As summertime approaches, many people look forward to vacations and relaxing weekends. The mainstream media is already offering its “summer reading” lists, encouraging us to read meaningless novels or tell-all television and movie star biographies.
Of course, Cannabis Culture readers are far more astute than most people. Along with packing copies of the world’s best marijuana magazine to the beach, they want to read books that educate and entertain.
In the spirit of summer, here are some compelling texts to consider:
ORYX AND CRAKE, by Margaret Atwood. This novel details a semi-fictional world plagued by climate change, genetic mutations, social unrest, and global economic inequality. Atwood’s protagonist, Snowman, travels a personal odyssey as he tries to survive cataclysmic events that will seem sadly familiar to people who read today’s headlines.
REEFER MADNESS, by Larry Sloman. Probably the best book on American marijuana prohibition that will ever be written, Sloman’s tome is wildly witty, sarcastic and entertaining while also featuring stunning insights into the history of America’s drug war.
REEFER MADNESS, by Eric Schlosser. Yes, this book has the same title as Sloman’s book! The author of Fast Food Nation takes us on a tour of America’s underground economy. Schlosser focuses on marijuana, the porn industry, and illegal migrant agricultural workers. The book includes the poignant story of an Indiana pot dealer who is serving a life term for selling marijuana. Schlosser’s FAST FOOD NATION is also a good read, ha ha, especially at mealtime; it shows how America’s food industry corrupts what we eat, makes us fat, and puts defecation and pus in our food.
THE BOOK OF SALADIN, by Tariq Ali. The famed Middle Eastern scholar, author and filmmaker tells the early history of Iraq, Egypt and other parts of the Arab-Islamic world, in a moving, humorous novel that has the breadth and resonance of an epic. Contains frequent references to use of hashish, which is also described in Robert Connell Clarke’s landmark book, HASHISH, a picturesque work that documents the history of resin glands throughout the world.
HOUSE OF BUSH, HOUSE OF SAUD: THE SECRET RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE WORLD’S TWO MOST POWERFUL DYNASTIES, by Craig Unger. If you’re wondering about the real reasons for 9/11 and the war in Iraq, Unger’s book provides chilling revelations documenting economic, political and personal connections between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family. Should be accompanied by AMERICAN DYNASTY: ARISTOCRACY, FORTUNE AND THE POLITICS OF DECEIT IN THE HOUSE OF BUSH, by Kevin Phillips. The author is a former Republican operative who shows how the Bush family has for decades profited from war, pollution, and spying.
Where did Michael Moore get a lot of the ideas presented in his censored new movie, Fahrenheit 911? Read THE WAR ON FREEDOM by British scholar Nafeez Ahmed. You’ll learn that the US government was complicit in the training and financing of bin Laden, and that 9/11 could have been prevented. For a more humorous, vitriolic, and expanded version of the same information, read Moore’s STUPID WHITE MEN and DUDE, WHERE’S MY COUNTRY?
WORSE THAN WATERGATE. Former Nixon White House attorney John Dean argues that the level of secrecy and law-breaking in the Bush administration is wayyy worse than the secrecy and law-breaking in the administration of Republican president Richard M. Nixon, who resigned the presidency rather than risk being impeached for authorizing and covering-up the burglary of Democratic Party Headquarters.
PERFECTLY LEGAL, by New York Times investigative reporter David Cay Johnston. This book is required reading for anybody who pays taxes. Johnston shows how politicians and lobbyists have rewritten America’s tax laws so that the middle-class and poor people subsidize the richest one percent of America’s population, as well as wealthy corporations. Also details how economic inequity is increasing: for sure, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.
THE BOTANY OF DESIRE. Plant lover Michael Pollan gives us this fascinating volume showing how plants and humans cooperate for their mutual benefit. The history of apples, potatoes, tulips and marijuana involve co-evolution. After reading this book, we are left to wonder if we control plants, or if they control us! Pollan also takes on the harmful genetic manipulation and plant patenting procedures of corporate agribusiness giant Monsanto.
DR. TATIANA’S SEX ADVICE TO ALL CREATION, by Olivia Judson. Ever wondered why sex and sexual politics are such strange, puzzling and pleasurable topics? This quirky and creative book uses the sex lives of insects, hyenas, primates and others to help humans understand their own sexuality.
DRUG SMUGGLING: The Forbidden Book, by K. Hawkeye Gross. This is an insider’s guide to smuggling. It’s more like a handbook than a novel. Also tells you how much time you’ll do in prison if you get caught!
