This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a Halloween freebie. Horror and such isn’t my genre, so instead my list is focused on things that really scare me — and they should probably scare you too.
- The Lucifer Effect, by Philip Zimbardo. If the Stanford prison experiment doesn’t scare the pants off you, I don’t know what will. Stanley Milgram’s experiments are honestly less shocking to me, having read about the actual experimental design and the way it was reported. But the participants in the Stanford Prison Experiment knew exactly what was happening at all times, and yet they were still manipulated by the situation into acting like monsters, or enabling monsters. Even the guy nominally in charge of the experiment, Zimbardo himself, did not realise what was going on until an outsider asked him what the hell he was playing at.
- Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan. The idea that inflammation in your brain can reproduce the symptoms of mental disorders and make your case seem entirely baffling and hopeless… Our brains are so ridiculously fragile, as Cahalan’s case proves.
- Panic Attacks, by Christine Ingham. This is actually a book about learning to cope with panic attacks, which I found somewhat helpful. But the fact remains that panic is terrifying, and hard to get a handle on, and just the idea of being as anxious as I was when I needed this book scares me rather a lot.
- The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. First, on the superficial level, it’s Dawkins and I’m both terrified of his smug sense of superiority and that I might ever be like him. But also let this book stand for the fear of not knowing — of things, perhaps, being unknowable. And then worse, that people say, claim, believe that this could mean condemnation after death? Erk. Scary thought. I don’t even know where I stand on that.
- Spillover, by David Quammen. If you’re not terrified of the idea of a pandemic, you’re kidding yourself. We’re destroying habitats and bringing ourselves into closer and closer contact with reservoirs of disease like Ebola, AIDs, SARS, Hendra… We may be lucky. We’ve been lucky. Will that continue?
- A Mind of its Own, by Cordelia Fine. Or a number of other books on similar topics — the way our brains lie to us, as a result of the way they function. It’s actually alarming the things you can ignore, given the right combination of factors.
- Why Evolution is True, by Jerry A. Coyne. I find it a little frightening that the general public is often ignorant of evolution and the fact that it is completely proven, and in fact a mathematically necessary conclusion. So the fact that this book exists is half reassuring — because you can learn about evolution — and half terrifying, because oh, how we need it.
- The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris. This is slightly tongue in cheek, but Harris’ views of morality are definitely not mine, and I find his way of thinking alien.
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. The book is amazing. It also terrified me because, guys, there are immortal lines of cancer cells just propagating in labs right now. Right now. And also probably cells undergoing deleterious mutations in our own bodies. And also, the medical establishment is not infallibly moral. Everything about this is scary (though the latter part is, I admit, obvious — if you need this book to tell you that humans are fallible, well).
- Missing Microbes, by Martin J. Blaser. We are screwing up millennia of co-evolution by killing off microbes that have existed within the human body and adapted to us, and we don’t even really know what the consequences will be. And you know, that whole problem with antibiotic resistance. (Which in itself proves what I said in #7 about evolution, by the way. If evolution isn’t happening right now, why are microbes developing antibiotic resistance?)
So yeah, hope you’re all good and terrified now! I am. Just a little. Mostly healthy fear.