An extremely random and little-known fact about me is that I am obsessed with Nessie (formally known as the Loch Ness monster, but that feels a bit too technical for my taste). My love began in high school, when my friends and I somehow found ourselves doing a group project in Spanish class on the topic of Nessie — I couldn’t tell you why Nessie was a viable theme for a Spanish project or how we came up with it to begin with, but here we are. We spent a weekend immersed in late-aughts internet search results: indiscernible footage of alleged sightings, various articles of questionable credibility, and random documentary clips that had made their way onto YouTube. Regardless of the quality of the research, though, I was hooked. And while I don’t necessarily spend a whole lot of my time deliberately seeking it out these days, I do still always experience a huge rush of excitement if Nessie, or cryptozoology in general, ever does come up.
Let’s define cryptozoology, for starters. It’s a subculture and pseudoscience focused on trying to prove the existence of cryptids, creatures that are rumored to exist based on anecdotes or folklore. Other than my beloved Nessie, creatures considered to be cryptids include such entities as Bigfoot, Yeti, the chupacabra, and more. At the same time, the definition generally seems to exclude various mythological creatures and spiritual or supernatural beings (so, for instance, no pegasuses or unicorns or any of the yōkai from the Japanese folktales I grew up hearing). Cryptozoology began relatively recently, with roots that can be traced back to the 1940s and ’50s. Its founding figures were Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan T. Sanderson, zoologists whose interests extended to unknown creatures. Both wrote extensively on the topic, and Heuvelmans’s book On the Track of Unknown Animals is considered a hugely influential text in cryptozoology. However, the study itself has no basis in the scientific method or folklore studies (a branch of anthropology), and is instead related to other pseudosciences like ufology or ghost hunting.
So to scratch that itch to scrutinize the unknown (because who of us hasn’t enjoyed the occasional “searching for Bigfoot”-type show on the History Channel?), here are some books about or featuring cryptids and cryptozoology. This list is by no means comprehensive, but instead aims to represent the wide range of books out there, from fiction to nonfiction, and for readers of all ages.
Nonfiction Books About Cryptids
Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature by Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark
Loren Coleman is a leading American cryptozoologist who has written many books on the topic, and even established the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine. This encyclopedia, co-authored with Jerome Clark, another writer specializing in the mysteries of the universe, provides an overview of various cryptids, recently-discovered animals, and the researchers who study them.
The Great Bear Rainforest, located on the central and north coast of British Columbia, is the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest and is home to a rich and diverse ecosystem. Alongside the myriad species living there, local residents believe the Sasquatch also calls the area home. Writer and journalist John Zada, drawn in by his rekindled childhood obsession with Bigfoot, speaks with various people from the area who all have their own stories and experiences to share. What is uncovered through his investigation, however, is something much more complex than a search for a cryptid, delving into questions of science, human perception, and more.
Cryptid Creatures: A Field Guide by Kelly Milner Halls and Rick Spears
This fun, illustrated guide is aimed at the middle grade crowd, and presents information on 50 cryptids for readers to speculate on. Each entry includes eyewitness accounts or other possible evidence for the creatures, and will undoubtedly pique the curiosity of young investigators-to-be.
Behind the Legend: The Loch Ness Monster by Erin Peabody and Victor Rivas
Here’s a book series also for young readers, but this time presented as deeper dives into one creature at a time. Each book in the Behind the Legend series focuses on a different creature or monster from history, analyzing them through a scientific lens and considering their potential existence based on accounts of sightings and other documentation. Nessie and Bigfoot are among the various subjects of this book series, which include a variety of mythological beings even beyond cryptids.
Fiction Books About Cryptids
Dear Yeti by James Kwan
This sweet, warm-hearted picture book follows two young hikers as they trek into the woods in search of Yeti. They write letters to him in an effort to coax him out of hiding, but Yeti is shy and doesn’t reveal himself. As the hikers’ trip continues, a snowstorm approaches, and they realize they are not as prepared as they should be. However, Yeti proves to be a dependable friend and finds a way to surreptitiously help the hikers while staying hidden.
The Cryptid Files series by Jean Flitcroft
This middle grade trilogy follows Vanessa, a young girl who is coping with the recent death of her mother. Her mother was a cryptozoologist, and Vanessa yearns to continue the research she had been doing to try to prove the existence of certain cryptids. In the first book, a family trip to Scotland gives Vanessa the chance to explore Loch Ness. In the second, Vanessa visits her friend’s ranch in Mexico and encounters the mysteries of the Chupacabra. And in the final installment, a trip to a remote island off the coast of Canada brings Vanessa face to face with mysterious sea serpents.
Dakwäkãda Warriors by Cole Pauls
In this whimsical YA graphic novel that explores themes of colonialism, protectors Ts’ür’i and Aghay use language revitalization to save the Earth from evil pioneers and cyborg sasquatches. Cole Pauls is an artist of the Tahltan First Nation, and he wrote this bilingual comic in English and Southern Tutchone in an effort to help preserve the ancestral language.
City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende
When Alexander Cold’s parents must leave home for his mother’s cancer treatment, he is sent to New York to stay with his eccentric grandmother Kate. Kate is a magazine reporter, and takes Alex along on an expedition to the Amazon in search of a cryptid known as the Beast. This is the first in a YA trilogy following Alex and his friend Nadia’s adventures tagging as Kate follows extraordinary stories around the world.
Wild Life by Molly Gloss
Charlotte Bridger Drummond is an independent, adventurous, freethinking mother of five sons making a living by writing women’s adventure stories in the early 1900s. One day, a little girl gets lost in the woods and Charlotte decides to join in the search, only to get lost herself and come face to face with a band of Sasquatches. Written as Charlotte’s diary entries, this novel explores questions of what the true differences are between wilderness and civilization.
Devolution by Max Brooks
This horror novel follows a reporter’s investigation into a bloody massacre that occurred in a small, remote community in Washington. While inhabitants of the town sheltered in place following an eruption of Mount Rainier, sasquatches emerged, revealing not only their existence in the first place, but also their terrifying and savage nature. The narrator presents the recovered journal entries of Kate Holland, a resident of the town, alongside his own research and interviews with various experts, to construct an account of the incident.