Shelf Awareness for Thursday, April 26, 2018


Little Brown and Company: The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers by Bridgett M. Davis

Grove Press: The Heavens by Sandra Newman

Quirk Books: Giraffes on Horseback Salad: Salvador Dali, the Marx Brothers, and the Strangest Movie Never Made by Josh Frank, adapted with Tim Heidecker, illustrated by Manuela Pertega

Other Press: Wanderer by Sarah Léon, translated by John Cullen

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky: 8 Little Planets by Chris Ferrie, illustrated by Lizzy Doyle

Flatiron Books: Save Me from Dangerous Men (Nikki Griffin #1) by S.A. Lelchuk

Berkley Books: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

News

Hedge Fund Buying Majority Interest in Waterstones

Hedge fund Elliott Advisors has bought a majority interest in Waterstones and James Daunt will remain CEO of the U.K. bookselling chain, the Bookseller reported. Current owner Alexander Mamut's Lynwood Investments will own a minority stake. Neither party disclosed how large its stake will be. The deal is expected to close in May.

"This is a very happy outcome for Waterstones," Daunt said. "Our booksellers can be immensely proud to have proved through good, old-fashioned bookselling, the enduring appeal and worth of real bookshops. I thank Lynwood Investments for their invaluable support through this turnaround, and we enter new ownership looking forward with great optimism to the next chapter in the development of Waterstones."

Paul Best, who joined Elliott Advisors last June as head of European private equity, said: "As the leading physical book retailer in the U.K., Waterstones is a mainstay of U.K. high streets and has a huge and loyal customer base. We look forward to supporting James Daunt and his entire team over the long-term as they continue to build and grow the business."

The Bookseller reported that U.K. publishers, some of whom had been approached by Elliott Advisors recently to learn more about the business, were happy with the deal, particularly because Daunt, who engineered a turnaround of the once-troubled chain, will remain in charge. He was brought in by Russian billionaire Mamut, after he purchased Waterstones in 2011.

Elliott Advisors is the U.K. arm of Elliott Management Corp., the investment management firm headed by Paul Singer, known for an interest in companies with heavy debt, for his financial support of the Republican Party and for his support of LGBTQ rights. Elliott Advisors is run by Singer's son Gordon Singer.

Last year, Mamut asked N.M. Rothschild & Sons to advise him on strategic options for Waterstones, including a sale for £250 million (about $349 million), although speculation is that the price would be lower. Mamut apparently needed to raise cash because of the collapse last year of Russia's largest private bank, Otkritie, in which he was a major shareholder.

Under James Daunt--who owns Daunt Books, which has nine shops in and near London--Waterstones became profitable in 2015. Waterstones has some 275 stores in the U.K., Ireland and continental Europe.


Rare Bird Books, A Vireo Book: Easy for You to Say by Stuttering John Melendez


DIESEL, A Bookstore's Larkspur Location for Sale

Alison Reid and John Evans, co-owners of DIESEL, a bookstore, have put the store's Larkspur, Calif., location up for sale. Reid and Evans founded DIESEL in Oakland in 1989; after selling the original store to manager Brad Johnson last year, and closing the Malibu store in 2014, they have been operating two stores, in Larkspur and Brentwood, Calif., some 400 miles apart.

In a message to customers, the pair explained that given the challenges inherent in running two stores so far away from each other, they've decided to focus on the Brentwood store and reside in Southern California. Evans and Reid have started interviewing potential buyers for the Larkspur store this week and are looking for "booksellers and other readers who have a dream of owning a high-quality, community oriented bookstore."

The store is in a space in the Marin County Mart that has housed a bookstore continuously since 1978. Reid and Evans opened the 2,800-square-foot Larkspur Diesel in 2013. They described the landlord as a "passionate advocate for bookstores" and said he is helping them find "the best possible fit to sustain and further this wonderful store." They added that it was a "supreme pleasure" to serve Marin and be a part of "the Bay Area's fine tradition of independent bookselling" for so many years. Evans and Reid hope to find buyers who will "embrace the values, practices, expertise, and art that go into keeping this tradition alive."

