Cover Image: Off the Edge

Off the Edge

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Member Reviews

This book is absolutely bananas. I love how the connections between conspiracy theories, cults, and feelings of loneliness all got tied together. I learned a lot!

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If you've ever laughed at a flat earther, which I know I have, you should read this book. It will also make you laugh at flat earthers, don't worry, but it examines how flat earth is a sort of gateway conspiracy that defines this mindset so prevalent in our culture right now — no one can be trusted. This book was fun, educational, and extremely terrifying.

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I really enjoyed most of this book. But I started noticing a pattern of the author blatantly bashing flat earthers and Trump supporters (I do NOT support Trump). But I felt like the facts presented spoke for themselves, and the personal attacks weren't necessary. In the end, this element was too distracting for me.

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I’m fascinated by conspiracy theories — how they develop, why people believe them, how they spread. In Off the Edge, journalist Kelly Weill uses the rise of the flat Earth movement to illuminate how wild ideas catch on.

Off The Edge begins with an exploration of the early days of the flat Earth conspiracy. In the 1830s, a charlatan selling miracle cures, Samuel Birley Rowbotham, became convinced the Earth was a plane. Fast forward nearly 200 years, and flat Earthers are still running their own investigations, attempting to prove their belief is fact. The movement is now in the midst of a social-media-fueled boom, with its own influencers, conferences and more, and is increasingly becoming enmeshed with the Qanon conspiracy theory and neo-Nazism.

My favorite parts of Off the Edge were the profiles of conspiracists who explain exactly how they started to believe the Earth was flat. For almost all of them, it started with YouTube, as the video site suggested flat Earth clips after viewers watched content about geography or space. Weill writes with empathy and is careful not to depict her subjects as crazy. I particularly appreciated her willingness to consider if she had bolstered the movement by giving it attention as a reporter, ultimately concluding that reporting about flat Earth is critical for us to understand conspiracy thought.

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This audiobook was pretty interesting and gave a general history of the flat-earth conspiracy from its origins at the time of Charles Darwin to present-day flat-earth movements. I found the first couple of chapters about Alfred Wallace (who also proposed evolution) and his frustration in proving the first flat-earther to be the most interesting.

I will say that I think the inclusion of other conspiracy theories like Trump losing the election felt a bit out of place, even if the author did try to place them in relation with flat-earth.

Overall, this was an interesting dive into the flat-earth world. I appreciated that Weill acknowledged these people as some that cannot change their thinking, AND as some people she considered to be friends even though she knows they are ultimately wrong in their beliefs. Weill's own experiences at flat-earth conferences and with flat-earth friends also added that extra something and heightened her ability to represent both sides of the argument.

Thank you Netgalley + Workman Audio for this copy.

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