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RDR's FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2015

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Another year has come and gone and yet the year revealed some very fine book titles that your humble bookworm took the time to devour. Here is a list of our favorites. 

TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2015

Magicians of the Gods by Graham Hancock

What it will take is the recognition that we are, after all, one species, one people, one family and that rather than waste our energies on murderous feuds in the name of God or country or political ideology or selfish greed, the time has come for love and harmony to displace fear and turmoil in every aspect of our lives, so that we may secure the human future.”

So wrote scholar-adventurer Graham Hancock in his epic book Magicians of the Gods, one of the most enlightening, informative and important books I have ever come across, and a sequel to his impressive 1995 book Fingerprints of the Gods.

I promise you, dear reader, that I am not overstating things. This is not about “ancient aliens,” so much as it is about us and who we are.

Hancock, who is open to historical information in whatever form it presents itself, meticulously lays out his argument that many thousands of years ago, an ancient civilization existed – until a portion of a comet hit the Earth, wiping out much of the civilization that then existed.

The evidence – left behind by the ancients, exists all over the world, from Turkey to Indonesia and from Egypt to Peru – and many other places as well. Hancock explains how carvings on one – say at Turkey’s magnificent and mysterious stone site Gobekli Tepe – match those at sites in South America. The evidence, he tells us as he jumps from site to site, is compelling and mysterious and leads one to believe in the idea that ancient technology was far more advanced than we ever realized. And if only there wasn’t an overt conspiracy to hide the truth, as modern science seems to be doing, Hancock tells us. But the ancients, 12,000 years ago, tried to leave messages for us, so we could pay heed as to what the future held. That is why Gobekli Tepe was likely buried to begin with. 

And while the Mayan calendar seems to say that the comet may hit the Earth in an 80 year window between 1960 and 2040, it doesn’t mean it will. Nevetheless, it is very interesting that as I write this, articles are popping up today about “giant comets” that may threaten our planet.

But perhaps knowing that time could be short will convince us that being kind to one another and putting aside petty differences is far more important. Hancock’s incredible book (over 500 pages) gives one plenty to think about – long after you’ve finished reading it.

And Yet ...: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

The late Christopher Hitchens, who died in 2011, had a lifelong love of the English language, and this was a gift to his many readers. Reading Hitchens over the past 20 years taught me a lot about everything and everybody, from Leon Trotsky (good) to Mother Teresa (bad).

Many of the essays in And Yet ... did not make it into book form prior to Hitchens' death (read our review of his book Mortality), but to me, this is among the best of his work. From literature to politics and then some. 

Hitchens, ever the contrarian, atheist and Trotskyist-turned-neoconservative, is literally all over the map with these essays, but in a good way. He starts off by putting the revolutionary Che Guevara in proper context, defends George Orwell against the Stalinist critics, eviscerates the Christmas holiday, embraces the non-religious tradition of Thanksgiving, updates us on his old friend Salman Rushdie, gives us his thoughts on Rosa Luxemburg and G.K. Chesterton and tears apart Hillary Clinton.

Speaking of Hillary, in his essay "The Case Against Hillary Clinton," Hitch tried to win points with Mount Everest explorer Sir Edmund Hillary by telling him that her mother named her after him. 

Only problem is is that Hillary Rodham was born in 1947 - five years before Hillary and his partner Tenzing Norgay made their historical ascent to the top of the world.

Writes Hitchens: "For Sen. Clinton, something is true if it validates the myth of her striving and her 'greatness' (her overweening ambition in other words) and only ceases to be true when it no longer serves that limitless purpose."

It's times like these when the world needs Christopher Hitchens. And Yet ... will have to do, I guess. 

The Messengers: Owls, Synchronicity and the UFO Abductee by Mike Clelland

In my 2013 review of The Sync Book 2, a collection of essays and online articles by leading commentators within the synchronicity and synchomysticism communities (of which I am a part), I took particular notice of the chapter by Mike Clelland titled “Synchronicity and the UFO Abductee.” 

But since then, Clelland - an adventurer and a lover of humanity and the mysteries around us - has written a very personal and very honest book about a strange phenomenon involving owls. Yes, I said owls. And Clelland is of the opinion that owls play an important role in the UFO abduction phenomenon. 

"The owl isn't just a bird with big eyes," writes Clelland in his introduction. "It is a symbol."

And it is also a messenger, Clelland tells us. He goes into this via his own experiences with owls (and possible abduction experiences) and those of people who have contacted him through his website.

