About twenty years ago, I found a book at my grandparents’ house that I must have read cover to cover multiple times by now. The book I found two decades ago was Strange Stories, Amazing Facts, originally published in 1976 by Reader’s Digest (the copy I later received from my grandmother was printed in 1980). The very first page of the text states that the book contains “an astonishing variety of subject matter, treatment, and tone”. This is certainly accurate, as Strange Stories, Amazing Facts methodically covers an unbelievable range of topics. The book blends together science and the supernatural in a way that is “bizarre, unusual, odd, astonishing, and often incredible”.
Among many other topics, this book (which is divided into five parts) manages to include commentary on:
- The Solar System
- The Moon
- Black holes
- The immune system
- The legend of Atlantis
- Plate tectonics
- The creation of life
- The Great Wall of China
- The Canadian Pacific Railway
- Marco Polo
- The discovery of the Americas
- The exploration of Antarctica
- El Dorado
- Tarot cards
- Easter Island
- The Oak Island Money Pit
- The mystery surrounding Anastasia Romanov
- Jack the Ripper
- The Lost Dutchman’s Mine
- The Mary Celeste
- The Flying Dutchman
- The Faces of Bélmez
- The Borley Rectory
- The Loch Ness Monster
Of course, considering that Strange Stories, Amazing Facts is forty years old, the articles concerning science often come across very dated. Otherwise, the book’s relevant examinations of a seemingly endless number of interesting topics have stood the test of time.
My grandmother had encouraged me to keep this book a long time ago. She passed just over two years ago, and there is no picking up this book without thinking about the value she placed on reading and imagination. She was a wondrously imaginative woman. I had the opportunity to speak at her funeral service, and I included this book as part of the reflection I shared with those in attendance. Strange Stories, Amazing Facts might as well have been the title of my grandmother’s biography. She just lived that kind of life.
I do still reference this book and did so as recently as April. In a previous post, I mentioned this volume as one I wanted to include on this blog. I recently shared a passage from this book with a colleague, who was just as impressed with the subject matter as anyone else I know who has picked up this title.
Although Strange Stories, Amazing Facts seems somewhat rare (although inexpensive) in 2016, I found and bought another copy at a fundraiser held by the Dunbar Community Library in Dunbar, Pennsylvania. I simply could not pass up the opportunity to own a spare copy.
Without a doubt, this book has given me years and years of imagination fuel. And I think that’s exactly what my grandmother intended.
Has anyone else read Strange Stories, Amazing Facts? If so, what did you think?