Book collecting is a joy. Oh, it’s hoarding? Maybe it is. Who’s asking?
It’s easy to become a book collector if you love the occult— the books are just so desirable. They embody. It’s a bookish world, the esoteric.
One good way to get into the occult is through UFOs. I did it that way, and look at how I turned out.
Here is a guide, based on your present correspondent’s particular path, to building a personal UFO library.
I hope that these recommendations might give the curious reader a place to begin looking, a way of accessing this strange and beautiful world. These are some of my favorites; this list is only complete or essential insofar as it reflects truly what I have learned and where I learned it. Get in touch for a more complete list, if you’d like, though I feel this is pretty exhaustive for someone new to The Subject of UFOs.
Click the images and be taken to an A****n page.
This is my first listicle. There is no particular order, other than my favorite book being first in line.
The Catchers of Heaven: A Trilogy by Michael Wolf
This was in no way an initiatory text for me, but it was the text that let me give myself license to obsess, dream, and research deep, deep, deeply. I’ve written at length about this book elsewhere (won’t bore you with links to or explanations of those projects), so a quick summary now somehow eludes me. Like, where do I even begin? Let’s say, Michael Wolf claims (while also maintaining, for the express purpose of plausible deniability, that this is “fiction”) that he was a high-level NSA consultant and scientist who worked daily with ETI (extraterrestrial intelligences) and was also an alien abductee himself (OK, sometimes he goes as far as to say he is in fact an alien). But the real charm of this book is Michael’s Salingerian, confessional writing and tendency to sometimes just break into line-broken poetry. This is a special book not only because, yes, it may be a groundbreaking confession (if you believe him), but because it is just a damn great work of art. I dream about Michael Wolf all the time, and you will too if you read this book.
Communion by Whitley Strieber
Communion might be the ur-text of the modern UFO era. Sure, there were hundreds of books before it, many of which predicted its basic premises, but Strieber’s popularity as a writer of horror fiction (novels like The Hunger and The Wolfen) gave him a platform at a major publishing house, as well as some pretty serious prose moves. Communion, despite its popularity and influence, is a difficult read; it is terrifying, metaphysically ambiguous, and referentially dense. Strieber never settles on where his “Visitors” are from in this book, but he does spend much of his subsequent career posing that unanswerable question again and again in books like (the equally essential) Majestic, a novelization of the available accounts of the Roswell, NM UFO crash, Transformation, the sequel to Communion, and maybe a dozen more ET/visitor-themed books. The best place to start, though, is Communion— both in terms of Strieber’s oeuvre and, perhaps, the literature of the abductee phenomenon in general.
Congratulations: The UFO Reality by Eugenia Macer-Story
Ask anyone: I LOVE Eugenia Macer-Story. I just can’t get enough of this writer’s work. This book, a sort of diary kept during Macer-Story’s 1970s investigations into UFO sightings and their connections to spiritualism, etc., is a great gateway into her many-faceted, talismanically rich world (of which non-fiction is only a small bit). It is also just a weird-ass UFO book, and EMS’ approach to The Subject is idiosyncratic, strangely logical, magical. Please read Eugenia Macer-Story. The world will be better for it.
Abduction by John E Mack
The story behind Abduction inspired some controversy, as well as the general narrative of several ET/UFO themed novels and films: prestigious Harvard psychologist John E. Mack turns his attention to the alien abduction phenomenon— not to belittle or pathologize it, but to find out, with respect for and genuine interest in the abductees, what might be going on. The text itself is dense with interviews and analyses of the stories of some of Mack’s patients. Mack’s reputation never recovered from this work. I wonder if even the Jungians ousted him. He later moved into the metaphysical realm, seeking spiritual as opposed to material explanations for the abduction phenomenon, with his Passport to The Cosmos book, the last thing he wrote before he was killed in a hit and run incident.
Close Encounters of The Fourth Kind by C. D. B. Bryan
A skeptical journalist attends a conference set up by none other than the above-mentioned John E. Mack. Bryan, in this classic, journalistic examination of the abductee community at its peak, moves from cynicism to reverence and back again many times, always with wit and a sense of curiosity. This book is a great introduction to what was happening around the turn of the century in the UFO field— all the big names are there, and Bryan reproduces some of the best moments from what has become a famous, oft-cited event in ufology.
