The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories

There’s something fun-but-not-too-fun about James McConnachie and Robin Tudge’s The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories, a lovely little coffee-table encyclopedia that investigates everything from the strange death of playwright Christopher Marlowe to the disputed Apollo 11 moon landings to the sinister happenings at Bohemian Grove to the 9/11 attacks. The book is dubious and skeptical in all the right places, yet never snotty or wholly dismissive of the marginalized ideas it presents. Also, none of the lurid tabloid earnestness that marks the work of lifers like Alex Jones or David Icke can be found here (Icke does get his own five paragraph section, however). For the most part, the 450 or so pages of Conspiracy Theories are evenhanded, concise, and well-researched. A bibliography follows each section, and at the end of the book there’s a “Conspiracy Archive” suggesting books, websites, and films for those who can’t get enough paranoia. Conspiracy Theory devotes a good number of pages to recent events like Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War, a choice that will perhaps date the book eventually–but of course, by that time we’ll need a new edition to record all the nefarious invisible acts committed by the Bilderberg Group, NWO, Masons, and, uh, reptilian beings posing as European royalty. Good stuff.

The updated U.S. edition of The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories is available this fall from Rough Guides.