Scientists are conducting psychedelic research at a rate not seen since the middle of the last century. It’s an incredibly exciting time for psychology, mycology, pharmacology and other fields that intersect with the burgeoning legal psychedelics industry. Entheogenic substances have huge potential to not only change our approach to medicine but to also influence our fundamental understanding of ourselves.
As psilocybin researcher Bob Jesse pointed out at the 2023 Psychedelic Science Conference, however, the current psychedelic renaissance is just as much a rediscovery of existing research that was forgotten during the War on Drugs. There is a great deal of reemerging research and anecdata that deserves fresh consideration and inquiry in addition to a new generation of scientific inquiry, history and literature.
At Grasslands, we’re fascinated by it all. That’s why the Grasslands Lending Library has an expanding selection of psychedelics books on a variety of substances from psilocybin and LSD to DMT, ketamine, MDMA and ibogaine. While there is far more wonderful writing on psychedelic science, culture and personal experience than we can fit into one blog, here are a few of our office favorites:
1. Psychonauts: Drugs and the Making of the Modern Mind by Mike Jay
For most of human history, psychedelics research was conducted not on study participants, but on the self. Mike Jay digs into the early days of modern psychedelics research. Along the way, he uncovers the profound influence of psychoactive substances from nitrous to bhang to peyote on influential figures like Sigmund Freud, W.B. Yeats and Robert Graves—and thus, even mainstream culture.
2. The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys by Dr. James Fadiman
Popularly cited as the “microdosing bible,” Dr. Fadiman’s guide for would-be psychonauts is rooted in over 50 years of psychedelics research. He distinguishes between the short- and long-term effects of high, moderate, low and microdoses of LSD and other psychedelics from a scientific and spiritual perspective.
This guide also outlines other important components of psychedelics consumption that have come to be considered best practices, like set, setting and having a trip sitter in place. Dr. Fadiman breaks down an expansive amount of information into practical how-tos for voyagers and facilitators, the experiences of psychedelic pioneers like Alexander Shulgin and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in their own words and helpful research, case studies, experiments and surveys.
3. Someone Who Isn’t Me by Geoff Rickly
You don’t have to be a fan of Rickly’s post-hardcore band Thursday to appreciate this compelling literary novel that blends tropes of psychedelic and recovery lit in a reimagining of the Divine Comedy. The protagonist of Rickly’s autofiction, also named Geoff, turns to ibogaine treatments in Mexico to kick a shattering heroin habit.
It’s a stunning, daring debut, both for Rickly as an author and for publisher Chelsea Hodson’s new Sedona-based press Rose Books. The punchy, urgent prose captures the same energy that has driven Rickley’s career as a punk musician, and it’s easy to see why fellow rocker Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance described Someone Who Isn’t Me “a spiral staircase in a burning building.”
DMT is the organic compound behind ayahuasca trips—but it also naturally occurs in the skin and eggs of certain toads, as well as the human body. Dr. Strassman coined it “the spirit molecule” for the profoundly spiritual quality of the psychedelic effects DMT tends to produce. In this book, Strassman connects his own clinical research on DMT to alien abduction experiences, angels, the seventh Chakra and other beliefs that align with the DMT experience. It’s a fascinating look at the science and mysticism of N,N-dimethyltryptamine.
5. Entheogens and the Future of Religion edited by Robert Forte
There are many familiar faces in this wide-ranging volume, including Albert Hofmann, R. Gordon Wasson, Jack Kornfield, Terence McKenna, the Shulgins and Rick Strassman. The contributors make a compelling case for both scientific and religious study of psychedelics. The book explores the ethics of such inquiry and ultimately argues the need for academic and religious freedom to successfully understand the potential of entheogenic psychedelics.
6. Owsley and Me: My LSD Family by Rhoney Gissen Stanley with Tom Davis
Women’s voices haven’t always had equitable prominence in the psychedelics space—or in media and publishing, for that matter. Mothers are even more underrepresented. Even famous figures like Mountain Girl, the long-time partner of Jerry Garcia, primarily appear in psychedelic lit as described by male authors like Tom Wolfe. Here, however, we have a rare memoir in which underground chemist Rhoney Gissen Stanley tells her own story from the front lines and backstage of the psychedelic 60s.
As a lab wiz, Rhoney worked with Owsley “Bear” Stanley, who famously supplied the Merry Pranksters, the Grateful Dead and much of the Bay Area with vast quantities of LSD. Eventually, Rhoney also became Owsley’s romantic partner and the mother of one of his children. “Owsley and Me” is a long-overdue look at what it was like to be a woman living, working and mothering in the psychedelic underground—and leaving it all behind to forge her own challenging path as a midcentury female healthcare professional.
7. The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley
Nobel Prize nominee, public intellectual and mescaline aficionado Aldous Huxley published this book a year after his first psychedelic experience. Six years after that, The Doors of Perception helped Timothy Leary along his path from Harvard professor to psychedelic figurehead when a friend gave him a copy to read after his first mushroom trip. This is truly one of the seminal accounts of the psychedelic experience (pun intended) written by an author who enjoyed masterful control of language and self-perception.