The most recommended Allen Ginsberg books

Who picked these books? Meet our 11 experts.

11 authors created a book list connected to Allen Ginsberg, and here are their favorite Allen Ginsberg books.
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What type of Allen Ginsberg book?


Book cover of On the Road with Bob Dylan

Jeff Apter Author Of Bad Boy Boogie: The true story of AC / DC legend Bon Scott

From the list on rock and roll.

Who am I?

I’m an Australian author, staring down the barrel of middle age. I’ve been writing about music for the past 30 years. I’ve written 25 books; my subjects have included Keith Urban, the Bee Gees, Angus and Malcolm Young, Daniel Johns of Silverchair, among others. During my career, I’ve also had interesting encounters with such legends as Aretha Franklin, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan and Helen Reddy. I live (currently in lockdown, yet again) with my very tolerant wife, my two children, and a house full of animals. (Real animals, that is, not the kids.)

Jeff's book list on rock and roll

Why did Jeff love this book?

For me, it’s the ultimate snapshot of what it’s really like to be a writer on the road with a band (in this instance Bob Dylan’s remarkable Rolling Thunder Revue of 1975). Sloman documents it all: the editorial pressures, the hassles of trying to gain access to Dylan, the egos, the enablers, the claustrophobic hotel rooms, wacky ole’ Alan Ginsberg — and the exhilaration of seeing a legend, on a creative high, from close range, night after night. Not a bad gig, all things considered.

By Larry Sloman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Road with Bob Dylan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as “the War and Peace of rock and roll” by Bob Dylan himself, this is the ultimate backstage pass to Dylan’s legendary 1975 tour across America—by a former Rolling Stone reporter prominently featured in Martin Scorsese’s Netflix documentary Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story.
In 1975, as Bob Dylan emerged from eight years of seclusion, he dreamed of putting together a traveling music show that would trek across the country like a psychedelic carnival. The dream became reality, and On the Road with Bob Dylan is the behind-the-scenes look at what happened when Dylan and the Rolling Thunder…

Three Simple Lines

By Natalie Goldberg,

Book cover of Three Simple Lines: A Writer's Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku

Carl Phillips Author Of Seeking the Light: Essays for the Way

From Carl's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Poet Lover of pull ups Traveler Reader

Carl's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Carl love this book?

As a writer of haiku/short-form poetry myself, this book was one that should have been on my radar long ago, but I only read it this year because of a recommendation by Kevin Rose on Tim Ferriss’s podcast. It’s a gem.  

Natalie transports you to Japan with her writing to be a travel partner to her making the journey of a lifetime to pay respect to her favorite Haiku poet, Buson.

The book is beautifully written and full of moments that will make you smile, laugh, sad, and nod with approval. It’s so much more than a book of poetry; it’s a book that utilizes poetry to tackle some of life’s mystery, fragility, and beauty. She highlights the history of haiku, shows why masters such as Basho and Issa are so revered, and provides insight into writing and reading haiku. 

The book is also a wonderful love letter to Japan…

By Natalie Goldberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Three Simple Lines as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the world’s foremost writing teachers invites readers on a joyful journey into the reading and origins of haiku

A haiku is three simple lines. But it is also, as Allen Ginsberg put it, three lines that “make the mind leap.” A good one, he said, lets the mind experience “a small sensation of space which is nothing less than God.” As many spiritual practices seek to do, the haiku’s spare yet acute noticing of the immediate and often ordinary grounds the reader in the pure awareness of now.

Natalie Goldberg is a delightfully companionable tour guide into this…

Big Sky Mind

By Carole Tonkinson,

Book cover of Big Sky Mind: Buddhism and the Beat Generation

Laurence Cox Author Of The Irish Buddhist: The Forgotten Monk Who Faced Down the British Empire

From the list on Buddhism and the West.

Who am I?

I’ve been a street musician, set up kindergartens, worked in special needs education, and run wood-fired showers in a field for meditation retreats. I’m also associate professor of sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. I became a Buddhist partly out of interest in a very different culture and started wondering how Buddhism got from Asia to the West. I think about this through my own experience of teaching meditation, being an activist for 35 years, living in five countries, and learning ten languages: what do you have to do to make an idea come alive in a different culture? 

Laurence's book list on Buddhism and the West

Why did Laurence love this book?

