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The Reading List: Look who's tokin' now! 5 books for 4/20

Posted by Alex Pearlman  April 20, 2012 08:45 AM

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rolling words snoop dogg.jpgBy Tamar Zmora

Today, April 20, is the national holiday of the grower, the harvester, and the dealer -- and, no, we're not talking corn. To be "blunt," today is the day to "roll" with the punches, lie in the "grass," "weed" out the bad, and become the "toke" of the town. Enough with the puns; Bob Dylan said it best anyways: "Everybody must get stoned," and hear ye, hear ye, this is the pothead decree.

Whether you call it pot, weed, bud, Mary Jane, or reefer, the plant formerly known as Cannabis will be celebrated today in some social circles thanks to a group of high schoolers in San Rafael, California. I'm not suggesting any illegal activity, but I am suggesting you take a peek at these higher-than-life books about the sublime substance.

Joint Ventures: Inside America’s Almost Legal Marijuana Industry (Trish Regan). From the swanky suburbs of Denver to the largest marijuana clinic in Oakland,Calif., the Purple Kush connects dealer to healthcare provider and everyone in between. Joint Ventures chronicles the ever-changing laws and potential effects of legalizing the substance. Regan does not overlook the racial implications of the war on drugs targeted at blacks and Hispanics (she expounds on Mexican cartels) or the plant’s potent business ventures and revenue. She produces an informative cause-and-effect report and explores the possibility of decriminalization judiciously.

naked lunch.jpgNaked Lunch (William S. Burroughs). Lee the Agent, Burrough's alter-ego and a narcotics addict, evades New York City police in this weaving story that travels from the U.S. to Mexico. Take the drug-induced journey with Lee, but don’t trip out if you have difficulty keeping up: The jumpy, non-linear narrative shifts like crazy.

The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World (Michael Pollan). A section of this quartered book is devoted to marijuana; the author of An Omnivore’s Dilemma guides us through the desire for the forbidden plant. Pollan tells of his own misadventures growing it in his garden and the frivolity of the drug wars of the last three decades. A cultural study leads the author to Amsterdam for the Cannabis Cup, an annual growers’ event, and to track down the origins of the seed in America. Packed with information about the plant's history, Cannabis’ supposed threat to monotheism, and Pollan’s personal narratives, this book will uproot your previous mythical beliefs about the plant of desire.

fear and loathing in las vegas.jpgFear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (Hunter S. Thompson). The famous Gonzo journalist goes after a story and finds himself seduced by drugs and alcohol in Sin City. Thompson’s journey through Vegas -- not once, but twice -- is riddled with LSD, ether, cocaine, and, of course, Cannabis. A cult classic in 420 groups, the book, originally published in 1971, reached even wider audiences after the movie version, starring Mr. Johnny Depp, debuted in the late '90s.

Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market (Eric Schlosser). Exploring America’s supposed vices, pot and porn, Scholosser takes readers to some of the country's large-scale marijuana farms and brings to light the mind-blowing, billion-dollars industry of the crop. But far more staggering, as this book details, are the prison sentences doled out to illegal crop growers -- life sentences for dealing, for example. Schlosser discusses pot’s medicinal uses, its legal travails, the political revolutions, and the drug wars in South and Central America.

BONUS: Rolling Words: A Smokable Songbook (Snoop Dogg). The highly anticipated release of Mr. Dogg’s new book -- copies of his lyrics printed on King Size Slim rolling papers -- will have readers setting aside their gin and juices and indulging in another type of euphoria. The book's spine is even a match strike board!

'The Reading List' is TNGG Boston's spot for literary recommendations and reviews, written by Tamar Zmora.

About Tamar -- I'm a recent Wellesley College grad with a degree in English and studio art. I grew up in the Midwest and briefly lived in Europe and the Middle East. My name is often mistaken for Tamara from "Sister, Sister." I love exploring coffee shops and am almost always highly caffeinated. I am very interested in films, the arts, theatre, painting, photography -- you name it -- '90s TV shows, and music.

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