Looking for a new book on the subject of psychedelics? Whether you’re new to this topic and need a good jumping-off point or you’re a diehard user seeking recommendations, check out the following books on psychedelics.
1. The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley was an English author who gave us the genre-defining Brave New World. He wrote science fiction and explored concepts of utopian and dystopian futures, but the book we’re highlighting here was a work of fact and not fiction.
The Doors of Perception outlines Huxley’s personal experience with mescaline in 1953. It’s a relatively short book, with the initial print coming in at just 63 pages, but it’s a fascinating read, nonetheless.
After all, it’s essentially a long and detailed trip report from one of the 20th century’s greatest authors.
If you know your rock music history, you’ll recognize this as being the book that gave The Doors their name.
2. Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks was an English author, neurologist, and physician who gave us brilliant books like Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. He is also the author of Hallucinations, the first edition of which was published in 2012.
Hallucinations describes mind-altering episodes encountered by Sacks and his patients. The book is split into 15 different chapters, with each one highlighting a different observation.
Only one of these chapters is devoted to hallucinations stemming from psychedelic drugs (the others cover mental health disorders and neurological issues), but it’s still a fascinating read.
One of the points that Sacks pushes throughout the book is that while hallucinations generally have negative connotations, they can lead to positive outcomes.
3. The Psychedelic Experience by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert
The Psychedelic Experience discusses something known as “ego death” an experience via which psychedelic users completely detach from reality. It’s achieved with very high doses of psychedelic drugs and can be both terrifying and life-changing.
The book talks about many intense psychedelic experiences and is considered to be one of the most important books on this topic.
4. A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life by Ayelet Waldman
A Really Good Day is a memoir that was first published in 2018. As the full title suggests, it’s all about psychedelic therapy and how microdosing with LSD helped the author with her depression.
Rather than taking you on a mystical journey into an intense psychedelic trip, this book explores the therapeutic potential of these drugs and how they can be used to improve mood, creativity, and productivity.
It’s an eye-opening experience and could change the way that you look at psychedelic drugs.
5. Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna
Terence McKenna is an ethnobotanist who takes a deep dive into the world of mind-altering substances, including psilocybin mushrooms and other psychoactive plants.
Often referred to as the “Timothy Leary of the 1990s”, McKenna was a very important figure in the field of psychedelic research and left behind a huge body of work. Food of the Gods is one of his most notable books and includes his “Stoned Ape” theory, which theorizes that magic mushrooms played a key part in human evolution.
6. Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism by Daniel Pinchbeck
Breaking Open the Head explores shamanistic rituals, looking into how sacred drugs are used to invoke mystical experiences and not just escape from reality. It includes an experience of the drug iboga, which delivers intense psychedelic experiences and has been suggested as a treatment for drug addiction.
Pinchbeck also goes to the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert and spends time in the Amazon.
7. How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan
This Michael Pollan book wins the award for the longest title on this list. It’s also one of the most important books on psychedelics and is an immense tome that covers psychedelic research and psychedelic culture.
If you’re looking for a short, catchy, and easily accessible book that takes a light-hearted look at psychedelics…this is not it. If you want something that goes deep into the clinical and anecdotal, something that spans many years and countless studies, then it’s definitely worth a read.
8. The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys by James Fadiman
An excellent book on psychedelic medicine penned by one of the biggest proponents of safe LSD use. Fadiman spends most of his time talking about how psychedelics can be used to increase creativity and productivity, as opposed to delving into the spiritual side.
It features accounts from many psychedelic users and touches upon subjects such as daily microdosing.
9. LSD, My Problem Child by Albert Hofmann, PhD
Albert Hofmann is no longer with us, but his legacy will live on for many more decades. Hofmann was the one who gave the world LSD, and he was also a major advocate and researcher during those early years.
As you would expect, LSD, My Problem Child talks about Hofmann’s experiences with LSD. It also highlights some of the conversations he had with writers and famous users of the time, including Aldous Huxley. But it’s not all about LSD and Hofmann spends some time talking about his journey to Mexico, where he sought to understand more about psilocybin mushrooms and their psychedelic effects.
10. DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman
DMT: The Spirit Molecule is one of the most important books on psychedelics. The author outlines some of his experiments with DMT, theorizing that the substance is responsible for near-death experiences and other intense spiritual experiences.
The research is several decades old at this point, but it’s still relevant and it makes for a fascinating read.
Summary: The Best Books on Psychedelics
The golden age of psychedelics has been and gone. It left its mark in the form of classic pop and rock music, and also influenced film, art, and literature. But while the ’60s are little more than a distant memory, recent research linking psychedelics to reduced rates of depression, stress, and anxiety, has created a new and exciting era.
Not only are we seeing an increase in recreational use, but we’re also seeing more users turning to psychedelics to self-medicate. And who knows, in years to come, they could even be prescribed by doctors and psychiatrists.
The public perception of psychedelics is changing by the year, and as more people read books like those mentioned above, those changes could lead to a very bright and interesting future.