Rather than do a best psychedelic books list, I thought it would be fun to explore my psychedelic story through books that I’ve read over the last 10 years.
When I was thinking about writing this piece, I thought: ‘is it strange to only count books since I started taking psychedelics? Shouldn’t I include important books from before I started my psychedelic journey?’. I thought about what books I would include from before and I remembered that there weren’t really many.
Though I’d read a few, I actually only really started to get into books after my first psychedelic experiences. The curiosity they fed me gave me an insatiable hunger for learning and knowledge, as well as the patience to read slower, more challenging books and those above my level. My renewed sense of childlike curiosity also made reading more inherently rewarding, worthwhile simply as a means of exploration even if there would be no take away lesson or practical benefit.
Now the idea of living without books seems like a deprived existence. Suffice to say reading remains one of my favourite and most rewarding hobbies.
For this piece I will just run through in a roughly chronological order books that I remember reading and that somehow seem significant or influential as part of my journey over the last decade. It won’t be thorough or complete, but will surely give you an idea of my course.
The form of this piece is going to be loose as I think this will just be a fun way to chart my journey via literature and continue to embrace using this month of blogging to cultivate the experimenter’s mindset. I’ll adjust text size to show significance and add comments by some of the books that I feel have been especially important.
Important Books In My Story
The Doors of Perception – Aldous Huxley
I read this in the aftermath of my first experiences and I fell for Huxley’s literal, almost scientific way of describing, while also diving into cultural commentary and philosophical and spiritual ideas. I even remember at one point standing up and punching the air whilst reading this. Huxley has since become my most read author. His mind and words just get me in some special way. I find the way he explores ideas both through novels and essays to be incredibly stimulating and energising.
The Psychedelic Experience – Tim Leary, Richard Alpert, Ralph Metzner
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
As cliché as it is this beat classic was a big fuel for me in my wild travel and wanderlust ways. It was a perfect companion on my first budget travel trip around Europe, and it also planted a seed of desire for me to visit Mexico; a journey I made around seven years later and ended up staying in the country for five months. My time in Mexico remains one of my all time favourite chapters and cherished memories.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Woolfe
A rollicking great story following Kesey and those crazy band of merry pranksters. Woolfe plays with form in a psychedelic style which fits perfectly.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo‘s Nest – Ken Kesey
May be my favorite novel that I’ve ever read. Rightly a classic, just brilliant.
The Path of Tibetan Buddhism – The Dalai Lama
Introduction to Zen Buddhism – D.T Suzuki
How to Meditate
The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind
Tao Te Ching – Lao Tze
Wisdom packed, almost mystical, fundamental Taoist text. I’ve read a few different translations and this is a book I expect I’ll be continuing to revisit for the rest of my life.
Be Here Now – Ram Dass
An incredible story and many great tools for aspiring spiritual practitioners. This book began my yoga practice, I used the core asanas it provided, and was very useful with the step-by-step instructions to both these and pranayama breathing exercises.
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
1984 – George Orwell
Brave New World Revisited – Aldous Huxley
Island – Aldous Huxley
This remains one of my favorite pieces of literature that I’ve ever read. The island of Pala that Huxley describes is in many ways the beautiful world our hearts know is possible. Incredible vision from Huxley of a spiritually and scientifically informed society where psychedelics integrated and used in a coming of age ritual.
Peace Is Every Step – Thich Nhat Hanh
I bought this book in Bangkok train station on my way heading south to find a peaceful beach where I could unpack after my 14 month stint in China. I lived in a hut by the beach for a couple weeks, reading in hammocks, relaxing, and practicing meditation ahead of my first silent retreat which was coming up a few weeks later.
Reading this book really helped evolve my meditation practice from a mostly seated stillness practice into a daily life mindfulness practice. Though a simple and very readable format and style, it has depth and gave me ideas for many ways to return to a mindful state throughout the day.
