PositiveThe New York Times Book Review[Pollan] masterfully elevates a series of big questions about drugs, plants and humans that are likely to leave readers thinking in new ways ... Most of the background in Caffeine can also be found in stand-alone books on coffee or tea. What Pollan contributes is expert storytelling and a second big idea in the form of a question: Do coffee and tea have a mutualistic relationship with human society? ... Invariably, the challenge of personal stories about self-experimentation is that the experiences the writer is relaying are ones the reader does not share. By the end of the book, Pollan convinced me so fully of the relativistic effects of mescaline that I was left wondering what sort of general truth his own story represents. Can we generalize from his own drama? Surely his experience does not tell us much about the Native American use of peyote, a culturally contextualized practice that he was told by Native American interviewees \'had done more to heal the wounds of genocide, colonialism and alcoholism than anything else they had tried\' ... Pollan seems to bet, and he is probably right, that readers will relate to his dabbling with drug plants because of one aspect of their usage that does happen to be nearly universal. To varying extents, we are all trying to negotiate the challenging interplay between our own brain’s chemistries and a number of converging factors ... Ultimately, Pollan does not answer whether individual readers should partake in the plant drugs he discusses; this is not part of his project. But he does skillfully achieve what he set out to do. He has left the reader with some \'more interesting stories about our ancient relationship with the mind-altering plants,\' stories likely to trigger new debates and discussions as well as, no doubt, a fair amount of illicit gardening.
RaveScienceOne has the feeling, while reading this book, of fumbling through the unknown ... the poems of Erasmus Darwin are set alongside Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the chemistry of urea, to fascinating effect. I found myself feeling very grateful that Zimmer had drawn connections among these disparate themes. We biologists are often necessarily narrow in our perspective ... His breadth reveals more of the whole, however blurry, than would otherwise be available to the specialist ... By the end of the book, Zimmer had fully convinced me that the question of what it means to be alive is also best answered according to the purposes for which we ask—and that such inquiries will yield different outcomes depending on how we ask them.
RaveScienceMore than anything else, Entangled Life is an ode to other ways of being ... I finished the book eager to ferment anything and everything, dig through soil, and go out and sniff mushrooms ... full of details, but Sheldrake tends to use those details to reveal broader truths ... I have been working on and reading and writing about fungi for a decade. And yet, nearly every page of this book contained either an observation so interesting or a turn of phrase so lovely that I was moved to slow down, stop, and reread ... It is easy, as a biologist, to grow numb to nature: numbed by the ones and zeroes of spreadsheets, numbed by emails and virtual meetings. This book rocked me into remembering that nature, especially fungal nature, is big and encompassing and creative and destructive. It reminded me that fungi are, like the Universe, sublime.