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This is Your Mind on Plants

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In This Is Your Mind on Plants, Michael Pollan dives deep into three plant drugs--opium, caffeine, and mescaline--and throws the fundamental strangeness, and arbitrariness, 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, In This Is Your Mind on Plants, Michael Pollan dives deep into three plant drugs--opium, caffeine, and mescaline--and throws the fundamental strangeness, and arbitrariness, 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. Why do we go to such great lengths to seek these shifts in consciousness, and then why do we fence that universal desire with laws and customs and fraught feelings?


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In This Is Your Mind on Plants, Michael Pollan dives deep into three plant drugs--opium, caffeine, and mescaline--and throws the fundamental strangeness, and arbitrariness, 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, In This Is Your Mind on Plants, Michael Pollan dives deep into three plant drugs--opium, caffeine, and mescaline--and throws the fundamental strangeness, and arbitrariness, 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. Why do we go to such great lengths to seek these shifts in consciousness, and then why do we fence that universal desire with laws and customs and fraught feelings?

30 review for This is Your Mind on Plants

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    I love memoirs (except when I hate them) and I love science books. However, I do not love memoirs disguised as science. This seems to be a thing lately, with books like Underland: A Deep Time Journey and The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World. This Is Your Mind on Plants is too. Some people love this type of book. Me? I'm left feeling disappointed when I'm expecting a book full of cool facts and end up reading about someone's life. If I I love memoirs (except when I hate them) and I love science books. However, I do not love memoirs disguised as science. This seems to be a thing lately, with books like Underland: A Deep Time Journey and The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World. This Is Your Mind on Plants is too. Some people love this type of book. Me? I'm left feeling disappointed when I'm expecting a book full of cool facts and end up reading about someone's life. If I feel like a memoir, I'll read a memoir. (I will make an exception for The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred which was absolutely brilliant.) Thanks for letting me get that out. I'll stop bitching now. In This Is Your Mind on Plants, Michael Pollan discusses three mind-altering chemicals derived from plants: opium, caffeine, and mescaline. Only one of these do I consume - coffee - and it's the only one I want. And do I ever want it! The idea of waking up in the morning and not brewing my favourite beverage is horrifying. I had hoped to learn more about opiates and mescaline (a psychedelic) and I did learn some. I appreciate the things I learned about them and about coffee and tea... but there weren't enough facts to make this a truly enjoyable read. The book is separated into three sections, one for each of the plants. The section on opiates has a little bit of history and a little bit of science, and a whole lot about the author's experiments with growing poppies. He talked about it and then included material he wrote about it back in the '90s. I didn't need to read all that once, let alone twice. The section on coffee was the most interesting, but again, the author included too much of his own "stuff". He gave up caffeine for three months while writing this book and so we get to read all about it. The last section on mescaline talks a lot (too much) about the history of its use among Native Americans. And again, we get to hear about the author's personal experiences with it. It's not a bad book I guess, but it's not one I enjoyed very much. Even writing about it I'm bored..... time to go make another cup of coffee.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kristy

    As a devout Michael Pollan fan, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. It was spectacular and thought provoking in every way I hoped. It was also very timely, Pollan writes about the COVID-19 pandemic and how plants can help escape feeling trapped in our stay-at-home lives. I’m not sure how interesting that part will remain after some time has passed but maybe I’m just too close to it right now to tell (the pandemic currently rages on). For those who have already listened to Michael Pollan As a devout Michael Pollan fan, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. It was spectacular and thought provoking in every way I hoped. It was also very timely, Pollan writes about the COVID-19 pandemic and how plants can help escape feeling trapped in our stay-at-home lives. I’m not sure how interesting that part will remain after some time has passed but maybe I’m just too close to it right now to tell (the pandemic currently rages on). For those who have already listened to Michael Pollan’s audiobook “Caffeine” on Audible, there is a lot of overlap in that section of this book. I found myself thinking “haven’t I read this before?” several times. Apparently the audiobook was an earlier and shorter version. I felt a little disappointed to learn that one-third of the book felt like recycled content but the other two-thirds TOTALLY made up for it with eye-opening history, interesting experiences, and (my favorite) connections to gardening. My only critique is that the three sections seemed a little disjointed. Caffeine seemed to be written for a different purpose than the other two sections and I wish the connection between the three was clearer/stronger. Even so, I still loved this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    This is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan He describes things in here I would have never thought of before! Which, if any Poppy plants can you grow in your garden legally? When is it wrong? The history of the three groups of plants he covers is also very interesting. Things I didn't know. Little trivial things...I love things like that! This was very easy to read and understand. Flowed well. Stayed interesting! This is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan He describes things in here I would have never thought of before! Which, if any Poppy plants can you grow in your garden legally? When is it wrong? The history of the three groups of plants he covers is also very interesting. Things I didn't know. Little trivial things...I love things like that! This was very easy to read and understand. Flowed well. Stayed interesting!