Inquiries can be sent to John Evans at john@dieselbookstore.com.


Graywolf Press: Scribe by Alyson Hagy


Vallejo Bookstore to Relocate, Expand

Vallejo Bookstore, Vallejo, Calif., is in the process of relocating to a larger space next door with the goal of reopening by mid-May. The Times-Herald reported that co-owners Shannon and Patrick Hartlep, who purchased the business last year, are moving to 624 Marin St., which "triples the booksellers' retail area and will result in the transformation of the once merchandise-and-knick-knack-cluttered space into a cozy, orderly, used and new book store."

"We'll be able to display more of the books we have," Shannon Hartlep said. "The old space is only 400 square feet, so we couldn't put out all the books we'd like to. Here we'll have the space to do readings.... There will be several new sections of books; almost all the genres found in most bookstores. They're still about 90%, and the rest new, and we can order titles on request." She added that the new location's "upstairs area will need to remain strictly for storage until the railings can be brought up to safety code, but may one day include cozy seating/reading areas."

"As Marin Street, along with the rest of Vallejo's downtown, continues to experience a moderate renaissance, Hartlep notes that hers will be the seventh woman-or-couple-owned enterprise on the block," the Times-Herald wrote, adding that she is "pleased to be able to add to that trend, and to the continued improving fortunes of downtown Vallejo."


Yale University Press: The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World by William D. Nordhaus


George H.W. Bush Honors Barbara with Library Socks for Literacy

At Barbara Bush's funeral on Saturday in Houston, Tex., former President George H.W. Bush honored his wife of 73 years and her decades-long work to promote literacy by wearing a pair of Library Socks for Literacy. The socks, which are made by John's Crazy Socks, have a design featuring stacks of books, a cup of coffee and a pair of reading glasses. John's Crazy Socks is donating 100% of the profits from each pair of Library Socks to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

Mark Cronin, who runs John's Crazy Socks with the help of his 22-year-old son, John Cronin, who has Down's syndrome, told CBS News that the company has already sold more than 600 pairs of the Library Socks since a spokesperson for George H.W. Bush tweeted about them over the weekend. He added that he rush-delivered the socks last week after the office of the former president asked for a pair of socks that he could wear to the funeral.

The Cronins started their company in 2016 and sell more than 1,900 types of socks, with 5% of their profits going to the Special Olympics. Bush has worn socks made by the Cronins before, including a pair of superhero socks worn in honor of World Down Syndrome Day.

Since its founding some 30 years ago, Barbara Bush's foundation has raised more than $110 million for literacy. The former first lady was also a strong supporter of Reading Is Fundamental, serving on its board for many years.


Soho Press: Insurrecto by Gina Apostol


Brooke Warner New IBPA Chairperson

Outgoing board chair Rob Price (left) with incoming board chair Brooke Warner at the April IBPA annual meeting in Austin, Tex.

Brooke Warner has been appointed chairperson of the Independent Book Publishers Association, effective July 1. She is publisher of She Writes Press and SparkPress, president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of Green-light Your Book, What's Your Book? and How to Sell Your Memoir, and co-author of Breaking Ground on Your Memoir. She also is former executive editor of Seal Press and is on the boards of the Bay Area Book Festival and the National Association of Memoir Writers. She has been on the IBPA board for four years and its executive committee for two years.

Warner replaces IBPA chairperson Rob Price of Gatekeeper Press, who has been on the board for four years. He served one year as chairperson and one year as treasurer.

