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The Secret History of Bigfoot

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Interesting premise, but disappointing execution.
The author's competency allowed him to put time and research into the book, but he displays too many bias and digresses often.

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A good read that seems to lose itself from time to time. The author does a good job at connecting Big Foot to our need to believe in something other. He shows how our brain and eye’s can fill in the blanks to make sure we see what we want to see. At times the narrative can wonder off to something that is remotely connected to this idea but loses its focus on its connection to Big Foot. It was still a fun read that will probably sell better in paperback.

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I thought that connecting a belief in cryptozoology to conspiracy theories and government mistrust was actually a really interesting point and one I'd like to learn more about, except I just could not get around John O'Connor's voice as a narrator. There's nothing fun about this, no real engagement with anyone. Clinical? Maybe that's the word.

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A fun and thought provoking examination of Bigfoot and our obsession with it and why. Will definitely be ordering it for my library.

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***Thank you Netgalley for the ARC and opportunity to read and review

As someone who has a pretty hefty interest in Cryptozoology I found The Secret History of Bigfoot to be a fun and interesting read. I would definitely recommend reading it if you are just kicking off your foray into Bigfoot research territory. For someone who has been consuming BF books and documentaries for many many years I did find myself skimming through a lot of the book.

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I have a hard time making up my mind about this book. On one hand it’s extremely well written and there is no doubt that author John O'Connor is very well read. The subject is also right up my alley. I’ve been a Fortean since my teens when I first discovered the writings of Charles Fort and subsequently the magazine Fortean Times. Cryptozoology has been my bread and butter for something like 40 years. Imagine my surprise when a book about bigfoot labels Forteans as a cult akin to qanon. Really? It seems John O'Connor feels that skepticism and an interest in cryptozoology/paranormal/weird history is somehow as bad as spreading inane conspiracy theories about blood libel.

There is also the fact that O'Connor feels the need of injecting anti-Trump passages all through the book. I’m very left leaning (european left) and I have absolutely nothing positive to say about Trump but it gets annoying in a book about bigfoot.

But: even with those caveats I still think this is an interesting book. As mentioned before O'Connor writes really well and has a trove of knowledge about his subject. He has a tendency to go off on tangents but they’re often interesting and highlights parts of bigfoot lore that I hadn’t thought about before. The tangent about ivory-billed woodpeckers in Louisiana is a wonderful chapter and both enlightening about cryptozoology as well as one of the pieces of ornithological writing I’ve read in years.

Despite the fact that this book actually insulted me I finished it and kind of liked it. It’s well worth the read if you’re interested in the subject.

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Thank you to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for the eGalley to review!

This was... certainly a trip of a read! It's very informal and includes a hefty amount of personal anecdotes and experiences, from interviews to the author's personal thoughts. It was almost like reading a personal journal that happened to have academic research and proper citations. O'Connor has no qualms about saying his mind either, particularly when it comes to politics (which play a huge part in the "why" people believe in things like Bigfoot). However, he does his best to listen with an open mind to everyone he's interviewed and gone on expeditions with and compiles testimonies, research, and explanations from all sides of the debate on whether Bigfoot is real. It's quite thorough! (I can't even count all the bookmarks I left while reading this, by the way.)

Basically, belief in Bigfoot boils down to our need to believe in something, to hold on to something with conviction, or to have an adventure. The majority of "Bigfooters" are white, male, rural, and have a background in the military or as cops. There is a very compelling connection between believing in Bigfoot and believing in (political) conspiracy theories. The massive wave of sudden Bigfoot sightings started happening right after several civil movements that disrupted the status quo of white patriarchy and during a time of social and economic turmoil for the white working class. This era also saw an uptick of messianic figure sightings. Bigfoot, ergo, is essentially a religious figure on which many lay their hopes for a magical revival of "the old days". Add the fact that there is a deeply communal bond between Bigfooters and you have a place for people who feel outcast to belong.

