Collection Development | Getting to the Truth

The surge of interest in fake news in the last decade has prompted an outpouring of research on how the American public interacts with misinformation. This list of suggested resources will appeal to academics, to high school and undergraduate students seeking better methods for engaging with the news, and to general readers. Together, they provide a well-rounded overview of the role of misinformation through history and what readers can do about it today.

In 2016, when the Oxford English Dictionary selected “post-truth” as its word of the year, few Americans wondered why. During an especially intense election, terms like “fake news,” “alternative facts,” and “conspiracy theory” were part of everyday conversation. A massive shift in the way the public consumes news media has been underway for years, but 2016 was a watershed moment. To this day, consumers of news continue to grapple with questions about truth and facts, science and politics.

The surge of interest in fake news in the last decade has prompted an outpouring of research on how the American public interacts with misinformation. There are dozens of titles published in the last five years alone that discuss how to identify false information and potential solutions to the problem. These books are written by academics, professionals, journalists, teachers, and librarians.

There are several challenges for librarians interested in building a collection of resources about fake news, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. The first is the lack of diversity among writers publishing on this topic. White and male authors are overrepresented, and the majority of English-language misinformation resources focus heavily on the United States and Europe. Also, because this topic is so politically charged, some titles appear nonpartisan but, in reality, promote political agendas.

This list of suggested resources focuses on titles that, while having a point of view and advocating for their position, are grounded in research and reason. There are options to appeal to academics, to high school and undergraduate students seeking better methods for engaging with the news, and to general readers. Together, they provide a well-rounded overview of the role of misinformation through history and what readers can do about it today.

Starred titles () are recommended for all library collections.


Berman, Jonathan M. Anti-Vaxxers: How To Challenge a Misinformed Movement. MIT. 2020. 296p. ISBN 9780262539326. $19.95.

A comprehensive, factual account of the history of vaccine development, deployment, and opposition. Written before the COVID pandemic, this volume provides context for present-day issues and a good account of how vaccine misinformation has developed over time.

Cortada, James W. & William Aspray. Fake News Nation: The Long History of Lies and Misinterpretations in America. Rowman & Littlefield. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9781538131107. $38.

An in-depth exploration of how fake news has impacted American politics since its founding. The volume uses a few key examples of misinformation campaigns, such as those of tobacco companies, to analyze the ways that lies and conspiracy theories have shaped collective understanding of the truth.

Higdon, Nolan. The Anatomy of Fake News: A Critical News Literacy Education. Univ. of California. 2020. 248p. ISBN 9780520347878. $29.95.

Conducts an analysis of fake news through a critical media literacy framework. Subjects include political party- and state-sponsored propaganda, the positioning of fake news in the journalism ecosystem, and strategies for identifying and combating fake news.

Hochschild, Jennifer L. & Katherine Levine Einstein. Do Facts Matter? Information and Misinformation in American Politics (Vol. 13). Univ. of Oklahoma. 2016. 248p. ISBN 9780806155906. $21.95.

Drawing on such relevant examples as climate change, vaccines, and the Affordable Care Act, the authors examine the extent to which misinformation affects political and personal decision-making among voters and lawmakers. A narrow focus allows for a deep dive into this issue, with analysis on how characteristics such as race, age, gender, and education levels affect responses to misinformation.

orange starred review symbol orange starred review symbolMcBrayer, Justin P. Beyond Fake News: Finding the Truth in a World of Misinformation. Routledge. 2020. 228p. ISBN 9780367483081. $34.95.

Discusses misinformation in its present form and explores how economic systems encourage fake news production and how individuals’ psychological habits lead to their embracing false information. Considers both societal and individual imperatives for improving the information environment and explores modern understandings of trust, expertise, and truth.

Misinformation and Mass Audiences. ed. by Brian G. Southwell, Emily A. Thorson, & Laura Sheble. Univ. of Texas. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781477314562. $29.95.

A volume of essays that addresses the effects of misinformation on society. First, it discusses how people research and conceptualize misinformation. Later, it delves into the impact and potential solutions. Essays are best suited to an academic audience and intersect with such disciplines as politics, environmentalism, news, satire, marketing, and public health.

New York Times Editorial Staff. Fake News: Read All About It (In the Headlines). NYT Edu. Pub. 2018. 222p. ISBN 9781642820225. $53.26.