In addition, the IBPA membership approved a slate of six candidates for two-year at-large positions on the IBPA board of directors:

Leslie Browning (incumbent), founder & senior editor, Homebound Publications
Robin Cutler (incumbent), director, IngramSpark
Karen Pavlicin-Fragnito, publisher, Elva Resa Publishing
Kelly Peterson, director of client services, INscribe Digital, a division of Independent Publishers Group
Kathy Strahs, founder, Burnt Cheese Press
Peter Trimarco, co-founder & publisher, Notable Kids Publishing


Hampton Roads Publishing Company: Cannabis: A Beginner's Guide to Growing Marijuana by Danny Danko


Obituary Note: Emma Smith

Emma Smith, a British author "who enjoyed a resurgence when her bestselling 1950 novel The Far Cry was republished more than 50 years later," died April 24, the Guardian reported. She was 94. Her first book, Maidens' Trip: A Wartime Adventure on the Grand Union Canal, was published in 1948 and won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize. It was one of two books written while she was working "as a runner-cum-secretary for Laurie Lee, then a young screenwriter, in the postwar years," the Guardian noted.

In 1946, Smith traveled to India with Lee for a documentary, and then drew on the trip for the The Far Cry. The next year, however, she married and, over the following decades, published little, the Guardian wrote, noting that more than 20 years later, writer Susan Hill "discovered a copy of The Far Cry at a school jumble sale. It was, Hill enthused in her World of Books column in the Daily Telegraph, 'a forgotten masterpiece.' She lobbied for it to be republished, but the novel did not reappear until 2002. Soon afterwards the author was hunted down to write a memoir."

Smith subsequently published successful memoirs The Great Western Beach in 2008 and As Green as Grass: Growing Up Before, During & After the Second World War in 2013. She also wrote a series of children's books and the novel The Opportunity of a Lifetime (1978).


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss
by Rajeev Balasubramanyam

According to Susan Kamil, Random House executive v-p and publisher, Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss is "for readers of A Man Called Ove or The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, novels where one feels the central character will never overcome their own emotional shortcomings or burdens, but, miraculously do." Curmudgeonly Cambridge professor of Economics P.R. Chandrasekhar does not, at first, appear capable of miracles, or even of changing his mind. But he is--and he does, thanks to a run-in with a bicyclist and a doctor's charge to follow his bliss. Author Rajeev Balasubramanyam wields considerable humor, the perfect antidote to our polarized and exhausting present, while crafting a tender and thoughtful tale. This is an absolute gem of a book. --Stefanie Hargreaves, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

(Dial Press, $27 hardcover, 9780525511380, March 26, 2019)

CLICK HERE TO ENTER
#ShelfGLOW
Shelf vetted, publisher supported

 


Notes

UJA Honors Don Weisberg and Matty Goldberg

Last night, at a UJA-Federation of New York event, the publishing industry honored two popular, longtime members of the business: Don Weisberg, president of Macmillan Publishers (photo above l., with Macmillan CEO John Sargent, on the right), and Matty Goldberg, v-p, sales and acquisitions, at Ingram Content Group, who was presented the Harry Scherman Service Award (photo above r., with host Andy Cohen, on the right). Congratulations to both!


Personnel Changes at the University of Pittsburgh Press

John R. Fagan has joined the University of Pittsburgh Press as director of marketing and sales. He was formerly v-p and marketing director for 15 years at Penguin Books. A native of Pittsburgh, he is a graduate of the university and his first job in bookselling was at the University Book Center.

Press director Peter Kracht commented: "With a total of over 30 years in book publishing, John has a deep well of knowledge and an impressive skillset in marketing, sales, advertising, publicity, and social media work. John has vast experience in the promotion of serious fiction and nonfiction books in each of our key markets--the trade, college text adoptions, and academic sales."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jake Tapper on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Jake Tapper, author of The Hellfire Club (Little, Brown, $27, 9780316472319).

Tomorrow:
The Real: Grace Byers, co-author of I Am Enough (Balzer+Bray, $18.99, 9780062667120).

Wendy Williams: Ali Wentworth, author of Go Ask Ali: Half-Baked Advice (and Free Lemonade) (Harper, $25.99, 9780062466013).

