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6 Controversial Books that Expose the Complexity of Reality and Challenge Your Assumptions

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

6 Controversial Books that Expose the Complexity of Reality and Challenge Your Assumptions
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Questioning your own opinions is an uncomfortable experience.

It makes you miss having a simplistic mindset where you are sure of everything.

I’d say, it is worth it, despite the discomfort. It’s like entering a colorful picture from a black-and-white one. When you stop seeing the world in black and white, you start appreciating the diversity of humans and ideas.

I know this from experience. I grew up with a certain set of values. They were everything to me. Doubting and questioning have been difficult. I have challenged my long-held beliefs about many things. It hasn’t been easy.

The following books will show you various ways to look at the many problems that plague our world.

6 Controversial Books that Expose the Complexity of Reality and Challenge Your Assumptions

Is the left-wing’s obsession with victimhood real or misguided?

According to Douglas Murray, the left-wing approach to issues such as race, gender, and sexual identity is based on a ‘victim’ mindset.

Irreligious and gay himself, the author calls into question the current social justice climate.

“In public and in private, both online and off, people are behaving in ways that are increasingly irrational, feverish, herd-like and simply unpleasant.”

His book is divided into 4 sections “Gay”, “Women”, “Race” and “Trans”. He discusses each of the forms of identity politics in detail.

“Any parent may notice the differences between their sons and daughters, but the culture tells them that there are none or that those that are there are purely ‘performative’ issues.”

Murray cites examples that show that the pendulum has swung too far on the other side. He backs up his reasoning with many examples from the US.

Google’s algorithm is biased when it comes to race. When the term ‘black family’ is searched, photos of happy smiling black families appear. When the term ‘white family’ is searched, photos of mixed and black families appear among the photos of white families, on the first page.

“Disagreement is not oppression. Argument is not assault. Words — even provocative or repugnant ones — are not violence. The answer to speech we do not like is more speech.”

This book will make you think, despite your view of these controversial subjects.

6 Controversial Books that Expose the Complexity of Reality and Challenge Your Assumptions

Profits protected, public health silenced.

Influential people skew the results of scientific studies in their favor by paying for them. The medical community knew the ill effects of smoking in the 1950s. However, it took too long to reach the public.


We have a handful of scientists with similar political agendas to thank for this. Tobacco companies came together and paid for scientific studies to be falsified. Doubt was cast on science. They aimed to prove that smoking is not that harmful. Otherwise, the companies would have suffered financial loss.

“While the idea of equal time for opposing opinions makes sense in a two-party political system, it does not work for science, because science is not about opinion. It is about evidence.”

There are many other cases as well. Acid rain is caused by excessive burning of fossil fuels. Instead, it was propagated that volcanos cause it. This was another deliberate attempt to mislead the public.

The same was the case for the insecticide DDT and Ozone layer depletion.

“Sensible decision making involves acting on the information we have, even while accepting that it may well be imperfect and our decisions may need to be revisited and revised in light of new information.”

Riveting and eye-opening, this book will make you see behind the smoke screen made by the culmination of science, politics, and money.

6 Controversial Books that Expose the Complexity of Reality and Challenge Your Assumptions

Have we failed those who need help the most?

D. J. Jaffe’s book blames the government and mental health industry for ignoring the people who need help the most.

In the first two chapters of the book, Jaffe discusses various severe mental illnesses (SMIs). These include schizophrenia spectrum disorders, major bipolar disorder, and major depression.

Jaffe says people suffering from SMI can’t ask for help on their own. Many of them are homeless or criminals. However, the focus of the mental health industry is on the population whose mental health issues are very mild.

Severely mentally ill prisoners live in inhumane conditions. Out on the street, they are treated badly. Cops are called on them time and again. Jaffe says this is because calling the mental health services is of no use.

“As a result of advocacy by some in the mental health industry, almost all new investments in mental health go to the highest functioning individuals or irrelevant programs like ‘public education,’ not treatment programs for the seriously ill.”

The author makes you look empathetically and kindly towards those who have been long neglected.

He is relentless in imploring the government to create better policies. He says the privatization of mental health was a big mistake. The institutions focus on those people who can afford to pay a lot of money, not on those who need treatment.

Jaffe’s words will come to your mind on your next visit to the therapist.

6 Controversial Books that Expose the Complexity of Reality and Challenge Your Assumptions

This question has haunted me for far too long.

That’s why I am glad that I came across this book.

I do believe that most of the people in the world are good. However, only the worst make the news. If most are good, how come we are divided by religion and politics so much?

Jonathan Haidt has the answer to this in his social psychology book.

The most profound takeaway from this book is that decisions are made by the emotional part of the brain, not the rational part. Our reasoning later finds information to confirm that decision.

“If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you.”

Our tongue has 6 different taste buds. Each of us has different taste preferences.

“The righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors.”

The same is the case for moral reasoning. It is based on six different foundations which are as follows.

● Care/Harm ● Fairness/Cheating ● Loyalty/Betrayal ● Authority/Subversion ● Sanctity/Degradation ● Liberty/Oppression

Morality in different cultures is built around these 6 different ‘flavors’. Different ideologies focus on different ‘tastes’.

They also differ in what aspect of a foundation they consider important. As an example: for the right, fairness means being rewarded in proportion to your contribution, for the left, fairness means having an equal outcome.

“Understanding the simple fact that morality differs around the world, and even within societies, is the first step toward understanding your righteous mind.”

Haidt’s book is mind-blowing. I cannot recommend this enough to everyone who wants to understand human differences.

6 Controversial Books that Expose the Complexity of Reality and Challenge Your Assumptions

The clock is ticking for humanity.

In this book, Toby Ord, a philosopher and senior researcher at Oxford, discusses the risk to mankind’s future.

“To neglect existential risk might thus be to wrong not only the people of the future, but the people of the past.”

Ord gives us the concept of ‘Precipice’. It is a period in time when humanity is capable of unprecedented destruction but has little wisdom. He says that currently, mankind is in a period of Precipice, starting from the first atomic bomb in 1945.

We have impactful technologies like nuclear power, AI, and biotechnology.

The author predicts that there is one in six chances that the world will suffer an existential catastrophe in the next century. That is unless we develop the necessary restraint.

“Of course, there is no shortage of examples of scientists and technologists declaring a new technology to be just around the corner, when in fact it would only arrive decades later; or not at all; or in a markedly different form to the one anticipated.”

Ord combines various disciplines like physics, biology, history, statistics, and more, to make his case.

Whether you share the author’s views or have a relatively positive outlook, this book is a goldmine of knowledge.

6 Controversial Books that Expose the Complexity of Reality and Challenge Your Assumptions

Have the environmentalists fooled us all?

This book will give you the flip side of ‘Merchants of Doubt’, a book we discussed earlier in this list. Some might even say that the author wrote this book while seeing the world with rose-colored glasses.

Shallenberger challenges all the grim views presented by scientists for the future of the world. He says that we were told that we had ten years but 3 decades have passed.

“In place of love, forgiveness, kindness, and the kingdom of heaven, today’s apocalyptic environmentalism offers fear, anger, and the narrow prospects of avoiding extinction.”

According to Shallenberger, the environmental problems are manageable. Instead of looking towards logical solutions, apocalyptic views make us have nightmares.

“Globally, new tree growth exceeded tree loss for the last thirty-five years, by an area the size of Texas and Alaska combined.”

He argues that alarmism is affecting poor countries where environmental activists hinder their access to important amenities. An example is the campaign against hydroelectric dams or making nature reserves where people live.

Whether you share Shallenberger’s optimism or not, this book will ignite hope in you.


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If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my book lists on my blog-


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