One of the first places I heard about Buddhism was through Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gary Snyder. The joy of reading Kerouac has worn off a bit, but Snyder and Ginsberg have become lifetime companions and real sources of inspiration for me, not least in their engagement with Buddhism. This collection of poems, essays, letters, and other writings brings them together with a much wider range of writers – Diane di Prima and Philip Whalen, Anne Waldman and Kenneth Rexroth, William Burroughs and Lawrence Ferlinghetti – showing how the best minds of two generations heard, felt and responded to Buddhism in their many different ways. It’s a real treasure-house of words.

By Carole Tonkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Big Sky Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Essays, poems, photographs, and letters explore the link between Buddhism and the Beats--with previously unpublished material from several beat writers, including Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, and Diane diPrima.

Acid Dreams

By Martin A. Lee, Bruce Shlain,

Book cover of Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond

Don Dupay Author Of Behind the Badge in River City: A Portland Police Memoir

From the list on getting people thinking about the bigger picture.

Who am I?

I’m a longtime writer and author, who basically learned the craft of writing from over 17 years with the Portland Police Bureau. Some of the best writers are working and retired police officers because, when you write those daily reports or detailed investigative reports, you learn how to write. I've written six books, two of which have been published by Oregon Greystone Press, the Indie Publishing company operated by my wife, Theresa. I graduated from Portland State University in 2017 and was listed in the commencement program as “the oldest PSU graduate” of that year. I was 80. I live in Portland with my wife, Theresa, also a writer and author. 

Don's book list on getting people thinking about the bigger picture

Why did Don love this book?

Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD, the CIA, the Sixties and Beyond is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Even though I worked in Naval intelligence while I was on active duty in Germany, during the Cold War, I was still surprised at what Acid Dreams revealed about the US government and how for example, government officials were actively searching for a drug that would make American soldiers more amenable to killing. The book details how the government set out to destroy the black culture and imprison young black leaders for mostly minor drug offenses. It further explores the ways the government secretly studied the effects of LSD on its citizens. I loved this book because it opens the reader's eyes to the radical ways some government factions tried to manipulate the masses and deceive them, using the guise of the greater good as justification.

By Martin A. Lee, Bruce Shlain,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Acid Dreams as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few events have had a more profound impact on the social and cultural upheavals of the Sixties than the psychedelic revolution spawned by the spread of LSD. This book for the first time tells the full and astounding story—part of it hidden till now in secret Government files—of the role the mind-altering drug played in our recent turbulent history and the continuing influence it has on our time.

And what a story it is, beginning with LSD’s discovery in 1943 as the most potent drug known to science until it spilled into public view some twenty years later to set…

Media Scandals

By Alan Bisbort,

Book cover of Media Scandals

Igor Prusa Author Of Scandal in Japan: Transgression, Performance and Ritual

From the list on scandal and why it matters.

Who am I?

I'm a Czech scholar in Japanese studies and media studies who became spontaneously interested in the way media scandals unfold in Japan. For ten years, I was studying Japanese scandals at The University of Tokyo (Ph.D. 2017), and I developed a new approach to Japanese scandal as a highly mediatized social ritual that tends to preserve the status quo while generating commercial profit. After my return from Japan, I continued my scandal research at the Czech Academy of Sciences, and I'm currently teaching media & communication theory at Ambis University Prague. In 2023, Routledge finally published the results of my decade-long research in my new book titled Scandal in Japan: Transgression, Performance and Ritual.

Igor's book list on scandal and why it matters

Why did Igor love this book?

I believe that this book is a nice starting point for students (starting with undergraduates) who are interested in learning more about media scandal via particular examples.

I was attracted by the book because it focuses on some of the most influential and notorious media scandals in history. What I found particularly useful for my research was the detailed timeline that helped me to put the wide-ranging scandals into historical perspective.

This is why I personally recommend this book to anyone interested in the social phenomenon of media scandal.      

By Alan Bisbort,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Media Scandals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This fascinating volume offers an overview of the most influential and notorious media scandals, from newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger's groundbreaking 1735 trial for printing and publishing false, scandalous, malicious and seditious statements to Dr. Phil McGraw's 2008 thwarted attempt to force his television cameras inside Britney Spears' hospital room, from the attempts to ban literature by the likes of D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Henry Miller, and Allen Ginsberg to the excesses of gossip mongers like Walter Winchell, Hedda Hopper, Geraldo Rivera, and Matt Drudge. It delves into the tabloid press and walks through the minefields of political opinion shapers,…

Woman of Substances

By Jenny Valentish,

Book cover of Woman of Substances: A Journey Into Drugs, Alcohol and Treatment

Marilyn Davis Author Of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate

From the list on memoirs of drug and alcohol addiction.

