Anyone who’s had any conversation with me over the past year can tell you that I am a huge fan of the You’re Wrong About podcast. The hosts are both journalists who discuss an event, person, or phenomenon that’s been misunderstood or misremembered by most of the general public. Honestly, when it was first recommended to me, I resisted because I thought the title of the show was rude, but I’m so glad I gave it a chance. It quickly became one of my favorite pieces of media, and led to me trying to find more books like You’re Wrong About.
Some of the most illuminating episodes for me have been “Shaken Baby Syndrome,” “Terri Schiavo,” and “Human Trafficking.” As the show’s title promised, I was definitely wrong about all of those things. And how did I have so little knowledge about what actually happened with Enron?
Last month, host Michael Hobbes announced he’ll be leaving the show, but Sarah Marshall will keep it going with a planned roster of guest co-hosts. Part of the podcast’s charm and appeal was the chemistry between the two hosts — their humor, rapport, and shared insight — so I’m sad to see Mike go, but can’t wait to learn what else I’m wrong about.
If you’re a reader, like me, and a fellow debunkmate, here are some books like You’re Wrong About (YWA) to hold you over between episodes. Looking for even more bookish podcasts? Find ’em here!
The Book of Animal Ignorance by John Lloyd and John Michinson
This is a follow-up to The Book of General Ignorance, but this was the first one recommended to me so I’m sticking with it for this list. The book goes through 100 animals with the most interesting , surprising traits. It may not focus on debunking exactly, but the subtitle is “Everything you think you know is wrong,” which cements its place on this list. YWA listeners will enjoy not only the obscure knowledge but also the authors’ wit.
Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked by Mary Miley Theobal
The title nearly speaks for itself on this one. The author, in collaboration with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, writes about so many different things we “know” about American life in the 1700 and 1800s that are actually exaggerations or even outright lies. A lot of docents and tour guides at historical sites love this book. Before this book, I definitely believed that women took arsenic to lighten their complexions and kitchens were separate from the main house to prevent fires!
Not “A Nation of Immigrants”: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
This book challenges the idea that we’re a nation of immigrants, a myth used by colonizers to shroud our country’s history of genocide, slavery, violence, and white supremacy. There are immigrants, of course, but this book takes issue with classifying colonizers and enslaved people as immigrants. Also check out An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by the same author.
Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong — and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini
For hundreds of years “common wisdom” told us that women were weaker, less intelligent, more emotional, and illogical. For decades, male scientists found evidence supporting these claims. But these experiments were hampered by the scientists’ preconceived notions as well as social programming from birth. This book talks about the new research that is overturning long-held notions about women’s minds and bodies.
The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time by Brooke Gladstone
This book does double duty, because moral panics are a favorite topic on YWA and host Mike is a frequent guest on this author’s radio program On the Media. As YWA frequently demonstrates, reality has never been what we thought, but 2016 made us even more vulnerable. This book examines the Trump team’s distortion of our reality through the employment of “alternative facts” and discusses what we can do to reclaim reality.
If your favorite YWA episodes include those about Princess Diana, Anastasia, Marie Antoinette, or even one of the many maligned women of the ’90s, this one’s for you. It features stories of fierce women, real and imagined, told in an entertaining way. You’ll learn about pirates, murderers, rebel preachers, spies, queens, and more. Bonus: there are content warnings shown for every story.
The Quest for the Historical Satan by Miguel De La Torre & Albert Hernandez
YWA talks a lot about various Satanic panics over the past few decades, so I thought it appropriate to include a book that looks at the figure of Satan across the centuries. The authors examine the idea of good vs. evil and go back to Satan’s pre-Christian roots. It discusses Satan’s use as an embodiment of what individual societies considered evil over time. It’s a scholarly book, but a pretty easy read.
Viral BS: Medical Myths and Why We Fall for Them by Dr. Seema Yasmin
This might be venturing further into Maintenance Phase (Mike’s other podcast) territory, but there’s some crossover with YWA. Each chapter discusses a different medical question with a critical eye towards health misinformation. The answer to each question, unsurprisingly, is that it’s more complicated than most people think.
Dracula: Sense and Nonsense by Elizabeth Miller
This author was recommended to me as “the first scholar to contradict the 1972 theory that Dracula is based on Vlad Tepes,” which was all I needed to pique my interest. If you’re a Dracula fan, or if you want to read a whole book that debunks several myths and discusses controversies about a very specific topic, check this one out.
I had to include this one on my list because it ties in to one of my other favorite podcasts, No Such Thing as a Fish. This book is a little bit different from the others on the list, but recommended for those who love the best storytelling of YWA combined with the experience of going very deep down an unexpected rabbit hole. The book is a combination of a biography of taxonomist David Starr Jordan and a memoir of the author. Also, there may or may not be a murder.
This one is right up Sarah Marshall’s “maligned women” interest. If you listened to YWA and were struck by how many women the media had irresponsibly villainized, this one is for you. The author takes a hard look at the pleasure our culture takes in tearing down women who enter the spotlight and why we seek to punish women at our own expense.
Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words by Andrew Morton
I see people talking about the Princess Diana series of YWA more than any other episode, so I had to include a Diana book on this list. Sarah and Mike used this book as a reference for their series. This book claims it is the closest we will ever come to reading a Princess Diana autobiography, but I don’t have to tell debunkmates to take some things with a grain of salt.
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington
The Tuskegee Syphilis Study series of episodes of YWA were heartbreaking and eye-opening for me. This book was listed in the show notes for those episodes, and expanded my knowledge even further. The author offers a full history of Black America’s horrific mistreatment at the hands of our medical establishment.
If you were fascinated by the discussion of repressed memories during the “Multiple Personality Disorder” or “Michelle Remembers” episodes, this one is for you. The author is a forensic psychologist and memory export who discusses how truly fallible our own memories are.
Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture by Alice Echols
I never cared — or even thought, to be honest — much about disco until the “Disco Demolition Night” episode of YWA. This book dives even further into the impact Disco had on music, but also its connections to the fight for the rights of women, queer folk, and African Americans.
If you’re looking for something more specific, check out our Tailored Book Recommendations (TBR) subscription service! You can tell us about your reading habits and what you’re looking for and our expert bibliologists will handpick three books customized to your needs and send them over with a personal note.