It’s my second time reading about the extraordinary popular delusions of men. Seems like now would be a good time to dive in again.

Book cover of "extraordinary popular delusions" on a desert background.

Something pulled my attention back to this book this morning as I took my walk around the neighborhood. I pulled it off my shelf when I got home and found that the last time I read it was 2012. I had bought the book at a used bookshop in Big Bear, California. And inside there’s another name, “Bob Baker, Freson, CA, April 1996.”

Who else has read this particular copy?

Opening to the forward and reading a few pages at the bookshelf, I was reminded why I loved the book so much and decided it should be my immediate next read. First published in 1841, it’s amazing to find how little humanity changes as a whole.

There is so much one could delve into with this book, so many similar theme and reactions in our own time, but I’ll leave that to greater minds than mine. I underlined and made a lot of notes in this book, but when I went back through the book to write about it, the post just kept coming out too negative and it made me unhappy to dwell on it too deeply. The big takeaway? People in large numbers are wildly unpredictable, crazy, and willing to take you along with them by force if necessary.

Instead, I’ll share with you a few of my favorite quotes. These are the ones that made me laugh or think, “Ah, humanity…you are so, so nuts!”

“His own wife was ill-favoured and ill-natured; Dee’s was comely and agreeable; and he longed to make an exchange of partners without exciting the jealousy or shocking the morality of Dee.”

Who wouldn’t want to make and exchange? And besides maybe that ill-natured woman would be a real match for someone else!

“Men, in striving to gain too much, do not always overreach themselves; if they cannot arrive at the inaccessible mountain-top, they may perhaps get half-way towards it, and pick up some scraps of wisdom and knowledge on the road.”

Striving toward any goal, whether we make it or not, at least gets us somewhere. Unless you’re striving to walk on water and can’t swim. That can’t be good. Or striving to stop some people dying from one thing, but end up killing off a lot more with the prevention or cure. That would suck, but we’d still learn something, right?

“Every age has its peculiar folly; some scheme, project, or phantasy into which it plunges, spurred on either by the love of gain, the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation. Failing these, it has some madness, to which it is goaded by political or religious causes, or both combined.”

Every age. Even this one.

You can find “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” at Thirftbooks if you’d like to read it yourself. Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your comments!


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