Friday, 29 August 2014

The Lupine Book Club Sunday Afternoon Reader

Despite the name of the blog, books don't get mentioned a lot on here. So I thought it was time to mix it up a little, and chuck this up on here, inspired by this article from The Surfing Pizza.

Sunday afternoon is not one of my favourite times of the week. It’s usually too late to start any major new undertakings, but too early to go to bed. The spectre of work looms over the forthcoming week, its ominous presence casting a gloomy shadow over the enjoyment you might otherwise get from simply not being at work.

The evening is usually better – church, dinner with friends or simply watching TV are all great ways to alleviate this. But these are all night-time activities, with the possible exception of TV – and free-to-air TV on a Sunday afternoon is usually a black pit of despair in and of itself. the hours between 1 and 5pm can be a grim time.
A lot of this probably stems from high school. Though I had many friends, I rarely hung out with them outside the confines of school. There was “nothing to do” at my place (though to be fair, you can extend that criticism to just about anywhere as a teenager), so I didn’t invite people around and I didn’t often take the initiative to go and hang out at a friend’s home instead. So more often than not, solace was found in the confines of the local library. Open from 1-4 on a Sunday afternoon, it served as a place for me to read books and comics – and perhaps most importantly, it helped stave off the Sunday afternoon blues.

So I’ve put together a list of books that I find great for Sunday reading. Some are old, some are new. All are specific to my peculiar set of interests, so your own mileage with them will probably vary. But most of these books are not particularly rare or expensive, and a bit of second-hand bookshop or eBay scouring should see you being able to track most of them down easily, should you be so inclined.
Most of these books are structured in a short, easy-to-read, article-style fashion. This is perfect for Sudnay afternoon reading, when you want to be distracted, but don't want to invest too much time into something. 

*The Complete Book of Dinosaurs (2006)
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Like many children, I was deeply obsessed by dinosaurs. I was going to be the first person to discover dinosaur soft tissue – or more specifically, dinosaur skin. It seemed like the logical progression – we had found bones, skin impressions and even evidence of feathers, but no actual soft tissue as far as I was aware. Soft tissue has since been found, and though I think skin is still up for grabs, my palaeontology days are probably behind me.
However, I have still retained my interest in dinosaurs into adulthod, and that's why I handed over the cash for this book. Divided up into short articles that covered all known dinosaurs (at the time of publication), it's full of great information and (almost equally importantly in such a book) loads of illustrations. If you have a favourite dinosaur, odds are strong you'll find something about it in here.  The $15 I paid for it was an absolute bargain.

*30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons and Dragons (2004)

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I first played Dungeons and Dragons in 2006, when I was at one of my absolute lowest points of life. Desperately poor, attending uni and living out of home, it was the closest I ever came to Dickensian living. I don’t recommend it. So I do not exaggerate when I say that Dungeons and Dragons – among other pen-and-paper RPGs – was an absolute lifeline during this period.
Not long after I started playing, I came across this book in my local library. Not quite a straight history of the game, it’s more of a love letter to the franchise, as penned by various TSR and Wizards of the Coast employees, and numerous celebrities (including Vin Diesel and Stephen Colbert!)
Best of all, it’s packed with a huge amount of artwork that’s rarely seen now – I love TSR’s 1980s/early 1990s fantasy artwork. Lots of it is quite crude by today’s standards, but it has a charm and atmosphere that more modern iterations are hard-pressed to compete with -- in my opinion anyway.

Being published in 2004, the book finishes around the time of the 3.5 release. 4th and 5th edition were still years away, so it’s time for an update. I’d definitely pick it up an updated version if Wizards of the Coast decide to do one.   

*Communion – Whitley Strieber (1987)
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Selling a huge number of copies in the late 1980s, Communion is a seminal work in UFO literature and probably best known to the general public today as the book that popularised the image of the “Grey”.
My parents were always fine with me reading books about UFOs, aliens, the paranormal etc as a kid, but they were a little bit funny about Communion and consequently I didn’t read it until I was probably in my mid-teens. But I do remember the cover image frightening me as a child; in hindsight it was probably the first time I had really seen an image of a grey – they were an uncommon sight in a pre-X-Files world. Ted Seth Jacob’s rendering gave it an almost photorealistic appearance, which made it seem much more real and therefore all the more disturbing. I’d seen alien illustrations before, but they were just that – illustrations, easily dismissed as unreal or non-threatening. This was different.   

The content within the book is almost as disturbing as its cover – though pretty standard stuff to those familiar with UFO and abduction literature, Strieber’s background as a horror author lends it a more unsettling tone than most. Incidentally, there's also a film adaptation starring Christopher Walken as Strieber -- apparently it's not great, though I've never seen it myself.

*Mysteries of the Unknown: Alien Encounters (1992)

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An absolute plethora of books on UFOs, aliens and the broader “unexplained” were published from the 1970s to the 1990s – just go check out your local second hand bookstore if you don’t believe me. Time-Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown series was one of the most prominent in the genre, spanning a whopping 33 volumes from the late 1980s through to the mid 1990s.
I only read maybe 4 or 5 of these – that was all that my library had, and most of them didn’t interest me – but they have remained as something of a personal gold standard for books on the unexplained. Classy, black faux-leather covers, lavish illustrations (many printed with metallic ink) and filled with interesting (if highly questionable) tales, it’s not hard to see why they were such a hit on release or why they're still so entertaining today.  Look at that ominous cover -- it's worth the price of admission alone!  

Though I’m sure I read this title as a kid, I recently ordered a 2004 reprint from eBay and found most of it quite unfamiliar. Perhaps it’s been longer than I remember between reads, or maybe I just never read it at all (SCREEN MEMORY ALERT). But it’s pretty much what you’d expect – alien abductions, the evolving nature of the phenomenon over the 20th century, comparisons with folk tales of fairies – and of course, ancient astronauts, with a heavy emphasis on the theories of Zecharia Sitchin. Though I haven’t seen any references to reptilians in there, which would be almost unthinkable were an updated version published today.  
I also spent a lot of time with its companion volume, The UFO Phenomenon, which I’ll hopefully cover in the next part of this series.  

BONUS MATERIAL: You can watch one of the ads for the Mysteries of the Unknown series here – and Julianne Moore showed up in another.

Well, that's it for part one. Hope you enjoyed it! Part two hopefully to come soon.




  1. Good selection of boyhood books. The only one missing (according to a friend who was a school librarian) would be the Guinness book of records (for the nerds), and a horse book for girls. -- Seymour Knutts

  2. The Guinness Book of Records is indeed a classic for this sort of read.