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On Doubt

(Little Books on Big Ideas)

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  50 reviews
In this personal essay, one of Australia’s most respected journalists argues in favour of a doubtful mind.

When society seems to demand confidence and certainty, how much courage does it take to admit doubt, especially self-doubt?

MUP’s Little Books on Big Themes series pairs Australia’s leading thinkers and cultural figures with some of the big themes in life.
Paperback, 122 pages
Published September 2017 by Melbourne University Press (first published May 1st 2009)
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4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  364 ratings  ·  50 reviews

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Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This work is an extended essay on doubt, aiming to challenge blind faith and over-confidence while still realising that constant doubting carries its own issues. No mere polemic written to burgeoningly champion curiosity or dryly approach it from an overly theoretical view, Sales shares the moments and thinking in her life that have led her to her views and successful journalist career, melding insightful observations with gentle yet forensic thoughts.

Let is not be said that I agree with everyth
Brona's Books
Nov 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Leigh Sales is an ABC journalist and current affairs presenter who has been curious and sceptical all her life. She was the quintessential, questioning, ever-doubting teenager that grew up to do the same thing throughout her career.

She aims to challenge blind faith and over-confidence, but living life with a doubtful mind has it's own pitfalls including anxiety and a lack of an all-consuming passion to name two.

The essay is dotted with fascinating little stories about her childhood, George Bush,
Kelly Anderson
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great essay on the essential qualities our media and many of our leaders are lacking. The capacity to question, challenge and use evidence to justify the truth, instead of producing “fake news” via opinion. Worth a read! Proves why Sales is one of Australia’s greatest Journalists.
41/2 stars
A little gem in the Little Books on Big Themes series. On Doubt was first published in 2009 but this more recent edition includes a postscript written in 2017.
Leigh Sales begins her discussion on the topic of Doubt by revisiting her early childhood when she was always in trouble for constantly asking questions and/or demanding “But why?” Even at any early age she was not simply rebellious but persistently inquisitive. Due to her mother’s stance on religion she had little to no formal r
Jan 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well written and easy little read. An argument for doubt in an age of false confidence and blind faith.

However I was left a bit short with wondering about Sales meta-theory of doubt. Doubt is good, but how much exactly? The essay seems uncomfortable in trying to answer this. Are we to emulate Descartes and doubt even our own existence? Or are there some things we can have ‘blind faith’ in. The post-script does address this in part (I.e. that not all doubts are created equal). The position take
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have to admit (sheepishly) that I don’t know Leigh Sales’ work all that well; but the moment I read about her incurable stickybeak tendencies, and her lack of faith (How to believe when you can’t know whether it’s true?) I felt we were kindred spirits. On Doubt is Leigh’s defence of the importance of neutrality in journalism. It’s an eloquent manifesto of what, how and why she does it. It is disquieting to notice that, in the 8 years since first publication, things seem to have gone backwards, ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Cracker of an essay.
Life in the modern age.
Leigh Sales is an ABC journalist here in Aus who is known for her forthright and probing journalistic style.
Initially published in 2009 with an updated afterword at the end.
Stay tuned for my Essay a Week video coming up.
Sarah Jones
5/5 easy to read essay and well argued
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
It’s kind of hard to believe that Sales wrote this 10 years ago because it feels so incredibly relevant in our current media/political climate. It’s a short and brilliant read that has given me a lot to think about. Highly recommended!
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read it in about 2 hours and was blown away by how lovely the stories were given their content.

I may be biased by my admiration of Leigh Sales rigour as a journalist, but now even more so for the views she presents here.

Would read again, to remind myself to question more...
Apr 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is certainty. Then there is doubt. There is opinion. Then there is objective truth. There is faith. Then there is trust.

It is a strange state of affairs when we have a journalist, such as Leigh Sales, telling us all about doubt. Journalists might practice doubt, but they certainly don’t produce it, package it, and push it to the public. Journalists peddle certainty, not doubt. This happened. That happened. This person’s an expert. That person’s a victim. Never does a ‘maybe’ or a ‘might’ m
Andrew Doohan
A very enjoyable and insightful essay from Leigh Sales on the question of doubt or, more specifically, how the presence of doubt should make someone infinitely wiser - because of the constant questioning and exploration that doubt engenders - yet seems to be seen as a weakness in contemporary society, which highly praises certainty, particularly in some political leaders.

