Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 19th, 2005
The Top Cryptozoology Books of 2005
It is time for my annual overviews of all things cryptozoological. Here’s my top picks for the best cryptozoology books of 2005, in order of the books’ rankings of importance, plus the books’ individual achievements noted in recognition of each of their unique niches within the cryptozoological literature this year.
If you are looking for “The Top Cryptozoology Stories of 2005,” please click here.
(1) The Best Historical Book on Cryptozoology in 2005
In a year that may be remembered for the rediscovery of the supposedly extinct ivory-billed woodpecker, the top honors for the best cryptozoology book of the year must go to The Lady and the Panda.
It is a wonderful old-fashioned tome on the discovery of the giant pandas – one of last century’s most remarkable stories – and the relatively untold details of the woman who should get more credit for "finding" them. The search for the first live giant pandas is a fascinating but true tale of cryptozoology discovery, captured with adventure in The Lady and the Panda .
Vicki Croke’s book is an exciting, warm, and intriguing volume about Ruth Harkness’ personal journey to be the initial Westerner to catch and return with the first live giant pandas. This is a book I’ve wanted to write myself for years, and I’m glad to finally see someone, appropriately a seasoned woman writer, do a great job with this subject. The Lady and the Panda also gives due credit to Harkness’ Chinese guide and eventual lover Quentin Young, who showed her how to find the giant pandas.
(2) The Best Reference Book on Cryptozoology in 2005
When Michael Newton’s Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology arrived, I stayed up until the wee hours of the night, reading, flipping, reading more, surfing, reading, and smiling. What a trip, what an adventure. Newton’s critical writing is right on target, with a light hand and open-mindedness to looking at all facets, in presenting cases, cryptids, and evidence, as well as the overturning of media-driven hoax claims (Nessie Surgeon Photos, Ray Wallace fiasco, and others).
Most surprising of all the entries I read is Newton’s reexamination of the supposed 1990 expose’ of Three-Toes, with a fresh look again at "all" elements of those 1948 events. This volume quite correctly is as skeptical of blanket debunking claims as it is to the fast rush to specific cryptozoological hypotheses. Newton logically critiques the various theories of cryptozoologists who have ventured forth with their thoughts. His discussion of the Minnesota Iceman, for example, in its total fairness to several points of view, I found amazing.
There are 2,744 entries, including 112 individual biographies, 77 cryptozoology groups described, and, of course, lots of location data, cryptids detailed, and illustrations sprinkled throughout. It also has some fantastic appendices that are comprehensive listings of new animal discoveries, cryptofiction, cryptozoology in films, and cryptozoology on television. At 576 pages in one oversized volume, it is a rather user friendly reference work.
Michael Newton’s Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology is perhaps too expensive for most private libraries (at $95 US), but I highly recommend you mention it for purchase by your local, school, or university library (the target audience of a reference work like this, anyway). For those serious cryptozoologists who can afford it, for your personal research library, it, simply put, is a must buy.
The one minor shortcoming is Newton’s lack of credit to at least one work that served as the basis for data in this book. George Eberhart’s excellent cryptozoology reference work, Mysterious Creatures (from 2002 at $185) is used but not mentioned in Newton’s work, in contrast to the generous citing of material Newton obtained from the affordable reference work, Cryptozoology A to Z (from 1999, at $14).
(3) The Best Bigfoot Book of 2005
In Pursuit of a Legend: 72 Days in California Bigfoot Country by T. A. Wilson
This Bigfoot book pick may seem an unusual choice considering some of the others out there (such as the historically significant reprint, The Bigfoot Film Controversy: The Original Roger Patterson Book – Do Abominable Snowmen Of America Really Exist?).
But occasionally one needs to read a book of passion about the Sasquatch hunt, and not just another text on the facts and stories. In Pursuit of a Legend contains a grounded level of excitement for the quest, and should be read with that in mind. It is not a book of sightings and statistics on footprints, but it is a good revisiting of the dynamic gut feelings when in the midst of the search.
(4) The Best Individual Cryptid Book of 2005
Lizardmen: The True Story of Mermen and Mermaids by Mark A. Hall
At 132 pages and self-published, Lizardmen gives people a book to read containing what is out there on the contemporary research into the continuing question of the original Creatures from the Black Lagoon, the Merbeings. Whether you wish to deny, dispute, debate, or dive deeper into these investigations is the reader’s choice, but Hall is not shy about placing the material and his insights in front of you on this topic. If you decide to not digest it, you will be all the more hungry for this data someday when this book is impossible to locate.
(5) The Best Cryptozoological Expedition Book of 2005
Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger by Margaret Mittelbach, Michael Crewdson, and Alexis Rockman
This well-written book on the pursuit of information and feelings about the probably still existing (but officially extinct) Thylacine (a/k/a Tasmanian Tiger) is not to be used as a guidebook for your next expedition. But it’s a fun record of these three’s own trek in quest of this animal. And Alexis Rockman’s art is beyond belief.
(6) The Best Cryptofiction based on a Cryptozoologically Fictional Motion Picture in 2005
The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island by Weta Workshop
Hey, King Kong is a blockbuster. But beyond that, as far as cryptofiction goes, The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island is a work of fiction taking into account many threads of current cryptozoological thought, and in this book elevates to it all to a high art, graphically and textually.
(7) The Best Mothman Book of 2005
Mothman: Behind the Red Eyes by Jeff Wamsley
What can I say, Mothman (really, I sense, it is a misnamed large avian cryptid) has to be on the list again. Wamsley knows Mothman.
(8) The Best Fortean Cryptozoology Book of 2005
Hunt for the Skinwalker: Science Confronts the Unexplained at a Remote Ranch in Utah by Colm A. Kelleher and George Knapp
This book may have some bizarre interpretations for the cryptids being seen, but that doesn’t mean we can’t mine Hunt for the Skinwalker for the rich collection of data contained therein.
(9) The Best Cryptozoology Book on the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker of 2005
The Grail Bird: Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker by Tim Gallagher
Yep, the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker is one of the top stories of 2005, so we are going to continue to see books on these beautiful birds coming out during the next half decade. This one is worthy of our attention for 2005. Of course, in 2006, I’d trade in two books on this bird for one on the 2004 (!) discovery of the "Hobbits," Homo floresiensis. Such a book is long-overdue.
(10) The Best Cryptozoology Children’s Book of 2005
I predict more and more children’s cryptozoology books in the coming decade, some good, some really bad. This one gets this year’s honors for best:
Strange New Species: Astonishing Discoveries of Life on Earth, by Elin Kelsey, with a forward by Marc van Roosmalen.
Copyright 2005 Loren Coleman.
Books have to be received to be reviewed in Cryptomundo’s CryptoZoo News, and, of course, received to be placed on the Top Cryptozoology Books for 2006. Please send your review copies to Loren Coleman, Post Office Box 360, Portland, ME 04112 USA, for future consideration. Thank you.