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Farewell to Tampa: Book Review of The Book of the Bizarre by Varla Ventura

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The Book of the Bizarre: Freaky Facts and Strange Stories was mostly meh, but the illustrations were at times delightful. Basically it is one of those books that people sometimes keep in a magazine rack near their toilets. The majority of the articles are about rare occurrences but not a lot of information about the allegations besides eyewitness (or eyewitless in some cases) accounts. Not much sticks out in my memory about the book besides that I had started to read it last year and apparently dropped it for something juicier only to pick it up again in last February after completing Bill Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. (In my reading diary I referred to Bizarre as a reading palette cleanser.)

With that said sometimes this genre of reading can really fire up your imagination (remember those great Time/Life books from the late 70s/early 80s about the supernatural?) but alas Bizarre didn’t have much to recommend itself besides a story about a large penguin spotted in Florida. Seriously, how much fun would it be to run from a Godzilla sized penguin? OH NO, THERE GOES TAMPA! Of course I then had to Google “large penguin” and “Florida” to only find the tale debunked.

The one story that was easy to verify was about the news anchor in 1974 that killed herself during a live broadcast with a gun. In the recesses of my brain I sort of remember the incident but as a reader of a book that was supposed to be fluff I just felt depressed. Oh hoe hum.

It is because of the “meh” and “hoe huminess” that I withhold a positive recommendation for The Book of the Bizarre. There are lots books of this nature floating around your favorite secondhand bookstore and if you cannot find your bizarre stories there maybe the library still carries those wonderful Time/Life series.

Happy reading!


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