Reviews of How to Change Your Mind

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan: A man who believes you’re never too old to take a trip

Food writer Michael Pollan has turned his attention to mind-altering mushrooms

A Strait-Laced Writer Explores Psychedelics, and Leaves the Door of Perception Ajar

“How to Change Your Mind” is a calm survey of the past, present and future. A book about a blurry subject, it is cleareyed and assured. Pollan is not the most obvious guide for such a journey. He is, to judge from his self-reporting, a giant square. In the prologue, he describes himself as someone “not at all sure he has ever had a single ‘spiritually significant’ experience,” a pretty straitened admission even for an avowed atheist. “I have never been one for deep or sustained introspection,” he writes later. You often find yourself thinking: This guy could really use a trip.

The Trip of a Lifetime: Michael Pollan explores what LSD and other psychedelics can do for the no longer young.

If How to Change Your Mind furthers the popular acceptance of psychedelics as much as I suspect it will, it will be by capsizing the long association, dating from Leary’s time, between the drugs and young people. Pollan observes that the young have had less time to establish the cognitive patterns that psychedelics temporarily overturn. But “by middle age,” he writes, “the sway of habitual thinking over the operations of the mind is nearly absolute.” What he sought in his own trips was not communion with a higher consciousness so much as the opportunity to “renovate my everyday mental life.”

Review: How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics by Michael Pollan — turn on, tune in and lick a toad

In the past decade, as Pollan shows, there has been a psychedelic renaissance led by scientists. Working in places such as Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and Imperial College London, they have been studying the brains of those given psychedelic drugs in controlled situations, and their hypotheses are fascinating — although they are still hypotheses. Professor David Nutt at Imperial, for example, believes that what the trials are revealing is the existence of an inhibiting, efficient shortcut he calls the “brain’s default network”, or DMN, which, when switched off by psychedelics, allows the mind to wander into extraordinary places.

This book on psychedelics might convince you to drop acid

In “How to Change Your Mind,” (Penguin Press) food journalist Michael Pollan makes psychedelics his subject du jour by offering up his own mind as a test subject. It may not be the obvious subject for the author of the modern classic “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” but stick with Pollan — this departure makes for great reading.

Take a hit of acid and call me in the morning

In “How to Change Your Mind,” Michael Pollan makes it clear that he could not agree more. If “everyday waking consciousness” is “but one of several possible ways to construct a world,” he writes, “then perhaps there is value in cultivating a greater amount of what I’ve come to think of as neural diversity.” By “neural diversity” Pollan seems to mean a broad, embracing experience of the human mind and its links to the universe at large, an experience largely unconstrained by “heuristics,” the cognitive shortcuts that allow us to solve problems and make quick judgments but that also sometimes lead us astray.

A revival in the scientific study of psychedelics prompts a journalist to take a trip

Known for his writing on plants and food, Michael Pollan, in his latest book, How to Change Your Mind, brings all the curiosity and skepticism for which he is well known to a decidedly different topic: the psychedelic drugs d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin. In addition to being a balanced piece of journalistic science writing, this work is also part memoir, as Pollan searches for meaning in life as he enters his early 60s.

What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

Noted culinary writer Pollan (Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, 2013, etc.) makes the transition from feeding your body to feeding your head. The lengthy disclaimer on the copyright page speaks volumes. The author, well-known for books on food and life such as The Botany of Desire and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has been opening some of the doors of perception with the aid of lysergic acid, its molecular cousin psilocybin, ayahuasca, and assorted other chemical tools.

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

Food writer Pollan (Cooked) shifts his focus to other uses of plants in this brilliant history of psychedelics across cultures and generations, the neuroscience of its effects, the revival of research on its potential to heal mental illness—and his own mind-changing trips. For an entire generation, psychedelics were synonymous with Harvard professor-turned-hippie Timothy Leary and his siren call to “turn on, tune in, drop out.”