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. His and Teller’s Masterclass on the art of magic takes fans behind the curtain, exploring the psychological tools and neurological vulnerabilities that foster amazement, both on stage and off.
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.
“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