This book- wasn’t quite what I expected. It’s about three different plants that can alter our state of consciousness- namely poppies (a downer), caffeine (a stimulant) and mescaline (a hallucinogenic). I thought I was going to read a lot of facts surrounding these plants, their chemicals, and how they have affected mankind. I did get some of that, and what there was, pretty interesting. Though the history kind of felt like it dragged on and on (the rise of opium addiction- in the 1800’s it was despised “opium dens” and now opioids in painkillers, how coffee affected work production in industrial-revolution-era Europe, the culture of tea-drinking in Asia, and how use of peyote is intertwined with the Native American Church – only just over a hundred years old). But what I mostly got was detailed accounts of the author’s personal experiences with these substances. In the first case, it was a bit about gardening, and a lot more about his paranoia on being found out- it’s okay to grow poppies in your yard, it’s not okay to extract the opium from them. A lot about involvement with lawyers, fear of legal action, and finally he went ahead and made a tea, then described what it felt like, promptly went out afterwards and destroyed his plants. Second part, more of us can relate to I’m sure- all about the effects of coffee and to a lesser extent, tea. Author had drunk coffee habitually for so long, that he went off it for three months (very abruptly, too) so he could experience the withdrawl, how his mind might function differently without it, and the jolt of resuming its use. His main observation? after getting it out of his system, he functioned fine (and slept a lot better) but mostly missed the rituals and habits surrounding coffee drinking. The very day he resumed, drinking one espresso created an instant urge to have another, and he realized just how addictive it really is. Last part is about peyote, but out of respect for the Native American religion, he refrained from trying that and instead got himself invited to a ceremony that used another species of cactus which also produces mescaline. This section of the book was- a bit unsettling. While it was interesting to hear about what the effects felt like for him, and the ceremony surrounding it, the whole thing felt very heavily on the side of cultural appropriation and it made me uncomfortable.
So: a lot more personal details than I really was interested in. Oddly, much of it sounded familiar to me, though I’m sure I haven’t read this book before. Maybe I browsed it once and decided to read it later? or perhaps details from someone else’s review stuck in my head (but I couldn’t find one). I thought perhaps some bits from this book were present in a previous book of his, but looking back at the ones noted in my blog, I don’t think so. Maybe I heard it on an NPR spot, hm.
Borrowed from the public library. Audiobook, author’s voice, 7.5 hours listening time.