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Books to read about psychedelics

There is a huge body of literature related to the use and research into psychedelics. Many authors have recently become famous due to Netflix documentaries, and the increasingly mainstream practice of microdosing. Whether you’re a first-time psychedelic user, or an experienced tripper, there are so many books with a lot of great information out there. 

How to Change your Mind by Michael Pollan

You may recognize this title from the Netflix series documentary that was done about Pollan, following him through different chapters of his book. This is a great book for beginners! It walks through a number of different psychedelic medicines that Pollan has experienced himself. This first-hand knowledge makes it a truly invaluable resource for a beginner tripper. While he doesn’t necessarily add any new information to the zeitgeist of psychedelic knowledge, he displayed updated neuroscience which lends credence to common psychedelic practices.

Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide by James Fadiman

James Fadiman is an OG scientist in psychedelic circles. He was doing research into psychedelics before they were made illegal in the U.S. in the 1960s. This book is an extremely effective guide for beginners. If you want to learn about how to actually go about your first journey, or how to guide other people through their journeys, there is an excellent chapter within this book dedicated to that very topic. There is also a plethora of information on the practice of microdosing, based on Fadiman’s decades-long research project into the topic. 

The Cosmic Serpent by Jeremy Narby

Narby is an anthropologist who went to South America to the indigenous groups who drink ayahuasca as their shamanic practice. As an anthropologist, he approached this indigenous group with the understanding that they were experts on their own cultural practices. This book focuses on parallels between the images and mythology of snakes and some of the Central and South American myths and visions that you’ll have under ayahuasca. In the end, the book isn’t necessarily cohesive with itself, but if you’re looking for an anthropologist’s perspective on ayahuasca specifically, this is a great book for that. 

Psyche Unbound: Essays in Honor of Stanislav Grof

This is a compilation of essays in honor of the life of the Godfather of LSD, Stan Groff. Stan Groff is a historical figure in the psychedelic movement because he pioneered LSD therapy in the Eastern Bloc under the Soviets in the 1950s. He facilitated thousands of LSD sessions in that time, and is therefore an incredibly influential figure to the movement. The essays in this book are pulled together to build on, compare, contrast, and add to his ideas on the cartography of the psyche. Very big names in psychedelic circles contributed to this work. It’s a very cool book, but also for more advanced or involved psychedelic users. Not because the subject matter is impossible to understand, but the relevant context may not be something you’re aware of if you haven’t been interested in psychedelics for a long time. 

The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley

You may know of Huxley because he wrote the book Brave New World, which has the notorious substance Soma that is putting people into a complacent state of euphoria, making them obedient. The Doors of Perception is a semi memoir, quite a short book actually, about mescaline. It explores Huxley’s experience with mescaline and the impact of mescaline on the religious, metaphysical, social, and personal meaning in Huxley’s life. Because it’s so short, most copies of this book usually come paired with Huxley’s essay on Heaven and Hell. In that essay, Huxley explores the ecstatic and challenging journeys you might have while on psychedelics. 

PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story by Alexander and Ann Shulgin

A book about all sorts of drugs, this was written and compiled by a couple who synthesized hundreds of potentially psychedelic compounds and then tried them on themselves. Definitely not a manual about what to do at home, the book is laid out by substance. They first explain how you make it, then they show different trip reports of them experiencing those substances. Notable entries include MDA, which you may know as MDMA. The stories they include are of substances whose effects you might not be familiar with. They tried PCP on themselves, for example.

The Way of the Psychonaut by Stan Groff 

Stan Groff has written so many books in his lifetime, it’s almost difficult to know where to start. This book is a great starting place for Groff’s body of work as well as a very thorough encyclopedia around the exploration of your mind with psychedelics. It’s written like an encyclopedia, it’s very explicit and segmented by topic without a narrative. Throughout there are reports and stories that are mind-blowing. Though it can sometimes be difficult to slog through because of the writing style, it has a significant body of useful information that is worth exploring. 

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