Daniel Pinchbeck: TOP TEN BOOKS


Courtesy of Herwig Maurer

American author Daniel Pinchbeck is the author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. Through his writing and research, Pinchbeck has become an authority and advocate for modern radical ideas including psychedelic drug use and free love. It’s no wonder, as the creative counterculture is in Pinchbeck’s blood: his mother is the author Joyce Johnson, once involved with beat poet Jack Kerouac, and his father, Peter, an abstract expressionist painter.

Below are Daniel Pinchbeck’s favorite books, available to purchase as a set or individually.


Moments of Being

Virginia Woolf
Woolf defines the most subtle and evanescent experiences within consciousness. Her evocation of her childhood is one of my favorite works of art.
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Life: A User’s Manual

Georges Perec
This book is an extraordinary jigsaw puzzle, where each chapter describes a room in a building, and each room reveals the next part of the story. Perec’s work is a jubilant meditation on art, freedom, and emptiness.
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Collected Poems 1947-1997

Allen Ginsberg
Ginsberg was one of the most authentic, fearless, openhearted chroniclers of the last century. I also love his interviews, collected in Spontaneous Mind.
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The Joyous Cosmology

Allan Watts
Watts captures the psychedelic experience with pinpoint accuracy. I think I prefer his account of his early trips to Huxley’s Doors of Perception, although both are wonderful.
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The Duino Elegies

Rainer Maria Rilke
I love Rilke and consider him my favorite poet. His work reveals very subtle and elevated dimensions. The Duino Elegies is sweeping, majestic, tragic, mystical, and many other things.
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A Walker in the City

Alfred Kazin
Kazin’s book is a wonderful depiction of life in the world of Jewish immigrants. His wanderings through the city are described in loving, careful detail. Like Woolf’s essay on her childhood, Kazin captures aspects of consciousness that seem so subtle as to be impossible to express. This book is a neglected masterpiece.
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The Ever-Present Origin

Jean Gebser
This book was an important source text for my 2012: The Return of Quetzacoatl. I think it is a profound, almost a sacred text, which explores how consciousness evolves in different “structures” through “mutational breaks.” We are on the cusp of a new mutation, according to Gebser, transitioning from the mental-rational to the integral consciousness structure.
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Tibetan Yogas of Sleep and Dream

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
This book is a practical manual, following esoteric Tibetan practices, to attain lucidity in dream and even dreamless sleep. I followed the instructions for a time, and found they worked. My dreams opened up and I started to gain lucidity. If you follow these techniques out to their furthest extreme, you will realize the dreamlike nature of reality and attain enlightenment.
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On Revolution

Hannah Arendt
Arendt looks at what happens when societies undergo insurrections and breakdowns of centralized authority. The result is not breakdown but the immediate formation of new structures that are community based, participatory, and directly democratic. She sees in this secret history the potential for a new form of revolution, which would support the people in establishing true democracy, rather than leading to new forms of hierarchical and authoritarian control.
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Minor Characters

Joyce Johnson
My mother wrote this memoir about her childhood, her bohemian and Beatnik friends, and her early love affair with Jack Kerouac. She was with him when On the Road came out, and witnessed how his sudden rise to prominence hastened his dissolution.
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