A trip well worth taking, eye-opening and even mind-blowing.

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HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND

WHAT THE NEW SCIENCE OF PSYCHEDELICS TEACHES US ABOUT CONSCIOUSNESS, DYING, ADDICTION, DEPRESSION, AND TRANSCENDENCE

Noted culinary writer Pollan (Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, 2013, etc.) makes the transition from feeding your body to feeding your head.

The lengthy disclaimer on the copyright page speaks volumes. The author, well-known for books on food and life such as The Botany of Desire and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has been opening some of the doors of perception with the aid of lysergic acid, its molecular cousin psilocybin, ayahuasca, and assorted other chemical tools. His journeys are timely, since, “after several decades of suppression and neglect, psychedelics are having a renaissance.” For one thing, LSD and its kin have proven potent tools in treating depression, anxiety, addictions, post-traumatic stress, and other ailments. Through the use of neuroimaging technologies that were not available to the pioneers of psychiatric psychedelia, we can see that in interrupting ordinary patterns of thought and helping regroove the brain, these drugs are in fact mind-expanding, as the “hoary 1960s platitude” would have it. Pollan traveled deep into the woods to undertake acid-laced spirit journeys with people who are off the grid, and perhaps a touch off their rockers as well; at the Esalen Institute, he learned the latest from a place that served a historic role in spreading the psychedelic gospel. As Pollan notes, there are risks in unguided forays into the dustier corners of the mind, but the old scare tactics of chromosomal damage and going blind after staring at the sun are just that—though, as he also writes, “once introduced into the culture, these urban legends survive and, on occasion, go on to become ‘true.’ ” The author’s evenhanded but generally positive approach shoos away scaremongering while fully recognizing that we’re out in the tall grass—and, as he notes, though credited with psychological evenness, he’s found himself “tossed in a psychic storm of existential dread so dark and violent that the keel comes off the boat,” reason enough to seek chemical aid.

A trip well worth taking, eye-opening and even mind-blowing.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59420-422-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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