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7 Books You Should Read To Learn How To Debate More Constructively

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

When I was younger, I used to sink hours into those god-awful “owned” compilations on YouTube. I loved the wordplay and the ‘got-them’, moments. As I grew older, went to University and developed myself, I soon realized that no one really won from those arguments. No one came out looking better, no one’s mind was changed.

I wanted to learn how to change peoples minds, that’s what debating is really about. It’s not about making someone feel small or destroying their argument, it’s about changing their minds without damaging their legitimacy. A lot of it is about compassion.

If you want to learn how to debate better, here are 7 books that you should read to fine tune your debating skills.

“In order to be able to think you have to risk being offensive.”

– Quote by Jordan Peterson

#1 Crimes Against Logic by Jamie Whyte

Whyte's book serves as a practical guide to resisting the allure of bad reasoning that you can begin using immediately after finishing the last page. It brims with everyday examples of logical fallacies. From the all too common right to an opinion all the way through to the inflation of language: a fallacy even academics fall for. Crimes Against Logic clears the arena of the fog that tends to suffocate debates and gives the upper hand to the person who can spot fallacious reasoning.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Sean Sullivan from Expert Everywhere

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#2 Why Debate by Shawn Briscoe

This book is less about the how and more about the why of debate, but I love it because it succinctly makes the case for why debate and deliberative discourse is actually a tool for civic engagement and civility, rather than the hate and vitriol it's often seen as. I also love it because half the proceeds go to supporting students' development in debate. The author has coached a range of students in a variety of formats at all academic levels, including most recently serving to support debate in inner-city schools through the St. Louis Urban Debate League.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Sean Luechtefeld from American Network of Community Options & Resources

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#3 How To Win Arguments by William Rusher

One of the best books that I have ever read on debating is How To Win Arguments (More Often Than Not) by William Rusher. The guidance that the book provides is relevant today despite being published in 1981.  The book helps to teach the fundamentals and gives great advice on how to counter the various types of arguments (rational/irrational, logical/emotional).

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Patrick Lynch from Southeast for CMP

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#4 Basic Debate, Student Edition by McGraw-Hill Education

This comprehensive text (roughly 340 pages cover-to-cover), is designed for beginning debaters.  It teaches debating essentials, including topic analysis, research fundamentals, logical reasoning and the basic techniques of cross-examination of opposing arguments.  Additional topics include the role of ethics in research, preparation of evidence, and the role of critical thinking.  The text also includes a chapter on parliamentary procedure

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Timothy Wiedman from Doane College

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#5 Being Logical A Guide to Good Thinking by D.Q. McInerny

Just as education starts at the home, a good argument starts with sound logic. The book is meant to teach you how to create concise logical arguments, and how to build an argument on premises. It also helps differentiate logical from illogical so that you can better catch it when it occurs.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Caleb Backe from Maple Holistics

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#6 How to Argue and Win Every Time by Gerry Spence

Spence has a philosophy about debating and how it works. Spence’s empowering message posits that anyone can win an argument if they only understood what an argument really was. His wholesome approach to how to prepare and engage in an argument makes it an authority and therefore imperative debate reading.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Caleb Backe from Maple Holistics

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#7 The Tools of Argument by Joel Trachtman

Having a philosophy is fine, having tools is better. In his book, Trachtman offers you the tools you need to pry, punch holes, and otherwise dismantle any argument you’re faced with. This book is designed to help bring your analytical thinking to a different level and give you a fighting chance in any debate.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Caleb Backe from Maple Holistics

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