  4. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    Fancy meeting cacti, growing poppies (or drinking a horrible, 'oddly saisfying' tea of them), learning about 'opium, made easy', pondering the doors in the wall to the great beyond (enabled with some nifty-grifty shrooms)? Can't do w/o caffeinating yourself during that long overdue coffee break? Then this could be a fun read. #Lookinggreat Fancy meeting cacti, growing poppies (or drinking a horrible, 'oddly saisfying' tea of them), learning about 'opium, made easy', pondering the doors in the wall to the great beyond (enabled with some nifty-grifty shrooms)? Can't do w/o caffeinating yourself during that long overdue coffee break? Then this could be a fun read. #Lookinggreat

  5. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    I've enjoyed Michael Pollan's work in the past and this one sounded intriguing, inspiring me to add it to this year's reading list. It seemed to be a good follow-up to reading Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception earlier this summer (and Pollan does talk about Huxley in the final section of the book). Unfortunately, I found the first third of the book, on opium, to be tough sledding. It is the oldest piece of the book and ends up being far more about the author's worries about potential law en I've enjoyed Michael Pollan's work in the past and this one sounded intriguing, inspiring me to add it to this year's reading list. It seemed to be a good follow-up to reading Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception earlier this summer (and Pollan does talk about Huxley in the final section of the book). Unfortunately, I found the first third of the book, on opium, to be tough sledding. It is the oldest piece of the book and ends up being far more about the author's worries about potential law enforcement actions than about opium. He does restore the section of his manuscript that dealt with the preparation and experience of making an opium tea. I'm afraid that my minimal experience with archives focused me on the storage method used for that information: he had to find someone who maintains antique technology and then utilize special software, summoning these pages from the past like a sorcerer summoning a being from an alternate dimension! As Pollan concludes, for preservation paper works best. I had much more interest in the caffeine section, as I am one of the many people devoted to this substance. The links between caffeine consumption and the development of our current worldview were fascinating. In conjunction with the progress of agriculture in Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal, these books give a very different way to interpret our history and an elucidating outlook. The mescaline portion finished up the book. I had no idea that the peyote cactus was gravely endangered! And I have to agree with the indigenous people that Pollan interviewed—as much Caucasian people want to participate in this experience, it is only fitting that they butt out and leave the sacred plant to those who know how to use it and frankly have much greater need of it. There are other plants and substances for use by the non-indigenous folk. So, not quite as interesting to me as I hoped, but certainly not a waste of time. Next year I hope to have time to peruse his How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, a book of a similar vein concerning psychedelics.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kate Henderson

    **Listened to the audio book** What the hell was this book? This book really wasn't what I was expecting. I expected this book to be filled with more facts and science, but it felt almost like a memoir at times. It felt very self indulgent on the author Michael Pollan's life. I didn't really read the book to hear his life story. I wanted to know more about the psychedelic properties and science of some of these plants - there wasn't enough of that. As a reader/listener in the UK I did feel that a **Listened to the audio book** What the hell was this book? This book really wasn't what I was expecting. I expected this book to be filled with more facts and science, but it felt almost like a memoir at times. It felt very self indulgent on the author Michael Pollan's life. I didn't really read the book to hear his life story. I wanted to know more about the psychedelic properties and science of some of these plants - there wasn't enough of that. As a reader/listener in the UK I did feel that a lot of the book was very USA specific and not always totally relevant to me in the UK. I didn't enjoy this read, and it certainly wasn't the book I was expecting.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    This is Your Mind on Plants is a fascinating, open-minded and thought-provoking exploration of three different psychoactive drugs: opium, caffeine and mescaline. What's is interesting about these three drugs being discussed is that Pollan has chosen one substance that is illegal (without prescription), one substance that is socially accepted, even normalised for everyday use and perfectly legal and one that is interestingly a mix of the two; Pollan explains how mescaline is legal for use in Nati This is Your Mind on Plants is a fascinating, open-minded and thought-provoking exploration of three different psychoactive drugs: opium, caffeine and mescaline. What's is interesting about these three drugs being discussed is that Pollan has chosen one substance that is illegal (without prescription), one substance that is socially accepted, even normalised for everyday use and perfectly legal and one that is interestingly a mix of the two; Pollan explains how mescaline is legal for use in Native American tribes but only as part of their long-held customs and traditions. Interestingly, as he points out, it is the individuals who are ingesting it that alters whether mescaline is licit or illicit rather than the drug itself. He begins by exploring opium, its history and both the taboos and praise