5 great books to look at while you’re high

A blonde woman with round glasses and earrings with cannabis leaves reading a book

A list of my five favourite books to look at while I’m high, and suggestions of which cannabis seed strain might go best with each book!

A little while ago I wrote about 13 things to consider before you try cannabis for the first time. One of the things was to make sure you have some entertainment for your altered-state self, including large picture books or coffee-table books. Although I can, and do, read before, during and after consuming hash, sometimes I’m not in the right mood for words. My enhanced suggestive state, triggered by the lovely cannabinoids, can sometimes be overstimulated by descriptive passages or intense dialogue. The accompanying images provided by my brain can end up taking on a life of their own. By the time I remember I’m supposed to be reading about someone else’s fantasy world, my own has already unfolded into intriguing vistas that are distracting me from the book.

Although this is fun, I think a better use of this state is to look at actual pictures, leaving my mind free to compose whatever storyline is inspired by the images. Therefore, my personal column this time round is a list – in no particular order – of my five favourite books to look at while I’m high, and suggestions of which cannabis seed strain might go best with each book!

I hope you enjoy them, and feel free to let me know your own favourites in the comments below.

1. Where the Wild Things Are

By Maurice Sendak

The book cover of Where The Wild Things Are
Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

One of my favourite books since the days when I was still gnawing on its corners, this is the simultaneously dark and reassuring short story of Max, who puts on his wolfsuit and gets up to so much mischief that his mother sends him to his room without supper. Naturally, he sails away to the land where the wild things are! He then becomes their king, since he is the wildest thing of all. When he finally returns home, his mum has brought him supper (and it’s still hot). At less than 350 words long (six pages have no words), the prose is pared down to the perfect essentials needed to tell the story; it’s the pictures that are a dark, lush, slightly unnerving feast for the eyes. Despite being ostensibly for children, there is nothing cute about this book.

Recommended strain
: Guerrilla’s Gusto. A great big wild thing for having a wild rumpus with.

2. Masquerade

By Kit Williams

The book cover of Masquerade
Masquerade by Kit Williams

English artist Kit Williams created a unique and beautiful piece of jewellery in the form of a hare, using 18 carat gold and various precious stones. He then buried it in a secret location. In 1979 Masquerade was published, a combination riddle, treasure map, picture book and children’s story illustrated with Kit’s incredible oil paintings. Luminous and intricate, with enough detail to enable you to look at them for hours, it would be worth studying them even if they didn’t lead to hidden treasure. Although touted as being a puzzle that could be solved by “a child of ten with a basic understanding of astronomy and maths” (if my memory serves me right!) as easily as by “an Oxford don”, I never got beyond any but the most basic of the layers and layers of puzzles (sorry dad!). However, the dreamlike wonder inspired by the pictures has endured in me effortlessly. The hare was found in 1982, but don’t let that dissuade you from enjoying this amazing book.

Recommended strain: Northern Lights #5 x Haze. Enter a state of excited contemplation as you try to solve the riddles of existence and find the treasure.

3. Who Killed Amanda Palmer? A Collection of Photographic Evidence

Stories by Neil Gaiman, photographs by Kyle Cassidy & Co

The book cover of Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
Who Killed Amanda Palmer? Stories by Neil Gaiman, photos by Kyle Cassidy and co.

Reminder: these are my personal favourites. If you don’t enjoy looking at fantasy crime scene photos (even if they’re beautiful), you might want to give this one a miss. On the other hand, if the idea of a collection of photos of the same woman in a variety of surreal, whimsical, brutal and funny situations of morbidity intrigues you, get in there. Performance artist and all-round fabulous human Amanda Palmer has been staging scenes featuring her own supposedly dead body, and getting her friends to photograph them, for years. This big fat luscious book features the best of them. Each is accompanied by a story that it inspired, written by Neil Gaiman, who is now Amanda Palmer’s husband (so sometimes sending a man photos of yourself pretending to be dead can be romantic, rather than creepy).

Recommended strain: Black Domina. It might not connect you with your inner goth, but it will make you want to lie around not moving very much.

4. The Big Book of Buds

Compiled and edited by Ed Rosenthal

The book cover of The Big Book of Buds featuring a close-up cannabis plant
The Big Book of Buds, compiled and edited by Ed Rosenthal

Although I remember this coming out, it’s now a trip down memory lane. Featuring articles on the Cannabis College and the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum long before the renovations of the last few years took place, this is the first volume of what is now a four-part series. True, the bud photos – at the time, some of the finest close-up cannabis photography yet seen – have since been surpassed, thanks to digital macro photography, but their dated appearance only adds to the charm of this cannabis-lover’s classic.

Recommended strain: Ed Rosenthal Super Bud. It couldn’t be anything else, really!

5. Sacred Mirrors – The Visionary Art of Alex Grey

By Alex Grey

The book cover of Sacred Mirrors
Sacred Mirrors by Alex Grey

You might know Alex Grey’s paintings for no other reason than that he made the glorious artwork for the 1995 and 2006 Cannabis Cups, where he and his wife were celebrity judges. This book reproduces the originally life-size, astoundingly detailed images of the human body as seen in various ways, which were exhibited as the Sacred Mirrors Installation. The bodies are scientifically accurate and show different levels of anatomy, including the nervous system, musculature, and energetic systems. Unlike a biology textbook, however, the colours are deep and vivid, and many of the paintings look to me like impossibly complex stained glass windows.

Recommended strain: Silver Haze. Visualize the interconnected energy fields of your own body as this superb silver sativa raises your awareness of them to a higher level.


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  • Author_profiles-Red

    Scarlet Palmer

    A lifelong interest in altered states has led Scarlet through many career experiences, including artist, writer, environmental activist, Muppeteer, and professional cannabis dealer. Scarlet believes that spreading factual information about drugs empowers people to make informed and sensible decisions on drug use, reducing harm caused by ignorance.
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