There is something about reading that just resonates with a high from cannabis. With the right book you are taken on a journey in another person’s shoes, their world, their struggles.
Sometimes that world is one that you know but a corner of it you never experienced or even thought about. Other times a book’s world could be someplace fantastical. A place in a far off, potential future or a place possible only in dreams and flights of fantasy. Perhaps those struggles are something you or someone you know has grappled with. Struggles you are aware of on an intellectual level but never truly got. Or those struggles could be something familiar but experienced through a fantastical lens thanks to magic or theoretical technology.
If you are enjoying a high while reading your mind could be less distracted by things beyond the text. Meaning you are more free to peer at what the author is trying to say between words and to imagine the book’s happenings and setting. The world and events through a character’s eyes.
Here are the Top 7 Books to Enjoy While High.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Despite titling his own book as a play on Eugen Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery (published in 1948) Robert Pirsig made sure to state:
“It should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles, either.”
The book itself is a fictionalized autobiography in which Pirsig begins his journey exploring a view of reality he calls ‘Metaphysics of Quality.’
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry into Values (as the full title goes) explores the themes of: The Self and Relationships, Philosophy, and something he calls Gumption Traps- a state of mind or event that leaves a person without the enthusiasm or drive they once had to start or finish a project.
These themes are explored through a 17-day motorcycle trip between Minnesota and North California Pirsig takes alongside his son. A trip filled with philosophical discussions which are framed by another narrative of the narrator’s past self- a philosopher who went mad trying to answer their own philosophical questions and is seemingly trying to reassert himself in the present.
Robert Pirsig’s work is one the best selling philosophy books of all time.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Full title Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream was written in 1971 by the famous (infamous?) Hunter S. Thompson. While based on autobiographical incidents they are presented in the language and appearance of fiction. In the book Hunter S. Thompson’s recurring anti-hero Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo his attorney journey to Las Vegas, while under a drug-induced haze, during which they ponder on how the countercultural movement of the 1960s failed.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is possibly the most famous book that Hunter S. Thompson has ever written. It owes its fame in large part to how it vividly describes the use of illegal drugs coupled with how it reexamines 1960s culture.
By subjectively blurring the line between fact and fiction in this book Hunter S. Thompson gave rise and popularity to the genre now recognized as Gonzo Journalism.
Fear and Loathing was eventually adapted into the film of the same title in 1998. It was directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python acclaim. It starred Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke and Benicio Del Toro as Dr. Gonzo.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Also recognized by the title The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, out of the amazing body of work by Kurt Vonnegut we decided on choosing Slaughterhouse-Five.
The book is an anti-war novel with science-fiction elements. Its chief influence and inspiration were Vonnegut’s own traumatic experiences in World War II. Particularly his time as a prisoner-of-war at the hands of the Germans and the firebombing of Dresden… when he was in the city. Some have said the book took Kurt Vonnegut twenty years to write because that is how long it took for him to communicate the trauma of what he endured in Dresden in a fashion to his satisfaction. To “speak the unspeakable,” as William Allen puts it.
Slaughterhouse-Five follows the story of Billy Pilgrim as he goes from a youth, to a soldier and chaplain’s assistant in the US Army during World War II, to someone trying to make his way in the post-war years. Now and then Billy also happens to travel through time. Both forwards and backwards. The book’s focus is Billy’s time when he was captured by the Germans and as their prisoner in Dresden when it was firebombed by the Allies.
Critics have called Slaughterhouse-Five “one of the most enduring antiwar novels of all time,” as well as a work of “unmatched moral clarity.” The book explores such themes as coming to terms with war and death, Christian as well as Tralfamadorian philosophy and postmodernism. Some analysts have also read into the book Kurt Vonnegut addressing the issues of veterans, their struggles with mental illness and struggles getting treatment for it.
The Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman
This could possibly be cheating and potentially even warrant a future article on ‘best graphic novels to read while high,’ but if there is any work of Neil Gaiman’s that needs to be enjoyed alongside a joint or edible for an afternoon it is certainly The Sandman series.
First printed in 1989 by DC Comics (though never part of any main continuities) The Sandman is a graphic novel series that follows the titular Sandman or rather as he is called in the comic, Dream (and sometimes Morpheus). Dream is one of the Endless, anthropomorphic personifications each embodying an aspect of reality and existence. Dream’s ‘siblings’ include (fan-favorite) Death, Destruction (who hates his job and has taken up harmless hobbies like painting instead), Delirium, Desire, Despair, and Destiny who all feature in the novels at some point or another.
