Mysteries of the Unknown: Inside the world of the strange and unexplained

As a kid, I devoured cheap paperback books about “strange but true” phenomena. The short stories were anthologized from men’s adventure magazines of the 40s-60s and recounted mysteries such as: Who made the eerie statues on Easter Island? What happened on Amelia Earhart’s final flight? How do rocks in the desert move by themselves and leave trails in the mud? How do people spontaneously combust? Why did hundreds and hundreds of fish rain from the sky onto the heads of astonished residents of a small town in Australia? These stories set my imagination on fire.

Unfortunately, as I learned years later by going online, most of the stories turned out to be poorly researched or outright bogus. Mysteries of the Unknown is like these old books, but the stories are backed by solid research and a healthy amount of skepticism that does not detract from the fun. In fact, it makes the stories more fun. As an added bonus, the ample photos and illustrations bring the mysteries to life, making them even more mysterious. Mysteries of the Unknown by Time-Life Books Time Life 2014, 272 pages, 9.8 x 8 x 0.8 inches, Softcover

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Now I Know: The Revealing Stories Behind the World's Most Interesting Facts

When I was a kid, I devoured Frank Edwards' 1959 book of weird "true" stories, Stranger Than Science, and C.B. Colby's book of "hair raisers and incredible happenings," called Strangely Enough. The story about the Inuit village that mysteriously became a ghost town (with cooking fires still burning), and the one about the man who vanished on his front lawn in front of his wife and kids enthralled me and my friends.

Unfortunately, most of the stories weren't even "true." They were flat-out false, as I learned in recent years when I googled them.

A couple of months ago I received a review copy of Dan Lewis' Now I Know, which has 100 strange phenomena stories that are just as fun as Stranger than Science and Strangely Enough, with the bonus of being true. (UPDATE: It's on sale as a Kindle ebook for just $2.99)

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