it has garnered. The narrative is a mix of science, reportage and personal anecdotes, and although I wasn't entirely sure about this concoction initially, it worked exceptionally well to illustrate his points. In terms of opium, he starts at the logical place—the hugely overblown and politically-motivated War on Drugs and intermingling experiences he himself has had over the years including with something as simple as wanting to cultivate poppies. He addresses the social, political, cultural and economic-based circumstances that surround these substances as well as their history and the perceived benefits and drawbacks of their usage but also examines how they often have an impact both on an individual and societal level. Pollan has penned another interesting, informative and fearlessly honest book and an accessible and absorbing set of three case studies for three very different drugs. It's always a pleasure to see an expert who is wise to society’s demonisation of certain substances and the moral panic politicians can often stir up around them for their own ends. Highly recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    There is a powerfully American cultural flavour to this book that even comes through in the title. I'll be honest, that title baffled me initially. The first thing it made me think of was the TV show 'This is Your Life', then I wondered if it was about having ideas while lying on a straw mattress. In reality it's a complete misnomer - it's entirely about Michael Pollan's life on plants (and the psychoactive chemicals derived from them) - it's a very me-oriented book. I was sold this as a science There is a powerfully American cultural flavour to this book that even comes through in the title. I'll be honest, that title baffled me initially. The first thing it made me think of was the TV show 'This is Your Life', then I wondered if it was about having ideas while lying on a straw mattress. In reality it's a complete misnomer - it's entirely about Michael Pollan's life on plants (and the psychoactive chemicals derived from them) - it's a very me-oriented book. I was sold this as a science book, but it really isn't. Pollan describes his interactions with three plant-derived chemical substances: opium, caffeine and mescaline - but there's hardly anything about the science of what's involved, just a brief, dictionary-like reference to how these chemicals act. It's all about Pollan, what he experiences, how he feels. That Americanness also comes across in his casual acceptance that someone he deals with keeps an assault rifle by his desk, and in his put-downs of the English, repeating the dubious analysis that tea drinking was a mechanism for evil English mill owners to get more work out of the masses. The three chemicals are dealt with in independent sections. The first, on morphine, is an extended version of an old magazine article. It's quite effective in describing the byzantine contortions the US legal system got into over drugs, where it was effectively legal to grow opium poppies in your garden as long as you didn't know they were opium poppies, and the poppy seeds were legal to sell (after all they're used in catering) but not to be used to 'manufacture' poppies. (I wasn't clear from the book how and if things have changed now.) However, I found Pollan's attitude to drugs here worrying. Again with this self-oriented view, it was very much a case of 'what's wrong with me taking opium if I want to - why should doctors be allowed to prescribe morphine but I can't use it?' This is particularly ironic as later on he berates the English for selling opium to China in the nineteenth century. Don't get me wrong, the Opium War was a bad thing, but it feels like Pollan's attitude is 'it's okay for me but not for those foreigners.' The centre section, by far the best, is a rehash of an earlier ebook on caffeine. Apart from anything, it's most interesting because it's closest to normal people's experience. He takes us through the history of coffee and tea well (despite the strange social control allegations), then tries life for a few months without caffeine and tries to work out whether the pros of consuming caffeine are worth the cons. Genuinely interesting. The final section is the most detached from everyday experience (we might not make our own opium tea like Pollan, but many of us will have grown poppies or have been prescribed morphine or codeine as a painkiller). Mescaline, derived from a couple of types of American cactus is a psychedelic chemical that is probably only familiar to most people from dramas or documentaries where someone experiences a religious ceremony involving it. Here another aspect of American culture comes out - the self-flagellation over past wrongs as Pollan worries about cultural appropriation or referring to something as a chemical, which it without doubt what it is, because it might offend someone who considers it spiritual - it's wokeness with a dollop of hippy leftovers thrown in. Just one more example of that US viewpoint. Pollan describes visiting a Columbian coffee farm. He mentions seeing the volcano Cerro Tusa and tells us 'You've seen it a thousand times on packages of beans and in all those commercials for Columbian coffee - the classic ones featuring Juan Valdez.' He then goes on to tells us how this fictional character was devised by an advertising agency in 1958. But guess what. If you aren't American, 'you' haven't seen all this - it means nothing to you. It's the same kind of viewpoint than leads the US to call a sports competition for a game essentially only played in America a 'World Series'. There is no doubt that Pollan can write (even though he becomes distinctly repetitive in the first section - perhaps a side-effect of the opium consumption), and when describing his fears of being raided for growing poppies or his relationship with caffeine he is genuinely engaging. But this is a book that irritates more than it inspires.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Ray

