The Age of Magical Overthinking: Notes on Modern Irrationality (Hardcover)
From the bestselling author of Cultish and host of the podcast Sounds Like a Cult, a delicious blend of cultural criticism and personal narrative that explores our cognitive biases and the power, disadvantages, and highlights of magical thinking.
Utilizing the linguistic insights of her “witty and brilliant” (Blyth Roberson, author of America the Beautiful?) first book Wordslut and the sociological explorations of her breakout hit Cultish, Amanda Montell now turns her erudite eye to the inner workings of the human mind and its biases in her most personal and electrifying work yet.
“Magical thinking” can be broadly defined as the belief that one’s internal thoughts can affect unrelated events in the external world: Think of the conviction that one can manifest their way out of poverty, stave off cancer with positive vibes, thwart the apocalypse by learning to can their own peaches, or transform an unhealthy relationship to a glorious one with loyalty alone. In all its forms, magical thinking works in service of restoring agency amid chaos, but in The Age of Magical Overthinking, Montell argues that in the modern information age, our brain’s coping mechanisms have been overloaded, and our irrationality turned up to an eleven.
In a series of razor sharp, deeply funny chapters, Montell delves into a cornucopia of the cognitive biases that run rampant in our brains, from how the “Halo effect” cultivates worship (and hatred) of larger than life celebrities, to how the “Sunk Cost Fallacy” can keep us in detrimental relationships long after we’ve realized they’re not serving us. As she illuminates these concepts with her signature brilliance and wit, Montell’s prevailing message is one of hope, empathy, and ultimately forgiveness for our anxiety-addled human selves. If you have all but lost faith in our ability to reason, Montell aims to make some sense of the senseless. To crack open a window in our minds, and let a warm breeze in. To help quiet the cacophony for a while, or even hear a melody in it.
About the Author
Amanda Montell is a writer and linguist from Baltimore. She is the author of the acclaimed books Wordslut, Cultish, and The Age of Magical Overthinking. Along with hosting the podcast Sounds Like a Cult, her writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and more. She holds a degree in linguistics from NYU and lives in Los Angeles with her partner, plants, and pets. Find her on Instagram @Amanda_Montell.
"An engaging package suitable for anyone who wants to better understand the chaos of our modern society. Montell’s take on how irrationality went mainstream is informed by erudite wit and an eye for telling images."
—Kirkus, starred review
“Written with wit, smarts, and self-deprecating charm, The Age of Magical Overthinking is at once a guidebook for the era of misinformation and an illuminating, palm-to-the-forehead reveal of the delusions that underlie our own beliefs. Rarely have so few pages explained so much, so entertainingly.”
—Mary Roach, New York Times bestselling author of Stiff, Gulp, and Fuzz
"Empathetic and enviously shrewd, The Age of Magical Overthinking will cleanse your beleaguered mind the way a Tiktok 'guru' never could. Amanda Montell is a relatable and often brazenly funny narrator, as she creates a blueprint to breaking our minds’ worst habits. Who knew there was a path out of the forest of brain rot!"
—Sabrina Imbler, author of How Far the Light Reaches
"Amanda Montell’s unbeatable intellect helps make human life much more interesting, and a little less baffling."
—Michelle Tea, author of Against Memoir, Knocking Myself Up, and more
"Reading The Age of Magical Overthinking feels like talking to a brilliant friend. With vulnerability, humor, and refreshing sincerity, Montell excavates everything from celebrity worship to toxic relationships to the allure of nostalgia. In readable, stylish prose, she offers nuanced insights into contemporary culture, all while giving the reader companionship and hope."
—Heather Radke, author of Butts: A Backstory and Radiolab reporter
"The Age of Magical Overthinking is a fantastic voyage into the furnace room of the modern mind. I emerged from these enlightening pages with a new understanding of my own cognitive biases, as well as an unbiased awe of Amanda Montell’s abundant gifts."
—Mona Awad, author of Rouge and Bunny
“Refreshingly entertaining and informative…[Montell] exemplifies the power of compelling stories by employing her own memorable metaphors and disclosures as an invitation to consider more deeply what we choose to consume and share.” —Booklist