Yale University Press

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Audio book







‘Mike Jay’s Psychonauts is easily the most interesting work of psychedelic history I’ve read in years’   @michaelpollan

‘Jay is a leading expert on the history of Western drug use, and Psychonauts is the latest in a series of excellent studies’   New Yorker

‘Richly detailed and frequently illuminating’   The Times

‘A wide-ranging and lavishly illustrated account…expands our minds in critical ways’   Science

‘Fascinating…not something you get taught at school’   The Guardian

‘Provocative, highly readable’   Nature (Best Books of 2023)

‘Complex and riveting…readers should expect quite a trip’   Booklist, March 15 2023

‘Impeccably researched and written…one of the essential social histories of the use and abuse of mind-altering drugs’   Australian Book Review



’19th-Century Trippers who Probed the Mind’, edited extract at Nautilus

‘The Ether Dreams of Fin-de-Siècle Paris’, illustrated extract at Public Domain Review

Sherlock Holmes and Cocaine, illustrated extract at Unseen Histories

‘Cannabis and Hashish in the West: Colonial Origins’, at Yale University Press



‘Why Scientists Need to Get High’: interview with Steve Paulson at Nautilus

The Lost World of James Lee: twenty years on the trail of a 19th century psychonaut

‘The Wild Frontier’, profile and interview with John Doran for the Quietus

‘The 19th century ‘psychonauts’ who pioneered experimental drug use for scientific research’, ABC News (Australia)

‘Drugs and the Making of the Modern Mind’, feature by Mattha Busby for Double Blind



Travels Through Time with Peter Moore

Drug Science with David Nutt

The Bunker with Kasia Tomasiewicz

Bureau of Lost Culture with Stephen Coates

Luminous with Steve Paulson

Kinokuniya USA with Ariel Valdez (video)

Jake Warriner Podcast (video)

Late Night Live, ABC (Australia) with Phillip Adams

BBC History Extra (paywall), ‘Mindbending Experiments: How Drugs Shaped Modern Science’

The Books Podcast with Tim Haigh

New Books Network with Claire Clark

Yale University Press with Claire Barnes



Winner, American Botanical Council’s James A. Duke Award 2024 for excellence in botanical literature

Winner, Cheiron Book Prize 2024 for an outstanding monograph in the history of the social/behavioural/human sciences



‘Mike Jay has done it again. He has taken a dynamic and controversial topic and skilfully woven together a riveting narrative with intriguing historical details, infused with colourful characters, and produced a page-turner of a book.’  Journal of Medical Humanities

‘Jay’s sharp and playful intervention places psychoactive substances at the centre of the fin de siècle‘s psychological revolutions’   Washington Post

‘Beautifully written, impressively researched…cements Mike Jay’s position as a foremost historian of drugs in our time and should provide many hours of delightful, enlightening read to anybody interested in drugs, drug aficionados and their rich, engaging history’   Journal of Psychedelic Studies

Psychonauts is a riveting story of how modern notions of science, morality, and consciousness coalesced under the influence’   The Baffler

‘Superb…an absorbing history of psychoactive substances’   The Conversation

Psychonauts is many things: a splendidly curated collection of the of the accounts brought back from those far worlds by self-experimenting travellers; a parade of brave, curious and charismatic characters who thought that science should be written in the first person; a chronicle of the war on drugs…a map of the border between the subjective and the objective; a description of the way that science proceeds, and of the dysfunctional relationship between science and philosophy.’   Times Literary Supplement

‘Jay reconstructs and reconnects a fascinating network of historical figures…this work is built on an incredibly dense foundation of historical sources…the prose is deft, and Psychonauts conjures lost worlds with compact and evocative language’  Social History of Medicine

Psychonauts is a fascinating study of the cyclical attitudes towards self-experimentation with drugs’   History Today

‘Eye-opening…a welcome reconsideration of the role drugs play in life, medicine, and science’  Publishers Weekly

‘Psychonauts is a timely reminder that a prohibitive approach to drugs is not the historical norm’  Financial Times

‘Long before the hippies, a group of nineteenth-century artists, philosophers, and scientists began taking drugs in order to uncover the secrets of the mind. In Psychonauts, the historian Mike Jay argues that these thinkers were unique. Before the group’s experiments, drugs had been used to self-medicate, or to escape the world, but the psychonauts saw them as an education: a way to access the hidden corners of consciousness. In the process, they upended the notion of objectivity, asserting that drugs needed to be experienced in order to be understood. Jay has written several books on Western drug use, and his study is full of sharp, lively anecdotes’   New Yorker, Best Books 2023

‘Jay deftly guides the reader through the most confounding puzzles about our mind’s picture of reality, about meaning-making, truth and illusion. A gorgeously-written, page-turning pleasure to read’   Brian D. Earp

‘Excellent…in these descriptions of travelling medicine shows, rowdy music hall acts, 19th century laboratories, the birth of psychoanalysis, the advent of modernism, the uncharted frontier of analgesia and anaesthesia and the demi-monde of Paris, we sense times which were in many ways more exciting and more revolutionary than the 1960s’   the Quietus

‘Dense with fascinating information, some of it obscure, all of it well referenced, Psychonauts is an essential addition to any psychonauts’ library’   Fortean Times #434, August 2023

‘A splendid history of pharmacological experimentation’   The National (Scotland)

‘With this rich, nuanced account, Mike Jay posits the War on Drugs as a blip on the long, proud and very influential history of self-experimentation with psychoactive substances by artists, scientists and philosophers – the titular explorers of the mind’   Carlyn Zwarenstein

‘Breezy and profound, Psychonauts is a wildly entertaining history of drugs…a total blast’   Ben Westhoff

‘…a kaleidoscopic array of dense but fluid narratives, organized by substance and packed with colorful personalities, and collectively offering a crucial argument with significant implications: that psychoactives have played an absolutely central role in the experience and self-understanding of modernity.’  Erik Davis, Burning Shore

‘A fantastic book…highly recommended’   Nick Gillespie, Reason podcast (starts at 48:50)

‘Compelling…the history of mind-altering substances in the 19th century has been explained by Jay in an interesting, indeed compelling and sustained, narrative’  Irish Legal News