The Best Psychedelic Books

March 24, 2020

There are a lot of places to get information these days.  We seemingly live in a world of limitless data and information channels, such as blogs, vlogs, podcasts, social news and social media.  The internet is a massive repository for information of all kinds – both factual and fictional – but many of us still prefer to physically hold a book in our hands and feast our minds on the written words therein.  There’s just no replacing a good book: the familiar smell of a new novel fresh off the printer, or an old tome that smells of weathered paper; the satisfying sound of pages turning; that gratifying feeling of binging the last few chapters and finishing an all-encompassing story.  Books are like mirrors to our own souls, reflecting stories and characters back at us that we can imagine ourselves right alongside them.  Above all else, when we open a book we are flexing our imaginations and allowing our inner desires, aspirations and emotions to fly free on the wings of prose. 

Whether you’re a fiction-nerd or an avid reader of nonfiction, the modern world of book shopping online grants you access to an endless library of pages to feast your eyes, ears and mind on.  Now that we’re no longer bound to our local book stores for selection, you can find stories and topics you might never have dreamed of picking up before.  Psychedelics is one of these kinds of genres.  In ages past, the idea of reading psychedelic literature would be absolutely taboo – many people might’ve been secretly interested in the subject, but the public dissolution around psychoactive substances would’ve made signing this kind of book out at the library a polarizing act. 

Today, with a lot more research and much more positivity surrounding the subject of psychedelics, a growing number of prospective psychonauts are flocking to local bookstores and shopping online to get their hands on some knowledge of the cosmonautic.  The best books on psychedelics include self-help guides, DIY tripping books, and novels on the most expansive theories on the inner workings of the mind, body and soul.  Enlightenment can be achieved with a little psychotropic experience, and for many people the journey towards insight begins with turning the pages of a book.

Where do you turn when you’re looking for guidance in the realm of psychedelics? Have you ever delved into the greatest minds of the psychedelic world? Let’s check out some of the most popular books on psychedelics and review some psychedelic literature that might help you turn the page in your journey towards psychedelic enlightenment.

 

PSYCHEDELIC LITERATURE

What kinds of psychedelic books are there? Just like the psychoactive substances themselves, there are a lot of different ways to educate yourself on the subject of psychedelics.  Many of the best psychedelic books fall into one of these categories:

 

  • Guided, step-by-step accounts on how to optimize your psychedelic experiences
  • First-hand stories that tell tales of do’s and don’ts of tripping
  • Scientific studies that explore the medical efficacy of psychedelic treatments
  • Myths, legends and folklore about psychedelics
  • Historical, archaeological, anthropological accounts of psychedelics
  • Psychedelics and their influences on art, philosophy, and culture

 

Psychedelic books don’t have to follow any particular format; after all, that’s one of the hallmarks of psychedelics themselves – unpredictability, excitement, imagination, and the potential for profound change.  This notion of ‘potential’ is paramount to a lot of psychedelics literature, as the idea of the distinct, potential benefits of psychedelics for each individual makes this subject both fascinating and difficult to prescribe on a general basis.  Each experience with psychedelics is unique and can be novel even to the most seasoned cosmonaut.  So how do you teach someone ‘how to trip’ if it depends on the person?  There are a lot of factors at play when you’re looking at how/why/what someone experiences during a psychotropic episode, but you can derive a lot of value and avoid many of the negative tropes of psychedelics if you invest in the know-how of some experts.

We’ll get into the best psychedelic books and their authors a little later in this article, but for now we should look at what kind of psychedelic guidance you’re looking for.  For starters, your psychedelics tolerance should be front-of-mind when seeking out advice from other psychonauts.  Are you a green-beginner that can barely conceptualize what a “trip” is? Have you experimented with psychedelics in the past, dabbling in mind-altering substances and casually getting stoned? Or are you a practiced, professional psychonaut whose mind has perceived the very fabrics of which the universe is woven? At each of these tiers of psychedelics experience you’ll require a much different voice, temperament and knowledge base; you wouldn’t benefit as much from a very savvy explorer of consciousness if you’re a beginner, and vice versa.  Getting the most value out of books on psychedelics is about context – matching your level of experience with the expertise of a suitable guide/author.  A writer’s voice (their tone, cadence, writing style), their ability to talk to you (and not down at you, from a place of high authority), and their ability to convey their knowledge in an effective manner can make or break books on psychedelics.