That is not to say there aren't any people of color or non-men who believe in Bigfoot, and O'Connor takes pains to ensure Indigenous tribes are particularly heard (many have stories of similar creatures to talk about, but some don't). Monsters are an obsession seemingly all cultures have, as it's something to help us understand the mysterious and give meaning to existence. Couple this with brains that like to fill in gaps with things that didn't happen when we're remembering an experience, and we have a strong penchant for fantasizing about the unknown. This is honestly what makes the Bigfoot phenomenon fascinating and if that's why this book caught your eye, you'll be satisfied when reading it.

I had a good time with this book overall and while it hasn't really settled me in any one position on the Bigfoot debate, it was still fun to read about the psychology of it all and the science happening to dis/prove Bigfoot's existence.

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The Secret History of Bigfoot
Written By John O’Conner
Published By Sourcebooks Publishing
Release Date February 06, 2024

I, like a lot of people, have questions surrounding the legend of Bigfoot and whether or not it is just a legend made up or if there really is a Sasquatch living in the woods of North America. This book is not just a book about the legend but the author goes into detail about the sightings and the people who have spotted it. There are many various forms of what some would call evidence of Bigfoot, but what do we really know about what Sasquatch looks like, or better yet smells like, eats, the mating habits and all of the places he lives. The author dives into everything Bigfoot head first and shares with the reader the science of the mythical creature as well as the man made information that has been put out there. Folklorists shared tales in the past about a wild creature that looked like man but was covered in hair. This book will give you both sides to judge for yourself……. Do you believe in Bigfoot? You may after reading this book.

4 stars

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my unbiased and honest review.

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Insightful, funny, and erudite, O'Connor's microhistory about Bigfoot explores the deeper question of why humans believe in things that haven't been fully proven. Fans of microhistories, and Bigfoot believers and scoffers will devour this.

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The Secret History of Bigfoot
Field Notes on a North American Monster
by John O’Connor
A compelling examination of the mystery of Bigfoot and the investigation of why and how the brain perceives things. It’s also a sociological travelogue. It is written in an honest scientific, not pseudoscientific, easy to read style.
O’Conner is open minded about the existence of Bigfoot, and takes a serious approach to the mystery, exposing the charlatans, animal habitat devastation , the delusional, and conspiracy theorists when facts warrant. There are stories from park rangers, Bigfoot hunting clubs, convention participants, environmentalists and campers. His field trips and the characters he meets are delightful mini-adventures into the human thought process. He researches human belief systems while investigating this mythical (or not) phenomenon.
With no bafflegab and no forcing his opinion on the reader, O’Conner presented evidence for a reader to form his own conclusions about remarkable belief in mythic creatures and he does it humorously.This is a thinking man’s book about more than mysterious or supernatural beliefs.
This is a book you think about long after the last page is read.

Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Category: sociology, mythology, psychology, scientific method, Bigfoot

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This was a fantastic read. I couldn't put it down. While I expected it to focus more on Bigfoot legends, I instead found an analysis of why so many people believe in the unfounded, the wonders and dangers associated with the desire to be a part of something, and the need to cling to answers to any questions in uncertain times. What this book truly is, is an analysis of the American psyche and a warning about living in a post-truth world. Well, that with a bit of Into the Wild mixed in.

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The author goes on lots of tangents in this one. Should keep you interested if you're into birds, travel, mythology, history, philosophy, or, of course, Bigfoot.
There's plenty of dry humor and wry commentary on who believes in and hunts for this elusive cryptid.
Sit this one out if you love trump.

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In recent years I’ve developed an increasing interest in conspiracies and cults, most especially in what sorts of people are the most likely to believe in them and what exactly drives them to do so. You can’t really delve into this subject without also touching upon folklore and cryptozoology, and my fondness for horror and relative open-mindedness about such things means I wouldn’t want to avoid them. As a result, I was very intrigued by John O’Connor’s The Secret History of Bigfoot, a book which purported to examine both the myth itself and its most ardent believers, but which unfortunately turned out to feel more and more like the author’s philosophical ramblings as it went on.

It begins well enough, as O’Connor regales the reader with his exploits trekking along the Appalachian Trail, in search of the elusive creature and those who claim to have seen it. He writes in a fun, conversational style, laced with beautiful descriptions of the natural world around him and frequent diversions into David Sedaris-like humor. The first several chapters carry on in much the same enjoyable way. Some psychological theorizing is peppered throughout these early sections and it offers some keen insights into the parts of modern life that might make people susceptible to believe so deeply in something so seemingly impossible.

