To suggest that reading is an addictive habit runs the risk of getting messy and fast.
When we talk about addiction, our focus is overwhelmingly on substances, be they legal (nicotine, alcohol, tobacco), illicit (heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines) or somewhere in the middle, like cannabis. In all cases, however, the term has come to stand for something that is often, by default, perceived as a negative trait.
But not when it comes to books!
Beyond the pleasure of learning and the rapture that comes with ingesting poetic wordplay, reading provides us with an excellent opportunity to better comprehend both the past and the present. Narrowing our focus to drugs, there are a number of classic tomes devoted to subjects that range from old-school cannabis cultivation techniques to largely autobiographical treatises on the very nature of perception and psychedelics.
In the wake of legalization taking hold here in the U.S., there is also an impressive crop of newer titles in recent years that speak to an audience with access to dispensaries, delivery services, etc.
By contrast, there are also books both old and new that are rife with misinformation, which can also be a valuable tool in assessing the evolution of drug policy here in the U.S.
Take, for instance, the infamous Go Ask Alice.
Published “anonymously” in 1971, the book was initially presented by as the authentic, actual diary of a 15-year-old girl who became addicted to drugs and (spoiler alert!) eventually died. A blockbuster bestseller from the get-go, Go Ask Alice is still a hugely popular title with young adult readers to this very day. That fact is all the more concerning given the fact that by 1979, Beatrice Sparks – a woman who initially claimed to be the book’s editor – was instead revealed to actually be the author of the obviously invented narrative.
Even if Go Ask Alice today offers about as much educational value as a trip to your nearest Dave & Buster’s, understanding why the lies contained in that book were allowed to linger on the shelves of school libraries for decades is still mightily relevant to the discussion today.
Thus, with the caveat that not all books on drugs are created equal (a sentiment which may itself be a contender for “understatement of the year”) we’re thrilled to share a curated list of what books would make excellent first purchases for anyone looking to start a drug reading library of their very own.
A turntable, a lava lamp, and tasty snacks remain optional – but encouraged.
BOOKS FOR THE MODERN CANNABIS CONSUMER
Edibles: Small Bites for the Modern Cannabis Kitchen by Stephanie Hua
If you want to learn to cook with cannabis, take your tips from cannabis culinary expert Stephanie Hua. As the founder of Mellows — a California-born line of insanely scrumptious, THC-infused marshmallows — Hua is a trustworthy guide to learning to incorporate cannabis into your kitchen. As a bonus, Edibles is absolutely beautiful to look at, which, when paired with Hua’s easy-to-follow advice, equates to a surefire recipe for success.
Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear by Dr. Carl Hart
This incredible new work from renowned neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart argues in favor of responsible drug use while damning the way American society has come to understand substances ranging from crack to MDMA to heroin. You can read more about this topic in our recent recap of a fascinating discussion between Dr. Hart and law professor Lara Bazelon
Marijuana Grower’s Handbook by Ed Rosenthal
If you have a question about growing weed, your best bet is to ask Ed Rosenthal, who has been teaching people how to grow marijuana for over 30 years. The author of numerous books on the subject, Rosenthal’s Marijuana Grower’s Handbook is pretty much the bible when it comes to learning all the basics any novice grower needs if they hope to cultivate the chronic.
BOOKS FOR THE DRUG HISTORIAN
Alia Volz was raised by parents who made their living selling weed. Her mother, Meridy, was the heart behind Sticky Fingers — an illegal Bay Area brownie operation that for decades brought joy and vital medicine to patients, especially those suffering from AIDS, at a time when all other shoulders were turned away. When we talk about medical marijuana, we’re talking about the legacy of people like Meridy Volz, who Alia beautifully captures in her memoir of a most strange upbringing.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Bloom & Oil frequently covers the intersection of mass incarceration and drug policy. But before such subjects were in the mainstream discourse, there was Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking (and damning) expose of justice system rooted in racism. The New Jim Crow lays it all out, though what we do with that information remains a burden for all to carry.
Cannabis: The Illegalization of Drugs in America by Brian “Box” Brown
The thing about reading is that we do it differently. For some, the popularity of graphic novels and non-fiction graphic works has been nothing short of a revelation. For others, works like the Holocaust-centered Maus by Art Spiegelman have always shown the need and place for the medium within the larger auspices of literature. Enter Brian “Box” Brown, who has published a searing nonfiction graphic novel that details how cannabis legislation in America and racism have been inextricably linked, from the nineteenth century through to the twenty-first. Brown is now also continuing his work via the online series Legalized Nation on Patreon.