Savor – Thich Nhat Hanh
Shamanic Trance and Modern Kabbalah – Jonathan Garb
The Perennial Philosophy – Aldous Huxley
Against Nature – Joris-Karl Huysmans
The Book – Alan Watts
The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
The Way of Zen – Alan Watts
War God – Graham Hancock
An incredible semi-historical flight of fancy from one of my favourite authors in the psychedelic space. An absolute page turner, couldn’t put this one down and had me staying up late reading and waking up for work tired.
Vagabonding – Rolf Potts
True travel classic. Certainly one of the most influential books on my path and somehow practical in a philosophical way. Potts saved money for his travels whilst working as an English teacher in the South Korean coastal city of Busan. I read this book whilst saving money for travel whilst working a an English teacher in Busan. That was not planned, but surely another reason why it resonated so strongly with me. Potts was also an inspiration for me as an aspiring adventure and travel blogger.
The 4-Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss
The Sunhitcher – Tomi Astikainen
The Book of Tea – Kakuzō Okakura
Thousand Cranes – Yasunari Kawabata
The Old Capital – Yasunari Kawabata
Snow Country – Yasunari Kawabata
The Joyous Cosmology – Alan Watts
The Teachings of Don Juan – Carlos Castaneda
After having been out in the Mexican desert picking peyote and smoking DMT with a band of travellers, I picked up this book upon heading back to the city of San Luis Potosi, where I was based. Reading Castaneda I became so inspired and re-invigorated with that adventurelust I once again packed up and headed back out to the desert town for what turned out to be another incredible chapter which began with bailing a friend out of a local prison for possession, had consecutive days of peyote sessions in the desert, a Mexican country village fair, and lead to me being invited to The Dance Of The Sun – a native American shamanic ritual that includes fasting and blood sacrifices.
The Daily Stoic – Ryan Holiday
Can’t recommend this book highly enough. Ryan holiday has become one of my favourite authors.
Waking Up – Sam Harris
The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide – James Fadiman
The Secret Chief Revealed – Myron Stolaroff
Western psychedelic therapy has been huge in informing my approach and I still use methods from this book both as a practitioner and as a guide.
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism – Chögyam Trungpa
The Book Of Disquiet – Fernando Pessoa
The Obstacle Is The Way – Ryan Holiday
The War Of Art – Steven Pressfield
This book has been absolutely hugely influential and inspiring for me. Recommended to anyone looking for inspiration for creative endeavour they’d like to embark upon.
Getting Higher – Julian Vayne
Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
Atomic Habits – James Clear
I followed blogger and habits expert Clear for a few years before he released this book, being so interested in the subject of habit formation. Atomic Habits is the ultimate compilation of his works and I can’t recommend highly enough for anyone interested in habit change.
Zig Zag Zen – Alan Badiner
Wherever You Go, There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn
I read this book over the time I was doing mindfulness coach certification and found it to contains so much in so little. Each chapter is 1 to 2 pages, so it’s one of those books where you can read a page a day and slowly digest all the wisdom and depth that is packed in.
Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins
Psychedelic Psychotherapy – R. Coleman
Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss – Dennis McKenna
Digital Minimalism – Cal Newport
This is a book for our times. It has changed my digital life (mainly, getting me off whatsapp and telegram) and continues to inform it. I love the way Newport thinks I found it especially satisfying that the practical system he proposes in this book is almost structurally identical to a practical system I have devised for psychedelic integration. Great minds!
The Pocket I Ching – Richard Wilhelm
Ego Is The Enemy – Ryan Holiday
Steppenwolf – Herman Hesse
That bring us up to date!
I’m not sure how interesting this post may have been to read but it was really fun to write! Reflecting on how much these books have contributed to my life has me really excited to read a bunch more. If you enjoy reading, try exploring your story through books, its a fun activity
I think I’d like to return to this post sometime to add photos but for now, I’m off to finish Steppenwolf.