The best books that explore the mysterious through science and skepticism

Who am I?

Since childhood, growing up in a family with spiritualist beliefs, I’ve been fascinated with mysterious phenomena. Once I became a little older, and my childhood love of zoos, museums, and dinosaurs became a broader love of science, I began to re-examine certain fantastic claims and beliefs with a skeptical lens. I became fascinated not only with the subject of certain beliefs, but the reason we as humans have these beliefs. The study of ghosts, monsters, or UFOs is really a study of the human condition and our belief systems. It’s the exploration of the human side that motivates the characters in my books and my continued interest in mysterious phenomena. 

I wrote...

Umboi Island

By J.J. Dupuis,

Book cover of Umboi Island

What is my book about?

TV host Laura Reagan and her crew sail to a remote island in the South Pacific to film a documentary about the Ropen, a legendary, bioluminescent creature said to live there. After seeing strange lights over the jungle canopy and two local children go missing, they find the dead body of a man in their camp with ties to one member of Laura’s team. It soon becomes clear that the trek to get to the island would be much easier than getting off the island. Laura and her team must use their wits and resources to find the missing boys, get help, and figure out who the killer is before they themselves become the next victims.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Why did I love this book?

The Demon-Haunted World is really the bible of science-based skepticism, to use a somewhat ironic turn-of-phrase. It’s a text that helped form and shape the modern skeptic movement, reminding us that science isn’t some wet blanket thrown upon our fanciful beliefs, but a system that should bring us hope. The tone of the book is not as aggressive as Hitchens or Dawkins, but encourages skepticism and the embrace of the scientific method as only one of history’s premiere science communicators can. Through its exploration of science, pseudoscience, and the human struggle for knowledge, The Demon-Haunted World serves as a primer for anyone hoping to apply science and reason to a world that can seem mysterious and incomprehensible in its vastness. Personally, it has helped me distance myself from magical thinking and see the world more objectively.

By Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Demon-Haunted World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A prescient warning of a future we now inhabit, where fake news stories and Internet conspiracy theories play to a disaffected American populace

“A glorious book . . . A spirited defense of science . . . From the first page to the last, this book is a manifesto for clear thought.”—Los Angeles Times

How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don’t understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the…

Book cover of Hunting Monsters: Cryptozoology and the Reality Behind the Myths

Why did I love this book?

Hunting Monsters zeroes in on some of the more mysterious creatures said to haunt our forests, lakes, and the deep ocean. Darren Naish brings his expertise in zoology and paleontology to the world of cryptids such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Naish, the scientific advisor for Prehistoric Planet, examines both the scientific credibility of creature sightings as well as the culture that influences our belief in mysterious animals. This well-written and fascinating book leaves readers not only with a better understanding of contemporary myths involving cryptids, but zoology as well.

By Darren Naish,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hunting Monsters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Loch Ness Monster. The Yeti. Bigfoot. These are just some of the iconic mythical creatures studied by the discipline of 'cryptozoology'.

The idea of mysterious and terrifying creatures goes back centuries. They are known by the experts as cryptids. Today, these legendary beings continue to capture our imaginations.

Discover the fascinating and often bizarre stories of real life monsters and the scientists who strove to separate the fact from fiction.

In Hunting Monsters, Palaeozoological researcher Professor Darren Naish explores the fascinating science behind these elusive monsters - a science known as 'cryptozoology'. Bizarre stories of ancient sea-monsters and resurgent…

Book cover of Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids

Why did I love this book?

Abominable Science dives deeper into how poor application of the scientific method and pseudoscientific beliefs had driven the myths of creatures such as the yeti, Nessie, and Mokele Mbembe. It’s a book that takes us on a journey of why we believe what we believe, even though the facts tell a different story. It challenges long-held beliefs, but does so in an engaging way, through clever writing and plenty of science to support the assertions the book makes.

By Daniel Loxton, Donald R. Prothero,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Throughout our history, humans have been captivated by mythic beasts and legendary creatures. Tales of Bigfoot, the Yeti, and the Loch Ness monster are part of our collective experience. Now comes a book from two dedicated investigators that explores and elucidates the fascinating world of cryptozoology. Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero have written an entertaining, educational, and definitive text on cryptids, presenting the arguments both for and against their existence and systematically challenging the pseudoscience that perpetuates their myths. After examining the nature of science and pseudoscience and their relation to cryptozoology, Loxton and Prothero take on Bigfoot; the…

Book cover of Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology

Why did I love this book?

Anyone who has watched the History Channel late into the night, or has listened to certain talk radio shows, understands the popular appeal of pseudo-archaeology. Whether it be talk of “ancient aliens,” a technologically-advanced Atlantis or nationalistic myths told for political motivation, pseudo-archaeology has been popular since the twentieth century and even before. Archaeologist Kenneth L. Feder tackles some of the misconceptions about history and archaeology that lead to pseudoscientific beliefs while painting a wondrous portrait of real-world archaeology. Feder not only dispels myths that might seem more fantastic or interesting than the facts, but he does so with an appreciation of past peoples and their accomplishments that is infectious. The reader emerges not only with an understanding of fact versus fiction vis a vis archaeology, but with an enduring interest in the science.

By Kenneth L. Feder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frauds, myths, and supposed mysteries about humanity's past are moving targets for anyone committed to the scientific investigation of human antiquity. It is important for anyone interested in the human past to know, for example, that there is no evidence for a race of giant human beings in antiquity and no broken shards of laser guns under Egyptian pyramids. Debunking such nonsense is fun and useful in its own way, but more important is the process by which we determine that such claims are bunk.

Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology, Tenth Edition, uses interesting--and often humorous--archaeological…

Book cover of The Skeptic's Guide to the Paranormal

Why did I love this book?

Kelly takes apart paranormal phenomena case by case, debunking pretty much every episode of The X-Files in doing so. From spontaneous human combustion to ESP to The Bermuda Triangle and certain famous cryptids, Kelly provides background information, the holes in the story, and the most likely explanations. The strength of this book is simultaneously its weakness, and that’s its specificity. Readers won’t take away as much about the scientific method and concepts of zoology or archaeology that can be applied to other mysteries, but they will come away with the knowledge to debunk some of the most famous tabloid claims. They’ll also come away with some interesting cocktail party conversation topics.       

By Lynne Kelly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Skeptic's Guide to the Paranormal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can a human being really spontaneously burst into flames? Just how deadly is the Bermuda Triangle? And what's the real story behind all those alien abductions? The answers to these and many other questions lie within the covers of The Skeptic's Guide to the Paranormal. Guaranteed to liven up any dinner party, this delightful, highly readable book offers color photographs and scientific case-by-case explanations for twenty-seven phenomena that appear to defy known science, including ghosts and poltergeists, the predictions of Nostradamus, and yogic levitation, among many others. Speaking directly to the reader, and always with respect for those who believe,…

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