Because the best psychedelic books are informative in addition to being exploratory, some readers find it tough to trust wholly in the words of the author or their sources.  Psychedelics are not a new phenomenon, but they are still lacking the general acceptance in society or the general support of the scientific community.  Many medical professionals, researchers, and patients alike are keenly interested in psychedelics as a positive influence on our health, but across the globe many psychedelics are still considered to be “controlled substances”.  That being said, prospective readers of psychedelic books need to understand that this subject is outside the perceived “norms” of some branches of society.  You might find life-changing value in these kinds of books, but you might also notice that this kind of psychedelics literature doesn’t have support from many of our other usual channels of information (doctors, governments, mainstream media).

This isn’t to suggest that magic mushroom books or literature on experimenting with LSD have nothing to offer – quite the contrary.  Psychedelic books can be a unique window into the mysteries of the mind, body and soul.  If you’re curious about consciousness, or you’re into exploring the nature of reality, the concept of self and other such deep-thought principles, then psychedelic literature is perfect for you.  This idea of being in the right frame of mind is essential to exploratory topics like psychedelics. So, if you have an open mind and a brain hungry for discovering new and exciting things, open up one of these books we’re about to mention and prepare to have your life changed forever.

 

THE TOP BOOKS ON PSYCHEDELICS

These next handful of books are just a few of the top-selling, most highly-reviewed books on psychedelics, but they’re a perfect place to start for anyone looking to get psyched on psychedelics.  Some psychedelic literature is tailored towards specific substances, such as magic mushroom books or LSD books, but most psychedelic books cover the full spectrum of psychoactive compounds.  Whether you’re seeking a specific accounting of a particular substance, or you just want to learn more about this hidden world of psychedelics, the following literature is definitely worth reading, in any order.

The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic & Sacred Journeys

FADIMAN, JAMES (2011-Park Street Press, 352 pages)

This is an example of a classic starting read for many people who are new to psychedelics. Author James Fadiman might have had prospective psychonauts in mind when he wrote it, but this book on psychedelics is not a basic overview of psychedelics.  The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide covers a lot of ground, from the importance of having a psychedelics guideperson, to psychedelic healing and treatments, including many views on “psychedelic voyaging” and the efficacy of microdosing psychedelics like LSD or psilocybin.

James Fadiman has been called “America’s wisest and most respected authority on psychedelics” by many of his peers, and he has been involved in the exploration of psychedelics since the 1960’s.  Fadiman does an excellent job reviewing many of the decades most prominent data on psychotherapeutic techniques, psychedelic microdosing for spirituality and health and even touches on the sacred tradition of psychedelic experiences throughout history.  Fadiman devotes a lot of this book to reinforcing many positive aspects of psychedelics, and he champions its normalization for both medical and recreational uses.

By weaving together a network of online, literary and research data as well as significant efforts to dispel myths and misconceptions about psychedelics, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide is a must-read for prospective trippers and even makes for a good supporting study to experienced proponents of psychedelics.

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science About Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression & Transcendence

POLLAN, MICHAEL (2018-Allen Lane, 480 pages)

Author Michael Pollan is a renowned journalist, writer, activist and professor at U. of California-Berkeley where he is a staunch figure in the scientific community.  His book dubbed How to Change Your Mind is all about reshaping our preconceived notions about psychedelics through a retelling of our history with psychedelics. Pollan delves into the timeline of psychedelics, the culture around consuming them, and how these wondrous substances have shaped our ability to think, act, feel and perceive the world around us.

This psychedelic book paints an excellent portrait of how we got to where we are today, and it explores the reasoning behind the issues with psychedelics in society.  Pollan himself offers first-hand insight into psychedelic consumption, and he frames his own experiences with that of others.  How to Change Your Mind takes into account much of the past in order to lead us into the future of psychedelics, and Pollan makes masterful use of current scientific studies on psychedelics to set the stage for a positive hereafter.  Analyzing a lot of data on psilocybin, LSD, DMT and other substances, this book is truly an essential, modern work of psychedelic literature.

Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge

McKENNA, TERENCE (1993-Bantam Books, 311 pages)

No list worth its weight in paper would be complete without the famous (or infamous) writings of the one and only Terence McKenna.  This is just one of his many renowned novels on psychedelics, but Food of the Gods is a favorite among many fans of psychedelic literature.  If you’re not familiar with Terence McKenna or his ultra-famous “Stoned Ape Theory”, you owe it to yourself to YouTube McKenna or research some of his other works as well.  Terence McKenna can be a very polarizing figure – depending on who you ask – because he was very outspoken, adamantly against government control of psychedelics, and some of his views were criticized as being radical.  Regardless of your own opinion of the man himself, his pioneering publications on psychedelic culture, psychedelic history and how these substances can be the keys to unlocking humanity’s true potential are cornerstones of the genre.

