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Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream

4.25  ·  Rating Details  ·  765 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
Storming Heaven is a riveting history of LSD and its influence on American culture. Jay Stevens uses the "curious molecule" known as LSD as a kind of tracer bullet, illuminating one of postwar America's most improbable shadow-histories. His prodigiously researched narrative moves from Aldous Huxley's earnest attempts to "open the doors of perception" to Timothy Leary's sur ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 2nd 1998 by Grove Press (first published 1987)
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Dec 12, 2008 Cwn_annwn_13 rated it really liked it
This was a very good book. You get lots of interesting stuff about Aldous Huxley, the famous beat writers, Owsley, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey and the evolution of the so called counterculture as a whole.

The problems that I have with Storming Heaven is not for what was in it but what was left out. For one Stevens was WAY too easy on Timothy Leary. The author seemed almost like a school girl with a crush when he recounts his visit to Learys home for an interview for the book. He comes off more as a
Erik Graff
May 12, 2015 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
In order to maintain the rigor of the physical sciences while maintaining that of ethics, Immanuel Kant performed a "Copernican Revolution" in philosophy by seeking the formal structures of reality in the human mind. This deep analysis, while ordinarily not regarded as necessary, the commonalities of human apperception being presupposed and therefore set aside in most of the sciences, is particualrly appropriate in psychopathology, parapsychology and in the studies of religion and of altered sta ...more
Really fascinating and well-documented cultural history of the middle of the last century - not at all just about acid, though of course you learn A LOT about acid as well. If you are interested in psychology, literature, the rise of Western interest in Eastern philosophies, mid-sixties music, pharmaceutical research, the CIA, California, altered states, beatniks/hipsters/hippies/squares/burnouts/organization men, the early versions of the war against drugs, or the United States generally betwee ...more
Mar 01, 2008 Howard rated it it was amazing
Outstanding. Manages the remarkable trick of being a solid historical account while still letting the feel of the times dictate the shape of the material. Also, for some, some serious nostalgia value.

Jul 14, 2010 Piotr rated it it was amazing
You know all about Leary's Harvard studies and Kesey's bus, but do you have any context for the pharmacological movement of what They sneeringly call 'the Sixties'? 20+ years after I first read it as a tie-dyed snot-nose, Jay Stevens' history of how and why humans choose to explore their sub/unconscious via psychedlics (and how we even came to call these drugs as such) remains a vital American History read. May the social powers that be one day reconsider the lessons learned on this trip, and ap ...more
Frank Palardy
Feb 14, 2016 Frank Palardy rated it really liked it
Fairly good book from what I recall.
Bill Wallace
Sep 07, 2015 Bill Wallace rated it it was amazing
Terrific social history. The first two-thirds of this book were as engaging as a good novel, real page-turning stuff. The early history of psychedelics reads like a Marx brothers film plot, with characters like Aldous Huxley, unlikely prophet of chemical ecstasy, and Al Hubbard, a high pressure LSD salesman who actually got a Catholic diocese to sanction his quest to use the drug to achieve beatitude. Woven through mid-century art, politics, entertainment, and science, LSD and its natural kindre ...more
Jul 25, 2007 Don rated it it was amazing
A facinating journalistic history of LSD. It delves into the phenomenon I am very interested in, the birth of the flower children out of the ashes of the beats. Once they dropped acid they left their black berets behind and adopted the colors and edwardian glory of their innocent and naive rebellion.

A must read to understand the 60's and drug culture if you weren't there personally. I was but on the fray...
Nov 15, 2007 brandon rated it it was amazing
fucking fantastic. stay way from salvia. trust me.
Sep 13, 2012 Rose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For a history book of sorts, this was surprisingly easy to stay interested in for the duration. Still quite a bit of heavy reading and can be exhausting at times, but I feel as if the author did a stellar job of putting things in order and connecting them in a way that was easy to follow and hold all the events and people together. For such a complex subject, this was extremely well-done.

I also like the fact that the author wrote with a very open-minded tone. Both negative and positive aspects o
Arthur Vincie
Nov 27, 2015 Arthur Vincie rated it it was amazing
Recently re-read. A really engaging, fast-moving social history of the use of psychedelics in the U.S. and Europe, starting in the late 19th century and ending in the '80s. It connects the social/political/medical threads connecting Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, Osmond, Huxley, Heard, Leary, Kesey, Ginsberg (to name just a few of the more prominent characters in the story). The book also asks some serious questions about American mainstream culture and values along the way.
Christopher Hinton
Nov 06, 2013 Christopher Hinton rated it liked it
It's been more than a decade since I read this book, but I've been thinking about it again recently as I try to tally more ratings to gain Goodread recommendations.

What I recall liking most about this history is the number of major 20th-century literary, intellectual and artistic figures it includes and their casual encounters with the 60s drug culture. Woody Guthrie and a drunk Jack Kerouac may not be such a surprise, but Anais Nin's meeting with Ken Kesey was.

I also recall it had some astute o
Robert Miller
Dec 07, 2015 Robert Miller rated it liked it
I first became interested in this book after reading that this is the book that inspired author Allan Glynn to write the book that became the Bradley Cooper starting film, "Limitless".

The book closely examines a slice of culture in the 50s and 60s, that has become almost forgotten. Mostly detailing the hippie scene in California, the book takes many interesting turns detailing things even the most interested historian might not know.