    This was more of a memoir of Michael Pollen than a scientific treatise on 3 plants as opposed to a wide variety or of plants in general. This is what I get for not paying more attention to the flyleaf. However, it was fascinating and did provide a lot of interesting and factual material on the following 3 plants and their "drug" related uses: poppies for opium, coffee and tea beans for caffeine, and peyote cacti for hallucinatory experiences. With the exception of caffeine, I have never delved in This was more of a memoir of Michael Pollen than a scientific treatise on 3 plants as opposed to a wide variety or of plants in general. This is what I get for not paying more attention to the flyleaf. However, it was fascinating and did provide a lot of interesting and factual material on the following 3 plants and their "drug" related uses: poppies for opium, coffee and tea beans for caffeine, and peyote cacti for hallucinatory experiences. With the exception of caffeine, I have never delved into the other areas and while fascinating, I don't plan on trying to grow these items myself. However, if you do want to, the author has provided the dos, don'ts, and legal ramifications of doing so. I would have liked to see more plants and the effects on your well-being, etc., while growing, gardening, nurturing and just enjoying plants themselves. I love being around plants and always feel calmer when I am surrounded by greenery.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joy D

    Not at all what I was expecting, this book consists of essays on each of three plants: a sedative (opium), a stimulant (caffeine), and a hallucinogen (mescaline). For each, the author becomes the subject of his own experiments with these psychoactive plants. His memoir is supplemented by politics, history, and a small amount of science. The first essay is about the author’s experience growing opium poppies (papaver somniferum). He is a gardener who is interested in the impact of plants on the mi Not at all what I was expecting, this book consists of essays on each of three plants: a sedative (opium), a stimulant (caffeine), and a hallucinogen (mescaline). For each, the author becomes the subject of his own experiments with these psychoactive plants. His memoir is supplemented by politics, history, and a small amount of science. The first essay is about the author’s experience growing opium poppies (papaver somniferum). He is a gardener who is interested in the impact of plants on the mind. He imbibes opium tea and advises the reader of the onset, peak, and dissipation of effects. There is a lot of political and legal discussion revolving around freedom of speech and America’s “war on drugs.” The section on caffeine focuses on the history of coffee and tea consumption worldwide. The author goes “cold turkey” to get off all caffeine products and records how he feels. He observes that caffeine is a socially accepted addiction. He restates a number of stereotypes regarding coffee and tea drinkers, which seem out of place in a purportedly science-based book. The last essay entails an account of the author’s participation in a ceremony, derived from Indian rituals, involving mescaline. This portion takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is mildly interesting, but the author does not put himself “out there” – he mostly focuses on his wife’s experience. This section also does not quite work in conveying the Native American perspective. Based on the title I had assumed I would find a book about plants that help increase mental acuity. That’s what I get for picking out a book solely on the title. I almost turned it back into the library but decided it was interesting enough to finish. I am still unsure of the purpose of this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    3.75 stars This book covers three mind-altering substances and the plants they come from: opium from poppies, caffeine from coffee and tea, and mescaline from peyote and San Pedro cacti. It includes a lot of interesting historical, botanical, and cultural information, as well as the author's experiences using the substances. He also tried to grow some of the plants, sometimes illegally, with mixed results. My favorite section was the one on caffeine, probably because it's the only one of the three 3.75 stars This book covers three mind-altering substances and the plants they come from: opium from poppies, caffeine from coffee and tea, and mescaline from peyote and San Pedro cacti. It includes a lot of interesting historical, botanical, and cultural information, as well as the author's experiences using the substances. He also tried to grow some of the plants, sometimes illegally, with mixed results. My favorite section was the one on caffeine, probably because it's the only one of the three substances I have experience with and enjoy regularly. I have zero desire to ever use opium or mescaline. I especially enjoyed the scientific and historical information about caffeine. Did you know that insects, especially bees, are fond of caffeine, just like humans? "Scientists recently discovered a handful of [plant] species that produce caffeine in their nectar...These plants have discovered that they can attract pollinators by offering them a small shot of caffeine; even better, that caffeine has been shown to sharpen the memories of bees, making them more faithful, efficient, and hardworking pollinators. Pretty much what caffeine does for us." He cites another study showing that caffeine discombobulates insect brains, (kind of like what happens to us if we overdo it.) "Researchers fed a variety of psychoactive substances to spiders to see how they would affect their web-making skills. The caffeinated spider spun a strangely cubist and utterly ineffective web, with oblique angles, openings big enough to let small birds through, and completely lacking in symmetry or a center. (The web was far more fanciful than the ones spun by spiders given cannabis or LSD.)" I was also fascinated by the history of coffeehouses, especially in London, where there were thousands. At one time there was one coffeehouse for every two hundred Londoners. But only men were allowed to enjoy them. They were very civilized places, where if you started an argument you were expected to buy a round for everyone. A round of coffee, that is. Men were spending so much time in coffeehouses that women started complaining, saying coffee made their husbands impotent! There were some other things I wanted to include here for future reference, but my library loan for the ebook expired before I could get it all copied. So I'll do that when I get my hands on a physical copy.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alex Givant

    Just this morning I have cup of delicious mind-altering drug! And my wife had 2 cups of this brew. And before you call to authorities, please read that book because all we had is ... coffee! Yes it's a drug (check), mind-altering (check) and it's a legal one (check). This book is talking about different kind of drugs (stuff made of poppy seeds, coffee beans, tea leaves, and a cactus). Quite interesting read, but for now I would stick with only coffee and tea. Just this morning I have cup of delicious mind-altering drug! And my wife had 2 cups of this brew. And before you call to authorities, please read that book because all we had is ... coffee! Yes it's a drug (check), mind-altering (check) and it's a legal one (check). This book is talking about different kind of drugs (stuff made of poppy seeds, coffee beans, tea leaves, and a cactus). Quite interesting read, but for now I would stick with only coffee and tea.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Candie

    I didn't find this book very interesting. I kind of went into it blind and to be honest, based on the title I thought it was a book based on eating a plant based diet. It is not. After reading the Intro I realized it is a book that looks into psychoactive plants; opium (a downer) coffee (an upper) and mescaline (a hallucinogenic). I thought it would still be interesting so I continued on. I really did not learn too much about these drugs. It didn't provide too much information or scientific fact I didn't find this book very interesting. I kind of went into it blind and to be honest, based on the title I thought it was a book based on eating a plant based diet. It is not. After reading the Intro I realized it is a book that looks into psychoactive plants; opium (a downer) coffee (an upper) and mescaline (a hallucinogenic). I thought it would still be interesting so I continued on. I really did not learn too much about these drugs. It didn't provide too much information or scientific facts or anything, it mostly just focused on his experience using the three, how he obtained them, what the setting was etc. Truthfully, I kind of found it a bit boring. I don't personally recommend it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Akbar

