The best hallucinogen books

6 authors have picked their favorite books about hallucinogens and why they recommend each book.

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Poisoner in Chief

By Stephen Kinzer,

Book cover of Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control

The historical accounts of the rise and reign of chemist Sidney Gottlieb seem like deep YouTube conspiracy theory. How could a trusted government official, a scientist, be drugging unwitting subjects, civilians, even his own coworkers? This is one of the most bizarre and important tales from American cold war history.


Who am I?

Christopher Rankin is an author, the host of the Vanadium podcast on YouTube, and a scientist in the field of renewable materials. He was awarded a PhD in materials science from the University of Pennsylvania and holds several patents. A lifelong lover of science, Rankin hopes to encourage greater public interest and a broader understanding of technical subjects.


I wrote...

Ann Marie's Asylum (Master and Apprentice Book 1)

By Christopher Rankin,

Book cover of Ann Marie's Asylum (Master and Apprentice Book 1)

What is my book about?

Ann Marie has just earned her Ph.D. in chemistry at age sixteen when she receives a mysterious and lucrative job offer. The new position at the infamous Asylum Corporation takes the young chemist and her alcoholic mother from their working-class Philadelphia neighborhood to coastal California. 

She becomes fascinated with her new boss, Dade Harkenrider, a famed but reclusive scientist, labelled Dr. Death by internet conspiracy theorists and rumored to be involved in witchcraft and murder. As Ann Marie grows closer to her new mentor, a sinister plot by a secretive coven is unfolding in the city. This monstrous force is stealing pets and children in an effort to breathe life into an ancient and terrifying evil.

Neuropsychedelia

By Nicolas Langlitz,

Book cover of Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research Since the Decade of the Brain

Anthropological fieldwork is not restricted to isolated indigenous people in remote areas. Anthropologists study scientists in university research labs. Langlitz did a remarkable feat: He immersed himself in the research activities of two laboratories studying psychedelic effects on humans and animals. Through this participation in everyday work, he delineated contextual sociological and psychological factors of what made it possible for researchers to be allowed to give healthy human subjects and patients with psychiatric problems mind-altering drugs in the lab and what motivates researchers to go into these frontier areas of research. LSD, psilocybin, and ayahuasca are studied again scientifically. What made that possible? Langlitz gives answers.


Who am I?

I am a research fellow at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health in Freiburg, Germany. I studied Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and Munich (Germany) and have a Ph.D. in Medical Psychology from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Between 2004 and 2009 I was Research Fellow at the Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego. My research in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience is focused on the perception of time in ordinary and altered states of consciousness. The investigation concerning the riddle of subjective time as based on the embodied self leads me to answers of what matters most, the nature of our existence as self-conscious beings.


I wrote...

Altered States of Consciousness: Experiences Out of Time and Self

By Marc Wittmann,

Book cover of Altered States of Consciousness: Experiences Out of Time and Self

What is my book about?

In Altered States of Consciousness I explore personal reports, individual case studies, and scientific investigations of what happens at the frontier areas of personal experience, where the self and time are affected. In such peak states people report a feeling of ‘timelessness’ together with a loss of the sense of self.

Altered States of Consciousness covers a variety of mind-altering states in the healthy brain, under the influence of psychedelics, during meditation, in spiritual moments, as well as in near-death experiences. Important research is conducted studying the sense of self and time in patients with depression and schizophrenia, and in certain individuals with epileptic auras. This book summarizes anecdotal reports in combination with recent scientific investigations in order to help build ideas for an understanding of phenomenal consciousness, of our existence, of what makes us humans.

Psychedelic Mysteries of the Feminine

By Maria Papaspyrou (editor), Chiara Baldini (editor), David Luke (editor)

Book cover of Psychedelic Mysteries of the Feminine: Creativity, Ecstasy, and Healing

Psychedelic literature is unquestionably dominated by the white, male author. If, like me, you yearn to hear other voices and other perspectives, then this collection of essays couldn’t be more timely. The twenty-three chapters, from academic and non-academic authors, cover a range of perspectives, and while you may not agree with all of them, they’re refreshing nonetheless. It’s hard to single out any particular essay, but it’s always a pleasure to read Kathleen Harrison. Harrison, who was once married to Terence McKenna, spent years living with the Mazatec people, and treats us to her animistic vision of the world as something that’s alive and communicative. But the whole book contains riches and paves the way to a more diverse psychedelic literature.


Who am I?

I've been fascinated by psychedelics since I was a teenager, and along with my book I’ve written a number of academic papers and book chapters on the subject. It intrigues me how subtle changes in the brain’s chemistry leads to such profound changes in perception, cognition, and feeling, including religious feeling. I want to know what those experiences mean, and what they can tell us about the world. For if all they are is some derangement of the senses, why is it that so many writers, thinkers, philosophers and artists return to the experience, again and again? There is a riddle here, a mystery, and I love that I’m able to devote my research time to trying to answer it.


I wrote...

Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom

By Andy Letcher,

Book cover of Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom

What is my book about?

Psychedelics are rarely out of the news and never far away. In this book, I wanted to tell the phantasmagoric story of how the strange and perplexing effects of psilocybin-containing mushrooms came to be so influential on contemporary culture. A lot of mythology and folklore had built up around the purported history of psychedelics, so I went back to the original sources to see what evidence there was for psychedelic use in the past. You’ll be as surprised as I was by what I found.

