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Book review: Occult America

I have to admit, for the first 30 pages of Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation, I was feeling disappointed in the book. I had purchased it with the expectation that it would be a serious, academic discussion of the topic. Instead, I discovered, it's rather light and breezy in tone and style. But soon enough, I was completely hooked.

It turns out that it's completely refreshing to find a book that takes such a serious topic none too seriously. The author, Mitch Horowitz, writes in a conversational tone and has a knack for pulling out the most interesting tidbits, without overwhelming the reader with the spider-web details that too many occult history books detail in order to rationalize their conclusions.

I learned a lot of fun and fascinating trivia from this book, such as the occult exhibitions at the Chicago World's Fair, and the history of the "Burned-Over District." (And I had the chance to road trip across this area shortly after reading the book, which greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the landmarks we visited.) My only suggestion for improvement is that the endnotes, which are equally interesting and worthwhile, would be more helpful if they were more clearly associated with the text which they're annotated.

If you're interested in American history, particularly of periods and fancies that are overlooked by too many accounts, I think you'll very much enjoy this book. I'm looking forward to reading it again soon.


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