This is a series of short vignettes written by New York Times staff, who identify people and issues associated with contemporary fake news in the U.S. The people who create it, the proposals to combat it, and its role in the Trump administration are among the topics. One section addresses the international impact of fake news.

O’Connor, Cailin & James Owen Weatherall. The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread. Yale Univ. 2020. 280p. ISBN 9780300251852. $16.

This work captures the complexity of misinformation by applying research models that consider how people interact with one another, what their motivations are for creating and spreading falsehoods, and how the public responds to these instances. Best suited for academic audiences.

Turner, Patricia A. I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture. Univ. of California. 1993. 260p. ISBN 9780520089365. $30.95.

A historical overview of how rumor and misinformation affect Black communities. Topics addressed include the Ku Klux Klan and the FBI and how their legacies continue to impact information-sharing and belief systems. This also explores how rumor has served as a method of resistance to racism and violence.

orange starred review symbolorange starred review symbol Young, Kevin. Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News. Graywolf. 2017. 480p. ISBN 9781555977917. $30.

Young provides a thorough examination of the American appetite for sensation and hoaxes, with a particular focus on the relationship between misinformation and racism. Featuring a history not often found in other publications, this work zigzags across time to cover everything from spiritualism and P.T. Barnum to fake memoirs and journalist Stephen Glass.


Barclay, Donald A. Fake News, Propaganda, and Plain Old Lies: How To Find Trustworthy Information in the Digital Age. Rowman & Littlefield. 2020. 244p. ISBN 9781538136843. $22.

A librarian discusses why misinformation matters, how those who create and spread it trick news consumers, and how everyone can better guard themselves against poor information sources. Takes an entertaining approach to information literacy instruction, with a number of clear examples and suggestions for analyzing content.

orange starred review symbolorange starred review symbol Bartlett, Bruce. The Truth Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks. Ten Speed. 2017. 144p. ISBN 9780399581168. $8.99.

A pocket-sized book offering useful, clear guidance to help readers understand how news and journalism work and how they can be responsible and savvy news consumers. Discusses source types, how to use libraries and Wikipedia, and strategies commonly used by journalists.

Bergstrom, Carl T. & Jevin D. West. Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data Driven World. Random. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780525509202. $18.

Inspired by their course at the University of Washington, the authors explore what misinformation is, how technology has amplified it, and how and why people use it. Written through a data science lens, chapters cover “big data,” data visualizations, and how the popularity of misinformation has affected science.

orange starred review symbolorange starred review symbol Collins, Loren. Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation. Prometheus. 2012. 267p. ISBN 9781616146344. $19.

Collins investigates the methods used by conspiracy theorists, such as Holocaust deniers, truthers, and birthers to spread their false beliefs. Highly accessible and engaging, this equips readers with the ability to recognize and counter tactics, such as fake experts, pseudoscience, to recognize and counter tactics, such as fake experts, pseudoscience, and logical fallacies.

Grant, John. Debunk It!: How To Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation. Zest. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9781936976683. $12.99.

With an emphasis on science and critical thinking, this work helps readers, especially teens and young adults, to better understand the consequences of misinformation and the methods people use to spread and defend it. Boldly confronts topics like evolution, religion, mysticism, alternative medicine, and vaccines and illustrates how misinformation caused harm to scientists and communities.

Levitin, Daniel J. A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking with Statistics and the Scientific Method. Dutton. 2019. 336p. ISBN 9780593182512. $18.

An easy-to-follow volume that offers accessible examples of how facts and numbers are manipulated to trick readers into believing misinformation. Covers tactics commonly used by advertisers, journalists, businesses, and politicians to skew data and information in their favor and trains readers to be on guard. Published in 2017 as Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era.

McAfee, David G. The Curious Person’s Guide to Fighting Fake News. Pitchstone. 2020. 208p. ISBN 9781634312066. $14.95.

Journalist McAfee synthesizes research into a concise exploration of the 21st-century fake news landscape. The author discusses technological, personal, and social strategies that can combat fake news and spotlights the financial incentives for creating it, as well as the consequences of allowing it to proliferate.


Affelt, Amy. All That’s Not Fit To Print: Fake News and the Call to Action for Librarians and Information Professionals. Emerald. 2019. 176p. ISBN 9781789733648. $67.99.

This book explores research on how people interact with fake news on social media platforms. It also shares suggested resources and strategies for librarians and other educators.

