From the international bestselling author of How to Change Your Mind comes a ground-breaking exploration of our relationship with natural drugs
Of all the many things humans rely on plants for, surely the most curious is our use of them to change consciousness: to stimulate, calm, or completely alter the qualities of our mental experience. In This Is Your Mind On Plants, Michael Pollan explores three very different drugs – opium, caffeine and mescaline – and throws the fundamental strangeness of our thinking about them into sharp relief. Exploring and participating in the cultures that have grown up around these drugs, while consuming (or in the case of caffeine, trying not to consume) them, Pollan reckons with the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants, and the equally powerful taboos.
In a unique blend of history, science, memoir and reportage, Pollan shines a fresh light on a subject that is all too often treated reductively. In doing so, he proves that there is much more to say about these plants than simply debating their regulation, for when we take them into our bodies and let them change our minds, we are engaging with nature in one of the most profound ways we can. This ground-breaking and singular book holds up a mirror to our fundamental human needs and aspirations, the operations of our minds and our entanglement with the natural world.
Michael Pollan is an award-winning author, activist and journalist. His international bestselling books about the way we live today – including How to Change Your Mind, In Defence of Food and Food Rules – combine meticulous reporting with anthropology, philosophy, culture, health and natural history. Time magazine has named him one of the hundred most influential people in the world. He lives in the Bay Area of California with his wife.
"Pollan is always an entertaining writer, and a deep thinker with a light touch [...] it's a trip – engrossing, eye-opening, mind altering."
– Sophie McBain, New Statesman
"This fascinating insight into our relationship with mind-altering plants weaves personal experimentation with cultural history [...] Pollan is the perfect guide through this sometimes controversial territory; curious, careful and, as his book progresses, increasingly open minded."
– Tim Adams, The Guardian
"Expert storytelling [...] Pollan masterfully elevates a series of big questions about drugs, plants and humans that are likely to leave readers thinking in new ways."
– Rob Dunn, New York Times Book Review
"Brilliant, compulsively readable [...] Pollan's storytelling is deft, forthright and fascinating."
– Charles Foster, The Oldie
"Like it or not, we are undergoing a drugs revolution [...] thankfully Pollan is here to guide us through this putative challenge [...] [this] relatable, middle class New York plant fancier might be the ideal standard bearer for today's calmer, more scientific approach to the subject."
– Josh Glancy, Sunday Times
"Pollan's intertwining of reportage, citizen science and historical scholarship is a delightful and informative read [...] [he] has a rational optimism that might tempt even the most sober and sceptical to try to broaden their horizons."
– AJ Lees, Literary Review
"Pollan is a gentle, generous writer."
– David Aaronovitch, The Times
"This Is Your Mind on Plants is witty, entertaining and polite, but it is not trivial. Subtly but assuredly, Pollan argues that which plants (and fungi) we are allowed and how depends, consciously or otherwise, on the interests of power."
– Josh Raymond, Times Literary Supplement
"The descriptions of London's coffee house culture and Honoré de Balzac's barbarous habit of ingesting dry coffee grounds to fuel all-night scribbling sessions are worth the book's price alone [...] The book is really about the relation between each plant and the humans who consume it, tackled in a non-judgmental and objective way that seeks to dispel the ignorance, prejudice and demonisation they attract."
– Financial Times
"Fascinating and occasionally terrifying [...] His opium chapter is mesmerising."
– Marcus Berkmann, Daily Mail
"A tour around three substances: caffeine, mescaline and opium. The first is legal, the others remain mostly illegal. Pollan offers us rich historical contexts for them that are often surprising."
– Peter Carty, Independent
"Every now and then to be put in touch with what really matters – what could be more important than that?"
– Emily Hourican, Irish