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The Greatest Psychedelic Books of All Time

Curl up and get lost. We found trippy reads for every occassion.

DoubleBlind Mag

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Published on
Updated April 8, 2024

The world of literature offers an infinite range of experiences—a quality that has long brought readers back for more. Some mimic the mind-altering effects of psychedelics, while others can teach us things we never knew about those substances. From the surreal landscapes of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” to the hallucinatory prose of “Naked Lunch” and the honest personal insights of “Trip,” certain books have emerged as sacred texts for psychonauts and bookworms alike. They serve as guides, companions, and often, as cautionary tales, weaving together threads of history, fantasy, science, and personal journeys into a kaleidoscopic tapestry. These fourteen books are carefully curated to jumpstart your next literary adventure. 

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Great Psychedelic Books—From the Famous to the Uncanny

We’re about to delve into some incredible books that can transport you to that special place where reality blurs with imagination, and the mundane becomes extraordinary. So, settle into your favorite reading nook and prepare to learn, teleport, time travel, fall down the rabbit hole, or hibernate for a year (that will make sense soon, I promise). Happy reading, and may the transformative power of words forever expand your mind.

“The Doors of Perception” by Aldous Huxley

The Doors of Perception Book Cover

A seminal work that inspired the entheogenic model of understanding psychedelics and the name of rock band The Doors, Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception is a profound exploration of altered states of mind. Beautifully describing and drawing from his own experiences with mescaline, Huxley delves into the complex relationships between reality, art, and spirituality, giving readers new philosophical frameworks in which to push the bounds of consciousness and knock on the mythical doors of perception.

“Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs

Naked Lunch Book Cover

If you’re open to something seedy, intense, and utterly unmatched in the psychedelia of its prose, nothing hits like William S. Burroughs’ groundbreaking novel Naked Lunch. It’s a frenetic and hallucinatory journey through the seedy underbelly of addiction, sexual depravity, and existential angst. Pioneering a disjointed narrative and stream-of-consciousness style, the book was a milestone in postmodern art, immersing readers in a dreamlike landscape that confounds conventional notions of literature and sanity.

“You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine” by Alexandra Kleeman

You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine Book Cover

Alexandra Kleeman’s darkly comedic novel You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine is a satirical exploration of consumerism, female identity, and the commodification of self in the twenty-first century. It begins with her protagonist, known only as A, engaged in a strange and bitter three-way relationship with her roommate B and boyfriend C, but that’s just the first incline of this surrealist rollercoaster before it peaks and dives into mad loop-de-loops. Kleeman’s dystopian world of chain store religions and demonical mascots depicts how our desires are warped by relentless advertising and media manipulation, particularly as it affects women and femmes.

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll

Alice Adventures in Wonderland Book Cover

A timeless classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (who was an Oxford mathematician, logic expert, and “nonsense” poet) is a whimsical journey through the fantastical realm of Wonderland, where flowers sing and animals participate in a topsy-turvy royal court. The curious protagonist ventures bravely through a world where logic is inverted and the absurd reigns supreme. With iconic characters and colorful adventures, the book captures the playful spirit of the psychedelic experience.

“Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler

Kindred Book Cover

Kindred combines elements of science fiction and historical fiction to explore themes of race, gender identity, and power. Nebula Award-winning author Octavia E. Butler teleports the protagonist Dana, a Black woman, from the present to nineteenth-century Maryland, where she confronts the horrors of slavery and comes to terms with the enduring legacy of trauma. This mysterious and moving story offers provocative social commentary as well as an emotional experience. Psychedelic bonus points: it’s now been adapted into a graphic novel

“If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler” by Italo Calvino

If On A Winters Night A Traveler Book Cover

Perhaps one of the trippiest books ever written, Italo Calvino’s metafictional masterpiece If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler is a labyrinthine tale of love, loss, and literary intrigue all told in the second person—that is, the narrator addresses you as “you,” in increasingly fascinating ways. The book fluctuates between multiple genres of literature, guiding readers along the lattice of an intricate narrative structure centered around a global book fraud conspiracy. Witty yet deep, Calvino’s book explores the nature of fiction and the power of storytelling to shape our lives.