Detailing the countering forces of 60s free expression, and la
Scott Snider
Jul 08, 2015 Scott Snider rated it it was amazing
Somebody gave me the book as an explanation of the 60's/70's. I couldn't put this down. I've lent it out a few times and one person said "couldn't finish this because it made me want to take LSD". It didn't effect me that way just put the drug culture in perspective. Highly recommended.
Steve Kavanagh
May 07, 2016 Steve Kavanagh rated it it was amazing
A timeless story on the origin of perhaps the most powerful and misunderstood of all Chemicals, from its discovery all the way through the 50s and 60s, this much maligned chemical has 'almost' started countless revolutions.
A fantastic read for the budding psychonaut
James Helfrich
Dec 16, 2015 James Helfrich rated it really liked it
Although lacking in intellectual rigor and, especially, an index, it has a lively style and tells a fascinating story. It follows the the thread of one molecule through the birth of the 60s counterculture in America. There are four central protagonists--Albert Hoffman, Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, and Ken Kesey-- the scientist, the aesthete, the mystic, and the provocateur, respectively. These various roles relate intimately to their notions of the usefulness of this strange chemical: to unders ...more
Curtis Butturff
Nov 03, 2011 Curtis Butturff rated it liked it
Interesting book that details some of the history of the drug made notorious in the 1960s but also used in a surprising number of venues by among others Timothy Leary of Harvard. Halucinogens in modest amounts continued to be legally administered in some states in psychotherapy situations monitored by physicians to treat among other things depression. Outlawed in the 1980s they helped pave the way for more refined reality altering substances such as the Prozac family of medications. This book de ...more
Max Mills
Jan 04, 2015 Max Mills rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. If you drop acid, be sure to understand its complicated history, which can be done by reading this.
Mar 11, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this stuff. I should even read this again.
Sep 05, 2010 Joel rated it really liked it
,,,a good history of LSD and intertwined CIA fuckery and their 'tests' on an unwitting public as well as good background on it's other impacts on larger society...some myths were dispelled and some perpetuated, but Mr. Stevens' overall research is sound and his writing style clear and concise...I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to discover how certain powers in our nation actually view both th' populace and policies towards us regarding personal freedom and how cheaply both are regarded. ...more
Duncan O'neill
Sep 21, 2012 Duncan O'neill rated it it was amazing
I first read this about 20 years ago, and wanted to revisit it to find out whether it was as good the second time around. It was. Brilliant at drawing links and contrasts between Huxley, the Beats, Kesey & the Pranksters, Leary, and the ( other ) psychologists, and ( some of ) the part the CIA played. But more than that, Stevens' writing style is right up there, he's an ace at choosing exactly the right word, the right phrase, making it all the more entertaining, accurate, and easy to read.
Andy Theyers
No book about LSD will ever be balanced, but this one does a fine job of telling both the West and East coast stories (unlike Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test which, despite his New York roots is heavily biased to the chaos of the West Coast). Covering LSD from its early beginnings right through to the end of the Sixties and beyond this is a must read for anyone with even the vaguest interest of where popular culture has its roots.
Jun 28, 2012 Ferine rated it it was amazing
The clash between psychedelic drugs and 1950s American culture is one of the most riveting and fascinating periods in all of U.S. history. This book gives an overview of the who, why, and how, primarily from the perspective of those who were in favor of the drugs; it is a fair, objective account. Why was this promising class of drugs abandoned for 40 years? How did the CIA 'turn on' writer Ken Kesey and singer Robert Hunter of the Greatful Dead?
Jun 21, 2012 Harvey rated it liked it
Not all that well-written and poorly transferred to Kindle. However, the subject matter was interesting enough to push it up to 3 stars. A lot that I didn't know about events and people that I've heard about my whole life (Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley, Ken Kesey, etc.), plus a lot of very important people that I had never heard of.
May 18, 2008 Meghan rated it it was amazing
I have been curious about LSD for a very long time. This book looks at the history of LSD/LSD culture, and was an absolutely fascinating read. I had no idea that such a variety of American icons could be connected, and through this? An incredible read, regardless of whether or not you are or have been a consumer of psychotropics etc.
Apr 07, 2009 Steven rated it really liked it
REading about the time I grew up is interesting. I heard of much of this story but so much was not familiar. Felt like I filled in some memory blanks (without losing my memory in the process). Also, parallels some of the trends and discussions today--better mood and intelligence through pharmaceuticals. "Ca change . . . "
David Ward
Jan 22, 2016 David Ward rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, drugs
Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream by Jay Stevens (Grove Press 1987)(306.1). This should be titled ”The History of Acid in America,” and it's a great book. Sound scientific and cultural research makes this a pleasure to read. My rating: 7.5/10, finished 1990.
May 12, 2010 Eric rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-reread
I echo the high praise of ther reviewer. This book really does the topic a service. It was a pleasure to read and the discovery of LSD is a fascinating story. Highly recommended. Jay Steven can write and its clear. I read it abotu 15 years ago so I need to find my copy or buy another.
Mar 14, 2007 Nigel rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting book, which explores the effects that LSD and its proponents have had, especially focussing on the 60s and the events that led up to the 'summer of love' and its aftermath. In retrospect, the epilogue is particularly wrong though.
Jul 27, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it
Good book if you want to look into the history of psychedelics (mostly) in the USA. Timothy Leary comes off (largely) as a pompous ass, though I'd never followed his thing. Oh, most of those folks seemed dickish.
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