From the Archives Friday: The Pursuit of Oblivion

My plan is to eventually look at every book I’ve rated on Goodreads over the last several years, starting with last rated first and going up to the most recent book I reviewed. I’m hoping it will give a more accurate picture of the way I feel about the books I’ve read and help me identify which ones might be worth a reread.



Title: The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics
Author: Richard Davenport-Hines
Genre: Nonfiction / history


Original rating: 5 / 5

I read this book when I was 19; I got it out of the Santa Cruz library because I thought it looked interesting. As my original rating indicates, I thought it was very interesting! I remember being quite impressed with its extensive references at the back.

What I remember about the book: One of the things that really stands out for me almost 10 years after reading it is how the author argues that intoxication is a natural state for humans, who have used mind-altering substances for as far back in history as we can reach. It also talks about the history of the drug war(s), which is good information that I still think people should know.

How I felt about it at the time: I loved it! I remember it making a big impression at the time.

How I feel about it now: I still remember it fondly, as being informative as well as well-written and easy enough to engage with.

Verdict: I think I’m going to let my original rating stand for this one, especially because I think it is important information. I would be interested in rereading it at some point, although it’s definitely not a priority. I could do wish a refresher on some of the finer points of the history, I’m sure, but at this point I don’t think it would be eye-opening enough to justify its hundreds of pages.

Original rating: 5 / 5
Updated rating: 5 / 5

My original (four-sentence review) under the cut.

I learned so much reading this book I don’t even know where to begin! It was such a fun read; it was packed full of information that was well organized and presented cleverly. Although I’ve been anti-prohibition for a long time, this book really solidified that feeling. It’s got tons of information, it’s extremely well researched, and I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t know a thing about the drugs debate or culture.

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