But What if We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman

But What if We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman is a 288-page nonfiction book published by Blue Rider Press in June of 2016. I received the book from Penguin’s First to Read program.

But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck KlostermanThis book is a collection of essays and arguments revolving around a central theme–looking into the past with eyes colored by the present. Klosterman presents arguments ranging from future cultural popularity (who will define rock music–The Sex Pistols? Bob Dylan? Chuck Berry?) to scientific theories (will our theory of gravity seem as preposterous to future humans as the geocentric model of the universe seems to us?).

Klosterman’s meditations kindled memories of a Shakespeare seminar I took in college. The professor forced us to reconsider Shakespeare’s works by asking, “What would the details that we focus on have meant to people during Shakespeare’s time? What in our world can relate to something completely different in his time (gender, clothes, status)?”

In a similar vein (but instead of looking into the past), But What If We’re Wrong? forces you to reverse-engineer the type of things future humans might think of us. And that’s where you’re wrong. According to Klosterman, practically anything that we can imagine to be a logical progression from our time to the future would be wrong–simply because we lack the ability to be subjective about ourselves. Throughout the book, his thought experiment is both fun and a little disconcerting.

Being forced to see my own culture through different eyes (of people in the present, even) always shocks me in a wonderful way. I relished the reflective tone of the book, and the fact that Klosterman just likes to stir up trouble–he interviews various people (Neil DeGrasse Tyson among them) and forces them to discuss things they completely disagree with.

Before this book, I’d never read anything by Chuck Klosterman–never even heard of him, actually. But after reading it, I have already started reading other Klosterman books and essays. The man has a fascinating mind that encourages uncertainty and a lifestyle of questioning everything. I love that idea, and if you do too, this book is perfect for you (or perhaps not–I could be wrong about even that!).

TITLE: But What If We’re Wrong?
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AUTHOR: Chuck Klosterman
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PAGES: 288
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ALSO WROTE: Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs; The Visible Man
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FIRST LINE: I’ve spent most of my life being wrong.
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FAVORITE LINE: The reason so many well-considered ideas appear laughable in retrospect is that people involuntarily assume that whatever we believe and prioritize now will continue to be believed and prioritized later, even though that almost never happens.

BONUS LINE: To matter forever, you need to matter to those who don’t care.

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