Spark Notes: A Summer Reading List for the Literary Cannabis Consumer

If the beautiful Fourth of July weather wasn’t indication enough, I’m here to tell you that summer is officially here. The next three months will revolve around locating the nearest body of water, slipping into a bathing suit and basking in the summer sun. And while it may seem like there’s nothing more relaxing than being completely horizontal on a lounge chair or beach towel, there’s one simple way to enhance this summer routine: park up and dive into a good book. Here’s an eclectic list of everything from vivid music documentaries to far-out photo books that offers something for everyone to read this summer. 

 

 

Vivien Goldman’s Revenge of the She-Punks: A Feminist Music History from Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot

 

Vivien Goldman got her start as a journalist covering London’s original punk explosion, chronicling bands like the Slits and the Raincoats. She’s done it all: gone thrift-shopping with Patti Smith, chilled on the beach in Jamaica with Grace Jones, worked as Bob Marley’s publicist, managed Generation X and was even a backing singer at one point. Her new book, Revenge of the She-Punks: A Feminist Music History from Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot, is far from dry academic history, but rather paints a wildly entertaining story about how women have shaped punk music’s revolutionary spirit. Blending interviews, history and her personal experience as one of Britain’s first female music writers, Goldman’s book reads like a vivid documentary of a genre defined by dismantling boundaries.

 

The Family Acid’s The Family Acid: California

 

Think of The Family Acid: California as a family album belonging to a very unconventional family. The beautiful photo book is a collection of snapshots taken between 1968 and 2015 during Roger Steffens and his family’s — wife Mary, daughter Kate, and son Devon — freewheeling adventures across the visionary state they call home. The Family Acid is a storied group of four who have been on a perpetual quest for the eccentric, the outlandish, the transcendent. Roger is most widely known for being the world’s leading reggae historian and former co-host of the award-winning radio program Reggae Beat. He ran with an eccentric pack of psychedelic pioneers like Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary and war photographer Tim Page and frequently rubbed elbows with Bob Marley, about whom he authored a biography. He has been taking photographs since the early 1960s, documenting his unorthodox life and experiences and immersing himself in the vibrant bohemias of Berkeley, Los Angeles and beyond.

 

After starting a family with his wife Mary, family vacations took the foursome up and down the West Coast—from the gritty glam of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip to reggae festivals in Humboldt, from fiery protests in Berkeley to the ancient redwoods of Big Sur and the wilds of Death Valley. This lavish clothbound hardcover takes you into the freewheeling world of the Family Acid through portraits, scenes and experimentation with the medium of photography that defines the countercultural ethos of Steffens’ generation. 

 

Kem Nunn’s Tapping the Source

Alright, so this definitely isn’t a new book, but Kem Nunn’s “surf noir” classic is a thrilling plunge into the seedy underbelly of a Southern California beach town—and the inspiration for the surfers-who-rob-banks-dressed-as-ex-presidents action flick Point Break. Endless parties, ultimate highs and perfect waves are the enticing surface-level characteristics of the beach town in Nunn’s novel, but there are some dicey deeds going on behind the scenes. 

Nunn’s California is a land of broken dreams, where visions of peaceful beach communities are swallowed by the realities of addiction, violence and mistakes that can’t be undone. He writes with a specific cultural knowledge that allows him to depict Southern California in a way that cuts through the flowery haze, capturing the grime and depravity of the beachside “paradise” in a way that only a native could. It’s never too late to read a book you should have read when you were 21.

 

Brian Blomerth’s Bicycle Day

On April 19, 1943, Swiss “mystic chemist” Albert Hofmann intentionally ingested an experimental dose of a then unexplored new compound known as “lysergic acid diethylamide” and embarked on the world’s first-ever acid trip. Brian Blomerth’s Bicycle Day guides viewers through the story of Hofmann’s discovery, winding through time with locations incorporating almost recognizable Disney-like characters in collage, digital overlays and hand-drawn pen on paper. Bicycle Day is an ambitious 200 pages of technicolor adventure filled with painstakingly researched tidbits of information and the artist’s signature dog/human hybrid characters narrating every page. Blomerth even teases references to diary entries from the mystic chemist, his colleagues and family. 

 

Recalling the feel of a vintage paperback, the book is arranged into simplistic spreads with limited dialogue panels; per Blomerth, it is as much an “experimental children’s book” as it is a graphic novel. Combining the extraordinary true story of the discovery of LSD with the artist’s own whimsically gritty and timeless comic style, the book offers a charming narrative.

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

Thanks to books like Pollan’s, which are deeply researched, generations have become enlightened to no longer think of psychedelics primarily as a punchline to a joke about hippies or burnouts, but rather hearten the growing number of people who view them as a catalyst to a new medical and scientific revolution. How to Change Your Mind takes you through the changing connotations around psychedelic drugs–and the spellbinding story of Pollen’s own life-changing psychedelic experiences. A unique and elegant blend of science, memoir, travel writing, history and medicine, How to Change Your Mind is quintessential participatory journalism. It’s the gripping account of a journey to an exciting and unexpected new frontier in our understanding of the mind, the self and our place in the world. 

 

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Author: Alex Khatchadourian

Alex KhatchadourianAlex Khatchadourian is a nationally published writer and editor from Los Angeles. As the founder and editor-in-chief of the print arts and culture magazine, Amadeus, which functions as a space for artists to present their work and express their creativity, she's worked with hundreds of artists, musicians, and tastemakers in a range of creative mediums. Her work has and continues to be steeped in community building and creative collaboration.

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