Late Night with Seth Meyers repeat: Tiffany Haddish, author of The Last Black Unicorn (Gallery, $26, 9781501181825).

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Ross Douthat, author of To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781501146923).

Also on Real Time: Ronan Farrow, author of War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence (Norton, $27.95, 9780393652109).


This Weekend on Book TV: The Annapolis Book Festival

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, April 28
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Coverage from the 16th annual Annapolis Book Festival at the Key School in Annapolis, Md. (Re-airs Sunday at 12:30 a.m.) Highlights include:

  • 10 a.m. Daniel H. Pink, author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (Riverhead, $28, 9780735210622).
  • 11 a.m. Chris Matthew, author of Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit (Simon & Schuster, $28.99, 9781501111860).
  • 12 p.m. A discussion on the environment with Michael Mann and Tom Toles, authors of The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy (Columbia University Press, $24.95, 9780231177863), and John Wennersten and Denise Robbins, authors of Rising Tides: Climate Refugees in the Twenty-First Century (Indiana University Press, $20, 9780253025883).
  • 1 p.m. April Ryan, author of The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Four Presidents and Race in America (Rowman & Littlefield, $16.95, 9781538106631).
  • 2 p.m. Garrett M. Graff, author of Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself--While the Rest of Us Die (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476735405).
  • 3 p.m. A discussion on politics with Amy Siskind, author of The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump's First Year (Bloomsbury, $28, 9781635572711), and Jacob Hacker, author of American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper (Simon & Schuster, $17, 9781451667837).
  • 4 p.m. A discussion on artificial intelligence with Amir Husain, author of The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence (Scribner, $27, 9781501144677), and Paul Scharre, author of Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War (Norton, $27.95, 9780393608984).

5 p.m. Niall Ferguson, author of The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook (Penguin Press, $30, 9780735222915). (Re-airs Monday at 5:30 a.m.)

6:45 p.m. Virginia Eubanks, author of Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (St. Martin's Press, $26.99, 9781250074317), at Labyrinth Books in Princeton, N.J.

8 p.m. Sheila Tate, author of Lady in Red: An Intimate Portrait of Nancy Reagan (Crown Forum, $27, 9781524762193). (Re-airs Sunday at 9:30 a.m.)

10 p.m. Ron Kessler, author of The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game (Crown Forum, $27, 9780525575719). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Hillary Clinton delivers the 2018 Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture. (Re-airs Sunday at 12 p.m.)

Sunday, April 29
3:15 p.m. Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, author of The China Mission: George Marshall's Unfinished War, 1945-1947 (Norton, $28.95, 9780393240955).

4:20 p.m. Bonnie Morris, author of The Feminist Revolution: The Struggle for Women's Liberation (Smithsonian Books, $34.95, 9781588346124), at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.

5:30 A discussion on the legacy of the U.S. in Iraq from the Colby Military Writers Symposium at Norwich University in Vermont.

7:30 p.m. Ben Austen, author of High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing (Harper, $27.99, 9780062235060).

10 p.m. A discussion on the 20th anniversary of PublicAffairs with founder Peter Osnos, authors Vernon Jordan, Bradley Graham (Politics & Prose co-owner) and Maya Rao, at Politics & Prose.

11 p.m. Mark Penn, author of Microtrends Squared: The New Small Forces Driving the Big Disruptions Today (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781501179914).



Books & Authors

Awards: Chautauqua Shortlist

Chautauqua Institution has announced the 2018 finalists for the Chautauqua Prize, which celebrates "a book that provides a richly rewarding reading experience" and honors "the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts":

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic by Glenn Frankel (Bloomsbury)
The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading by Anne Gisleson (Little, Brown)
The Wanderers by Meg Howrey (Putnam)
The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivák (Scribner)
The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (Flatiron Books)
The Worlds We Think We Know by Dalia Rosenfeld (Milkweed Editions)

The winning book will be announced in mid-May. The winner receives $7,500 and a week-long summer residency at Chautauqua with all expenses paid.