“Trip” by Tao Lin

Trip Book Cover

Novelist and essayist Tao Lin wrote Trip as a candid and introspective memoir to chronicle his experiences with psychedelic drugs and their profound impact on his life and creative process. With its raw honesty and unflinching self-examination, the book offers a glimpse into the mind of a highly intelligent 21st century psychonaut grappling with existential questions, as well as the mundane (such as: What do you do after you throw away your computer while on shrooms?).

“My Year of Rest and Relaxation” by Ottessa Moshfegh

My Year of Rest and Relaxation Book Cover

In Ottessa Moshfegh’s hit novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation an unnamed protagonist embarks on a year-long experiment to enter a state of pharmaceutical-induced hibernation. Set against the backdrop of New York City in the early 2000s, it’s a surreal and unsettling exploration of alienation, ennui, and the desire for oblivion in an age of excess. If you enjoy deadpan humor and biting social commentary My Year of Rest and Relaxation is the trip for you.

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Book Cover

A masterpiece of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, takes you on a wild and chaotic ride through the subconscious of the American Dream. The book follows journalist Raoul Duke and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, as they journey toward Las Vegas on a psychedelic road trip (like, literally—they take LSD in the car). Through their eyes (and more LSD), the uncanny city of excess becomes a hallucinatory landscape of excess and paranoia. Yet the book’s manic energy and drug-fueled antics are more fun than they might sound.

“Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore Book Cover

Often considered an exceptionally difficult read, the enigmatic Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami is nothing short of a metaphysical odyssey, blurring the boundaries between dreams and reality as well as between destiny and choice. It interweaves the stories of a teenage boy running away from home and an old, disabled man who can talk to cats. Often using musical compositions as metaphors, the book—much like psychedelics—invites readers to unravel the mysteries of the human psyche and explore the interconnectedness of all things.

“Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas Book Cover

Are you ready for an epic journey across spacetime and human history? David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas spans centuries and continents, weaving together six distinct narratives that prove to be profoundly interconnected. From the South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a post-apocalyptic future, Cloud Atlas beautifully depicts the resilience of the human spirit and its timeless capacity for love and redemption, with ambitious scope and richly imagined worlds.

“Bunny” by Mona Awad

Bunny Book Cover

Anyone familiar with academia or the writerly life will enjoy Mona Awad’s hit novel Bunny, which uses twisted humor and unsettling imagery to explore themes of friendship as well as the darker aspects of human nature. Protagonist Samantha becomes entangled in a bizarre cult-like group of classmates known as the Bunnies while attending an MFA program at an elite university. This book offers a subversive take on conformity, belonging, and the at-times-maddening search for artistic freedom.  

“House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves Book Cover

Mark Z. Danielewski’s genre-defying novel House of Leaves is nothing short of a labyrinth. Mysterious and mind-bending, the story-within-a-story (underscored by copious footnotes) tells of a family who finds themselves living in a haunted house that defies the laws of physics and sanity. By employing intricate typography, page layouts, and multimedia elements, the book requires readers to invest physical effort in reading the text, inviting them to question the nature of perception and the limits of human understanding.

“A Scanner Darkly” by Philip K. Dick

A Scanner Darkly Book Cover

Set in a dystopian America ravaged by government surveillance and an epidemic of addiction to psychoactive drugs, A Scanner Darkly by sci-fi master Philip K. Dick is both an entertaining ride and a chilling cautionary tale. The book follows undercover detective Bob Arctor as he becomes entangled in a web of conspiracy and deception. With its paranoid atmosphere and shocking twists, A Scanner Darkly offers a haunting, yet distinctly psychedelic vision of a society in peril.

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DoubleBlind is a trusted resource for news, evidence-based education, and reporting on psychedelics. We work with leading medical professionals, scientific researchers, journalists, mycologists, indigenous stewards, and cultural pioneers. Read about our editorial policy and fact-checking process here.

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DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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