    At first glance this seems like a strange hodgepodge of information compared to his last books. The book is separated into three parts. The first, which was originally published as an article in the '90s, is about opium during the height of the drug war. The second part, which was written a few years ago, is on caffeine and the interesting relationship we have between it and modern living. And then finally, the last section is on mescaline, which was written during the pandemic. Obviously all th At first glance this seems like a strange hodgepodge of information compared to his last books. The book is separated into three parts. The first, which was originally published as an article in the '90s, is about opium during the height of the drug war. The second part, which was written a few years ago, is on caffeine and the interesting relationship we have between it and modern living. And then finally, the last section is on mescaline, which was written during the pandemic. Obviously all this is about drugs. but just in hearing that, it seems hard to find what the through line would be. In actuality the book is much more about the strangeness that occurs when you try to draw a hard lines of what's okay and what's not okay. You have one drug that is totally outlawed, one that is never outlawed, and one that is only legal in religious settings. At first it seems like these things would be really connected, but each drug has its own setting and character, and that comes through in the writing. This is less a single book than it is a compilation smaller books around a common theme. And it works really well! Overall you get a good sense of the strange way we treat drugs in the modern age, as well as possible ways forward that both remove the stigma and allow for healthier use that both honors the individual and honors the cultures from which the drugs come from. This is very fascinating read that would be fun to read alongside How to Change Your Mind.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    Three sections: one on opium, one on caffeine, and mescaline. An earlier edition of the caffeine section was sold as a stand-alone audiobook mini a couple years ago. It was expanded with a bit more on tea. The section on opium came from an older April 0f 1997 Harper's article titled "Opium, Made Easy". It included some bits that Pollan had excluded from his original piece. Finally, there was also the piece on peyote (unless you are native, don't pick it or appropriate its ceremonies) and mescali Three sections: one on opium, one on caffeine, and mescaline. An earlier edition of the caffeine section was sold as a stand-alone audiobook mini a couple years ago. It was expanded with a bit more on tea. The section on opium came from an older April 0f 1997 Harper's article titled "Opium, Made Easy". It included some bits that Pollan had excluded from his original piece. Finally, there was also the piece on peyote (unless you are native, don't pick it or appropriate its ceremonies) and mescaline. Mostly this piece discusses Michael's many failed attempts and one final "success" in participating in a mescaline ceremony (using the San Pedro cactus and not the more problematic peyote cactus. This chapter was the least satisfying. It seemed at the same time to be both forced and lack focus. It was as much about covid as it was about psychedelic protoalkaloids. It felt like, coming off the success of Pollan's book on the science of psychedelics (How to Change Your Mind) he and his editors thought putting together a Botany of Desire: Tripping edition would be both timely and a good follow-up to his last effort. It just felt a bit Frankensteinesque. So, as a Pollan completest, it was for me, one of his most disappointing books.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shelley Gibbs

    3.5* 4 stars for Pollan's usual affable & curious storytelling. 3 stars for this being a cobbled together book with 2/3 recycled material. To me, the most interesting parts of this book are the discussions with indigenous people about mescaline, particularly the parts shared cautiously & skeptically with Pollan. Which leads me (white lady) to do better and to seek out more information from non-white-dude sources. And while he skims the surface of pointing out the absolute racist and classist absur 3.5* 4 stars for Pollan's usual affable & curious storytelling. 3 stars for this being a cobbled together book with 2/3 recycled material. To me, the most interesting parts of this book are the discussions with indigenous people about mescaline, particularly the parts shared cautiously & skeptically with Pollan. Which leads me (white lady) to do better and to seek out more information from non-white-dude sources. And while he skims the surface of pointing out the absolute racist and classist absurdities of America's 'war on drugs', he does so in such a brief manner, eventually bringing it back around to himself and his fear that he would be in legal trouble for growing poppies in his garden (you & I both know that the likelihood of that happening were slim to none). It feels like he missed a real opportunity (given his clout and reach) to change minds regarding drug policy in America.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    ° THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS by Michael Pollan, 2021. #ScienceSeptember //🪴 botany, psychedelics Poppies, coffee/tea, peyote :: from these plants come some of the most potent, powerful, and possibly addictive substances - opium, caffeine, and mescaline. Michael Pollan, who took the psychonaut turn in his last (and better) 2018 book, HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND, returns to the subject of mind-altering substances in this new work. In many ways, this book is a supplement to that book. However, I found t ° THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS by Michael Pollan, 2021. #ScienceSeptember //🪴 botany, psychedelics Poppies, coffee/tea, peyote :: from these plants come some of the most potent, powerful, and possibly addictive substances - opium, caffeine, and mescaline. Michael Pollan, who took the psychonaut turn in his last (and better) 2018 book, HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND, returns to the subject of mind-altering substances in this new work. In many ways, this book is a supplement to that book. However, I found the title misleading and had to recalculate my expectations early on. I *was* expecting a pop science-y book on neuroscience and chemistry and how the mind can be altered with plants, similar to HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND with a dash of Pollan's 2001 book BOTANY OF DESIRE... What Pollan wrote was more a running diary of his own experimentations growing, tripping on, abstaining from, and procuring all 3 substances. Blend in some some wikipedia-like histories of these plants and interviews, and this one is interesting yes, but not quite as advertised. I can read about plants *ALL the live long day*, so I did enjoy, but you may need to adjust your expectations. It's much more memoir and personal experience than science journalism. There's a lot about the "culture" of the plants and how that was formed through history and around the world. The opium chapter relied heavily on previously unpublished materials from Pollan's own experimentations growing poppies in his garden and drinking tea from the pods in the 1990s. ☕ The caffeine chapter was a stark and rude reminder that caffeine is the MOST ubiquitous of mind-altering substances, and one that so many of us (me!) rely on to even function on a daily basis. The mescaline chapter was probably the most enlightening in terms of learning things I didn't previously know. However, there was a discomfort in the approach that Pollan took in his research of the Native American Church that uses peyote medicine in ceremony. Something just never quite sat right, and it is hard to pinpoint exactly what. ✍️Recommended if you're into such things, but I'm certain there are better books out there on the subject.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    thanks to the publishers and netgalley for a free copy in return for an open and honest review. This book was more like a memoir of the author experiences with the 3 types of drug listed ( opium/poppies, caffeine and Mescaline) rather than any scientific background. found the book very interesting though.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    This is Your Mind on Plants, by Michael Pollan, is a book examining three mind altering plants/substances - Opium (poppies), caffeine (tea and coffee), and mescaline (peyote). Pollan (an apt name!) is a well-known journalist who has written numerous books on plants and gardening, mind-altering flora, and food security. This book is a written in a memoir style, examining the three substances from the writers own perspective. With opium, the author grew poppies in his own backyard in the 1990's at This is Your Mind on Plants, by Michael Pollan, is a book examining three mind altering plants/substances - Opium (poppies), caffeine (tea and coffee), and mescaline (peyote). Pollan (an apt name!) is a well-known journalist who has written numerous books on plants and gardening, mind-altering flora, and food security. This book is a written in a memoir style, examining the three substances from the writers own perspective. With opium, the author grew poppies in his own backyard in the 1990's at the height of President Bill Clinton's war on drugs in the United States. The essay is captured in most of the chapter on opium, with a redacted piece on his own experiences making and consuming opiate tea within, as well as a discussion on legality and the pleasures of gardening. The second chapter is on caffeine; the author chronicles his own experiences getting through a caffeine withdrawal over three months, as well as his experiences retaking the substance. Finally, the chapter on mescaline looks at the Peyote cactus in the United States, and its close connection to Native American (First Nation) culture, and the Native American Church, an incorporated religious institution which transcends nation/tribe identity and utilizes Peyote in religious ceremonies. This book was, in essence, a trip journal, and chronicles the authors experiences with the three substances. To this reader, it fell into the trap of any pop-science/scientific memoir on the mainstream market these days; interesting and easy read, with little or no content to remember. Much like the trips contained within this book, there are some interesting points that may stick with the reader, but the experience will fade away within a short period of time, leaving only a vague memory that something happened. I learned a few things, but not much. It was an interesting book, and certainly not a poor read by any stretch of the term. Even so, it is quick, and lacks in any deeper substance (in my opinion).