Who am I?

I used my first chemicals at age nine. Why? To change the way I felt about myself and my life. It was the beginning of using externals to fix an internal problem. A 74-year old Native American found me at ten months in recovery. He showed me a path to follow, including opening a house of healing for other women. His teachings, spiritual principles, and a lot of work helped me achieve 32 years in recovery.

Marilyn's book list on memoirs of drug and alcohol addiction

Why did Marilyn love this book?

Journalist Jenny Valentish knows treatment, AA, and the pathways to addiction and recovery. It’s brutally honest, and her story reads like so many others – some who didn’t make it to recovery. She further educates the reader with research and a better understanding of the psychology and physiology that drive female addiction with humor and exceptional insight.

By Jenny Valentish,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Woman of Substances as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Journalist Jenny Valentish takes a gendered look at drugs and alcohol, using her own story to light the way. Mining the expertise of 35 leading researchers, clinicians and psychiatrists, she explores the early predictors of addictive behaviour, such as trauma, temperament and impulsivity.

Drawing on neuroscience, she explains why other self-destructive behaviours - such as eating disorders, compulsive buying and high-risk sex - are interchangeable with problematic substance use. From her childhood in suburban Slough to her chaotic formative years in the London music scene, we follow her journey to Australia, where she experiences firsthand treatment facilities and AA groups,…

The Yage Letters Redux

By William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg,

Book cover of The Yage Letters Redux

Graham St John Author Of Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT

From the list on psychedelics and culture.

Who am I?

The subject of psychedelics and, more generally, altered states of consciousness, has enthralled me personally and professionally since my teens. The subject grows fascinating as prohibition lifts in an era regarded as a “psychedelic renaissance.” My training as a cultural anthropologist, my interest in religion and ritual, and research focus on transformational events, movements, and figures colours this focus. Past research has included longitudinal ethnography of global psychedelic trance and festival culture. My current book project, an intellectual biography – Terence McKenna: The Strange Attractor (MIT Press, 2023) – is shaped by my interests in this area. 

Graham's book list on psychedelics and culture

Why did Graham love this book?

When I first read the 1975 edition of the 1963 City Lights classic, The Yage Letters, it was an unaccompanied and unabridged dive into two of the best minds of the Beat Generation. There was no contextual introduction, nor appendices, just a perplexing series of epistolatory “letters” exchanged as Burroughs searched for yagé (aka ayahuasca) in the Putumayo region of the Amazon in 1953, and Ginsberg followed suit seven years later (notably the McKenna brothers followed suit ten years after that). This extraordinary little book began with Burroughs writing to Ginsberg from the Hotel Colón on January 15 (“Dear Allen, I stopped off here to have my piles out”), and ended back in Panama with the epilogue “Am I Dying, Meester?” a flickering collage of memories sampled from earlier letters.

A few years later, the expanded 2006 Redux edition was published, featuring an introduction by Oliver Harris which offers an…

By William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Yage Letters Redux as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In January 1953, William Burroughs began a seven-month expedition into the jungles of South America, ostensibly to find yage, the fabled hallucinogen of the Amazon. But Burroughs also cast his anthropological-satiric eye over the local regimes to record trademark vignettes of political and psychic malaise. From the notebooks he kept and the letters he wrote home to Allen Ginsberg, Burroughs composed a narrative of his adventures that appeared ten years later as "In Search of Yage" within The Yage Letters.

That book, published by City Lights in 1963, was completed by the addition of Ginsberg's account of his own experiences…

Off the Road

By Carolyn Cassady,

Book cover of Off the Road

Joseph Ridgwell Author Of Burrito Deluxe

From the list on road novels of all time.

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with travel and novels that feature travel in the narrative since my early teens. A near-death experience at the age of nineteen, forced me to confront my own limited life experiences and encouraged me to travel the globe and see some of the world we live in before it was too late, as there’s nothing worse than too late. Also growing up on an inner city council estate instilled a desire to escape the urban environment and international travel and travel writing satisfied those compelling urges.

Joseph's book list on road novels of all time

Why did Joseph love this book?