Information Literacy and Libraries in the Age of Fake News. ed. by Denise E. Agosto. Libraries Unlimited. 2018. 184p. ISBN 9781440864186. $65.

Though intended for librarians, the essays in this volume provide valuable perspectives on fake news and approaches to information literacy that are relevant and accessible to a range of educators and scholars.

Navigating Fake News, Alternative Facts, and Misinformation in a Post-Truth World. ed. by Kimiz Dalkir & Rebecca Katz. IGI Global. 2020. 375p. ISBN 9781799825449. $150.

This collection of academic essays is useful for those studying misinformation at the collegiate level, specifically librarians, educators, and those in the fields of communications and information science. Some essays propose methods of developing stronger information literacy skills at the individual level, while others consider how to counter misinformation in a societal context.

Teaching About Fake News: Lesson Plans for Different Disciplines and Audiences. ed. by Candice Benjes-Small, Carol Wittig, & Mary K. Oberlies. ALA. 2021. 321p. ISBN 9780838938904. $88.

This well-organized volume defines fake news broadly and brings together essays on topics such as algorithms, memes, data visualizations, and pseudoscience. Each essay includes a suggested learning activity to teach digital awareness and media literacy. Some are geared toward particular user groups, such as older adults or graduate students, while others are adaptable to a wider range of audiences and settings.


Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories in American History. ed. by Christopher R. Fee & Jeffrey B. Webb. ABC-CLIO. 2019. 812p. ISBN 9781440858109. $198.

An extensive two-volume encyclopedia of famous and enduring American conspiracy theories. Each entry provides the facts of the situation, the elements of the conspiracy theory, how it developed, and its major adherents. The work also includes short introductory essays on the role of conspiracy theories in American science, business, military, politics, and pop culture.

Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them. ed. by Joseph E. Uscinski. Oxford Univ. 2018. 536p. ISBN 9780190844080. $33.95.

Featuring essays by researchers from politics, sociology, history, law, philosophy, and more, this collection asks how conspiracy theories manage to exist and thrive alongside religion, government, and science in the U.S. and abroad. Though academic in nature, many of the essays have a balanced, approachable tone.

Merlan, Anna. Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power. Metropolitan. 2019. 288p. ISBN 9781250159052. $28.

This work details prominent American conspiracy theories from the perspective of a journalist who has spoken directly to the people responsible for spreading them. Through engaging storytelling, Merlan explores such conspiracies as the murder of Seth Rich and the link between vaccines and autism. The author insightfully connects historical events to present-day issues and considers the racism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism prevalent in many conspiracy theory circles.

orange starred review symbolorange starred review symbol Rothschild, Mike. The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything. Melville House. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781612199290. $28.99.

Rothschild offers a well-organized, compelling examination of QAnon, from its inception through its role in the 2021 U.S. Capitol insurrection. This will help readers with little knowledge of the QAnon conspiracy understand how it came to be, the historical background on which it builds, and its consequences for the U.S.

Uscinski, Joseph E. Conspiracy Theories: A Primer. Rowman & Littlefield. 2020. 170p. ISBN 9781538121207. $27.

A straightforward introduction to conspiracy theories, primarily in the U.S. and Europe. Explores the definitions of conspiracy theories, their popularity and history, and how sociological, psychological, and political factors influence belief in conspiracy theories. The final chapter discusses how the election of Donald Trump put a spotlight on conspiracy theories.

Van Prooijen, Jan-Willem. The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories. Routledge. 2018. 108p. ISBN 9781138696105. $14.95.

A concise look at the psychological research behind conspiracy theories.

Walker, Jesse. The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory. HarperCollins. 2014. 464p. ISBN 9780062135568. $16.99.

A thorough exploration of how conspiracy theories have shaped the U.S. from its beginning. Walker combines political and historical analysis with pop culture and religion to illustrate how pervasive and multifaceted many conspiracy theories in American history have been and how influential they continue to be on law and life today.

orange starred review symbol West, Mick. Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How To Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect. Skyhorse. 2020. 312p. ISBN 9781510755772. $18.99.

Written by a conspiracy theory expert with a great deal of empathy and knowledge, this work clearly explains how modern conspiracy theories develop, how people become believers, and how others can help conspiracy theorists recognize it.

Sarah Bartlett Schroeder, Business & Environmental Studies Librarian at the University of Washington Bothell/Cascadia College.

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