A year ago I would not have said that nonfiction is something I enjoy reading. However, after graduating with my Master’s this spring, I began to feel sad about not learning. After so many years of school I found that I am addicted to learning. I guess there are worse things to be addicted to, right? I was very close to focusing my graduate project on mythology in literature, but for a few reasons I chose differently. But mythology and folklore are still some of my favorite topics to read about…. so why not actually learn something while pleasure reading?
These books were a perfect introduction to nonfiction for me. They are not dry reads at all. Matt Kaplan has a pretty good writing style, and I never felt bored reading his books. It is clear that he is very knowledgeable and has done his research, but the books do not go into a lot of depth about each monster or myth they cover. This is either good or bad, depending on what you are looking for. If you want a quick (little over 200 page) introduction to mythological monsters or magical practices, look no further. These are fun and informative books, but they aren’t going to make you an expert. Sometimes they even created as many new questions as they gave answers. For me, these were easy, fun reads that made me want to look into more academic works about the same topics.
There was nothing I particularly disliked about these books. The Science of Monsters felt a bit less serious than The Science of the Magical. This might be because Monsters had informative yet humorous footnotes at the bottom of the pages while Magical simply had end notes and a list of references at the end of the book. The footnotes usually gave a little side information to a topic, and I missed having them in Magical. That’s it… really. Kaplan doesn’t have all the answers all the time, but he does give a lot of food for thought as he outlines his informed speculation about the origin of these myths.