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Reviews by Jonathan Taylor
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Cocaine Nation: How the White Trade Took Over the World
by Tom Feiling
Publisher:
Pegasus Books 
Year:
2010 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
6/7/2011

This is the first book for Feiling, a British documentary-filmmaker, and it is a rollicking work of muckraking advocacy journalism. He seems to have interviewed numerous people, from heads of state to street-level users and dealers, and everyone in-between. The conversational snippets he includes are elucidating and entertaining. Not really just a book about cocaine, this is a book about the stupidity and corruption that exemplify governance of our modern world, viewed through the lens of the cocaine trade. [ read more ]

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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
by Gabor Maté
Publisher:
North Atlantic Books 
Year:
2010 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
3/2/2011

Too many books are described as essential reading, but for anyone who has ever been touched in any way by substance abuse or other addictions, or for anyone who knows someone who has, and especially for anyone dealing professionally with medical and policy issues related to addictive drugs, this book simply must be read. Its importance cannot be overstated. [ read more ]

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Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica
by Erik Davis
Publisher:
Verse Chorus Press 
Year:
2010 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
2/1/2011

Davis makes connections, and he writes about making connections, and he traces much of this back to psychedelics, and in particular that mildest but most commonly used of psychedelics: weed. But that is the tip of the iceberg. Davis deeply understands psychedelics (and one would imagine, experientially), and he sees the formidable challenges they provoke. The other thing that Davis does that is important, and unbelievably rare, is to totally integrate the highest of high culture with the lowest of low; the world of intellectual theorists with the myriad subcultures of partiers who vastly outnumber them; the value of relying on science while retaining an appreciation for the essences of spiritual reality. [ read more ]

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McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underground
by Misha Glenny
Publisher:
Knopf 
Year:
2008 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
1/31/2011

After examining the role of drugs in the success of various criminal groups, Glenny voices his strong support for legalization, characterizing prohibition as a major contributor to the existence of enormous networks of organized criminal activity around the globe. In particular, Glenny describes how the chaos that has long enveloped Colombia results directly from the utterly flawed logic of the war on drugs, with devastating effects on an agricultural-commodity-producing nation. He also provides evidence that the future of the large-scale trade in illegal drugs lies in synthetics. [ read more ]

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Chemical Cowboys: The DEA's Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin
by Lisa Sweetingham
Publisher:
Ballantine Books 
Year:
2009 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
11/3/2010

Chemical Cowboys helps elucidate some of the hidden commodity chain that ends with that serotonin kick flowing through you. Not much here on the production side, and virtually nothing on consumption; the book focuses on distribution. And the distributors described appear, with some exceptions, to be working for amoral and even psychopathological criminals. [ read more ]

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Orange Sunshine
by Nicholas Schou
Publisher:
Thomas Dunne Books 
Year:
2010 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
9/1/2010

Orange Sunshine nicely complements other accounts of the cultural history of acid in the 60s such as Storming Heaven and Acid Dreams. Read those for the insightful discussions of the major political shifts and cultural changes of that singular and incredible era, as well as for the equally incredible story of the CIA’s engagement with acid. But read Orange Sunshine for the kicks. [ read more ]

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Methland
by Nick Reding
Publisher:
Bloomsbury 
Year:
2009 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
7/31/2010

Small towns frequently have high rates of drug use, but the heavy pot and psychedelic use of an earlier era didn’t give rise to nearly as many people setting themselves on fire, blowing up their houses or trailers, or losing their teeth, minds, relationships, and lives. Life in a small Midwestern town during the 2000s seems grimmer by an order of magnitude, though as Nick Reding explains in Methland, meth may be more symptom than cause of this decline. [ read more ]

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The Acid
by Sam
Publisher:
Vision 
Year:
2009 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
8/25/2009

The author shares an intensely personal but phenomenological account that wrestles with the scores of important and sometimes contradictory ideas that psychedelics can bring to mind. His experience of “the acid” toys with his concepts of personal and collective identity, shifting their boundaries in unexpected ways, as he undergoes dramatic alterations in consciousness that suggest new borders or horizons of self, other, and world. This is a rich, dense, philosophical, and psychological trip memoir. It may not be playful, but it is deep. [ read more ]