Taken by Karla Turner
Karla Turner has become famous for introducing the concept of, if not the exact phrase “MILAB” — military abduction— into the ufological lexicon. Turner had her own abduction experiences, recounted in her book Into The Fringe, but her truly essential work is to be found here, in Taken. She interviews several women whose experiences also fit into the human-alien abduction theory, which states, briefly, that both military agents (of some secret or paramilitary agency) and malevolent ETs are performing these abductions (and the procedures often reported in conjunction with abductions) together, in conspiracy. The line between ET and military/human abduction, according to Turner, is sometimes blurred. To understand contemporary ufology, this is an essential text. Turner’s death, from cancer, has been connected to the many threats she received just prior to her health’s decline. The more paranoid followers of her work claim that she was assassinated, somehow given cancer. It seems unlikely, like in the case of John Mack (and, indeed, Michael Wolf and several others), that we will ever know for sure. That’s the nature of the fringe, isn’t it?
Unconventional Flying Objects by Paul R. Hill
Here is a look at the possible physics and mechanics of UFOs. Paul R. Hill, a NASA engineer and researcher, later in his life endeavored to determine, based on the eye witness accounts of these “machines,” just how a UFO might work, in the practical sense. The result, this book, is endlessly fascinating. Its language, its concepts, its illustrations— the whole thing is sort of like the dream of what one would want in a “scientific” approach to the study of UFO-as-literal-vehicle.
Mirage Men by Mark Pilkington
The film version, great in its own right, won lots of fans for the “UFOs are definitely a psyop” crowd, but may have cut a bit too much of the “but what if?” from its sister, this book. Written concurrently with the production of the film, Mirage Men is an exciting dive into the cold, deep waters of military intelligence and its involvement, undeniable now, in the UFO community and the public’s perception of the phenomenon. Reading the book is almost a necessary exercise after the creepy disillusionment of the film: there are more loose ends and unanswered questions than a film, understandably, is able to convey. Recently featured in Adam Curtis’ Hypernormalisation, the film Mirage Men is sure to be a classic of weird, politically sharp documentary film. The book, however, is challenging and masterful in its own right. The true believer will have some problems with the denigrating tone Pilkington sometimes takes (it helps to understand that he too was once a true believer), but anyone really wanting to claim an interest in the field needs to read this book.
The Cosmic Pulse of Life by Trevor James Constable
This may be the strangest book on the list. Constable, in this and several other books, establishes a connection between Wilhelm Reich’s orgone theory and the UFO phenomenon. Constable makes the case that what we are seeing are enormous amoeba-like beings, more easily visible with infrared technology, that live in the upper atmosphere. Using a variation on Reich’s cloudbusting equipment, Constable spends almost 400 pages supporting his singular (right??? who else is saying this?) claims. The thing is, after reading it, I’m willing to believe he’s right about at least part of the sightings. The question of UFOs demands a multiplex answer. This book is a favorite.
Above Top Secret by Timothy Good
A big, information-packed book. Dense, well-researched, it was pretty much the final word, during its time, on the government-is-hiding-UFOs debate. Timothy Good gathers and, one after another, lays out the ways in which various world governments have hidden the presence of alien beings on earth. His sources are impeccable, impressive. Although a bit dated now —lots has happened since its publication in 1989— Above Top Secret is basically required as a reference text for any UFO library, personal or public. There have been subsequent tomes like it, but none have been quite so thorough and readable.
Flying Saucers Have Landed by George Adamksi
You cannot have a list of UFO books without Adamski. I’ll let you, reader, do your own research into the man. His story tends to generate, in equal portions, awe and hate. Flying Saucers Have Landed, written with Desmond Leslie, is likely Adamski’s most famous work. It tells of Adamski’s first contacts with the space people (this was before contactees and abductees began seeing “Greys” or anything like that) and the profound spiritual truths he learned from them. Depending on your predilections, the book is either a wacky romp through mid-20th century new age philosophy, or a rather important spiritual text. I feel both ways about it, depending on the day.