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, May 1:

Adjustment Day: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk (Norton, $26.95, 9780393652598) is timely dark satire from the author of Fight Club.

Love and Ruin: A Novel by Paula McLain (Ballantine, $28, 9781101967386) is historical fiction about the marriage between Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn.

The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley (Simon & Schuster, $26.95, 9781501192517) is a comic adventure about an Englishman tracking down two missing judges in 1660s America.

Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations Can Anticipate Global Insecurity by Condoleezza Rice and Amy B. Zegart (Twelve, $30, 9781455542352) gives advice on business risks from the former Secretary of State and a Stanford professor.

Friend of a Friend...: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career by David Burkus (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780544971264) offers advice for professional networking.

The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies by Michael V. Hayden (Penguin Press, $28, 9780525558583) is a defense of the American intelligence community by the former head of the NSA and CIA.

A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean by Roland Philipps (Norton, $28.95, 9780393608571) is the biography of the British Cold War spy who defected to the Soviet Union.

The Forgotten Road by Richard Paul Evans (Simon & Schuster, $19.99, 9781501111792) is book two in the Broken Road trilogy, about a man walking the entirety of Route 66.

Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes by Nathan H. Lents (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9781328974693) explores the many compromises and imperfections in the human body.

Masters of Modern Soccer: How the World's Best Play the Twenty-First-Century Game by Grant Wahl (Crown Archetype, $27, 9780307408600) is a guide to soccer by a writer for Sports Illustrated.

Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover's Tour of the Global South by Virginia Willis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780544932548) offers recipes from the Southern United States with international twists, like catfish tacos.

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis (Harlequin Teen, $18.99, 9781335994134) finds 16-year-old Tiffany forced to leave her Chicago home and move in with her biological father after her mother dies from cancer.

New Shoes by Chris Raschka (Greenwillow, $17.99, 9780062657527) is a picture book about finding new shoes.

Paperbacks:
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (Harper, $16.99, 9780062300553).

Glass Houses: A Novel by Louise Penny (Minotaur, $9.99, 9781250181589).

The Clever Gut Diet Cookbook: 150 Delicious Recipes to Help You Nourish Your Body from the Inside Out by Clare Bailey and Joy Skipper (Atria, $21.99, 9781501189760).

Movie:
The Guardians, a French film based on the novel by Ernest Pérochon, follows women left to work on a farm during the Great War. It opens on May 4.


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
I Was Anastasia: A Novel by Ariel Lawhon (Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385541695). "By far the best historical fiction title I've read in a long time! Not only is the story historically accurate, but the way it unfolds is unique and significantly adds to the plot and character development. Even though most readers today probably know how the book ends before they even start it, Ariel Lawhon's masterful storytelling will leave you cheering for or jeering at one of the Anastasias--which one is up to you!" --Kari Erpenbach, University of Minnesota Bookstores, Minneapolis, Minn.

Every Note Played: A Novel by Lisa Genova (Gallery/Scout Press, $26, 9781476717807). "In a tightly composed piece of writing, novelist Lisa Genova carries the reader through the grim melody and turbulent sequencing of ALS while expertly relaying the gradual impact of the disease on the lives of patients and caregivers. With medical details balanced against the raw manifestation of the human experience, Every Note Played explores the cruel effects of loss and the profound effects of compassion and forgiveness. Richard and Karina are voluntarily alone, yet uncomfortably united by a sense of need and duty. Genova holds nothing back, producing a story that resonates with meaning and builds to a keen point of understanding." --Joan Gallagher, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Chatham, Mass.

Paperback
Waiting for Tomorrow: A Novel by Nathacha Appanah (Graywolf Press, $16, 9781555978037).
"This haunting novel tells the story of a couple--two outsiders who find each other and fall in love--and the life they build as artists. After their daughter is born, a woman comes into their life to care for her, a woman whose life story is so poignant and heartbreaking that the couple cannot help but be inspired by it. But then boundaries are crossed, trust is betrayed, and lives are changed. This is a gorgeous, devastating book about belonging, art, and the choices we make." --Stef Schmidt, Water Street Bookstore, Exeter, N.H.