This book is considered to be a cult-classic that is responsible for many new or interested parties getting their first taste for psychedelic knowledge.  McKenna’s Food of the Gods focuses on the historical ramifications of ancestral psychedelic consumption, including how psychedelics have taken root in cultures across the world and throughout the span of human history.  McKenna’s activist mind permeates the writing of this book as he explores the legalities of psychedelics, and he sheds light on the notions of “medical rights to access life-changing medicines”.

Food of the Gods does a fantastic job of cataloguing the known spheres of influence of psychedelics, and it also goes into great detail for each psychedelic substance and their impacts.  Many readers describe this book as THE authority on bio-cultural effects, origins of psychedelics, histories, politics and philosophies surrounding psychedelics, and the natural/spiritual implications of these unique compounds.  Prepare to have your mind expanded and any preconceptions shattered by McKenna’s powerful storytelling and knowledge of the vibrant world of psychedelics.

Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World: An Identification Guide

STAMETS, PAUL (1996-Ten Speed Press, 256 pages)

In the same vein of reverence to Terence McKenna, no guide to the best psychedelic books would be complete without a nod to Dr. Paul Stamets. The undisputed godfather of knowledge, lore and appreciation for mushrooms, Paul Stamets is one of the most recognizable faces in psychedelics. As the world’s leading mycologist, Dr. Stamets has revolutionized our understanding of fungi, including edible mushrooms, medicinal fungi and psychedelic mushrooms that contain psilocybin.  Many people can recall Mr. Stamet’s personal story of curing his crippling speech impediment with a psilocybin trip during a thunderstorm – an early experience with psychedelics that not only changed his life but sent him on a path to devoting most of his life to studying these fantastical fungi.

Dr. Stamets has written a lot of books on mushrooms, and he is a frequent speaker at hundreds of scientific conferences all over the globe, but this book is a favorite because it still holds weight today as one of the leading pieces of literature on psilocybin mushrooms.  Published in the late 1990’s, Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World was a groundbreaking work of study, analysis and guidance to mushroom identification and safe, effective consumption of psychedelic fungi.

If you’re looking for an in depth look at the origins of psilocybin species, their place in human history/culture, and detailed information about these most magical of mushrooms, look no further than a book like this one.

Noumenautics: metaphysics – meta-ethics – psychedelics

SJӦSTEDT-H, PETER (2015-Psychedelic Press UK, 153 pages)

As one of the new age leaders in philosophy and psychedelic mind theory (which his book is aptly named), Peter Sjöstedt-H is somewhat of a superhero in the psychedelics community (literally): Mr. Sjöstedt-H is actually the human embodiment and inspiration for the modern iteration of the Marvel Comics character Karnak! Besides being one of the great philosophical innovators of the modern era, Peter’s book Noumenautics has gained a lot of attention since its publication in 2015.

Noumenautics is a redefining work of nonfiction that pries open the complex world of psychedelics and peers into their influences on some of the most significant philosophers in all of human history.  Mr. Sjöstedt-H spares no expense in his encompassing analyses of philosophical titans like Neitszche, Bergson, Whitehead, Kant and Schopenhauer.  Even if you’ve never been able to comprehend some of the philosophies of these renowned thinkers, Mr. Sjöstedt-H has a penchant for delivering mind-numbing concepts through poetic writing, well-versed prose and digestible language that is both thought-provoking but manageable. 

As a TEDx speaker on psychedelics and philosophy, Peter clearly has a way of drawing you in and engaging your critical thinking while also leading you to other avenues of mindful exploration.  Even if you’re not a usual philosophical thinker, prospective readers will likely find themselves catapulted to novel ways of analyzing the world after experiencing the brilliant mind Mr. Sjöstedt-H.  For a one-of-a-kind perspective on the sentience of cells, the limitations (or lack thereof) of consciousness, and an intriguing foray into neo-nihilism, pick up a copy of Peter Sjöstedt-H’s Noumenautics as soon as you can.

EXPLORE YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS & DISCOVER THE POTENTIAL OF PSYCHEDELICS

This is just an appetizer for the truly satisfying meal that the favorite works of psychedelic literature, but don’t forget to stay hungry and keep exploring the thousands of other titles out there.  Exploration, discovering, enlightenment and experimentation are core values for any respected psychonaut, so it only makes sense that in learning more about the realm of psychedelics you need to have a quizzical mind that is always seeking new frames of reference.  There is an entire world of knowledge and experiences on this captivating subject, so pull up your favorite comfy chair, pile up a stack of the best books on psychedelics and start treating your curiosity and imagination to a veritable feast of information.

 

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