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Pihkal: A Chemical Love Story

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  2,311 ratings  ·  103 reviews
phen-ethyl-amine \fen-'eth-al-a-,men\ n. [phenyl fr. F. phène, fr. Gk. phainein, to show (from its occurrence in illuminating gas)+ ethyl ( + yl) + amine fr. NL ammonia] 1: A naturally occurring compound found in both the animal and plant kingdoms. It is an endogenous component of the human brain. 2: Any of a series of compounds containing the phenethylamine skeleton, and ...more
Paperback, 978 pages
Published October 1st 1990 by Transform Press
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Dimitris Hall
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Sometimes you read some books you think everybody should read, if only just so that they can correct their misconceptions on certain things.

Alexander Shulgin was a researcher of psychotropics which he had been inventing in his laboratories and testing on himself for almost half a century. Actually, no; merely calling him that would be like describing J.S. Bach simply as a Baroque musician. If it wasn't for him, a great many psychoactive compounds, including MDMA, the tremendous potential fo
Dec 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
I discovered this book and its sister publication (TIHKAL) during an interesting period of my undergraduate career. The book has three parts. The first part documents Dr. Schulgin's development of Zectran at Dow Chemical and his ever evolving interest in psychoactive drugs and finally his love affair with his wife Ann. The second part is the "Love Story" depicted from Ann's point of view. The third part of the book is an index of interesting chemicals and a rather detailed library of their synth ...more
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Should be: Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved. Phenethylamines are a chemical family that contain many psychotropic chemicals, including methamphetamines, ecstacy, adam, 2-cb, 8-cb, etcetera. This seems to be a different edition than the one I read. Mine was in only two sections, the first a detailed description of the trips produced by various phenethylamines, the second a chemist's recipe book. I found it fascinating because it was not a hippy book about how to get high with kitchen chemis ...more
Apr 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is utterly amazing. The first half is a very endearing sort of dual biography from Alexander and Ann Shulgin, and the second half is a description of quite a number of substances created and/or tested by the Shulgins and friends.

I went into the book desiring mostly the second half, but fell in love with the first half as well. Shulgin is truly a genius and his way of viewing the world is touching and very powerful. The same goes for Ann. Many times while reading their story I found mys
Kris Palkovich
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm not going to write a traditional review of this book. Everyone has already done that. I AM going to try to describe what it has done for me.
Along the same lines as Huxley, Dr. Shulgin has opened doors for me. If it weren't for these authors I never would have even begun to appreciate organic chemistry. Its nuances, its complexity.
Shulgin probably (arguably) single handedly made the phenethylamine class of drugs, as a whole, available to the masses. Some specifics in the class more so than
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
If you like hallucinogens, you'll probably like this book. If you want to invent a new smart drug, this book is also for you.It's a (admittedly very wordy) memoir of a chemist exploring consciousness-expanding substances at the edge of legality, and in the process finding love.
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This impossible to categorize book is ostensibly the story of Alexander Shulgin, a.k.a. “Dr Ecstasy”, the man with the most claim to have actually discovered the drug. It's a hefty tome, half chemistry and half autobiography – the latter part being half written by his wife Anne. The book seems to be largely distributed under the acronym, PIKHAL.

Shulgin's life is remarkable, simply because he gets away with so much. Most chemists of international accalim don't typically advocate illegal drugs for
Jul 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
A fascinating dual biography of a man dedicated to synthesizing chemicals to unlock the hidden potential of the human mind, and the woman who came to love and support him in all his endeavors. The second half of this book is filled with the chemical recipes for hundreds of phenethylamines, along with descriptions of their entactogenic, empathogenic, hallucinogenic, and other effects on those who choose to partake in them.
Jul 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The most comprehensive book on the subject available. Too bad I'm not a chemist.
Mark Slee
Incredibly readable and interesting. It is ultimately what the title says it is -- a love story.
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book on multiple levels. The first, fictionalized love story half of the book was fantastic, providing a relatable story and a human side to the characters representing Shulgin and his wife. Shulgin and, seemingly, most of his research team are nowhere near the stereotypical profile given to most people geuninely interested in psychedelic drugs, and the first half of this book does a great job of introducting his unique perspective to the world. The second half of the book is an inva ...more
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Required reading for anyone interested in the use of psychedelic (or, should we say, psychotomimetic) substances as a vehicle to explore the human mind; to illuminate the deepest reaches of the psyche and to better understand the people with whom you have the closest relationships. Or, as a psychiatric aid. Even as a person with no interest in actually using psychedelic drugs, the philosophical insights and stories in this book are worth it. They trip so you don't have to. Shulgin's storytelling ...more
Sep 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ttown by: teacher at university
read it. they don't want you to know. it ought to be banned. like the books in fahrenheit 451. and be aware that you might end up on some agency's watch list. maybe already just for reading this review.
James Stevenson
Dec 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: chemical headz
Shelves: drukqs
lotta drugs in this mad world.
Jul 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
months of enjoyment, maybe even years.
Grumpus McGrouchy
Mar 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
Highly overrated.
But, one of a kind.