NAKED LUNCH. Written by homosexual junkie genius William Burroughs, this tour de force ranks as one of the top books of the 20th century. It is a hallucinogenic journey inspired by edible hashish, other powerful drugs, and the razor-sharp wit of Burroughs, whose work is semi-autobiographical. The book was also made into an excellent movie of the same name.
For people who care about the fate of the earth and all life on it, read Rachel Carson’s prophetic “SILENT SPRING.” Written more than 40 years ago, this book is considered to have almost single-handedly catalyzed the environmental movement. DESERT SOLITAIRE, by Edward Abbey, is also prophetic. Abbey was a park ranger working at national parks in Southern Utah when he wrote this book, which laments the destruction of nature, national parks and solitude caused by government policies, automobiles, and population growth. The book is eloquent, prescient, and heartfelt, as is Bill McKibben’s “THE END OF NATURE,” which meditates on the loss of natural beauty, ecosystems and species. For an accurate explanation of the real causes of many regional and global conflicts, consult Michael Klare’s RESOURCE WARS. This alarming book shows how global warming, drought, fossil fuel shortages and other scarcities are already starting wars, holocausts, and forced migrations.
As evidence of US military war crimes mounts, abuse of prisoners in the US is also becoming better-known. Christian Parenti’s book LOCKDOWN AMERICA shows how the drug war, racism and private prisons create and exploit crime and prisoners for profit. Another intelligent Parenti, this one named Michael, has written a book called INVENTING REALITY. This book, along with Noam Chomsky’s MANUFACTURING CONSENT, reveals how corporate media programs people to believe in a fake world that serves the interests of the wealthy elite, business, consumerism, and political conservatism. After reading these two books, you’ll be gladder than ever that there are alternative news organizations such as Cannabis Culture. Chomsky is one of few American intellectuals willing to directly challenge George W. Bush, as you will see in his courageous book, HEGEMONY OR SURVIVAL.
If you want to trip out, read Martin Lee’s ACID DREAMS, which raises interesting questions about the relationship of the CIA, LSD, and social revolution. Also acidified is Hunter S. Thompson’s FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, considered one of the most hilarious forms of journalistic excess ever created. Read “ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST,” by Ken Kesey; this haunting novel portrays what happens if you step too far outside the boundaries of “normal” human behavior.
CATCH 22, by Joseph Heller, is a must-read novel that focuses on the evils of war. Can be read in tandem with Kurt Vonnegut’s “SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE,” an acerbic, funny, and penetrating classis. Historian Howard Zinn’s A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES is a factual history lesson that shows that war and oppression are traditional tools of US imperialists. For inspiration and optimism about new ways that humanity can build egalitarian societies, try George Monbiot’s visionary MANIFESTO FOR A NEW WORLD ORDER.
How can you get in shape while being kind to animals and reversing your biological clock? Check out Gary Null’s ULTIMATE ANTI-AGING PROGRAM. It’s a bit hard to follow Null’s program because it asks you to give up corporate fake foods, death habits, and dead food produced by animal imprisonment and cruelty, but the book’s testimonials make it clear that Null’s combination of healthy diet, exercise and spirituality can extend lifespan and enhance enjoyment. Coming from a different part of the universe, but still arriving at the same blissful space, Ram Dass’s “BE HERE NOW” is essential reading.
For sexy, intelligent, stream of consciousness fun, check out Henry Miller’s autobiographical SEXUS and NEXUS.
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X is a hard-hitting, honest self-revelation from a man who, like Martin Luther King, Jr., sacrificed his life to stop racism in America.
No reading list would be complete without the time-honored pro-pot classic, THE EMPEROR WEARS NO CLOTHES, by Jack Herer. This book created hempy idealists across the world, and shamed the US government, which had denied the existence of pro-cannabis films and reports that Herer reported on in his book. Speaking of classics, even if you’ve already read George Orwell’s 1984 and Alduous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD, read them again. These guys really had the ability to look into the future; the world they created in their books has, unfortunately, come true.
And finally, for deep, spiritual novels about love, time, and healing, check out Sebastian Barry’s book ANNIE DUNNE, set in rural Ireland, and Carson McCuller’s THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER.
So there you have it, a summer’s worth of reading. This list is by no means complete. I’ve left out hundreds of fantastic books and authors. But it’s a start!
Remember also, get books from the library, or buy them used or new from your local independent bookstores. Don’t buy from corporate mega merger bookstores that censor authors and overcharge for products.