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But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past Hardcover – June 7, 2016
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“Full of intelligence and insights, as the author gleefully turns ideas upside down to better understand them.... This book will become a popular book club selection because it makes readers think. Replete with lots of nifty, whimsical footnotes, this clever, speculative book challenges our beliefs with jocularity and perspicacity.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“Klosterman conducts a series of intriguing thought experiments in this delightful new book...Klosterman’s trademark humor and unique curiosity propel the reader through the book. He remains one of the most insightful critics of pop culture writing today and this is his most thought-provoking and memorable book yet.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A spin class for the brain… Klosterman challenges readers to reexamine the stability of basic concepts, and in doing so broadens our perspectives…. An engaging and entertaining workout for the mind led by one of today’s funniest and most thought-provoking writers.” —Library Journal (starred review)
"Klosterman is a joy to hang out with: He relishes the contradictions he examines while making complex ideas comprehensible. In this new world, though, his voids of certainty aren’t just exhilarating, but ominous." —Ryan Vlastelica, A.V. Club (Favorite Books of 2016)
"But What If We’re Wrong? is a book about the big things we’re wrong about that don’t get discussed, just because everyone assumes they can never happen. That’s as true for culture as it is for science, and the uniquely intellectual and dexterous Klosterman dives in with verve. Bonus points for interviews with some fascinating—and stubborn—people in the process." —Bloomberg Best Books of 2016, recommended by Ian Bremmer, President of Eurasia Group
“Klosterman is outlining the ideology of a contrarian here and reminding us of the important role that revisionism plays in cultural writing. What matters is the way he thinks about thinking—and the way he makes you think about how you think. And, in the end, this is all that criticism can really hope to do.” —Sonny Bunch, The Washington Post
“[Klosterman’s] most wide-ranging accomplishment to date… As inquisitive, thoughtful and dryly funny as ever, But What If We’re Wrong?... [is] crackling with the writer’s signature wit.” —Will Ashton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“In But What If We’re Wrong? [Klosterman] takes on the really big picture . . . He ranges far and wide over the realm of known knowns and known unknowns.” —Brigitte Frase, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“I have often wondered how the times I live in will be remembered once they turn into History. It never occurred to me to figure out how to write a book about it, though, which is one of the reasons why Chuck Klosterman is smarter than I am.” —Aimee Levitt, The Chicago Reader
“Klosterman has proven himself an insightful and evolving philosopher for popular consumption . . . In his latest, But What If We’re Wrong?, Klosterman probes the very notions of existence and longevity, resulting perhaps in the most mind-expanding writing of his career.” —Max Kyburz, Gothamist
“Chuck Klosterman is no time traveler, but he's got a lot of ideas about how the future will shake out . . . in [But What If We’re Wrong?] he ponders the limits of humanity’s search for truth.” —Chris Weller, Tech Insider
“Prolific pop-culture critic Chuck Klosterman tackles his most ambitious project yet in new book But What If We’re Wrong?, which combines research, personal reflections and interviews.” —Alexandra Cavallo, The Improper Bostonian
“This book is brilliant and addictively readable. It's also mandatory reading for anyone who loves history and for anyone who claims to have a capacity for forecasting. It'll probably make them angry because it turns so many sacred assumptions upside down—but that's what the future does. Klosterman's writing style is direct, highly personal and robotically crisp—he's like a stranger on the seat next to you on a plane who gives you a billion dollar idea. A terrific book.” —Douglas Coupland
About the Author
Chuck Klosterman is the bestselling author of seven books of nonfiction (including Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs and I Wear the Black Hat) and two novels (Downtown Owl and The Visible Man). He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, GQ, Esquire, Spin, The Guardian, The Believer, Billboard, The A.V. Club, and ESPN. Klosterman served as the Ethicist for The New York Times Magazine for three years, appeared as himself in the LCD Soundsystem documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits, and was an original founder of the website Grantland with Bill Simmons.
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Here are some things I liked about it (in no particular order):
The idea that some things, Moby Dick for example, are overwhelmingly thought of by most as excellent, although they really may not be. I loved the Amazon review the author includes about Moby Dick. I tend to hate books that the general public loves and love the books they hate, so I appreciate this idea. He also mentions Tenth of December, a short story collection by Saunders, I tried to read it twice and gave up. Just saying.
Seemingly crazy at the time predictions that came true.
The idea that far into the future, our beliefs about something (say gravity) may turn out to be entirely wrong.
The Dark Net
That we all might be part of a computer simulation.
A discussion of arguments in favor (or not) of voting
Reality (or not) TV
The fact that football may become extinct (not that I mind football, the idea just seems very unlikely)
In summary, I liked this book because it made me look at several ideas, concepts, and subjects differently, but I didn't love it, maybe because the essays didn't feel quite like what I'm used to...which should probably have made me like them even more. See, even what I believe doesn't always make sense.
There are countless cases in history of widely-held beliefs about culture, philosophy and even the nature of the world being overturned almost overnight. Artists unknown in their time are celebrated today as unsung geniuses while the giants of those ages are forgotten. Which raises the question, what do we think, believe or know today that will be proven false tomorrow?
It's a good question and there isn't necessarily an answer in here but that's fine because it does make us think. I first learned of this book when one chapter was reprinted in a magazine. It asked the question 300 years from now, when rock and roll is as historical and irrelevant as, say, opera, who will historians hold up as the example of rock, who will be remembered?
Now ask the same question about television.
Or any other aspect of our lives.
Are the Grammy, Emmy and Oscar winners really the most important works of art in the world today? If not, what is?
Klosterman also asks the equally challenging question, what if we're right? Yes people once believed the world was flat and were proven wrong. But that sort of scientific revolution has become rarer as we've shared more information and established methods, so what if this is it? What if our understanding of the world is it, and there are no more revolutions?
Again he doesn't have answers but there's a lot to chew on here.
Klosterman's style is very friendly, he sprinkles in self-deprecating humor and personal anecdotes throughout which keeps this book from being too heavy. I found it a perfect read for a long plane trip.
I recommend it.
My background is in science and Klosterman dives headlong into that field. The chapters on gravity and the evolving field of quantum physics felt mildly forced and impersonal. The chapter on dinosaurs felt more personal and that evolving field has changed in my lifetime as well.
The book goes off the rails once the writer enters the world of politics and American history. This is maybe a perceived forte but why? It felt like an off the cuff personal, but not researched take on a world he is not that well connected to. If he is connected to American politics or American historians I did not get where it all came from,
That being said, anything Klosterman either knows really well like Rock or anything he has highly researched is well written.
I plead to Chuck Klosterman to get back to your roots, write a big book on Rock, a really big book on Rock.