Reading is its own pleasure, but I believe it can also be fun to make people uncomfortable while you do it. If you have an interest in subjects that are provocative, strange or macabre, this is a post for you. You might also enjoy these books if you want to be the most memorable person at a dinner party. I have compiled all the titles in this post on this list.
Cannibalism is always a fun topic. Bill Schutt’s, “Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, opens a new window,” is a compelling and thought-provoking look at when and why humans and animals engage in eating their own kind, ranging from ritual to desperation. The book is thoroughly researched, and you will most likely discover something you had never known about before.
Sex and religion are two topics that I will never discuss with a library patron at the desk, but that doesn’t mean I don’t read about them, as you can see with the next two books. “, opens a new windowA History of Celibacy, opens a new window” by Elizabeth Abbott looks back through history at the reasons and social phenomena as to why people choose to refrain from sex. It’s fascinating to examine how and why social mores change. Jennifer Wright Knust chose a clever pun for the title of her book, “Unprotected Texts, opens a new window.” She looks at the different, and often contradictory, stances various Biblical authors took with this topic.
It’s satisfying to know that some of history’s greatest monsters were hypocrites in regards to what they said about clean living. Norman Ohler’s, “Blitzed, opens a new window,” looks at the heavy drug use in Nazi Germany, especially methamphetamines. Bonus points for another pun in the title.
Karl Marx is often a polarizing figure. Terry Eagleton, my favorite living philosopher, wrote a confrontational and witty defense of his ideas in, “Why Marx Was Right, opens a new window.” Eagleton is an academic writer who uses humor and accessible language to write for popular audiences.
My last two entries are about fighting... Hypothetical fighting that could never happen. Cartoonist Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal wrote, “5 Very Good Reasons to Punch A Dolphin in the Mouth, opens a new window,” which gives specific details for absurd scenarios. Comedian and history buff Daniel O’Brien provides us with, “How to Fight Presidents, opens a new window,” which uses real facts to discuss strategies on how to hypothetically fight long-dead American leaders.
One of my favorite things about books (and one of the reasons I got into this profession) is the way that they can spark discussion. I hope the books on this list, and others that you can find, can provoke some interesting discussions.