reading lists

The Best Books About Microdosing and Psychedelic Therapy

Photo: Bobby Doherty

Welcome to Reading Lists, comprehensive book guides from the Strategist designed to make you an expert (or at least a fascinating dinner-party companion) in hyperspecific or newsworthy topics. This week: a selection of books (and notable articles and podcast episodes) about how psychedelics can mingle with therapy.

Microdosing — taking subperceptual amounts of drugs, to alleviate depression or think more creatively — has been on our minds. The Everything Guide to Microdosing is in the current issue of New York, and it includes interviews with people who’ve microdosed and academics and skeptics who study the practice. In case you want to know more, we quizzed the experts we spoke to for the story (and some we didn’t) on the essential books to read on psychedelic therapy.

Our panel includes James Fadiman, a leading psychologist in the field and a main character in the print story; Tom Shroder, the author of Acid Test; Tao Lin, author of Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change; Ayelet Waldman, author of A Really Good Day; Paul Austin, founder of the online microdosing education forum the Third Wave; Charles Grob, a UCLA psychiatrist who studies the effects of psilocybin in cancer patients; Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies; and Michael Pollan, the journalist whose newest book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence, comes out on May 15.

It’s worth noting that microdosing differs dramatically from tripping, and the authors and researchers listed above are people analyzing the potential therapeutic effects of both. It’s a far-ranging field, and the books we included either got two nominations, or were recommended just once, but from a bona fide expert. Regardless, this isn’t your primer on how to get high for the sake of the party — it’s about seeing psychedelics in a new light.

Fadiman is widely considered the current authority on psychedelics and microdosing. Like its title suggests, this book is a guide: It covers best practices for safe psychedelic voyages, the value of psychedelics for healing and self-discovery, and the protocol for microdosing to improve cognitive function, emotional balance, and physical stamina. “Dr. Fadiman’s book introduced the concept of microdosing to a wide audience, dedicating an entire chapter to anecdotal reports of the emerging phenomena,” Austin says. Author (and microdoser) Waldman put it on her list as well. “This book was invaluable to me when I embarked on my microdosing journey,” she says. As did Pollan. “The Explorer’s Guide represents much of the wisdom that underground guides have collected about how best to insure a safe and productive journey.” Fadiman discusses, in depth, the importance of having a sensitive guide during trips (and breaks down how to be a good guide for somebody else), and also takes time to dispel myths and rumors about LSD — like, for instance, that the drug might permanently lodge itself in your body.

Myron J. Stolaroff wrote The Secret Chief Revealed in transcript form, based on conversations with Leo Zeff, an Oakland-based Jungian therapist who pioneered the use of LSD, ecstasy, and other psychoactive drugs in psychotherapy in the 1970s. Pollan says, “Zeff worked with psychedelics in his practice both before and after they were banned, when he moved underground. He claims to have ‘tripped’ — his locution — more than 3,000 people and trained 150 underground therapists before his death in 1988.” Doblin also recommends The Secret Chief, calling Zeff “the pioneering psychedelic therapist, whose identity was first revealed in this book. It’s as interesting from a historical perspective as it is useful for therapists and others interested in learning about the practice of psychotherapy.”

Dr. Stanislav Grof — one of the most esteemed psychedelics researchers out there — published this book in 1979. It’s a collection of his firsthand observations on the effects of LSD in his patients and research subjects. “Grof has more experience with the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs than anyone alive,” Shroder says. Doblin recommends Grof as well: “Stan Grof’s vast insights into the subconscious, drawn from the thousands of LSD-assisted psychotherapy sessions he conducted, revolutionized the field of psychology and form the basis of most contemporary psychedelic therapy,” he says. Many of Grof’s patients have lived through unspeakable trauma — rape, abuse, and war — and he chronicles their treatment in heartbreaking detail. Unlike The Secret Chief, which looks at the world of Zeff and his practices, Grof’s book focuses more on his patients’ stories.

This book chronicles the discovery of LSD by the man who discovered it: Albert Hofmann. “LSD discoverer Albert Hofmann was not just a chemist, but a true visionary who recognized the potential that LSD has to shed light on the many realms of the human unconscious,” Doblin says of the Swiss scientist, who took acid hundreds of times during his mid-century career, regarding the drug as a dangerous but still revelatory tool. This book is Hofmann’s account of his incredible life and work, “from his discovery of LSD’s psychoactive properties in 1943, to the inception of psychiatric research using LSD to facilitate psychotherapy. I can’t recommend it enough.”

Ayelet Waldman, author of Daughter’s Keeper and Bad Mother (she’s also one of our panelists), wrote this memoir after deciding to treat her severe mood swings with a 30-day trial of