  20. 4 out of 5

    Donna Craig

    Michal Pollan hasn’t failed me yet! His books are such a pleasure to me. The way he explores his topics by personally experiencing them then sharing his experiences honestly…it hooks me every time. This Is Your Mind on Plants is no exception. Mr. Pollan grows opium in his garden, quits caffeine cold turkey (ouch!), and goes to great lengths to attend a mescaline ceremony with COVID-safe practices. During all of this time, he is deeply considering the moral, health, and legal issues involved with Michal Pollan hasn’t failed me yet! His books are such a pleasure to me. The way he explores his topics by personally experiencing them then sharing his experiences honestly…it hooks me every time. This Is Your Mind on Plants is no exception. Mr. Pollan grows opium in his garden, quits caffeine cold turkey (ouch!), and goes to great lengths to attend a mescaline ceremony with COVID-safe practices. During all of this time, he is deeply considering the moral, health, and legal issues involved with these substances. The garden sections, with the author growing poppies and peyote cacti, were my favorite parts of the book. What an adventure! Mr. Pollan does indeed sometimes sound out of his mind in this fascinating book, This Is Your Mind on Plants. Out of his mind in a way that makes you want to join him! Enjoy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    4.5 Pollan's exploration of drugs in his last two books has been such a fascinating journey. Worth a read. 4.5 Pollan's exploration of drugs in his last two books has been such a fascinating journey. Worth a read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Quann

    This one lands on the lower end of Pollan's output, but still manages to be damn good. This book definitely feels like a cobbling of long form pieces into a semi-cohesive whole about mind-altering plants. As always, Pollan is a warm and compelling narrator in the audiobook version. The first piece about opium is by turns funny and slightly out of date. Luckily, it's buoyed along by Pollan's signature style. The second section about caffeine was previously presented in an Audible-exclusive liste This one lands on the lower end of Pollan's output, but still manages to be damn good. This book definitely feels like a cobbling of long form pieces into a semi-cohesive whole about mind-altering plants. As always, Pollan is a warm and compelling narrator in the audiobook version. The first piece about opium is by turns funny and slightly out of date. Luckily, it's buoyed along by Pollan's signature style. The second section about caffeine was previously presented in an Audible-exclusive listen that was supposed to act as a coda to Pollan's excellent previous book, How to Change Your Mind . I was a little peeved to see it show up here with a few tweaks, but that's what I get for not doing a closer reading of the synopsis. It's still quite entertaining and I'd point you towards my previous review of it had Goodreads not seemingly lost it. The final bit about peyote is perhaps the best of the bunch. It's a neat attempt to coalesce the scientific rigour of Pollan's approach with an anthropological exploration of Native American tribes' use of the plant. It feels very genuine and was thoroughly educational. Though I wish this had gone on a bit longer or been tied together more strongly, it's undeniably more of what I've loved in Pollan's other work.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Camelia Rose

