2024: I've barely touched this page for ten years, and now I'm in the process of totally redoing it.

Charles Fort - The Book of the Damned
Charles Fort was the first paranormal investigator, and he's my favorite natural philosopher. He spent 27 years in libraries collecting notices of physical phenomena unexplainable by science, and put them together into four books in the 1920's. You don't have to be into weird stuff to appreciate his style of thinking: that all our attempts to make sense of the world only seem true by excluding stuff that doesn't fit, like trying to draw lines around waves in the ocean. We can keep updating our models to fit new observations, but there is no end to this process. Thomas Kuhn later popularized this idea as the paradigm shift, but Kuhn didn't say anything about rains of fishes. The Book Of The Damned is Fort's first and best book, and his one-volume Complete Books are still in print. Here's another source of Fort online.

Thaddeus Golas - The Lazy Man's Guide To Enlightenment
This is the best basic metaphysics book of all time. In careful natural language, Golas lays out a system in which reality is co-created by equal beings, and we're all here to feel good.
Owen Barfield - Saving The Appearances
As Fort is to Kuhn, Barfield is to Julian Jaynes. Ancient reality was not just conceived differently -- it was physically
Roger S. Jones - Physics as Metaphor
John Keel - anything
Keel is the second smartest paranormal author, after Jacques Vallee. They both concluded that all the weird stuff, from UFOs to fairies to bigfoot, are manifestations of the same thing that we don't know how to think about. Keel's most famous and serious book is The Mothman Prophecies. At the other extreme, his silliest and widest ranging is Disneyland of the Gods. A good middle ground is The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings.
Ted Holiday - The Goblin Universe
A forgotten classic, left unfinished by Holiday and put together after his death by Colin Wilson, whose introduction is a concise lesson in how to think about this stuff. Each chapter is on a different subject, and they vary in quality, but the general idea is that we live on an island of stability in a sea of weirdness. In a later chapter, Holiday and a priest attempt to exorcise the Loch Ness Monster. After that, he developed health problems and died
Dora Van Gelder - The Real World of Fairies
If we take Barfield seriously, this can happen: while filtering down the universal toward the idols, a child keeps a channel open, and develops a set of benign representations, which can coexist with the representations of the dominant culture. Easily dismissed as whimsical fiction, this is a masterpiece of first person metaphysics, a field guide to manifestation. I wonder what would have happened if she had started her own tribe.
George Hansen - The Trickster and the Paranormal
A thick, scholarly book that covers the subject from many angles. Even though his style is clear, it's hard to read because the ideas are so difficult. He covers anthropology, literary theory, shamanism, stage magic, UFO hoaxes, psychic research, and more, and the general idea is that it's the very nature of these phenomena to only exist on the fringes. Real paranormal phenomena and hoaxes are not opposites, but blend together. How can this work? Hansen dances around the answer but never says it straight out: the phenomena know who's watching. I would add, this is exactly what you would expect from the assumption that the fundamental reality is mind and not matter.
Morris Berman - The Reenchantment Of The World
Wandering God
Roger Zelazny - The Chronicles of Amber
This work of fiction turns Fortean metaphysics into an engine of adventure, as talented immortals battle across alternate realities so abundant, that a traveler might as well be a creator.
Donald Hoffman - The Case Against Reality
The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot, The End of Materialism by Charles Tart,

Social Philosophy
Ivan Illich - Tools for Conviviality
Ivan Illich was so smart, and wrote so clearly, that reading him is like looking at the sun. One sentence is enough to chew on for an hour. Tools For Conviviality was the first book of his that I read, and my favorite, but all his stuff is great. Here's a good source of Ivan Illich writings online.

Fredy Perlman - Against His-story, Against Leviathan (1983)
In a florid and challenging style, Perlman goes through all of history arguing that the main driver of social change is when citizens no longer liked the shitty systems they were living under. He has good evidence that the conquistadors only succeeded against the Incas because locals were sick of the Incas and preferred chaos. The whole text is online at the Anarchist Library and the Noble Savagery blog.
William Kötke - The Final Empire
From an Amazon review: "This is flat-out the best exposition of our socio-ecological troubles and a penetrating exploration of solutions as revealed in biology and indigenous populations who have adapted to achieve harmony in nature." Without even mentioning peak oil, Kötke carefully explains why civilization as we know it is doomed, and what to do about it. Here's a link to the whole text online.

John Livingston - Rogue Primate (1994)
I covered it in The Animal in the Dark Tower, and here's Dan Bartlett's summary of Livingston. He challenges the primitivist orthodoxy by putting the key mistake not at the invention of agriculture, but the invention of fire!

Derrick Jensen - A Language Older Than Words
Jensen is an amazing writer, and this book pulled me straight into the anti-civilization movement in the 90s. I saw him speak twice, and both times he boasted of his fatal mistake. One time on a radio show, a caller challenged him to define "civilization", the word at the foundation of his life's work, and he answered with the first thing that popped into his head. And he's been using that definition ever since: cities.

Tactically it makes sense, if you want to build a movement, to not define your key word as something a nerd would say, like "a self-reinforcing relationship between technological complexity and social domination," but as something Travis Bickle would say. "Some day a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets." From this decision, it was only a matter of time before the anti-civ mantle would be taken up by socially repressive rural people, against more cooperative urbanites. According to the next book, this is a story as old as time.
David Graeber and David Wengrow - The Dawn Of Everything
There's lots of stuff in this thick book, but the main idea is that the repressiveness of human systems is not related to their scale. He doesn't say it straight out, but he lays down the pieces for this story: that the first cities were peaceful and egalitarian, and they only became repressive after conquest by violent hill tribes.