Originally published in 2009, this edition has been updated to include a 2017 postscript which, interestingly enough, all but
Sam Schroder
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short, sharp and to the point, this essay, written in 2008 and re-published recently with a 2017 postscript, examines the notion of facts from the perspective of doubt. Sales explores the values of truth and accountability, arguing that it is only when we are curious and demand scrutiny that we begin to form an objective understanding. Blind faith, over-confidence, a certainty that our opinions are facts - these are the enemies of reasoned logic in our post-truth world. And Sales believes that d ...more
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A plea for reason and skepticism, Sales originally wrote this essay in 2008. (In a postscript, she wryly comments on how every issue she brings up in the original text is worse in 2017.) It's a calm, reasoned plea for healthy skepticism - not so much denying the existence of fake news as asking that we be able to prove the fakeness if we're making that claim. Sales positions doubt as a virtue, seeing it as a necessary precondition to open-mindedness and truth-seeking. It's also, strangely enough ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
Leigh Sales' On Doubt is a thought-provoking meditation on the value of constant questioning and testing of accepted truths. Originally published in 2009, this edition was re-released in September 2017 with a postscript from Sales in which she describes 2009 as a "golden era" compared with today. It should be required reading for the "post-truth" world.
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
For those who don't know Leigh Sales is an Australian journalist who has fronted news programs such as Lateline and the 7.30 Report on the ABC. The one thing that is universally accepted by all is that there is no pleasure to be had by politician when they are being interviewed by Leigh Sales. She is determined to cut through the carefully rehearsed talking points, uncover the truth and is respected by all.
‘On Doubt’ was originally penned by Sales in 2009, with an additional chapter being includ
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leigh Sales'es book is definitely a little book on a big theme. A really well written book.
Prefered the parts of the book from author's childhood and her own life as well as work. The story of Abelard an Heloise have the right place in this book.
Parts of the book about various Australian and American politician would be more intetesting if read 5 years ago.
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: huge admirer of Leigh Sales and always considered her to be a balanced journalist ... one of the few things I don't doubt :) Need to keep in mind that it's more an essay than a book and, as such, a short read. I didn't read the 2008 original, but it's telling how much more partisan we've become in the last decade. Worth the price of admission alone for the Catcher in the Rye comment.
Jenny Esots
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Clever and reflective essay on the nature of doubt.
Leigh threads stories of her upbringing which shaped her outlook on life.
Her questioning nature saw her move into journalism.
It is a world that does not depend on absolutes, but looks at the whole picture.
Always with the proviso that you maybe wrong.

Nicole Foster
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s Leigh Sales so what else is there to say???

Ok then, this essay written in 2009 but published in 2017 is even more relevant in the Trump era. Leigh believes in doubt, to question everything from the pollies, from the media and even yourself - probably what makes her one fine journalist even more so when she is interviewing on ABCs 730.
Ann Single
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wide ranging, well-crafted essay on the problem of certainty. Sales effortlessly integrates the personal and public spheres to paint a picture of a post-apocalyptic world where not only doubt, but nuance can’t survive. I exaggerate, but you get the idea. A welcome addition to a world that seems to constantly be shouting: ‘If you’re not for us, you’re against us.’
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An easily accessible, highly engaging essay about the importance of doubt in our world and how we are losing our appreciation for it. Sales outlines the benefits of doubt in everything from journalism and politics to everyday life, ultimately arguing that doubt is one of the best qualities we can hold.
Robin Bower
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great little read about questioning the status quo of those who portend to know definitively. Leigh Sales, forever the doubter and questioner of herself and others, describes why, in our current climate of ‘prosumers’ who can comment without basing statements in fact, revealing our vulnerability and self-doubt can be a good thing.
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: signed
A good little essay about the virtues of doubt (questioning ideas and opinions, remaining open to being wrong, etc) in the current media and political landscape where unswerving certainty is valued, opinion journalism is dominant over objective journalism, and echo chambers are increasingly common. Even more relevant today than when it was first published in 2009.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well written and well balanced look at the value of doubt in our society, the basis of all good journalism, which in my opinion is sadly lacking these days. The older I get, the more I ascribe to the saying 'believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see.'
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thought provoking piece looking at doubt and confidence, open mindedness and close mindedness, questioning and acceptance, fact and fiction, and how these things may influence politics, journalism, and life in general.
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fab little book that captures and identifies the changes in Western political and social culture over the last decade or so. Leigh Sales does well to encourage the lost art of ‘doubt’ in a way that leaves you questioning things naturally, not arrogantly.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essay
Leigh Sales puts into words much of how I try to deal with information and opinion to try to determine facts. An excellent essay that is still relevant almost 10 years after she originally wrote it.
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book, very well written. I just don’t know enough about US politics to be able to follow as much as I would have liked. The concept of doubt though and how Sales explored this is brilliant and a great life lesson for us all!
John Wesley HALL
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brief but enlightening

A good colloquial style that gets its message across - doubt is an essential element to thought & democracy. If one can look at all sides and come to a decision based on all the ‘facts’ the ‘fake news’ vendors will have nowhere to hide. Be open to change.
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Leigh Sales is an Australian author and journalist. She is the host of the Australian television channel ABC’s flagship news and current affairs program 7.30.

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