As the raconteuring half of magic duo Penn & Teller, Penn Jillette has dazzled and disoriented audiences since the mid-70s. A long-time advocate of atheism and scientific skepticism, his book God, No! Signs You May Already Be An Atheist and Other Magical Tales and its sequel Every Day Is An Atheist Holiday: More Magical Tales, ruminate on his life experiences as an irreverent, unabashed non-believer.

Sharing a reading list with The Week, Jillette selected six books he believes support the non-existence of God. From Ahab’s white whale to the godlessness of war and world hunger, find his literary picks below. Complement with the reading lists of atheism activists Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris.


Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (also rec’d by Bob DylanBruce Springsteen, John Irving, Norman MailerPatti SmithRay BradburySteve Jobs & Tilda Swinton)

“My favorite book; I’m always reading it. As soon as I finish it, I start it again. Consider this line: ‘So ignorant are most landsmen of some of the plainest and most palpable wonders of the world, that without some hints touching the plain facts, historical and otherwise, of the fishery, they might scout at Moby Dick as a monstrous fable, or still worse and more detestable, a hideous and intolerable allegory.’ To me that means the white whale is God, and Ahab is wasting his life chasing God.” -PJ

The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero by William Kalush and Larry Sloman

“Sure, Houdini was the son of a rabbi and never said he was an atheist. But he did say that if there was life after death, he would come back and tell us. He didn’t come back; that makes this an atheist book.” -PJ

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

“This is the best magic book ever written. I don’t think Kahneman thought he was writing a book on magic, but most magicians don’t think they’re studying how the brain works, so we’re even. God doesn’t come up in this book.” -PJ

Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker

“I could really pick any book by Baker. He’s my favorite writer. Nicholson is a peacenik like me, and if you think World War II was a just war, this book will give you another think. World War II proves there’s no God.” -PJ

The Man Who Fed the World: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug and His Battle to End World Hunger by Leon Hesser

“Norman Borlaug was the father of the ‘green revolution’ and saved more than a billion people around the world—doing God’s work, because God isn’t going to.” -PJ

The Bible (also rec’d by Carl SaganLeonard CohenMartin Luther King Jr., Mr. Rogers, Nick Cave, Maya Angelou & Vincent van Gogh)

“If you’re considering becoming an atheist, read the Bible from cover to cover. No study guides, no spins, just read it. Sometime between when God tells Abraham to kill his son and when Jesus tells everyone to put him before their families, you’ll be an atheist.” -PJ
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