In addition to Dream and his family are an assortment of characters both mundane and not, from across mythology, literature, and the depths of Neil Gaiman’s imagination, all with their own parts to play in a range of stories that explore the nature of reality, stories, and how it all comes back to the human condition. These stories are told through a mesmerizing, dreamlike interplay of beautifully illustrated images and artfully assembled language.
The Sandman was among the first handful of graphic novels to ever claim spots on the New York Times Best Sellers’ List. It took the No. 46 spot in Entertainment Weekly’s “100 best reads from 1983 to 2008” and was among only five graphic novels to feature on the list.
The City & the City by China Miéville
Next on the list we return to the purely written format but no less strange and wondrous for it. The City & the City was written by British veteran of weird fiction China Miéville who combined his prowess in that genre with the genre of police procedurals as a gift to his mother who loved the latter and was terminally ill.
The story takes place in Besźel, a fictional East European city-state which simultaneously “shares space” with its twin Ul Qoma. In the former Inspector Tyador of the Extreme Crime Squad begins investigating the gruesome murder of foreign student Mahalia Geary. His investigation pulls him deeper into the cultural and political tensions threatening to envelop both cities as well as raises questions regarding a mythical third city said to exist in between Besźel and Ul Qoma.
The City & the City has won a range of awards including the BSFA Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Award. It even tied with Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl for the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
Veteran fantasy writer Michael Moorcock ends his review of the book (written for The Guardian) saying:
“As in no previous novel, the author celebrates and enhances the genre he loves and has never rejected. On many levels this novel is a testament to his admirable integrity. Keeping his grip firmly on an idea which would quickly slip from the hands of a less skilled writer, Miéville again proves himself as intelligent as he is intelligible.”
The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins
If you’re interested in a more criminal noir experience with your high then perhaps The Friends of Eddie Coyle is for you.
Author and (then) Massachusetts’ Assistant United States Attorney debuted his novel in 1970. Higgins draws on his legal experience as both an assistant United States attorney and as an assistant attorney general to tell a more realistic take on organized crime. Specifically the Irish-American Mob that operates out of Boston. Higgins’ approach runs contrary to the popular romanticized take as depicted in other gangster novels of the time. The most famous of which has been The Godfather by Mario Puzo.
The novel centers on the titular Eddie Coyle who is a low time gunrunner getting on in years. The story follows Coyle through a gritty world of arms dealing, bank robberies, and ruthless characters who will betray and kill for pettiness and revenge, all while Eddie has to inform for law enforcement and try not to die.
Famous american novelist Elmore Leonard called The Friends of Eddie Coyle “the best crime novel written,” according to WBUR News writer David Boeri. Leonard himself pointed out that Higgins disliked the label of ‘crime writer’ and rather, “[George V. Higgins] saw himself as the Charles Dickens of crime in Boston instead of a crime writer. He just understood the human condition and understood it most vividly in the language and actions of low lives.”
This book was also adapted into a film with the same title in 1972.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
We are not done with the fantastical yet as we finish this list. Published in 1937 and written by fantasy legend J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again may technically be a children’s book but its prose and imagery have a way of reaching readers of all ages.
In the novel the hobbit of the title Bilbo Baggins is roped into joining a company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield who is himself the heir to a lost kingdom beneath a mountain (as is so often the case with dwarves in fantasy). Said mountain and the mountain of wealth beneath it are under the dominion of the mighty dragon Smaug. If the dwarves are to regain their kingdom and treasure they must overcome the dragon. Fortunately they are accompanied on their quest by the great wizard Gandalf the Grey… when he isn’t disappearing from the plot so things aren’t too easy for our heroes.
We follow the company as they must contend with goblins, trolls, giant spiders, giant wolves, dangerous terrain, and elves both benign and ill-tempered before even reaching the dragon.
Through Bilbo’s journey both the hobbit and the readers experience personal growth and a growing understanding of the different forms heroism can take.
The beings, their languages, and the landscapes filling the story are all born from Tolkien’s love of languages and mythology.
When The Hobbit was released it was met with near-universal acclaim in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Tolkien’s personal friend and later author of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis wrote in The Times:
“The truth is that in this book a number of good things, never before united, have come together: a fund of humour, an understanding of children, and a happy fusion of the scholar’s with the poet’s grasp of mythology… The professor has the air of inventing nothing. He has studied trolls and dragons at first hand and describes them with that fidelity that is worth oceans of “originality.”
What books have you read while high? Which gave you the best or most interesting experience? Were there any differences or new insights between when you read while high and while not?