A Good Trip: 6 Books on the Upside of Psychedelics

When the writer and former public defender Ayelet Waldman taught law students a seminar on the drug wars, she would begin each semester writing one question on the whiteboard: “What is a drug?”

Waldman, a self-described “nerd” who considers a wild weekend binge-watching “Jessica Jones” and posting pictures of desserts on Instagram, always thought that while the drug laws were punitive, racially biased, and hypocritical, illegal drugs themselves — especially the psychedelic variety — were not for her.

When she used medical marijuana to treat shoulder pain, she bought the non-hallucinogenic variety. She doesn’t like the taste of alcohol, and has only been drunk twice in her life. Her experience with drugs, she writes, was “more than some people my age, less than Presidents Obama and Bush.”

Yet a mood disorder that had been diagnosed as both bipolar II and a variant of PMS was threatening the stability of her marriage (to novelist Michael Chabon) and the happiness of her home life. Her husband was suffering, her children were suffering, her work was suffering, and she was suffering, enough so that when she read about a series of experiments with microdosing psychedelics, she was desperate enough to give it a try.

Every third day for 30 days, she took a tiny dose of LSD – one tenth of the amount a recreational user would take to get high, but enough to affect her brain chemistry. The results of this experience she chronicles in her new book A Really Good Day.

  • The cover of the book A Really Good Day

    A Really Good Day

    How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life

    By the end of the month, Waldman had experienced enough of the previously elusive really good days to assert that she’d definitely continue the protocol, were it to be legal – a brush with a possible informer trying to entrap her made her decide to stop dropping acid until she could do so without fear of arrest. Ultimately, A Really Good Day is a personal and candid plea for the legalization of drugs, which Waldman believes can be powerfully effective medicine. For more adventures by Waldman’s fellow psychedelic wanderers, check out the books below.

  • The cover of the book How to Change Your Mind

    How to Change Your Mind

    What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

    In this #1 New York Times bestseller, Michael Pollan shares his findings on how LSD and psilocybin are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety. He details how these substances are improving the lives of not only the mentally ill, but healthy people as well. Michael takes readers on a journey through his own life-changing experiences with psychedelics, and dives into the latest brain science to separate truth from myth and start a medical revolution.

  • The cover of the book The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide

    The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide

    Waldman’s introduction to the practice of microdosing came when she read this book by a psychedelic researcher who had spent years collecting reports of people’s experiments with LSD. Fadiman found that tiny, regular doses LSD and psilocybin, a similar hallucinogenic, had great therapeutic effects on a myriad of problems and mood disorders, without many of the side effects associated with legal, prescription anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. In this book, he describes his protocol, and the results participants have reported.

  • The cover of the book Acid Test

    Acid Test

    LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal

    Psychedelics like acid and MDMA (better known as Ecstasy or Molly) weren’t always illegal – in fact, when they were developed in the middle of the last century, scientists were excited about their many potential psychiatric applications. Over the decades, the drugs have been demonized by the government and the press, Shroder writes in this history of psychedelics, and only today are being rediscovered as potential aids in treating PTSD, depression, and other mental afflictions. In this book, he traces the shifting public and scientific perception of the drugs, and argues for their legitimization as medical and scientific tools.

  • The cover of the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

    A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

    Hunter S. Thompson was a lifelong advocate of free and vigorous drug use, so it is somewhat ironic that this book helped popularize the conventional image of LSD as the drug of choice of the lunatic fringe. In this account a psychedelic-fueled weekend in Vegas, Thompson describes himself and his tripping companions as pranksters run amok, wreaking havoc on the city and barely surviving their hallucinogenic misadventures, but loving every minute of it.

  • The cover of the book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

    The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

    In the late 1960s, writer Ken Kesey and some like-minded friends set off to drive across the country in a neon-painted bus named Further. To enliven the trip, they brought along copious amounts of LSD, and distributed it liberally to any and all they encountered along the way. Also along for the ride was a young journalist named Tom Wolfe, who records Kesey and co.’s adventures, and misadventures, in this at turns admiring and other times skeptical account of that now-infamous cross country journey.