The previous lists:
1. Edward Brooke-Hitching – The Madman’s Library
With sections such as Books that Aren’t Books, Books Made of Flesh and Blood, and Cryptic Books which are the first three of ten, games where books play a role (and there’s more of them then you’d initially think, even if you are familiar with Ars Magica and CoC) are made more interesting, if the books are interesting. If nothing else there’s plenty of images to draw inspiration from. There’s also plenty of alternative ways to store your writing than the traditional book form.
2. Edward Brooke-Hitching – Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports: The Most Dangerous and Bizarre Sports in History
Another book from Brooke-Hitching (and with his bibliography, you can bet I’ll be getting back to him in the future – just look him up).
There used to be an annual World Sauna Championship near where I live in Heinola. The 12th such event was the last one, because one of the finalists only made it into the finals because of his use of painkillers and an anesthetic grease (he died) and the other finalist (who competed fairly) had to be put into a medically induced coma for six weeks. While this is an extreme and modern case, it’s a good example of how local customs. If you need to make your small fantasy community unique, you should have such local traditions. And in that case, this is the book for you. Or if you are otherwise interested in what goes on in Eel-pulling, Mob Football or Firework Boxing.
3. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke – The Occult Roots of Nazism
As this book discusses the roots specifically, it begins with ideas from before Hitler’s birth in 1889 (a year I remember by heart thanks to Alan Moore’s From Hell). It takes a deep look at various personalities and cults that formed around their ideas. Want a sinister secrets for your tyrannical state (or more sinister secrets), this is a good place to start.
4. Jules Michelet – Satanism and Witchcraft
This is an old book originally published in French in 1862. My version is subtitled The Classic Study of Medieval Superstition and it’s that, but also from the specific point-of-view of someone writing this in the mid-1800s. Michelet probably doesn’t get much right, but as Ars Magica showed us in the late 1980s, it’s not always about being correct. That specific view can also have value from the point of view of game design.
It’s also a weirdly proto-feminist book, which argues that witches were basically people who couldn’t find any other way to fight against the male- and church-dominated hierarchy of Medieval Europe. So, in that sense it’s a defense of witches.
5. Karl Schlögel – Moscov 1937
I have a tendency to read while on the move, so it took me ages to read this massive book, because it’s not the kind you can just easily tag along. It didn’t help that I have a pretty bad eyesight and the print is not the most readable. Still, it was something I felt I needed to power through.
It’s a book about what it looks like when a tyrant decides to exert their power to reconstruct their state to be more in-line with their own beliefs. So, basically state-sponsored terror, which lead to huge amounts of dead people as Stalin was killing everyone who did anything even a little suspect or pretty anyone else for that matter.
6. Robest Hutchinson – Elizabeth’s Spy Master
I was pretty sure I had included this in one of the previous installments, but apparently not. It is a great setting book on it’s own. It’s largely about the fight between catholics and protestants for power in England. The “hero” is Francis Walsingham, which might be a name familiar to some. It has a lot of tradecraft used in those times, which is usable in many other settings as well.
7. Johan Egerkrans – Vaesen
There is actually a game based on the works of this author. The book is about Scandinavian supernatural creatures with very storybook-like illustrations. Vaesen actually means something along the lines of supernatural being (although, it’s actually ‘väsen’, but ‘vaesen’ is a transliterated version, since English doesn’t generally use ‘ä’). And while there are similarities to mythology and superstitions from other parts of Europe, but like any other part of Europe, these creatures do also have a very distinct feel of their own.
8. Brenda Ralph Lewis & Rupert Matthews (The Historical Atlas of Weaponry
Not only does this book list a bunch of weapons from ancient history to modern jet fighters, it also explains how these weapons changed warfare. It has plenty of maps showing how battles worked with these weapons around. While it’s often hard to bring this context to various games due to rules limitations, it does still explain how battles worked at various times and places throughout history.
9. Neil R.A. Bell, Trevor N. Bond, Kate Clarke & M:W: Oldridge – The A-Z of Victorian Crime
The name should tell you all. It’s mostly just people listed alphabetically with some other listings as well (like Newgate Prison). It starts with Abberline, Frederick George, who was the detective charged with catching Jack the Ripper, and Adams, Fanny, a victim of a pedophile murderer, who still lives on in idioms. Victorian era is pretty well-documented because of mass production of newspapers gaining steam at the time, so there are plenty of stories going around. Each section of the book also includes further reading for those who want to dwell deeper.
10. Edward Brooke-Hitching – Sky Atlas
You didn’t have to wait long for another Edward Brooke-Hitching appearance.
People have always looked up into the night sky and interpreted in their own way. It has been a source of inspiration and wonder basically as long as humans have had any sort of imagination. Our astrological signs have been around long enough for the stars to have changed places since they were set. The book is exactly about that: how different cultures have looked up and what they have seen there.