Although not a book about travel I feel this book fits the list, as it is essentially an extended love letter to both Jack Kerouac and Neil Cassady, who at certain stages in her life, were the lovers of the author. What this book also describes is how people who decide to stay at home, while their lovers and friends embark on endless road trips, survive the ordinary hardships of day-to-day living. The book is incredibly insightful and sheds new light on the lives of the aforementioned famous Beat Generation authors. It also warns that the perils of living in the moment, fast time, no responsibilities, does not always lead to a long and happy life. As I discovered during my own extensive travels, if you stay on the road too long, you might not be able to find your way home.

By Carolyn Cassady,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Off the Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The wife of Neal Cassady describes her life in the American Beat subculture, her marriage to Cassady and love affair with Jack Kerouac, and her relationship with Allen Ginsberg. Reprint.

Nothing Personal

By Richard Avedon, James Baldwin,

Book cover of Nothing Personal

Magdalena J. Zaborowska Author Of James Baldwin's Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile

From the list on James Baldwin as a Black queer exile.

Who am I?

Born and raised in Poland during the Cold War, I learned that writers and intellectuals could be jailed, exiled, or even killed for their ideas. I came to James Baldwin over two decades ago in search of literature that told of freedom and humanism beyond national borders and simplistic binaries. As a Black queer man driven away from his homeland, Baldwin linked his personal pain, heartbreak, and torment to his public life, authorship, and activism. His art and life story have both inspired my labors as a bilingual and bicultural literary critic and biographer and provided a template for my own journey as an immigrant, mother of a Black child, teacher, writer, and scholar.

Magdalena's book list on James Baldwin as a Black queer exile

Why did Magdalena love this book?

This book should be much better known outside of academic circles! It grows out of a friendship between the famous photographer, Richard Avedon, and James Baldwin, who both attended the famous DeWitt Clinton high school in the Bronx. Avedon’s gorgeous photographs are accompanied by Baldwin's experimental, impressionistic prose, combining into what some scholars have characterized as a “photo - text.” Decades before we began drowning in the onslaught of Internet-provided visual media, it bound the pleasures of reading and seeing great art in one elegantly edited volume; I recommend reading it out loud. For those of us endowed with sight it is a veritable feast!

By Richard Avedon, James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nothing Personal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Avedon and Baldwin's American Journey

Richard Avedon and James Baldwin's landmark 1964 book finally back in print

This meticulous reprint of Richard Avedon and James Baldwin's Nothing Personal explores the complexities and contradictions still at the center of the American experience - especially timely in the age of Donald Trump. Deploying both image and text, Avedon and Baldwin examine the formation of identity, and the bonds that both underlie and undermine human connection. An accompanying 72-page booklet features a fresh essay by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Hilton Als, and many of Avedon's unpublished outtakes, correspondence, preliminary layouts and ephemera.

In 1963-64,…

Visions of Cody

By Jack Kerouac,

Book cover of Visions of Cody

Michael Stutz Author Of Circuits of the Wind: A Legend of the Net Age

From the list on big, lyrical, and packed with poetic prose.

Who am I?

Poetry is language at its most condensed and pure, potent and direct—the closest thing to thought. At its best, this mode and method is cinematic and penetrates like a powerful dream, and bringing it to narrative prose in a legend and key that can be woven together, like a tapestry, has been my lifework. Nothing in this list is ancient or even old, nor is any of it newI've picked all books from the 20th century, because that was the world and writing that immediately influenced me, it's long enough past to be settled and safely buried, but still new enough to have some currency with the life and language of now.

Michael's book list on big, lyrical, and packed with poetic prose

Why did Michael love this book?

This book is sort of an alternate take of On the Road. Cody Pomeroy here is Dean Moriarty, this book is his legend, and instead of unravelling it all in a chronological spiel it's the koans and page-long dreams of remembrance, some of the richest extended prose he ever made.

The writing is true to the soul and heart of the continent and it captures the electric twentieth century.

He wanted to roll up all his books together, standardize the names, and call it The Duluoz Legend. When I read him now I think of all those words as a part of it. There are so many pieces and places to dive into, but if you're ready for the deep stuff then get digging into this golden loam and be glad.

By Jack Kerouac,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Visions of Cody as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"What I'm beginning to discover now is something beyond the novel and beyond the arbitrary confines of the story. . . . I'm making myself seek to find the wild form, that can grow with my wild heart . . . because now I know MY HEART DOES GROW." -Jack Kerouac, in a letter to John Clellon Holmes

An underground legend by the time it was finally published in 1972, Visions of Cody captures the members of the Beat Generation in the years before any label had been affixed to them, with Kerouac's trademark appreciation for the ecstatic and ephemeral…