The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan – Carl Sagan is one of my all-time heroes, a brilliant astronomer, staunch sceptic and inspirational human being. The Demon Haunted World goes through the history of scepticism, the dangers of credulous belief and the need for rational thought. The chapter of witchcraft is particularly chilling and absolutely horrified me. This is probably the number one book on scepticism out there.

Flim-Flam! by James Randi – A thorough look at various delusions that have taken people in over the centuries. James Randi is currently the number one sceptic in the world, thought I suspect he would get angry at me for saying that. He does not pull any punches and spares nobody.

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural by James Randi – An encyclopaedia of the various rubbish people believe in. This is written in a very sarcastic style which leaves no doubts as to Randi’s feelings. A personal favourite book of mine, chiefly because it was signed by Rebecca Watson. She added her own entry in the front: “Watson, Rebecca. Awesome skeptic who somehow missed the cut for this book…”

Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer – An incredibly well-written and researched book that instead of focusing on what people believe, it considerswhy they believe.

The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer – A newer book which again discusses why people believe the way they do. This book specifically looks at why our brains appear to be hardwired to want to believe.

The Skeptic’s Dictionary by Robert Todd Carroll – Another sceptical encyclopaedia. Very well written and also available for free online at

Bad Astronomy by Phil Plait – Phil Plait is wonderful, one of my favourites. He is a very funny guy and this really comes through in his writing. Bad Astronomy is the name of his blog and also his first book. Dr Plait is an astronomer and this book focuses on various astronomical misconceptions and misuses. Contains an excellent debunking of the moon landing hoax.

Death from the Skies! by Phil Plait – This is a terrifying book. Sick of people going on about how the world will end, Dr Plait has decided to actually research it. This book contain 9 chapters, each featuring a different astronomical scenario that could wipe out all life on Earth. The final chapter is about the simple winding down of the universe and is kind of depressing.

Trick or Treatment by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst – Simon Singh is a sceptical hero. He was sued by the BCA (British Chiropractic Association) after calling their methods “bogus” in a newspaper article. Fortunately they dropped the case but the extreme publicity it gathered earned a lot of support for the sceptical movement. This book focuses on alternative medicines. The book was recently reviewed on RRR and they raved about it.

Paranormality by Richard Wiseman – Richard Wiseman is another wonderful author. He is a very prominent British psychologist who specialises in quirky psychology and public experiments. This book is about why people’s brains want them to believe in the paranormal.

Quirkology by Richard Wiseman – Another great psychology book. This looks at a lot of weirdness that our brains put us through.

The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman – Obviously, luck doesn’t exist, yet somehow still seem to have more of it than others. This book is based on a massive research project that examines lucky and unlucky people to determine what are they actually doing differently.

59 Seconds – by Richard Wiseman – A self-help book by somebody who doesn’t believe in self-help books. Rather than spouting rubbish like “belief in yourself and visualise success”, Dr Wiseman has put together hundreds of psychological research experiments and gives advice for success based on actual evidence, not just on what sounds pretty.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackey – Originally written in 1841, this book looks at what people are capable of when belief swamps a large group. From the terrible witch burnings to the somewhat hilarious tulipmania.

How We Know What Isn’t So by Thomas Gilovich – Another psychological look at belief.

Bad Science by Ben Goldachre – Medical stupidity and why the media seems to be in love with pseudo-science.

Don’t Cross Your Eyes by Aaron Carroll & Rachel Vreeman – 75 medical myths that most of us have grown up believing. These are the types of beliefs that get spread around and commonly accepted without people ever checking their validity.

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Paranormal by Lynne Kelly – An Australian book that is devoted to various topics such as UFOs, crop circles and the Bermuda triangle.

The Psychic Mafia by M. Lamar Keene – Keene was a very successful psychic who eventually became dissatisfied with cheating people out of their money. He wrote this book to expose their methods. He received many threats on his life after this published and was actually shot at. After that he changed his name and went into hiding.

The Full Facts of Cold Reading by Ian Rowland – A step-by-step guide on how to cold read. An excellent book for those wanting to learn how to make money by pretending to be a psychic.


3 responses to “Bookshelf

  1. Steve

    For Melbourne people, see the wonderful Warren at @embiggenbooks, Little Lonsdale St, behind the State Library, for all these books and Moar!!

  2. Kate

    Another rather brilliant book is “How to Lie with Statistics” by Darrell Huff. It’s an old book (1954) that is just as relevant as it has always been, and makes it perfectly clear how very many ways there are of presenting data to support your point of view, no matter what your point of view actually is. Easy to read and full of amusing little cartoons. I have it as set reading for my year 9s and 10s before we even touch statistics and probability. Great stuff.

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