Thus, the two stars.
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the biggest takeaways people remember reading this book, is Shulgin’s hope to form a relationship with a German woman after an affair, but it didn’t work out, and he ends up with Ann.
Wendy Capron
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Still don't know how to synthesize any hallucinogens!
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It feels appropriate to begin with a quote about Alexander Shulgin from Hamilton Morris, as it was his words that lead to me reading this book:

"He is the grandfather of Ecstasy, the molecular magician, the atomic conquistador. Over the span of 50 years he has created more new psychedelic drugs than the Amazon jungle ever has. He is more of a mythological creature, a chemical centaur, than he is a real person. But he does exist..."

And just for good measure, a quote from Mckenna, uttered directl
Kaspars Laizans
Apr 28, 2020 rated it liked it
What would happen if a psychopharmacist marries a hippie? And then they coauthor a book together? Highly technical part 3 of the book with all the synthesis descriptions was too heavy for a peasant like me. Apart from experience description part, which also includes some personal insights obtained during "experiments"
Part 2 was way too sexy and esoteric, but does provide some interesting material about ways of dealing with different mental states that can be achieved during experimentation with
Ethan Grant
This book will continue to serve me well as a reference work.
Dec 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
In true Valentine’s Day spirit, today’s review of PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story is about love. And chemicals. PiHKAL is the acronym for Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved. Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin gives the definition at the beginning of the book:

phenethylamine: 1. A naturally occurring compound found in both the animal and plant kingdoms. It is an endogenous component of the human brain. 2. Any of a series of compounds containing the phenethlamine skeleton, and modified by chemical constit
Damien Palmer
May 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I finished the first half of the book. The second half of the book is in a different structure, and I have not yet tackled that half -- it is organized in a way that promotes use as a quick-lookup reference on a number of phenethylamines discovered or explored by Dr. Shulgin, and so that is the approach I intend to take with it.

There is a lot of value in the narrative in this book. We are in a state of global crisis, with the so-called War On Drugs quickly becoming absolutely untenable, with mor
Aug 01, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-buy, wish-list
for years now, I've been planning to check this book out... I finally took a quick glance through it after seeing it in a book store just the other day and man oh man am I ever excited to get it now. I've been holding off on buying it because I thought the prices I keep seeing online were a bit steep but having held this mammoth in my own hands, I realized that it was probably well worth the prices I've seen it for online but the entirety of the $40 that the book store was charging for it. I fou ...more
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
An engaging account of a chemist and his partner, written in three parts. First, by the chemist, second, by his partner, third, an account from both on their journey through scientific testing of lab created psychedelic substances. The second half of the substantial book is a chemical reference, with qualitative observations included.

While no one should ever push the use of psychedelics on another due to the extreme personal nature of the reactions, those who contemplate the experience would hav
Sep 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Sasha Shulgin is legendary for his pioneering work exploring the depths of the mind through chemistry. The first half of this book is thinly veiled autobiography, both his and his wife Ann's, while the second half is a reference catalog of the mind-expansion chemicals he created. While his somewhat brief overview of his life gave me a good idea of his biographical basics, the section from his wife's point of view read more like diary entries, brave, vulnerable, yet a bit too voyeuristic for my c ...more
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture
There were hints and suggestions in the 9160s that the basic molecular structure, the indole of LSD could be chemically infinitely variable, yielding in the subjective, many variations of the basic psychedelic experience. If someone had suggested that this would be confirmed, and fully exploited and that each variation would be tasted and enjoyed like a new vintage of the grape by a group of connoisseurs , I would have expressed a measure of disbelief. This book does just that.

This is a book fo
Hanna Hermlin
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Best book I have ever read. Each paige was a spoonful from the most luxurious dessert there is.
Apr 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
4/24: I have only now just gotten through the introduction, but it had a lot of really important information in it to lay the groundwork for the autobiographical novel portion of the book, which I'm now about to read.

On the first page of the introduction, one of the authors, Dr. Alexander Shulgin, states his personal philosophy: "Be informed, then choose." I think this a great philosophy, and so anyone who wants to form their own opinion about things the government says are evil might want to ta
Jan 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shamanic
This book is composed of two different books. The first tells the story of the Authors' lives and their exposure to PiHKAL's. The second is more of a chemical reference, detailing in a more scientific method the creation and experiences of each PiHKAL's. Since my understanding of Chemistry is quite limited, the second book would have been a waste of my time to read (I did attempt to) so I have moved it to my "Read" shelf as it is one of the FEW books I do not intend on reading any further though ...more
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Alexander "Sasha" Theodore Shulgin[1] (born June 17, 1925) was an American pharmacologist, chemist and drug developer.

Shulgin was credited with the popularization of MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, especially for psychopharmaceutical use and the treatment of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In subsequent years, Shulgin discovered, synthesized, and

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It’s time to turn your attention to something dark and twisty, to a story (or two or three) so engaging, the pages just fly by. In short, it’s...
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“How long will this last, this delicious feeling of being alive, of having penetrated the veil which hides beauty and the wonders of celestial vistas? It doesn't matter, as there can be nothing but gratitude for even a glimpse of what exists for those who can become open to it.” 114 likes
“Use them with care, and use them with respect as to the transformations they can achieve, and you have an extraordinary research tool. Go banging about with a psychedelic drug for a Saturday night turn-on, and you can get into a really bad place, psychologically. Know what you're using, decide just why you're using it, and you can have a rich experience. They're not addictive, and they're certainly not escapist, either, but they're exceptionally valuable tools for understanding the human mind, and how it works.” 91 likes
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