Were the druidic builders of Stonehenge inspired by eating magic mushrooms? Is Santa Claus really a Fly Agaric-eating shaman? Which Oxford Professor of Poetry advocated the religious use of mushrooms? I answer all these and more.

Getting Higher

By Julian Vayne, Pete Loveday,

Book cover of Getting Higher: The Manual of Psychedelic Ceremony

If all my choices so far have been, in some way, about the psychedelic experience, this is a practical hands-on guide about how to occasion one yourself. Psychedelics can be consumed safely, but there are attendant risks, not least from their continued illegality in many parts of the world. Vayne, who has decades of experience as a psychedelic user and ritual technician, talks the reader through recommended ways to prepare for a psychedelic experience, how to navigate what subsequently unfolds, and how to integrate it afterwards. This is the indispensable guide for the psy-curious, and even better it comes with a cover designed by legendary British psychedelic comic artist, Pete Loveday. 


Who am I?

I've been fascinated by psychedelics since I was a teenager, and along with my book I’ve written a number of academic papers and book chapters on the subject. It intrigues me how subtle changes in the brain’s chemistry leads to such profound changes in perception, cognition, and feeling, including religious feeling. I want to know what those experiences mean, and what they can tell us about the world. For if all they are is some derangement of the senses, why is it that so many writers, thinkers, philosophers and artists return to the experience, again and again? There is a riddle here, a mystery, and I love that I’m able to devote my research time to trying to answer it.


I wrote...

Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom

By Andy Letcher,

Book cover of Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom

What is my book about?

Psychedelics are rarely out of the news and never far away. In this book, I wanted to tell the phantasmagoric story of how the strange and perplexing effects of psilocybin-containing mushrooms came to be so influential on contemporary culture. A lot of mythology and folklore had built up around the purported history of psychedelics, so I went back to the original sources to see what evidence there was for psychedelic use in the past. You’ll be as surprised as I was by what I found.

Were the druidic builders of Stonehenge inspired by eating magic mushrooms? Is Santa Claus really a Fly Agaric-eating shaman? Which Oxford Professor of Poetry advocated the religious use of mushrooms? I answer all these and more.

Four Novels of the 1960s

By Philip K. Dick,

Book cover of Four Novels of the 1960s

“The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldridge” is the most horrifying and terrifying novel I’ve ever read. A terran psychedelic drug begins being supplanted by one from another star system. The latter compound never lets you come down—just when you think you have, you start tripping again. And so on…


Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in the interface of biology and the mind, and between the mind and usually invisible worlds. Both Philip K Dick and the medieval Jewish philosophers labor mightily to unpack and communicate realms of the imagination residing in science fiction as well as Hebrew Bible prophecy. Likewise, the influx of Eastern religious practices and beliefs have pointed to areas of consciousness previously unknown to the West.


I wrote...

DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible

By Rick Strassman,

Book cover of DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible

What is my book about?

After completing his groundbreaking research chronicled in DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Rick Strassman was left with one fundamental question: What does it mean that DMT, a simple chemical naturally found in all of our bodies, instantaneously opens us to an interactive spirit world that feels more real than our own world?

When his decades of clinical psychiatric research and Buddhist practice were unable to provide answers to this question, Strassman began searching for a more resonant spiritual model. He found that the visions of the Hebrew prophets--such as Ezekiel, Moses, Adam, and Daniel--were strikingly similar to those of the volunteers in his DMT studies. Carefully examining the concept of prophecy in the Hebrew Bible, he characterizes a "prophetic state of consciousness" and explains how it may share biological and metaphysical mechanisms with the DMT effect.

Altered States

By Paddy Chayefsky,

Book cover of Altered States: A Novel

This story of a scientist becoming obsessed with the psychedelic world was part of the inspiration for writing Ann Marie’s Asylum. The sensory deprivation tank, the electrodes to the head, and the hallucinogenic potion made from exotic jungle plants were bits that just had to make it into one of my books. 


Who am I?

Christopher Rankin is an author, the host of the Vanadium podcast on YouTube, and a scientist in the field of renewable materials. He was awarded a PhD in materials science from the University of Pennsylvania and holds several patents. A lifelong lover of science, Rankin hopes to encourage greater public interest and a broader understanding of technical subjects.


I wrote...

Ann Marie's Asylum (Master and Apprentice Book 1)

By Christopher Rankin,

Book cover of Ann Marie's Asylum (Master and Apprentice Book 1)

What is my book about?

Ann Marie has just earned her Ph.D. in chemistry at age sixteen when she receives a mysterious and lucrative job offer. The new position at the infamous Asylum Corporation takes the young chemist and her alcoholic mother from their working-class Philadelphia neighborhood to coastal California. 

She becomes fascinated with her new boss, Dade Harkenrider, a famed but reclusive scientist, labelled Dr. Death by internet conspiracy theorists and rumored to be involved in witchcraft and murder. As Ann Marie grows closer to her new mentor, a sinister plot by a secretive coven is unfolding in the city. This monstrous force is stealing pets and children in an effort to breathe life into an ancient and terrifying evil.

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