Help build my contrarian library
November 27, 2007 1:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a good list of books that take a contrarian view of their respective fields of inquiry. Books like Freakanomics, The Tipping Point, The Black Swan, Good Calories Bad Calories.

I don't want to slog through conspiracy theory "who shot JFK" or "the twin towers were actually bombed" types of books. Essentially I'm looking for books where when you were done reading they had changed your perception of whatever topic they covered. The books are thoroughly researched and for really contrarian ideas (i.e Good Calories, Bad Calories)are well referenced. Subject matter and topics are not restricted (other than the above limitations).
posted by herda05 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
"Eat what you want, and die like a man".

The sequel is called "Keep chewing until it stops kicking"

Not your everyday cookbooks.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:54 AM on November 27, 2007

If you liked all of those books, Stumbling on Happiness is in the same vein.
posted by adiabat at 2:19 AM on November 27, 2007

Lies My Teacher Told Me
posted by fallenposters at 4:56 AM on November 27, 2007

The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould is still provoking controversy, including recent discussion of IQ on MetaFilter.
posted by alasdair at 5:04 AM on November 27, 2007

Lies My Teacher Told Me has a sequel, Lies Across America that is also good; Overdosed America takes a good look at modern medicine. I don't know if they would be what you are looking for, but there are any number of skeptical writers that might be worth a look; Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things is generally well-regarded (and a healthy dose of skepticism might be useful as you explore controversial ideas).
posted by TedW at 6:41 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Say what you will about Lee Smolin, but he does do a good job arguing against the dominance of string theory in The Trouble with Physics.
posted by greatgefilte at 7:01 AM on November 27, 2007

I'm read the the wisdom of crowds . its right in there.
posted by alkupe at 7:50 AM on November 27, 2007

Everything Bad is Good For You by Steven Johnson
posted by mattbucher at 8:07 AM on November 27, 2007

Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life by Jon Levenson.

This provocative volume explores the origins of the Jewish doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Jon D. Levenson argues that, contrary to a very widespread misconception, the ancient rabbis were keenly committed to the belief that at the end of time, God would restore the deserving dead to life. In fact, Levenson points out, the rabbis saw the Hebrew Bible itself as committed to that idea.
The author meticulously traces the belief in resurrection backward from its undoubted attestations in rabbinic literature and in the Book of Daniel, showing where the belief stands in continuity with earlier Israelite culture and where it departs from that culture. Focusing on the biblical roots of resurrection, Levenson challenges the notion that it was a foreign import into Judaism, and in the process he develops a neglected continuity between Judaism and Christianity. His book will shake the thinking of scholars and lay readers alike, revising the way we understand the history of Jewish ideas about life, death, and the destiny of the Jewish people.

posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:30 AM on November 27, 2007

Rubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage by William Rathje and Cullen Murphy. By actually excavating garbage dumps, Rathje discovers lots of things about society and explodes several myths about landfills.
posted by Wet Spot at 8:56 AM on November 27, 2007

"You Just Don't Understand: Men and Women in Conversation" by Deborah Tannen. Tannen is a linguist who feels like men and women should be studied as if they belong to two totally different cultures. I learned a lot, not just about men and women, but about communication in general.

"Games People Play: The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis" by Eric Berne. I don't buy Berne's theories as FACTS, and I don't think many people do nowadays. But I think they are brilliant -- though simplified -- models of human-like creatures. This is similar to the way that Newton's physics is useful without accurately describing the real world. Berne's models have been infinitely useful to me as a writer and director.

"Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style" by Arthur Plotnik. This is the anti "Strunk and White" writing manual.

"The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals" by Michael Pollan. Most people I know who have read this have been changed by it.

"How Children Fail" and "Summerhill" overturned the way I thought about education and learning.

If you're into programming (or logic) -- especially if you're most comfortable with Object Oriented Programming -- you should take the time to work through The Little Lisper. It's a great intellectual ride, and you don't need any previous programming experience to enjoy it. If you'd like some more, well-written, contrarian stuff about computers (and other geeky topics), check out "Hackers and Painters." You can read much of it for free, here. I really dig "Why Nerds Are Unpopular", "How Art Can Be Good", "How To Do Philosophy" and the title essay.
posted by grumblebee at 10:54 AM on November 27, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies. Some I've already got (Lies My Teacher Told Me, Lies Across America, and the Omnivores Dilemma). The others I've added to my list.

And as for skepticisim, I wouldn't be a very good contrarian without it.
posted by herda05 at 12:15 PM on November 28, 2007

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