined NSA as a subcontractor.

While at the NSA, he happened upon classified documents. These documents detailed the kind of mass surveillance the US government was doing.

Snowden took it upon himself to reveal the truth. He compiled the documents and got in touch with The Guardian journalists.

“The reason you’re reading this book is that I did a dangerous thing for a man in my position: I decided to tell the truth.”

After the story broke, Snowden had to leave the US. He took asylum in Russia where he and his wife reside to this day. In a 2023 interview, he calls the surveillance technology of 2013 ‘child’s play’ as compared to what can be done today.

Snowden has lost a lot in the process. Thanks to his sacrifice, we are aware of the government’s tactics in breaching our privacy.

This book is an essential read if you care about privacy, liberty, and democracy.



6 Books That Forced Me to Reconsider My Preconceptions of the World (It was Deeply Unsettling)

History repeats itself. But how?

Willian Straus is a lawyer turned historian. He and Neil Howe, an economist and historian, talk about their Generational Theory in this book.

They analyze American and Western history from 1435 to the present. They conclude that a generational cycle repeats itself throughout history.

Throughout one saeculum (80–100 years), four turnings take place. The length of each turning is 20–25 years. The turnings of history are High, Awakening, Unraveling, and Crisis.

A saeculum is around the life span of a human, and the turnings are the length of one phase of human life, e.g. from childhood to adulthood.

“In war, people yearn for relief from strife, leading to peace. In peace, people yearn to champion what they love, leading to war.”

‘High’ occurs after a crisis. It has weaker individualism and stronger institutions.

In ‘Awakening’, individuals attack the institutions for the sake of personal autonomy and self-expression.

In the ‘Unraveling’, institutions are weakened while individuals flourish.

In ‘Crisis’, destruction happens through war or revolution.

And the cycle repeats itself.

“Though we live in an era of relative peace and comfort, we have settled into a mood of pessimism about the long-term future, fearful that our superpower nation is somehow rotting from within.”

If the theory is true, it seems like we may be in the ‘Crisis’ era, a period of social and cultural change. Young people have more distrust of the police, government, and the media. They are hyper-fixated on individual expression and ‘living the truth’.

This book has attracted many critics for being based on speculations.

Rest assured, this book will stop you in your tracks.

It might even make you analyze your life and current world events in the light of Strauss-Howe generational theory.


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6 Books That Forced Me to Reconsider My Preconceptions of the World (It was Deeply Unsettling)

An ancient yet advanced human civilization: fact or fiction?

This book will remind you of any movie that you watched about the lost city of Atlantis.

Hancock puts an unusual hypothesis. Long before the known prehistoric civilizations, there existed a far more developed and technologically advanced civilization. This civilization flourished during the Ice Age. The end of the Ice Age caused its demise.

He points out the existence of an old map from 1513 AD called the Piri Reis Map. Only a third of this map has been found. It was discovered in 1929 in the Top Kapi palace in Istanbul, Turkiye. Made by an Ottoman Turkish admiral, this map details the coastline of the East coast of America and the West coast of Africa.

This map also shows the coastline of Queen Maud Land in Antarctica. The coastline is shown free of ice, which it was, 9000 years ago. The Queen Maud coastline wasn’t mapped until recently.

According to the author, the knowledge of the 16th century wasn’t enough to make a map so accurate. This points towards the existence of knowledgeable early people who could survey the world with the technology of that time.

“No pyramids of comparable quality were ever built again.”

Many ancient monuments like pyramids in Egypt, monuments in Maldives, and Stonehenge align perfectly with celestial bodies. This proves that humans who built these were enriched with knowledge of astronomy and architecture.

Hancock discusses many old myths. Using stories from different religions and cultures, he points to the common themes.

Hancock’s claims are controversial and labeled pseduoarcheological in nature. Still, the book fills you with wonder about what could have been on Earth before us.



6 Books That Forced Me to Reconsider My Preconceptions of the World (It was Deeply Unsettling)

Have you ever seen a Tasmanian tiger?

Of course not. It’s extinct. On the internet, you can find the black and white video of the last Tasmanian tiger, believed to have lived.

Some species of flora and fauna have become extinct and others are on the verge of being so.

“We’re seeing right now that a mass extinction can be caused by human beings.”

A Pulitzer Prize winner, this book gives us all a wake-up call to do right by our fellow inhabitants on Earth.

“Asian elephants have declined by fifty percent over the last three generations.”

Global warming, and deforestation; humans have caused it all. Even by travelling through different continents, humans unintentionally mix species leading to biodiversity breakdown in different habitats.

Sprawling cities, unprecedented CO2 emissions, and ocean acidification are some of the many phenomena taking place that threaten the existence of many species.

“It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all freshwater mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion.”

There is still a way. We can actively mitigate the risks posed to the environment and the animals living in it.

Kolbert closes the book with hope. She talks about various initiatives that are trying to preserve the environment and variety of life.



6 Books That Forced Me to Reconsider My Preconceptions of the World (It was Deeply Unsettling)

Are schools educating us or dulling our minds?

John Taylor was a New York school teacher. In his book, he criticizes the school system, for killing creativity, individuality, and critical thinking.

“When you take the free will out of education, that turns it into schooling.”

He argues that schools have a hidden curriculum that forces children to comply with authority without question. He also raises concerns about the way subjects are divided.

It diminishes the chances that students will learn to apply them cohesively.

Other criticisms include a lack of socialization outside school.

“I feel ashamed that so many of us cannot imagine a better way to do things than locking children up all day in cells instead of letting them grow up knowing their families, mingling with the world, assuming real obligations, striving to be independent and self-reliant and free.”

As a critic of the education system, I find myself agreeing with John Taylor.

We have to make our children more autonomous, independent, and self-reliant. We can do this by involving them in real-life tasks. If we keep them away from everything with a hint of risk and danger, we might raise them to be weak and passive adults.

“Children allowed to take responsibility and given a serious part in the larger world are always superior to those merely permitted to play and be passive.”

Whether you agree with Taylor or doubt his conclusions, you should read the book. It will make you think of solutions to reshape our education system, even if within the confines of a school building.



 

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If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my book lists on my blog- https://www.honbasicbooks.com/blog

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