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Thursday 28 December 2023

Fortean shelfies


Following on from last week's instalment What does fortean mean? I thought I'd post a couple of "shelfies" featuring books that fit my wider definition of the word. The one above contains newer books (what I think of as "newer" anyway, i.e. post-1990), while the one below shows books I've acquired second-hand - some of them genuine "retro-forteana" dating back to the 1950s or even earlier.

Although these are what I think of as my "fortean" books, they don't include everything I own that might fit the definition. For example, I've amassed a vast collection of fiction, much of which (as pointed out in the previous post) could easily be considered fortean. I also have numerous science books (many of them acquired as review copies for Fortean Times, or as research for my own writing) which are "fringy" enough to class as borderline forteana. But just two of them managed to squeeze into the picture above, both by my colleague Brian Clegg: How to Build a Time Machine and Extra-Sensory.

Another near-fortean topic that I have a whole shelf of books about is Buddhism (again many of them review copies, having spent 10 years as a book reviewer for the Buddhist Society). But I tend not to think of Buddhism as a fortean subject - unlike "alternative" religions, New Age beliefs and holistic therapies, all of which are quite well represented above. Amongst the latter is Scent Therapy by Raje Airey - who of the 10 or so authors featured here that I know personally, is the one I've known longest - since I went to school with her!

Looking at the picture above, I was surprised to see how biased my book-buying habits seem to be towards British authors. I honestly hadn't been aware of that until now. But certainly on subjects like UFOs, I do prefer the more methodical, less sensational approach of researchers like Jenny Randles, Nigel Watson, David Clarke and Mark Pilkington - with How UFOs Conquered the World and Mirage Men (book and DVD) by the latter two probably being my all-time favourite takes on the subject.

Turning to the older books pictured below, you'll spot quite a few classic UFO titles there - plus one oddity I was particularly pleased to find in a second-hand bookshop: The House of Lords UFO Debate (1979). Another rarity, which I've written about previously on this blog, is The Riddle of the Flying Saucers by Gerald Heard. Dating from 1950, it's the oldest of my UFO books - though not the oldest on this shelf, that honour going to Paranormal Cognition from 1944.

Another book I was pleased to get hold of was Damon Knight's biography of Charles Fort (with the brilliant subtitle "Prophet of the Unexplained", which sadly isn't shown on the spine). I bought this from a UK bookseller, but it's actually stamped "Miami Public Library" inside, so I'm not sure how and when it crossed the Atlantic. Another ex-library book - and a particularly battered and much-read copy it is too - is Three Men Seeking Monsters by Nick Redfern. In this case the library in question is much closer to home, on the Isle of Portland - specifically, the library of Portland Prison. The inmates there obviously include some very discerning readers!


Kid said...

That's some collection of books, AM. Do you ever fret about what will happen to them when you've gone to that great 'Fortean Library' in the sky?

Andrew May said...

Thanks Kid - that's something I try not to think about, but can't help doing sometimes. A few of the books are real rarities and of great specialist interest. The same is true of my comics collection, which as you know contains at least a handful of high-value ones. Obviously I'll be past caring about their monetary value, but (as I'm sure you feel yourself) I'd really like to feel they go to an appreciative new owner. I suppose I'll get round to planning something some day!

Colin Jones said...

I've already prepared for the inevitable by giving away most of my books to charity along with lots of other stuff I no longer need or want and I never had a comics collection to begin with so that's not a problem either.

Andrew May said...

Yes, I've given a lot of books (and comics, CDs and DVDs) to various charity shops over the years too, Colin. But I love being surroundied by such things, so I won't get rid of most of my collection till I have to move to smaller accomodation (which will probably happen eventually).