FEMINEST BOOK CLUB: How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan

Wanna join the Feminest book club? Of course you do. ;) See this post to learn more on how to join and check the events page on when the next book club is going to be!

The first Tuesday of every month, I'm selecting a feminist, business, or self-help book to review for that month. And, rest assured — if I'm featuring it — there’s something you oughta know! 

Last month I covered We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I gave it a 4/5 and I think everyone should read it for some quick insights into feminism.

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This month I'm covering How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan (USA + AUS). I was nervous to choose this book because well, it’s about psychedelics, and to promote it publicly may feel, unprofessional? I also feel like there’s such a stigma around psychedelics, but it’s a topic that has interested my partner and I (more on that in the future maybe) for a while so I wanted to give it a go.

Another reason why I chose it was due to reading this quote from the book Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (in 2011) “Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”

Here’s my review in takeaways:

Takeaway #1 - Psychedelics have a profound effect on mental health

Study after study showed the amazing anecdotal effects that psychedelics had on mental health. You can read the book obviously to learn about the specifics more but here’s his New Yorker article that started him on the journey, specifically a study to help ease anxiety for patients at the end of their lives.

Takeaway #2 - Drugs are not all the same

As a millennial I was raised with the D.A.R.E. program screaming “NO” as loud as I could for the police officer that came around every so often giving away small t-shirt wearing teddy bears. The program, needless to say didn’t educate (if it did, I can’t remember) on the differences in drugs and effects. Essentially from marijuana to crack cocaine they just all fried your brain:

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I was also raised Mormon and lived the teaching very closely - down to not drinking coffee, so alcohol? No way. Weed? Never! LSD? Absolutely not.

I think from a public perspective there’s not a lot of education either. For example, even though LSD is a “schedule 1 drug” along with heroin! It’s not even listed on the #1 google ranked site searching “different drugs and their effects.” It’s impossible to get addicted to LSD btw, if you were to consume it the effect wears off and stops working, so all of this is a mystery.

But not really, Pollan takes the reader through the fascinating history of the different drugs and how it all got really political really fast.

Takeaway #3 - I wanted less and more

Pollan is a talented writer. I group him with Michal Lewis where they’re able to take a lot of seemingly boring information and turn it into a captivating story.

The end started to get repetitive with the clinical trials and I found myself skimming the last 40 pages. But his experience with Paul Stamets (see his TedTalk 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save The World), the shamans, and all the conversations he had, I ate up. I wanted more about his personal experiences and how he processed them. So fascinating reading an atheist grappling with any existence of a “god”. Ultimately I wanted more about the betterment of well people as I think it can be amazing for creativity and entrepreneurship and less about the mental health benefits.

Rating: 4.5/5

Recommendation:

The reason this would be a 5 is subject matter alone, but it’s a 4.5 because of length!

Next month:

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (AUS + USA)

“If you’ve never read it, read it now.”―Arianna Huffington

Read it with me! And sign up to come to the Book Club!

Have a book suggestion? Let us know in the comments below!