Self Delusion: The Surprising Science of How We Are Connected and Why That Matters


Tom Oliver
W&N, £20.00

In our age of individualism, it’s good to stop and think about the endless connections between people and the world around us. Humans are made of cells that have circulated in the universe for millennia. More than half of our bodymass is non-human, including bacteria, viruses and fungi that influence our moods and behaviour. Matter and ideas flow continuously between us and the living world. Who knows, maybe something you once said ended up in this book?

In this book Tom Oliver, a prominent systems thinker and professor of ecology at the University of Reading, looks into what makes me “me”. Am I my body, with all changing cells and the good and bad bacteria and viruses? Or am I my mind, despite crowdsourcing my thinking from countless people in the past and present? In a call for action, Professor Oliver urges people to let go of the illusion of individualism – our self delusion – and open our eyes to the multiple connections around us. This is also key to solving global societal and environmental problems.

The Self Delusion is one of those wonderful popular scientific books that wraps fascinating facts in interesting stories. It lets the thinking flow from the pages of the book to the mind of the reader. Professor Oliver’s breadth of knowledge and creativity of thinking are impressive, and his book makes you want to continue the conversation with him and the world. We are all connected and it matters.

Minna Hartikainen