    I have enjoyed Michael Pollan's books, especially How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. This is Your Mind on Plants is his latest book. It consists of three parts, each part discussing one of the following three plants: opium poppy, coffee, and mescaline producing cacti. In other words, one sedative, one simulant and one psychedelic. The part about opium poppy is an extended version of the aut I have enjoyed Michael Pollan's books, especially How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. This is Your Mind on Plants is his latest book. It consists of three parts, each part discussing one of the following three plants: opium poppy, coffee, and mescaline producing cacti. In other words, one sedative, one simulant and one psychedelic. The part about opium poppy is an extended version of the author's 1990s article published in Harper's Magazine. Michael Pollan cultivated opium poppies in his own garden and agonized over the legality of his action. From the story of Jim Hogshire and Bob Black, Hogshire's houseguest from hell, you get a picture of America's War on Drugs. The coffee part is not very interesting. The last part was written during the Covid-19 pandemic. The history of Native American Church and Peyotism stands out. Perhaps I am cynical-I am getting tired of the author's tripping experiences if it is out of the context of scientific research.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Helene

    Pollan brings up many issues I never though about before and how our societies allow us certain drugs but not others in accordance with their needs for us to function. Fascinating reading.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I enjoyed reading Pollan's description of what he experienced upon drinking his first cup of coffee after a few months abstaining - it reminded me of the mental and physical euphoria I felt drinking my first coffee after accidentally drinking decaf for a week. The heavens opened. I enjoyed reading Pollan's description of what he experienced upon drinking his first cup of coffee after a few months abstaining - it reminded me of the mental and physical euphoria I felt drinking my first coffee after accidentally drinking decaf for a week. The heavens opened.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Donovan

    This is the 3rd Pollan book I've read, after How to change your mind and A place of my own. This current work is as good as the others. The perfect blend of scientific insight, historical and cultural discussion and honest memoir, this book discusses the psychoactive compounds opium, caffeine and mescaline. While I thought the mescaline section would interest me most, it was actually the opium part. Discussing the fateful war on drugs occurring as Oxycontin ruined the lives of millions of Americ This is the 3rd Pollan book I've read, after How to change your mind and A place of my own. This current work is as good as the others. The perfect blend of scientific insight, historical and cultural discussion and honest memoir, this book discusses the psychoactive compounds opium, caffeine and mescaline. While I thought the mescaline section would interest me most, it was actually the opium part. Discussing the fateful war on drugs occurring as Oxycontin ruined the lives of millions of Americans, it drove to the heart of the issue and questioned who should have the power to control what we put into our bodies.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    I found this a truly fascinating read, wonderfully compelling, an exploration of plant-based psychedelics, America’s war on drugs and the country’s drug laws. The book is divided into three sections, the first about opium, a sedative, the second is about caffeine, a stimulant, and the third focusses on mescaline/peyote, a hallucinogen. Each section combines a scientific and historical examination with the author’s own personal experience with the drugs. Caffeine, he reminds us, is the most popul I found this a truly fascinating read, wonderfully compelling, an exploration of plant-based psychedelics, America’s war on drugs and the country’s drug laws. The book is divided into three sections, the first about opium, a sedative, the second is about caffeine, a stimulant, and the third focusses on mescaline/peyote, a hallucinogen. Each section combines a scientific and historical examination with the author’s own personal experience with the drugs. Caffeine, he reminds us, is the most popular psychoactive drug on the planet – and I must admit I’d never thought of the numerous cups of tea I drink every day in quite in those terms. He also suggests that it was the move from alcohol to coffee that led to Europe’s’ cultural revolutions and the Enlightenment in the 17th century, “sparked by a switch form drunken to caffeinated brains.” I was interested to learn that for the Native American Church, peyote is sacred (and legal) and they do not consider it a drug. I did get a little bored when the author described his own experience on it – I don’t think we needed such a long section – but really that’s the only quibble I have. As for opium, buying poppy seeds is apparently perfectly legal and they are available from seed catalogues, but growing them in your garden is risky as the plants are illegal, and making opium tea not a good idea. The book is wide-ranging and full of interesting snippets like that, and I learnt a lot. A great read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anne Earney

    An interesting look at three drugs that come from plants- opium poppies, caffeine, and mescaline - and how they're grown, how they're extracted, and how we use them. I found the essay Pollan wrote about opium poppies twenty years ago and decided not to publish because of the drug crime climate at that time especially interesting, as well as his comparison of mescaline to other psychedelics. His attempt to get off caffeine was also entertaining, and I'm sure I would not do much better (here I sit An interesting look at three drugs that come from plants- opium poppies, caffeine, and mescaline - and how they're grown, how they're extracted, and how we use them. I found the essay Pollan wrote about opium poppies twenty years ago and decided not to publish because of the drug crime climate at that time especially interesting, as well as his comparison of mescaline to other psychedelics. His attempt to get off caffeine was also entertaining, and I'm sure I would not do much better (here I sit with my third cup of coffee, having cut back to two just a few weeks ago).