Fringe Science
William Corliss is an heir to Charles Fort in that he collects anomalies from respected sources. He doesn't comment on them but reprints them in many books, which you can browse or buy at Science Frontiers.

My favorite hard scientist is the astronomer Halton Arp. His books are Seeing Red and Quasars, Reshifts, and Controversies. Arp has spent his career gathering evidence that redshifts are mostly caused by something other than recession velocity (which could cancel the expanding universe and the big bang), and that quasars are not extremely remote and bright, but are associated with nearby galaxies, shot out to form new galaxies like seeds! When dominant astronomy couldn't counter him fairly, they eliminated his telescope time, and for decades he has been forced to use the discarded and suppressed evidence of his enemies.

I like Rupert Sheldrake, a biologist who writes popular books of hypotheses that are scientific in the sense that they are testable, but outside the bounds of present scientific models. Mostly he writes about different kinds of extraordinary perception, and explains them with ideas about non-local consciousness.

Some of the most exciting fringe science is done by single researchers who consistently get extraordinary results, and then when other scientists try to duplicate the experiments, the results fade away into randomness. This is called the decline effect and that link goes to a great article about it. This is exactly what would be predicted by a larger metaphysics that views reality as a consensus that emerges out of a struggle among many perspectives that want to share the same world.

So when Wilhelm Reich developed physical tools to work with the esoteric energy he called "orgone", or when Royal Rife cured serious diseases with precise frequency generators, or when Louis Kervran found biological creatures transmuting chemical elements (his book is Biological Transmutations), or for that matter, when ordinary people experience UFO abductions or miraculous healings, these are not hoaxes or delusions. They are honest and accurate observations that fail to be integrated into consensus reality... so far!

Other Non-Fiction
I once heard about a book called Play as if Your Life Depends on It by Frank Forencich. It's a fitness book based on moving like natural humans, doing exercise so it's functional instead of repetitive, play instead of work. I should have bought a copy because now it's out of print and worth a hundred dollars. But he has other books, and Paleo Fitness by Darryl Edwards is probably similar.

Alice Miller's For Your Own Good is an important book about the hidden child abuse in the first two years that we often think of as normal child-rearing, and how it ruins society. By the way, Alice Miller did not take her own advice with her own son, Martin Miller Another good book on the same subject is The Continuum Concept. John Taylor Gatto's The Underground History of American Education is a massive, angry book about how American schools have been turned into mind-killing factories to churn out docile, unquestioning citizens and workers... not by accident or negligence but by the explicit planning and interference of the elite beginning in the mid-1800's.

My favorite history book is A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman. I expect the 21st century to be similar to the 14th century: lots of poverty and general nastiness, but the big systems will muddle through and technology will thrive.

Philip K. Dick wrote more than 40 novels and basically invented trippy-reality sci-fi. A reviewer once remarked that Dick had so many ideas that he would just scatter ideas in the margins that other authors would hang whole books on. I recommend starting with The Game Players Of Titan because it's a fun page-turner with lots of plot twists. Then you'll be ready for stronger stuff in Ubik, and then you might be ready for his scariest and most powerful novel, The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch. Also great are Dr. Bloodmoney and A Maze of Death, and almost anything is going to be worth reading -- but I think The Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep are overrated. Dick himself said that A Scanner Darkly was both his saddest and funniest novel, and I agree. (It was also the first one he didn't write on speed.) The Valis trilogy is for readers more interested in Dick's personal life and beliefs.

In what I call the "No Exit" scenario, civilizations continue to rise and fall with no release through either utopia or extinction. The best fiction about this is Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series, starting with The Shadow of the Torturer. The story is set so far in the future that you can dig a hole anywhere and find strange artifacts from forgotten civilizations, and all the coolest Medieval stuff, high tech, and magic are all mixed together.

Philip Pullman - The Golden Compass (aka Northern Lights). The first of a trilogy, this book has been filmed twice, but not that well. The books are set in a steampunky world combining old technologies with super-advanced ones, and there are parallel worlds and gateways. Metaphysically the story is radical, with the idea that God himself has become corrupted by power. The first book is great, and the second, The Subtle Knife, is darker and even better. The third book is a disappointing failure of imagination, with a feeble ending in which the effect of an epic upheaval in reality itself is that nothing changes.
M.T. Anderson's Feed is the ultimate dystopian extrapolation novel, sadder than A Scanner Darkly, bleaker than The Sheep Look Up, and more readable than either. It's set two or three generations in the future, when the internet has become even more commercial and is beamed straight into everyone's head. Space travel and flying cars have only extended the range of the American nightmare, and almost everyone is stupid and immature. It's like if Lars von Trier had made Idiocracy. Also it has a great first sentence: "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck."

I know three people including myself who have read Orson Scott Card's novel Treason, and we all think it's better than Ender's Game. It's about a planet where a bunch of families were exiled, and over the centuries they all basically developed different super-powers. I wish there were a bunch of sequels!

I love Raymond Chandler. His novels are beautifully written, and I like his early stories (collected in Killer In The Rain) even better for their power and pacing.

Cormac McCarthy - Blood Meridian. McCarthy is too bleak for me, but he's an incredible stylist. This is his masterpiece, and it will never be made into an adequate movie because no real person can play the Judge, the greatest fictional villain of all time.

In theory I should like "magic realism" except that I don't like Latin American authors. But John Crowley's Little, Big blew me away with its beautiful language and otherworldly aura. It's like a whole other direction that fantasy could have gone. I wish there were hundreds of books imitating Little, Big, instead of hundreds of books imitating Tolkien.