Here to Help: UFOs and the Space Brothers by Gerard Aartsen
A disciple of the late spiritual teacher Benjamin Creme, Gerard Aartsen has elsewhere written at length on George Adamski, who is an important part of this text, and tends to stick to the spiritual side of the UFO world; this is my favorite of his several works. Something in his urgent, earnest call for understanding of and adherence to the messages given down from the space brothers feels true and good. In our times, these times of moral and intellectual “entropy” (haha), Aartsen’s hopeful, stern call for awareness and love feels revolutionary.
Messengers of Deception by Jacques Vallee
Jacques Vallee is the greatest still-living ufologist of the 20th century. A pioneer not only in the research of UFOs, but in internet technologies and venture capitalism (I know, yuck), Vallee, for a while, championed the Imaginal, or, perhaps, hyperdimensional, or psychic, understanding of the phenomenon. For Vallee, the aliens-in-nuts-and-bolts-vehicles approach faded from relevance by the end of the 1970s, as evidenced by this influential text on UFO cults and their shadowy tendencies. Part political conspiracy, part occult theory, Messengers of Deception set a bar for interdisciplinary ufologists for decades to come. Vallee is that rare skeptic whose works expand from normalcy rather than adhere to it. His oeuvre is large, and pretty much any later Vallee text is an intoxicating read, but this book feels like the moment he began to really think deeply and with novelty about UFOs. Notice on this vintage edition’s cover a portrait of what can only be a mythical Man in Black, a member of a seeming team of arbiters of UFO knowledge whose presence tends to scare or discourage (or worse) those ufologists who blaze too bright a trail. Also essential: The Invisible College.
The Super Natural by Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey J. Kripal
Here we have Whitley again! This time with Jeffrey J. Kripal, a professor of comparative religion. In alternating chapters, Whitley will expound on his experiences, sometimes introducing things even his most attentive readers couldn’t have known, and Jeffrey will analyze, with plenty of academic gusto, Whitley’s tales and theories. All together, the text reads like a pop introduction to some of Vallee and co.’s more lofty metaphysical theories. Just recently released, this feels like one of the few good “UFO, etc.” books written this decade. I asked my dad to read it, and he was really impressed. He even went on to read Communion right after! You should trust his opinion. I do.
The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel
Yes, there was a Gere-starring film. That was fine, but it totally missed the point. John Keel’s work is wacky, intelligent, and absolutely essential to understanding the “high strangeness” aspect of the paranormal. Though there are UFOs in this book, famously the one on which Indrid Cold, a sort of Man in Black seen by one Woodrow Derenberger, rode, this book deals mostly with the many odd events (notably the titular Mothman creature) leading up to a bridge collapse in West Virginia. Part of a weirdo cabal of semi-ufologists (perhaps just too weird for even that label) including people like Gray Barker and others carrying the flag of Charles Fort, Keel is most famous for this book, but had loads of others in which certain readers would find great enjoyment.
Alien Mind by George LoBuono
George LoBuono is some sort of genius. I follow him on Facebook and his wild, beautiful psychic musings are one of the few joys in my sad life. OK, I tend to exaggerate, but Alien Mind, and LoBuono in general, is one of the key reasons I kept on in my studies of UFOs after it began to feel stale and older, more arcane things came calling. This book does what it does (and what is that?) so well that to explain it would feel like an injustice. It tries to teach you how to be psychic. It tells you what it’s like to talk to aliens across galaxies. Just read this, please! After Catchers of Heaven, this is my favorite book in the field.
Flying Saucers by C.G. Jung
See Jung take a swing at the UFOs. It’s virtuosic, like most of his work. If only he had lived to see where this then-new popular phenomenon would go in the later decades of the 20th century. He would have added much to the conversation.
Operation Survival Earth by Stefan Denaerde
Our final entry is a suitably weird one. Published originally, as pictured, as a sci-fi pulp novel, the pseudonymous author (eventually identified as a Dutch engineer whose name escapes me) came to republish the book as UFO Contact from Planet Iarga with Wendelle C. Stevens, a retired military man who went into the private publishing industry as a means of distributing his work with various UFO contactees. The text itself is as bizarre as they come: Gnostic Christian, dog-faced aliens living in a zero-waste socialist utopia accidentally damage the narrator’s boat as they investigate earth’s water, and later repay him by taking him, vaguely forcibly, to see their planet. Read it to believe it, but this thing is one of a kind.
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