For Ages 4 to 8
Natsumi! by Susan Lendroth, illustrated by Priscilla Burris (Putnam, $16.99, 9780399170904). "Natsumi's effervescent personality means she is a bit too energetic for her family's quiet tasks of flower picking, tea pouring, and traditional Japanese dancing. With her grandfather's help, she may just find the perfect activity to match her big personality so she can participate in her village's upcoming festival. Natsumi! is a sensational celebration of culture, identity, and family." --Emma McAndrew, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

For Ages 9 to 12
Elementals: Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman (HarperCollins, $16.99, 9780062457981). "Amie Kaufman has created a magical new world full of distant lands and creatures waiting to be discovered. Ice Wolves pulled me in from the first page and left me wanting more at the last. Great news for wolf-lovers everywhere: this book is about actual wolves!" --Renee Becher, Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins, Colo.

For Teen Readers
American Panda by Gloria Chao (Simon Pulse, $17.99, 9781481499101). "American Panda is the cutest book I have read in a long time. Mei's parents want her to become a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer. When Mei goes off to college, she doesn't want her family to find out that she sleeps through biology and hates germs, or that she's met Darren, who is not Taiwanese. Readers follow Mei as she struggles between keeping secrets from her parents and going after what she loves. When she reconnects with her brother Xing, who was estranged for dating the wrong girl, Mei realizes that it might not be worth it to keep her secrets. American Panda is packed with culture, romance, and family." --Emily Matz, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: 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 by Michael Pollan (Penguin Press, $28 hardcover, 480p., 9781594204227, May 15, 2018)

Journalist and author Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma; Cooked) didn't consider taking LSD until he was nearly 60 years old. He had a mild experience with psilocybin mushrooms in his late 20s, but never had much interest in illegal drugs, nor introspection, religion or mysticism in any form. "But there are moments when curiosity gets the better of fear. I guess for me such a moment had arrived."

This curiosity resulted, among other more personal and intangible results, in How to Change Your Mind, a thorough and enlightening study of the history, science and personal experience of psychedelic drugs in the U.S. The invention of LSD in the 1950s sparked a revolution in brain science. Researchers discovered the role of neurotransmitters in the brain, and the neurochemical roots of many mental illnesses. Psychotherapists had remarkable results using psychedelic drugs in treatments. But as enthusiastic promoters of these substances spread them to the general unmonitored public, and the youth counterculture in particular, "the exuberance surrounding these new drugs gave way to moral panic."

They were outlawed, and medical research using them faded until the 1990s, when a new generation of scientists set out to revive their legitimate medical and therapeutic study and use. Researchers at respected institutions have studied the effects of psilocybin on religious professionals, and found remarkable results in trials to treat anxiety, depression, addictions, eating disorders and the fear of death. "It is not the pharmacological effect of the drug itself but the kind of mental experience it occasions--involving the temporary dissolution of one's ego--that may be the key to changing one's mind."

Pollan interviews old and young researchers and "guides," and, with a long disclaimer on the copyright page, he describes his transformative guided personal experiences with LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and 5-MeO-DMT (The Toad). Of his mushroom experience he writes: "I honestly don't know what to make of this experience... I had felt the personhood of other beings in a way I hadn't before.... There had also been... an opening of the heart, toward my parents, yes, and Judith, but also, weirdly, toward some of the plants and trees and birds and even the damn bugs on our property. Some of this openness has persisted. I think back on it now as an experience of wonder and immanence." Legal, expertly guided psychedelic therapies could be the future of mental health treatments and therapies, and of the exploration of human consciousness. --Sara Catterall

Shelf Talker: An entertaining and enlightening guide to the history, science and experience of psychedelic drugs.


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