Scary Books

For anyone that knows me well, they know I’m a voracious reader. Over the last several years, I’ve discovered some of the scariest books that I’ve ever read. These aren’t your usual horror stories. They’re non-fiction, real-life books that challenge what you know about the world and, in some cases, about yourself.

The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships

It’s amazing to me that two people can actually communicate with each other given everything that can go wrong. This book is frightening in just how many things can go awry and at so many levels. I think this book should be required reading for high school–it would probably save a significant number of relationships.

I honestly don’t know why I picked this book up, but I’m glad I read it.

How Doctors Think

No offense to any doctors out there, but this book shows just how little we know and how much faith we put into doctors rather than taking control of our own health care. The book also contains a story about the author, who is an oncologist (cancer doctor), and the path he went down before finally getting the care he needed.

Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in Pursuit of Health

Continuing on with the medical theme, there’s the question of screening tests and whether they actually help you or not. It was surprising to realize that things like where the threshold for the PSA test came from, and the fact that the inventor of the PSA test doesn’t recommend it.

With this book, you really have to decide for yourself where you stand in the debate, but it was a really good read and backed by lots of useful information.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts

A really interesting book on how we arrive in a situation that we would not have explicitly put ourselves in, about the failure to recognize our own poor choices but not those of others, and how we convince ourselves of decisions along the way that ultimately lead to a poor outcome. It’s frightening how you can go in with good intentions and justify a path that is in direct contradiction to your personal beliefs.

Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Justice

This book takes a deep-dive into many aspects of the criminal justice system and where it fails. There are certainly some things we can do better, but we need to start with the recognition that we sometimes put innocent people behind bars–more often than we think. Like anything in life, we should learn and improve as we go and the author makes a strong case for how we’ve failed to do that.

This is another book where you’ll have to judge where you stand, but again, it’s full of interesting information and suggestions on how to improve the current system.

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

We owe a lot to a single individual who pushed hard to have proper controls for nuclear weapons, and to the engineers and scientists who worked hard to design those controls. There are several times that we barely skirted disasters of immense proportions. The story is fascinating in its details, and frightening in the potential outcome.