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    In his latest book on the plant-people relationship, author, journalist and avid amateur gardener Michael Pollan turns his eye to the opium poppy, caffeine (derived from Coffea arabica) and mescaline (from the peyote cactus). As Pollan puts it, each of these drugs are either an upper, downer or 'outer'. His exploration takes in their political and socio-cultural history, highlighting the arbitrary nature of their public reputation. As ever, Pollan can't resist getting up close and personal with t In his latest book on the plant-people relationship, author, journalist and avid amateur gardener Michael Pollan turns his eye to the opium poppy, caffeine (derived from Coffea arabica) and mescaline (from the peyote cactus). As Pollan puts it, each of these drugs are either an upper, downer or 'outer'. His exploration takes in their political and socio-cultural history, highlighting the arbitrary nature of their public reputation. As ever, Pollan can't resist getting up close and personal with the plants. The author has an engagingly anecdotal writing style. The audiobook, narrated by Pollan, made me feel I was sharing a coffee with the author. Well produced and highly entertaining. My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK Audio for the ARC.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cav

    My first book from the author; This Is Your Mind on Plants was an interesting and enjoyable read. Author Michael Kevin Pollan is an American author and journalist, who is currently the Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Pollan is best known for his books that explore the socio-cultural impacts of food, such as The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World and The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. My first book from the author; This Is Your Mind on Plants was an interesting and enjoyable read. Author Michael Kevin Pollan is an American author and journalist, who is currently the Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Pollan is best known for his books that explore the socio-cultural impacts of food, such as The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World and The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Michael Pollan: The writing gets off on a good foot here, with a well-done, high-energy preface and intro. He mentions the problematic nature of trying to properly define what does and does not constitute a "drug." Pollen writes with an easy, engaging style; making the book very readable. My reviews are always heavily weighted on this criterion, and Pollen nailed it here (thankfully). I have followed him on and off in some of his various talks and media appearances, and I enjoyed his Netflix special "Cooked," as well. The audiobook version I have is also narrated by the author, which is something I always appreciate. Pollen has a great delivery style and voice that is perfectly suited for this task. Good stuff! The book is broken into three broad parts: Opium: He includes an interesting account of growing poppies from his earlier life that almost landed him in big trouble with the law. He also talks about Purdue Pharmaceuticals' Oxycontin. Caffeine: Coffee and teas are extensively covered, including a history of both beverages. He makes an interesting case for the rise of Western capitalist prosperity coinciding with the introduction of caffeinated beverages to our societies. Mescaline: The San Pedro cactus that produces it is mentioned. As is Peyote. Pollen writes about Native American Peyote ceremonies, as well. He also describes a mescaline trip that he went on, which was both well-told and interesting. The San Pedro Cactus: The Peyote Cactus: He drops this quote about caffeine: "It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the arrival of caffeine in Europe changed... everything. That sounds hyperbolic, I know, and we often hear something similar about other developments in “material culture”—how the discovery of X or Y (a New World commodity, say, or some invention or discovery) “made the modern world.” This usually means that the advent of X or Y had a transformative effect on economics or everyday life or the standards of living. But like the caffeine molecule itself, which rapidly reaches virtually every cell of the body that ingests it, the changes wrought by coffee and tea occurred at a more fundamental level—at the level of the human mind. Coffee and tea ushered in a shift in the mental weather, sharpening minds that had been fogged by alcohol, freeing people from the natural rhythms of the body and the sun, thus making possible whole new kinds of work and, arguably, new kinds of thought, too. Having brought what amounted to a new form of consciousness to Europe, caffeine went on to influence everything from global trade to imperialism, the slave trade, the workplace, the sciences, politics, social relations, arguably even the rhythms of English prose..." And this one, that talks about coffee's introduction to the west: "The soaring popularity of the coffeehouse in seventeenth-century Europe posed a problem for business interests there since, at the time, Arab traders had an absolute monopoly on coffee beans; they profited from every cup of coffee consumed in London, Paris, or Amsterdam. It was a monopoly the Arabs zealously guarded: to prevent anyone from growing coffee anywhere but in the lands they controlled, Arab traders roasted coffee beans (which are seeds, after all) before they were exported, to ensure they could not be germinated. But in 1616, a wily Dutchman managed to break the Arab stranglehold on Coffea arabica. He smuggled live coffee plants out of Mocha, the Yemeni port city, and took them to the botanical garden in Amsterdam, where they were grown under glass and additional plants were eventually propagated by cutting. (You can create a new, genetically identical plant by rooting a shoot or branch in soil.) One of those clones ended up in the Dutch-controlled Indonesian island of Java, where the Dutch East India Company successfully propagated it, eventually producing enough coffee plants to establish a plantation there. Hence, the prized coffee known as Mocha Java. In 1714 two descendants of the Dutchman’s larcenous coffee bush were given to King Louis XIV, who had it planted in the Jardin du Roi, in Paris. A few years later, a former French naval officer named Gabriel de Clieu dreamed up a scheme to establish coffee production in the French colony of Martinique, where he lived. In a second momentous coffee theft, he claimed to have recruited a woman at court to purloin a cutting of the king’s plant. After successfully rooting the cutting, de Clieu installed the little plant in a glass box to protect it from the elements and brought it with him on a ship bound for Martinique. The crossing proved difficult, taking so much longer than anticipated that the supply of drinking water on board had to be strictly rationed. Determined to keep his coffee plant alive, de Clieu shared his meager ration of water with it. De Clieu claimed to have nearly died of thirst at sea, but his sacrifice ensured that the plant made it safely to Martinique, where it thrived. By 1730, France’s Caribbean colonies were shipping coffee back to what by then was a Europe hopelessly addicted to caffeine. Many of the coffee plants grown in the New World today are descendants of that original plant smuggled out of Mocha in 1616, offspring of a theft nearly Promethean in its impact. Now the West had taken control of coffee—and coffee took control of the West..." **************************** A great short book that's a bit lighter than what I normally read; I really enjoyed Pollen's writing, and the overall presentation of this one. He unironically mentions "cultural appropriation," when talking about a mescaline trip near the end of the book, but I'll let that slide... I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested. 5 stars.

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