This was originally a response to Fairyhedgehog, who asked whether I would recommend any books from the book list in my last post. My response was so long, I decided just to make another post out of it.
I've only read a few books on that list. I suppose they would work for any writer, fantasy or not. They're just meant to show some of the weird things people have believed over the years. I think they would work well for science fiction writers, too. Definitely. Here's what I've read so far:
Mad Travelers: sounds interesting at first glance, and the subject matter is fascinating. It's a book of true cases of people who go into trances and travel, mostly by walking. Some people wind up traveling thousands of miles. When they "wake" they have no idea where they are or how they got there. The debate seems to be whether the patients had multiple personalities or some other mental illness. Overall, while the subject matter was intriguing, it was a somewhat dull read. But I may go back and give it another shot. I have trouble reading certain texts on the train, and that's where I read it.
The Serpent and the Rainbow was a pretty good and engaging read. It's about Haiti and voodoo and its practices and the zombie cult. This one was turned into a horror movie, which I've yet to watch. I'd recommend this one. It's less sensational than the film (I would think), as it goes into historical and anthropological reasons for the belief in zombies. Kind of spooky, but nothing over the top.
The Song Lines is about Bruce Chatwin's travels across Australia. It's also a loose history regarding the Aboriginal belief that the world began with a song. I liked reading this one a lot, because I've come across this idea in literature (most notably in The Chronicles of Narnia). It's a little disjointed, as some of it reads like a journal, but still enjoyable.
I'm going back to reread 1491, a book about Native Americans and their relationship with nature, as I abandoned the book in the middle of it. This says nothing about its quality; it's quite a good read, and I'd recommend it based on what I've read so far. The writer gives a fair and balanced account (so far) of Native Americans and how the universal belief that they never tried to control or change nature or their environment is not accurate about them at all. Eventually I'll get around to reading The Night Battles, an alternative account of witchcraft and its practices in medieval Europe. But that one will have to wait, I think.
In other news, I went down to the Taste of Chicago for its last day. D had some tickets left over from when he went yesterday, and he didn't want to go again, so he gave them to me so they wouldn't go to waste. I tried a BBQ buffalo burger for the first time, sweet potato hash browns, taro french fries (asian french fries: dense mashed potatoes with a sweet breading and sweet and sour sauce), and cheesecake. Managed to spend all the tickets without having to buy more. But i felt a little nauseous on the way home. Still, it was nice to get out of the house for something other than lessons. On the other hand, I was bummed to have missed Bonnie Raitt's free concert.
EDIT: Be sure to scroll down into the comments after clicking the above link for more book suggestions.