Personally, The Messengers resonated strongly with me because owls have been a constant in my life for many years. I see it as a positive. In fact, a friend of mine read me some "animal cards" and as a result of the reading, came to learn that my "animal" was the owl. 

And recall it was 30 years ago this week that novelist Whitley Strieber began having his alien experiences in upstate New York, which he later made famous in his book Communion. There seemed to be a connection between owls and the alien experience. 

All in all, Mike Clelland's book is powerful and the stories shared get to the heart of an ongoing - and very real - mystery.

Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical by Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo

This was a lengthy read, but it was also informative and quite timely as well, considering the underreported blacklisting of journalists and outspoken critics of the administration and our foreign policy. Trumbo was a Communist, of course, but he was an American who was striving for a better and more just world and wasn't willing to compromise his beliefs, even when the Congressional House Un-American Activities Committee harassed him and ultimately sent him to prison during those dark days of the reactionary 1950's. Reading this book was inspiring and the new movie - Trumbo - is terrific as well, and a great accompaniment to this book, co-written by Trumbo's son Christopher Trumbo, who passed away before it was published. Read our original review here.

Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt by Kristin Hersh

I will admit, Kristin Hersh's writing style isn't for everyone. It's fairly abstract and difficult to pin down. But that doesn't mean it isn't compelling. It is. And the Throwing Muses singer/guitarist Kristin Hersh makes her experiences with the late singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt well-worth reading. Chesnutt and Hersh were often, mistakenly, thought to be husband/wife because they seemed so alike to fans in the audiences of shows where they performed together. And when they weren't on stage, there were those many hours together where life just happens. 

Read our original review here

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

I think what I liked most about the release of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman this summer was that Lee (in this early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird) didn't pander to her audiences - the vast audiences who so-loved Atticus Finch and some of whom named their children after Atticus because of how he stood up to his racist Alabama community in the classic Mockingbird. No, Lee shows us in Go Set a Watchman that Atticus Finch holds racist views right alongside those of the older people in the sleepy Southern town of Maycomb, much to the disgust and disappointment of his worldly daughter Jean Louise "Scout" Finch. It's a flawed novel, to be sure, but the issue of race it addresses is an important one, especially in 2015 when the issue is at the forefront of so many conversations in our society. Read our original review here.

Bloodline of the Gods by Nick Redfern

When is Nick Redfern not writing? He puts guys like me shame with his prolific writing schedule. And yet each and every title is worth devouring from beginning to end. Such was the case with Bloodline of the Gods

What is the reason behind people who have Rh negative blood? What are humanity's true origins and what does that tell us about where we are going as a species? Were aliens involved? Redfern touches upon all of these issues and much, much more in one of my absolute favorite books of 2015.

Read our original review here

I Hear America Singing: Folk Music and National Identity by Rachel Clare Donaldson

The origins of America's folk music in the 1930's clearly coincided with the Great Depression happening during that tumultuous decade when the division between the haves and have-nots was quite wide and the Communist Party seemed like a progressive path forward toward equality. As would happen, folk music would be embraced by the CPUSA and names like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger would become household names because of their populist approach and love of the working class. And folk music seemed to go well 

As I wrote at the time of Donaldson's fantastic book: "I Hear America Singing is a fantastic book and overview of the mid-20th century folk music revival which seemed to also double as a social justice movement, considering its support of civil rights, and speaking out against war and injustice. This is an important book from a scholar deserving of attention."

Read our original review here.

The Yogic Gospel of Thomas by Swami Anantananda Giri

This title, from the terrific Sync Book Press, takes the reader through the experience of Jesus Christ's time on Earth, knowing that he has connected the Gospel of Thomas and Kashmir Sahaivism of India. For instance, East and Middle East meet when Giri addresses the "Universal Mother," where he notes that early Christian traditions and pre-Christian "analogues," were very goddess-centric, something they shared with early "wisdom traditions." There is veiled reference to the goddess Sophia, in referencing the "virgin mother" who had not conceived in her womb and whose breasts had not given milk. For those convinced that Jesus spent time in India or at least studied Hindu texts and Indian mystical traditions (think the works of Nicolas Notovitch), The Yogic Gospel of Thomas is a fantastic place to start.

The Lost Expedition of Sir Richard Francis Burton by Walter Bosley

I learned quite a bit in this book, from Walter Bosley. It's speculation based on historical fact. It's an overview of Burton's trek through South America and the fact that he may indeed have stumbled upon a lost civilization during his 19th century treks into South America's rugged interior. A great read for those interested in the Victorian era of exploration and mystery.

Read our original review here.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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