About halfway through the book though, the psychoanalysis and philosophizing almost completely take over, with mentions of Bigfoot becoming rarer and rarer. The author makes several good points, most especially as to how the whole thing relates to our planet’s dwindling natural resources, and remains pleasant enough to read, but as he gets further and further from the stated subject of the book, one questions what it’s even about. The surprisingly high number of liberal talking points is also likely to put off some readers entirely, and usually feels completely out of place.

In the end, O’Connor brings it back around and attempts to draw some conclusions from his experiences. He refreshingly avoids coming down for or against Bigfoot’s existence, though is clearly skeptical, and expresses at least some respect towards the different people he encountered along the way (I suspect at least a few are unlikely to speak to him again after reading this however). He also manages to leave the reader with a lingering wistfulness for the amount of the natural world that has already been lost forever. It is frequently posited herein that one of the reasons we want so badly to believe in Bigfoot and his ilk is that it allows us to believe that there is still something of mystery out there, despite mankind’s never-ending encroachment into the wilderness. It feels like there is something to the theory. As author and naturalist Peter Matthiessen is quoted saying in the book, “I think it’s going to be a very dull world when there’s no more mystery at all.” ★★★

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Thanks to John O’Connor, SOURCEBOOKS and Netgalley for access to the advanced review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I have been interested in Bigfoot since I was young and was excited to see The Secret History of Bigfoot to read some new, significant information. Ultimately, I was disappointed.

The title promises a secret history. While there is some information that provides a historical context, it didn’t come across as a history on the topic. I also didn’t sense there was much that was secret either and the multiple, long forays into politics were also off putting. This really is a narrative of a quest to explore and learn more about Bigfoot and the people involved in similar quests today. Perhaps if the book had been titled consistent with that, I might have had different expectations and enjoyed the book more.

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I found this book very interesting. I was intrigued from the first couple of pages and loved reading about bigfoot.

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A Secret History of Bigfoot is not just a book about the mysterious Sasquatch that wanders North America, but about the places it has been sighted in, the people who have sighted them and discerning credible accounts from hoaxes.

There is a lot of information contained within these pages and John O'Connor is an engaging writer, keeping my interest with an immersive narrative that flows beautifully from one chapter to the next

I requested this book because I visited New Hampshire a few times over the last cople years and my friends told me that sightings (or claims thereof) had increased in recent years, alongside the increase in commercial souveniers of the same. I considered my friends comments to be made with an amount of cynicism and I can truthfully say that this book has given me some wonderful insight (plus an extensive armoury of perspectives) about which to banter about on my next foray into the mountains of North-East America

A wonderful book for fans of the squatch and mysteries in general, also those who enjoy the ecology and natural environment of North America

Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher Sourcebooks and the author John O'Connor for this enjoyable and enlightening ARC. My review is left voluntarily and all opinions are my own

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The Secret History of Bigfoot by John O'Connor is categorized as History, Nonfiction and Travel which grabbed my attention immediately. However, after reading political barb after political barb (I'm not even American) and nothing about travel, I disagree. My hopes were to learn more about Bigfoot but the social commentary quickly overshadowed the allure of Bigfoot. What a shame. The wit was sometimes humorous but other times missed the mark completely.

So many disappointments here prevented me from finishing this book. Not at all what I had envisioned when requesting the ARC.

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I was hoping for some good narrative nonfiction or travel writing, but this fell a little flat for me. It was almost as if there was a line of humorous and serious that was being walked and the story didn't know which side to walk on.

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I am such a fan of myths and "urban legends" so I was really excited to get this book. It was an entertaining and enjoyable read. I eat up anything Big Foot or Loch Ness Monster so I flew through this one.

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This book is definitely very well written and I did like the adventure that it catalogues throughout. The only problem I ended up having is that for a book that says it's about Bigfoot I felt like he was more of a side character to everything. Still very much worth reading.

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