Sunday, June 29, 2014

Order "The World's Last Mysteries" for just $11.97

The copy of 1978's The World's Last Mysteries1 that I picked up last week at the 56th annual Book Nook Bonanza at the York City Ice Arena included an order card for the book tucked away inside.

Mysteries and speculative science were big in the 1970s. Remember "In Search Of...", with Leonard Nimoy as the narrator?2

The order card for The World's Last Mysteries includes these pitches:
  • "Facts that contradict accepted beliefs, theories that defy credibility, stories that can change preconceived notions about the record of him life." [Not a sentence]
  • "And a beautiful book that explores the world's most baffling and durable mysteries." [Also not a sentence]
  • "Use the card yourself to order a copy for a friend, relative, neighbor." [Who orders books for their neighbors??]

The cost of the hardcover book was $11.97, which is fairly pricey for the late 1970s. According to The Inflation Calculator, that's the equivalent of a $42.18 price tag today.3 Woof!

It's actually an above-average book, in terms of the depth and quality of writing. (It has a 4.5-star rating from eight reviewers on Amazon.) The topics include obvious ones such as Atlantis, El Dorado, Stonehenge and Easter Island. There are also interesting chapters about the Indus Valley Civilization (and its city-planning), Tiahuanaco4, Machu Picchu, the ziggurat Etemenanki (which may have inspired the Tower of Babel) and much more.

The most questionable (but still enjoyable) chapter discusses the Tunguska event and puts forth the theory that a tiny black hole caused the catastrophe:
"Or was it a collision with the most chilling rogue body in the universe — an object so dense that it twists the very laws of time and space? Did, in fact, a black hole hit Siberia?"
This is the second Readers Digest Association book that I've taken a liking to. One of my go-to browsing books is 1988's Facts & Fallacies. Its 400+ pages are filled with short articles on such offbeat and lesser-known topics as — and I'm going to let you Google all of these yourself — the Sarawak Chamber, the sailing stones of Death Valley, Jean-Jacques Lequeu's proposed cow stable, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, Orgone energy accumulators, Hay-on-Wye, the Jari Project, Alexander Wortley, Langley and Homer Collyer, Sir Thomas Phillipps, the Hitler Diaries, Tom Keating, Sir Edmund Trelawny Backhouse, the Voynich Manuscript, and Maria Talarico.

(Seriously! You know you want to go Google some of them.)

1. The book was originally published in France as Les Derniers Mystères du Monde.
2. Here's a late 1970s episode of "In Search Of..." discussing "The Coming Ice Age." Whoops.
3. At the Book Nook Bonanza, I paid $20 total for eight full boxes of books! Score!
4. Tiahuanaco is the Spanish spelling of what we now call Tiwanaku.


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  2. I had this book as a little kid. It made me unreasonably anxious about black holes. And yes, I am googling the stuff.