Monday, December 12, 2011

2 Literary Stocking fillers – Drugs and drug policy ‘Must reads’

Here are two books that would make excellent Christmas presents this year.  The first is drugs historian, writer, broadcaster and Transform Trustee Mike Jay’s recently updated:

About which Julian Keeling in The New Statesman and Society said:
"Intelligent, witty, cogent and a bit pissed off, Emperors of Dreams is one of the best books on drugs I have come across, and should be mandatory reading for anyone concerned with drug legalisation."

Coleridge and de Quincey swilling bitter draughts of laudanum, Sigmund Freud and Sherlock Holmes dallying with cocaine, Baudelaire and Gautier rapt in hashish fantasies behind velvet curtains, even Queen Victoria swallowing her prescription dose of cannabis - these snapshot images are familiar, but what is the story which lies behind them? How did cannabis and cocaine, opium and ether, mushrooms and mescaline enter the worlds of nineteenth century Britain, Europe and America, and what was their impact on the century’s dreams and nightmares?

Emperors of Dreams paints a fresh and startling picture both of today’s illicit drugs and of the nineteenth century in general. It shows that the age of Empire and Victorian values was awash with drugs, and traces their course through the rapidly evolving arenas of science and colonial expansion and the demimondes of popular subculture and literary fashion, putting into context the drug habits and references of writers as diverse as Coleridge, de Quincey, Baudelaire, Dumas, Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, William James and Sigmund Freud.

The second is former Guardian Society Editor Malcolm Dean’s:

Geoff Mulgan, former Director of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit and the Cabinet Office's Strategy Unit in Tony Blair's Government says of the book:

"Malcolm Dean has been uniquely well-placed to witness innumerable policy successes and failures, and the often distorted lens through which they have been covered by the media. This thoughtful and wise book will be invaluable for anyone working in the media who's involved in explaining social policy, and to anyone involved in social policy who needs to get the media on their side."

How big a beast is the media? Can right wing tabloids influence social policy using their ability to fan fears and prejudices? Malcolm Dean, the Guardian's longstanding chief monitor of social policy, expertly indicts his own trade through a series of seven case studies. Drawing on four decades of top level Whitehall briefings, topped up by interviews with 150 senior participants in the policy-making process, the book is packed with new insights, and colourful stories, from events in Whitehall's corridors, culminating in a damning list detailing the seven deadly sins of the 'reptiles' (modern journalists).

It has a cogent, detailed and comprehensive description of UK drug policy shenanigans from 2000-2007, including contributions from Transform.  

Its only competition covering this period is in The Diaries of Chris Mullin – A view from the foothills, 2009.  Which, amongst other gems, gives the inside dope on Mullin's groundbreaking leadership as Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Drug Policy Enquiry of 2001/2.

If you are purchasing online, please do it through Transform's Amazon Account, to donate to Transform as you purchase. All books have a link to where the book is available to purchase. If purchased through these links, thanks to the Amazon Associates affiliate programme, Transform receives a ten percent donation of the cost of the book.

Go on, fill your snow boots!

1 comment:

Jake said...

In a similar vein to Democracy Under Attack (which will now go on to my 'to-read' list), I would highly recommend 'Flat Earth News' by Nick Davis (also available on Amazon It is very informative as to how and why drug policy reform is so often berated, or worse, ignored, by the press. He also has some interesting footnotes here

p.s. For those that don't know, Nick Davis is one of the key reporters to doggedly work and expose the NoTW phone hacking scandal...