Book Passage Presents

Michael Pollan

in conversation with Mark Danner

Celebrating the release of his new book

This is Your Mind on Plants

LIVE: Saturday, July 30,
1:00pm pacific / 4:00pm eastern

Book Passage Presents

Michael Pollan

in conversation with Mark Danner

Celebrating the release of his new book

This is Your Mind on Plants

LIVE: Saturday, July 30,
1:00pm pacific / 4:00pm eastern

Join Michael Pollan in person or online to celebrate the release of his book This is Your Mind on Plants.

“Delightful . . . [This Is Your Mind On Plants] aims to collapse the distinctions between legal and illegal, medical and recreational, exotic and everyday, by appealing to the principle that unites the three: the affinities between plant biochemistry and the human mind.” New York Review of Books
“Pollan’s insatiable appetite to learn every possible morsel about the subject on which he is writing is a gift that has proved itself with best-seller after best-seller . . . . Anchored by a refreshing willingness to expose his own blind spots, [This Is Your Mind On Plants] is an engrossing, plant-powered blend of general history, contemporary reporting and potent self-reflection.” San Francisco Chronicle

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Pollan, a radical challenge to how we think about drugs, and an exploration into the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants — and the equally powerful taboos.

Of all the things humans rely on plants for — sustenance, beauty, medicine, fragrance, flavor, fiber—surely the most curious is our use of them to change consciousness: to stimulate or calm, fiddle with or completely alter, the qualities of our mental experience. Take coffee and tea: People around the world rely on caffeine to sharpen their minds. But we do not usually think of caffeine as a drug, or our daily use as an addiction, because it is legal and socially acceptable. So, then, what is a “drug”? And why, for example, is making tea from the leaves of a tea plant acceptable, but making tea from a seed head of an opium poppy a federal crime?

In This Is Your Mind on Plants, Michael Pollan dives deep into three plant drugs — opium, caffeine, and mescaline — and throws the fundamental strangeness, and arbitrariness, of our thinking about them into sharp relief. Exploring and participating in the cultures that have grown up around these drugs while consuming (or, in the case of caffeine, trying not to consume) them, Pollan reckons with the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants. Why do we go to such great lengths to seek these shifts in consciousness, and then why do we fence that universal desire with laws and customs and fraught feelings?

In this unique blend of history, science, and memoir, as well as participatory journalism, Pollan examines and experiences these plants from several very different angles and contexts, and shines a fresh light on a subject that is all too often treated reductively — as a drug, whether licit or illicit. But that is one of the least interesting things you can say about these plants, Pollan shows, for when we take them into our bodies and let them change our minds, we are engaging with nature in one of the most profound ways we can. Based in part on an essay published almost twenty-five years ago, this groundbreaking and singular consideration of psychoactive plants, and our attraction to them through time, holds up a mirror to our fundamental human needs and aspirations, the operations of our minds, and our entanglement with the natural world.

Michael Pollan

About Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan writes books and articles about the places where the human and natural worlds intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in our minds. Pollan is the author of eight books, six of which have been New York Times bestsellers; three of them (including his latest, How to Change Your Mind) were immediate #1 New York Times bestsellers. A contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine since 1987, Pollan’s writing has received numerous awards and in 2010 he was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife, the painter Judith Belzer.

Mark Danner

About Mark Danner

Mark Danner is a writer and educator who has covered foreign affairs, war, and politics for three decades. He has written about wars and political violence in Central America, Haiti, the Balkans, and the Middle East, among other stories, and has covered every presidential election since 2000. A longtime staff writer for The New Yorker, he is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and many other publications. His books include The Massacre at El Mozote, Torture and Truth, Stripping Bare the Body, and Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War. He is currently Class of 1961 Distinguished Chair in Undergraduate Education at Berkeley, where he teaches in the Graduate School of Journalism and the Department of English. His work has been recognized with a National Magazine Award, three Overseas Press Awards, a Guggenheim, an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a duPont, and an Emmy. In 1999, Danner was named a MacArthur Fellow. markdanner.com