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Canna-books 2017: The Most Lit Literature This Year (So Far)

From true crime sagas to THC-fueled art volumes, there have been a number of excellent weed-related texts this year that prove books can offer more than a surface for rolling joints.

by Mike McPadden

by Mike McPadden

Lead image by Sara Wass

Books. There’s more to them than just providing a surface for rolling joints.

In fact, as cannabis culture happily conquers humanity, book publishers are keeping pace by regularly issuing all sorts of new titles created to serve audiences who both read and smoke. From true crime sagas to recipe collections to THC-fueled art volumes, separating the seeds and stems from the primo servings of modern marijuana books is a considerable task. That’s where MERRY JANE lightens your lit-up burden. Here are our picks for the most potent print highs to be had in 2017… so far.

"The Scratch & Sniff Book of Weed"
By Seth Matlins and Eve Epstein, Illustrated by Ann Pickard
Publisher:
Abrams Image

Yes, it’s exactly what you think — and more. The Scratch & Sniff Book of Weed does, in fact, come loaded with fingernail-activated olfactory samples that smell like various strains of pot and pot-adjacent products and sensations.

Even more impressive than that (imagine!), the fragrances are divided up into fun, informative, and sometimes even serious subcategories, all played out among an overall narrative tracing the 4,000-year history of smokable hemp.

Co-authors Seth Matlins, a brand marketing impresario, and Eve Epstein, the former editor-in-chief of Daily Candy, have crafted a knockout here that’s more than a mere novelty, even as it hits you nose-first.

"American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road"
By Nick Bilton
Publisher: Penguin Random House

American Kingpin exploded on arrival this past May, with author and Vanity Fair correspondent Nick Bilton delivering a tense, shocking, and terrifically timely true-life account of the rise-and-ruin of Ross Ulbricht, the outlaw computer programmer who essentially brought the “dark web” to the mainstream in 2011 with his anonymous online sales site, the Silk Road.

Utterly unregulated, the Silk Road quickly attracted and empowered those seeking and peddling unquestionably harmful materials — e.g., illegal weapons and child pornography. Still, the site did boast a benevolent side, specifically in the form of providing a safe harbor for the online trading and acquisition of marijuana.

Bilton documents the saga like the entirely factual international crime thriller that it is. The suspense is stupendous even though we all know how the story ends (Ulbricht is never getting out of jail — ever).

Along the way, American Kingpin also raises serious questions and undertakes profound meditations on the nature of liberty, personal responsibility, and why society still too often corrals those who want to puff a little weed in with the sort of miscreants out looking to score dirty bombs and snuff films.  

"The Family Acid: Jamaica"
By Roger Steffens
Publisher: Don Lon Books

Writer, musician, actor, radio host, and one of the world’s foremost experts on reggae music (and Bob Marley in particular), the endlessly multi-talented Roger Steffens photographically chronicles his lifelong love of psychedelics and island life alike in The Family Acid: Jamaica.

The book compiles samples of the 40,000-plus chrome snapshots Steffens took throughout his turned-on travels. This includes a stint as a psychological warfare expert in Vietnam in the 1960s, his grateful return to the hippie-heavy California in the ’70s, and his acclaimed work in a multitude of arts and entertainment media ever since.

Most frequently, though, The Family Acid: Jamaica focuses on Steffens’ ganja-blazed bliss in the Caribbean paradise of the title, often in the company of company of friend, collaborator, and fellow Jamaica resident, Keith Richards.  

"The Killer Weed Coloring Book: For Marijuana Lovers"
By TROG
Publisher: North Light Books

In a world where crayon-ready tomes for stoners crop up with increasing frequency (Marijuana Black Light Mini-Posters and F—ing Adorable: Cute Critters With Foul Mouths come to mind), The Killer Weed Coloring Book by Australian artist TROG is an incandescent onslaught of trips-in-print unto itself.

With Killer Weed, TROG actually manages to explode out — way out — beyond the righteously hallucinatory posters he’s designed for rock bands (The Offspring, Sly and the Family Stone) and public smoke-ins (Hemp Fest, Hash Bash). Each mind-meltingly micro-detailed page radiates hallucinatory hyper-intensity that just screams for you to come in and complete it with colors. Expect to concoct hues and shades you never dreamed were possible. And for more on TROG, revisit our interview with the artist here.

"Kingpin: Prisoner of the War on Drugs"
By Richard Stratton
Publisher:
Arcade Publishing

In last year’s Smuggler’s Blues: The True Story of the Hippie Mafia, Richard Stratton recounts how he evolved — fast — from an upstanding college kid looking to get high into an international marijuana-and-hashish runner in cahoots with crime lord Whitey Bulger who also got to party with Mick Jagger and David Bowie.

Kingpin, a sequel of sorts, chronicles what happened after all those green-fueled good times crashed to a sudden halt, with DEA agents pinching Stratton in a hotel lobby and casting him into the federal prison system for the next eight years.

While the government touts Stratton’s arrest and conviction gets touted as a “victory” in what the author insightfully deems “The War on Plants,” Kingpin plunges the reader into the horror and hypocrisy of prison life, as well as the coping skills and camaraderie.

While locked up, Stratton earns a law degree and successfully overturns his 25-years-to-life sentence. Still, his well-told tale of eventual triumph powerfully reiterates the profound idiocy of throwing people in cages for wanting to consume cannabis. For more on the book and Stratton, revisit our interview with the author here.

"Sinfully Sweet Cannabis Recipes: 75 Yummy Easy to Make Desserts"
By Rick Butler and Jenny Butler
Publisher: CreateSpace

There’s certainly no lack of marijuana cookbooks out there, not to mention infinite free recipes just one Google search away (see our Baked to Perfection column, for example). So what makes Sinfully Sweet Cannabis Recipes worth a purchase is not just the quality of the information it contains, but also the charm of co-authors Rick Butler and Jenny Butler.

The Butlers, a married couple in Colorado who have long preferred to get baked by actually baking, initially hoped to make a few extra bucks by offering samples of their sativa-pumped sweet treats to local marijuana dispensaries. But by making their inimitable cookies, pies, brownies, and other delirium-delivering delights, the Butlers became one of the state’s preeminent suppliers of cannabis confections.

Sinfully Sweet Cannabis Recipes not only makes good on the promise of 75 easy-to-follow food-making instructions, it also includes crucial information such as how to decarb weed and calculate proper THC dosages. Being hungry and getting high have rarely met on such expertly happy terms.

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Mike McPadden

Mike McPadden is the author of "Heavy Metal Movies" and the upcoming "Last American Virgins." He writes about movies, music, and crime in Chicago. Twitter @mcbeardo



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