Cynicism and Idealism are a classic yin and yang, a contradictory pair where we all seem to need both sides. Few of us can really stomach an entirely cynical or entirely idealistic frame of mind. Yet instead of finding some peaceful balance, these polar views seem to eternally struggle for our sympathy.
"A people's history of the United States" by Howard Zinn
Several of Sowell's books, including Basic Economics. Some of Hayek's writing is also cynical of ideas like socialism and "meritocracy."
jimrandomh says that cynics believe in chaos. Perhaps people who profess cynicism use chaos as an excuse for failing to engage with the system, but when one accuses other people of cynicism, especially "cynical manipulation," the accusation is that the cynic believes in a very structured world.
Perhaps cynicism is associated with defection, but the various uses depend on the independent questions of whether the cynic defects and whether everyone else defects. Mere association is a sign that a word is bad for communication. (like "normative")
(perhaps that was unfair to jimrandomh)
Those are great suggestions Hopefully.
A cynical way to develop a lifelong predisposition towards idealism in a kid may be for an overbearing adult to emphasize the importance of their learning cynicism.
An alternative or supplement to a cynic's library of cynical books is a cynic's library of conflictingly idealistic books by rival experts or observers.
In terms of a sort of comprehensive cynicism that's an easy pill to swallow, I think Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker series is hard to beat. For more official stuff that purports to be empirical, history textbooks from rival nations (translated appropriately) and educational and advocacy literature from rival interest groups (pharmaceutical companies, plaintiff's law firms) could be useful. Selections from all that could make a good reader for younger age groups.
(Master rationalist) Robyn Dawes's "House of Cards" does for psychiatry and psychoanalysis what Robin Hanson does for healthcare spending in general.
Tangental to other comments that mention "Yes, Minister", my father used to work with the police in a mid sized US city and he used to say that "Barney Miller" was the only realistic cop show. My guess is that the CIA, FBI etc are the same. Just a bunch of people waiting to retire with full benefits. I bet that Medical care is more like scrubs than House but scrubs has way too much success also.
That reminds me - "Parkinson's Law" and "The Peter Principle" are old classics, but I don't know if they're superseded by more factual (and equally well-written?) works on the same subject.
I'd also suggest the non-fiction works by Scott Adams, as well as Putt's Law and The Successful Technocrat, which is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how technology corporations operate.
Not a book, but Penn&Teller's Bullshit would be pretty accessible to an adolescent audience.
Not a book, but Penn&Teller's Bullshit would be accessible to an adolescent audience.
Poor Charlie's Almanack by Charlie Munger has a healthy amount of cynicism in its pages. One of my favorite speeches included in the book is his Harvard School Commencement Speech from 1986 where he expands on a previous speech by Johnny Carson on prescriptions for guaranteed misery in life.
I think it's worth observing that good cynical books are, apparently, much easier to think of than good idealistic books. Nor does my own experience indicate differently.
Scott's Seeing Like a State, of course.
This is to nominate Steve Sailer.