10 Books on Psychedelics, Expanded Consciousness, and Processing Trauma

Written by: the Editors of goop


Updated on: January 3, 2020


With the recent whipping up of interest in psychedelics, we’ve found the best place to start is to study up. The history of the psychedelic field is dense with scientific research, strong opinions, and a fair dose of drama. Here are some of the books that have cleared up where things stand and helped us make up our own minds.

We’ve also included a pair of books on trauma, because while many people have found healing from trauma in psychedelic-assisted therapy, it’s not for everyone, not to be taken lightly, and not to be DIY’ed. It’s a topic we explored in the first episode of our Netflix series, The goop Lab—you’ll find everything we’ve learned so far about psychedelics and healing here.


  • <em>The Psychedelic Experience</em> by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert

    The Psychedelic Experience by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert

    Drawing on the wisdom of the Tibetan Book of the Dead—a centuries-old guide to changes in consciousness between death and the next life—The Psychedelic Experience outlines the experience of ego death: an episode of complete transcendence and loss of identity associated with high doses of psychedelics. Authors Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert (also known as Ram Dass) were some of the first researchers to record this phenomenon, and many psychonauts recognize this book as a foundational guide to the experience.

  • <em>LSD, My Problem Child</em> by Albert Hofmann, PhD

    LSD, My Problem Child by Albert Hofmann, PhD

    The chemist who first synthesized LSD discovered its psychedelic effects by accident. This book is his account of what came after: early psychiatric studies, the birth of the psychedelic movement, a journey through Mexico to investigate psilocybin mushrooms, and correspondences with writers Ernst Jünger and Aldous Huxley about the nature of mystical experience—all leading Hofmann to the conclusion that transcendence, by whatever means, may be exactly what humanity needs.

  • <em>Food of the Gods</em> by Terence McKenna

    Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna

    Ethnobotanist Terence McKenna explores mankind’s relationship to mind-altering plants from past to present, arguing that we’ve lost the shamanic understanding of their significance. McKenna’s work is mesmerizing—and while we’ll admit this book is a bit dense, some say it’s essential to the understanding of modern-day psychedelic use.

  • <em>The Doors of Perception</em> by Aldous Huxley

    The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley

    In 1953, Aldous Huxley took mescaline, a psychedelic obtained from the peyote cactus, and then proceeded to journal his evolving inward experience. Psychedelic researchers and historians believe that his journals, published in this book, have shaped the ways that people now describe their experiences during expanded states of consciousness. The read itself is a trip—and Huxley’s poetic spiritual, philosophical, and psychological insights still resonate today.


  • <em>The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide</em> by James Fadiman, PhD

    The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide by James Fadiman, PhD

    Written by one of the most prominent and respected pioneers in psychedelic research, James Fadiman, this book offers practical guidelines for the effective and responsible use of psychedelic substances. Fadiman’s holistic approach—he covers the wide body of psychedelic research as well as the personal stories of some of the field’s most prominent people—is delivered with both humor and appropriate weight. He’s careful to remind us that psychedelics are not for everybody. But the core of his message is this: When used thoughtfully and with intention, these drugs can be invaluable tools for healing, personal growth, and spiritual insight.

  • <em>Consciousness Medicine</em> by Françoise Bourzat with Kristina Hunter

    Consciousness Medicine by Françoise Bourzat with Kristina Hunter

    With the rise of psychedelics’ use for healing and transformation, the modern-day experience of these substances is often divorced from their traditional shamanic roots. In this reference for any psychedelic user or guide, Françoise Bourzat uses her many years of counseling experience to detail a holistic model for preparation, journey, and integration that is based in native healing rituals and empowers the reader to approach expanded states of consciousness with intention and balance.


  • <em>A Really Good Day</em> by Ayelet Waldman

    A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman

    After checking off nearly every psychotropic medication in her psychiatrist’s arsenal to treat her bipolar disorder, author Ayelet Waldman turned to something new: microdosing. That is, taking one-tenth of a normal dose of a psychedelic (in Waldman’s case, LSD), which has almost no perceivable effect. She takes us through her monthlong microdosing journey, reporting on the history, research, and policies behind psychedelics as well as her newfound sense of joy, increased productivity, and even reduced physical pain.

  • <em>How to Change Your Mind</em> by Michael Pollan

    How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

    From both a journalistic perspective and a personal one, Pollan explores the history of psychedelic research and the potential of psychedelic drugs to effectively treat hard-to-treat mental health conditions, diminish the ego, and illuminate the experience of living. What makes the book so special is that Pollan is an active participant in his research: As a reader, we travel with him to meet mycologists, shamans, and scientists cracking the code on the default mode network. The whole book is enchanting, and it is especially so in the section where Pollan attempts (and succeeds) to “eff the ineffable”—describing in stunning detail his first-time experiences with LSD, psilocybin, and 5-MeO-DMT.


  • <em>The Body Keeps the Score</em> by Bessel van der Kolk, MD

    The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, MD

    Weaving together patient narratives and detailed scientific insights, The Body Keeps the Score is a guide to trauma based on psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk’s decades of research and clinical practice. It outlines the way trauma affects every one of us throughout every part of our lives—especially in how we relate to others—while exploring the neuroscientific underpinnings of trauma and the emerging research on how we can heal.

  • <em>The Transformation</em> by James Gordon, MD

    The Transformation by James Gordon, MD

    Psychiatrist James Gordon’s work redefines the way we think of trauma, framing it as something that affects everyone over the course of a lifetime—physically, mentally, emotionally. His latest book is especially useful for a variety of healing techniques you can try on your own or with a group of people reading the book together.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.