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Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable-And Couldn't Hardcover – June 7, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A sharply written, intelligently argued book that should appeal equally to believers and skeptics.” (Booklist)

From the Back Cover

More than seventy percentof Americans believe in paranormal activity. Buteven with a family-ghost story lurking in his ownbackground, seasoned journalist Steve Volk hasbeen like most of those millions of Americans—reticent to talk about his experience in politecompany. If so many of us have similar stories totell, why are we so reluctant to take them seriously?

Paranormal claims don’t traditionally sit well withreporters, but Volk decided to focus his gimlet-eyedtenacity on a new beat: the world of psychics, UFOs,and things that go bump in the night. It’s a rollickingride as Volk introduces us to all sorts of fringe-dwellers,many of them reluctant to admit to their paranormalexperiences: a NASA astronaut-turned-mystic, aworld-famous psychologist who taught us about dyingand then decided death may not exist at all, andbrave scientists attempting to verify what mysticshave been reporting for millennia. Volk investigateswhat happens in the brains of people undergoingreligious experiences, learns how to control his owndreams, and goes hunting for specters in hisfamily’s old haunted house.

From his journey into the bizarre, Volk returns witha compelling argument that we need to allow for amiddle space, a place where paranormal phenomenacan be weird and compelling; raise crucial questions;and, quite possibly, remain unexplainable. He rejectsthe polarized options the twenty-first century seemsto offer us: to passionately embrace or hotly reject,to revere only science or only spirituality. And heunderscores, again and again, that by raising ourmost existential questions—why are we here, are wealone in the universe, and what happens when wedie?—paranormal stories are in fact a crucial pointof connection. It turns out that these “fringe”experiences strike at the core of what it means tobe human.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First Edition edition (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061857718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061857713
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,372,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Steve Volk is a professional journalist, and that is the perspective he writes from in Fringe-ology. Although this is an intellectual quest on his part, his personally engaging style of writing pulls you in from page one.

I usually take my time reading books that I enjoy, because I like to savor them like a fine wine, not wanting them to end, yet like a romantic dinner, I can't help anticipating its direction.
Fringe-ology was hard to put down for long, so I found myself re-reading several of my favorite chapters to stretch out the experience. The introduction alone would have been worth the price of the book. It's that good.
Then there's the greater issue of the "Paranormal Taint", and the chapter on Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, or the effect that space travel has on Astronauts, lucid dreaming, the placebo effect and... I don't want to give too much away. Hint: there's more to the Paranormal Taint than you may think.

Fringe-ology has the feel and integrity of Debra Blum's Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death, except that Steve Volk covers a wider variety of phenomena and he approaches his subjects with a more personal touch.

He has caught a little bit of flak because at certain points the reader starts to think that Steve is about to 'give in' and pronounce his belief in a supernatural cause underlying the topics he covers, only to have him continue on and give the skeptics their legitimate day in court. At one point I started to write out a list of insights that I found worth making note of, but I abandoned that because I was enjoying the book too much to turn it into a job assignment.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I sort of lean toward the skeptical view, and I came to this book a little wary that the author might be overly credulous of paranormal researchers, but I think that Volk walks the line here with quite a bit of skill. This book is empathetic when it needs to be and dubious when it has to be. It's a journey through the science of the paranormal that seems both measured and wise. And Volk is a crackerjack writer. My favorite part was the chapter on Edgar Mitchell, the Apollo 14 astronaut. The book is worth its price for that chapter alone.
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Format: Hardcover
Fringe-ology offers us a quick look at the grey areas that is not often shown in media. In this book, Steve Volk talks about the things that you politely dismiss with a giggle in a social gathering, but you wonder when no one is looking around. However, if you are still wondering, this is the book you should get to start.

I was made aware of this book by listening to interviews of Volk throughout several podcasts. On these, a chapter in the book about Lucid Dreaming was mentioned. This intrigued since I thought Lucid Dreaming was not fringe any more. In addition, I realized that I had listened to Volk previously as an interviewer in Skeptiko, and thought highly of him. So I gave the book a try.

This book is organized as follows:

Introduction: What We Talk About When We Talk About the Paranormal
1. On Death and Not Dying
2. Do You See What I See?
3. Out of Our Heads? Off with Their Heads!
4. Blazing Saddles
5. Was There a Ghost in My House?
6. To Infinity and Beyond
7. The Open Mind
8. The Impossible Dream
9. After-Death Communication?
10. You Can't Go Home Again
11. Our Time in Hell

I got Fringe-ology and went straight to Chapter 8. Volk's writing style struck me as enjoyable, and although Lucid Dreaming was not new to me, this chapter presented LaBerge and his research in this field in a new light. Suffice to say I devoured this chapter, and then I started reading this book the right way, from page one.
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Format: Hardcover
First of all, I want to make it clear that Steve discusses my work in chapter nine. I think he did a fair and even handed job of describing what I do. While I wish he would have been somewhat more enthusiastic in the end about my findings, Steve and I now share a relationship that is far more important than stroking each other in a professional way. Most importantly, we share living in that middle ground between extreme believers and extreme skeptics--i.e. people who have already made up their minds. It's nice for me to find someone else in the middle. Whenever I get a chance to talk with Steve, we never seem to have enough time. Our conversations are always very animated and enlightening. If you are anything like me, Steve Volk is the guy you want to talk to, or the guy whose book you want to read. In short, I find him to be one of the most interesting people on the planet.
I am absolutely conviced that his introduction chapter, which lays the groudwork for the future study of the "paranormal", is the best I ever read. It is truly a classic. The rest of his book follows in step, and desribes his own quest to make some personal (reporter) sense out of this rather broad and confusing world that exists on the edge, or at the fringe of science. He opens a new world for all people who are not already completly stuck in terms of what they believe is true or possible. I would also like to think that his book would even shake the conceptual foundations of people who are stuck.
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