The Book

Reviews of The Head Trip


Recent Reviews:

"I love your book!"
-Oliver Sacks

“Thoroughly entertaining ….exhilarating ….You'll never look at waking, sleeping or dreaming the same way again.”
-Doug Johnstone, The Independent [LINK]

"In The Head Trip, Warren plunges into mundane and exotic states of mind with the verve of an intrepid travel writer...Warren's initial motivation, he confides, was that of an experience junkie. By availing his body and brain to sleep scientists, hypnotists, neurofeedback researchers and the like, he hoped to savor all the "special effects" the mind is capable of orchestrating. With prose full of humor and nuance - no small feat for a topic as vague and subjective as consciousness - he makes that enthusiasm absolutely infectious. Especially since these states of mind are available to anyone. In that sense, "The Head Trip" almost reads like an Oliver Sacks essay turned inside out; instead of rare neurological cases, we get the standard-issue noggin, which turns out to be every bit as exotic."
–Trey Popp, front page of San Francisco Chronicle Book Review [LINK]

"Jeff Warren ... is my kinda guy: an experiential pragmatist in the William Jamesian mode, he is restlessly eclectic, deeply informed but pop, aggressively open to (and dissatisfied with) both neuro-reductionist and mystical accounts of consciousness, and keenly aware of the anthropological soup all this stuff is floating in ... There are tons of books about consciousness, but ... The Head Trip is an entertaining, substantive, and deeply stimulating book that, by staying focused on the concrete, actually contributes something to the field ... a much more interactive picture of consciousness than the wiring diagrams and evolutionary-psych workouts we have come to expect from pop science accounts of the mind."
--Erik Davis, author of Techgnosis, The Visionary State [LINK]

"It never occurred to me that you could write a travelogue about your own mind, but that is more or less what journalist Jeff Warren has done with The Head Trip, an entirely original and completely fascinating tour through the myriad states of human consciousness. For a lay person who loves books by Oliver Sacks, or other such dispatches from the realms of neuropsychology, this field guide to the latest mind/brain research is a must-read...There are no drugs involved. It is not altered consciousness that interests Warren, but the transmutable guises of everyday perception. He takes us around the clock, beginning at midnight, to explore 12 distinct states of being that raise some incredibly interesting questions about what it means to be conscious...a rich blend of research, theory and personal encounter."
Patricia Pearson, The Toronto Star [LINK]

“[The Head Trip] is staggeringly ambitious in scope…and yet it's also friendly and direct. The scientific research is solid and sometimes daunting to readers who haven't retained much from past biology and chemistry classes, but the tone is conversational, smart and often wickedly funny…. one gets the sense of a fully engaged mind weaving an overwhelming glut of fascinating material into a synthesized, though multi-layered, whole. And just as we must use the mind to examine the mind, Warren is fully present at all times in the narrative, with all his doubts, vulnerabilities and anxieties along with his infectious enthusiasm for learning about what makes us tick. It's a highly readable, innovative work – while there have been many pop-science books on consciousness written for a general audience, this is the first to approach the topic from a personal perspective."
Damian Rogers, Eye Weekly (Toronto) [LINK]

“[C]ombines the rigorous self-experimentation of Steven Johnson’s Mind Wide Open with the wacky self-experimentation of A.J. Jacob’s The-Know-It-All in this entertaining field guide to the varying levels of mental awareness... More important than the theories, though, may be the basic tools—and the visionary spirit—that Warren hands off to those interested in hacking their own minds.”
-Publishers Weekly

“[…An] enjoyably big and baggy book… In a welcome attempt to bring some well-needed levity to the often paralyzingly earnest discussions of such matters, Warren structures the book as a Wheel of Fortune-like spinner on which a "You Are Here" sign points to different stages, from The Hypnagogic to The REM Dream, at the start of each chapter...[A] good-natured and self-deprecating ramble through the worlds
of sleep and wakefulness…”
- Kirkus

"The Head Trip is ... trippy and inspiring, as well as enlightening. It’s more elegantly written, entertaining and illustrated (with Warren’s own pencil drawings and ruminative doodles) than what one might expect from, let’s say, a Dummies Guide to the Mind. But it’s just as user friendly. Definitely something you’ll want to pack on your own nerdy head-trip."
- Juliet Waters, Montreal Mirror

"When Warren does fall asleep, the dreams are Spielberg-worthy: At one point, iPods turn the world's population into flesh-eating zombies; the author takes refuge "in a large medieval castle," from which he and his fellow survivors launch "a series of spectacular supply raids in converted World War One fighter planes." The Head Trip is a fascinating read ... Warren provides a valuable service, beyond merely documenting the breathtaking scope of conscious (and unconscious) experience. Science has tiptoed around the mind because it is too close to home: Other disciplines ask us to observe the world around us with the best available lens; the mind, awkwardly, is that lens. Warren has attempted to turn that lens on itself, and has reminded us just how difficult that task is."
Dan Falk, The Globe and Mail

"What is it like to experience lucid dreaming or to be hypnotized? Having traveled around the world to experience 12 distinct states of consciousness, Canadian science journalist and radio producer Warren here reports on what they're like and what such experts as neuroscientists, chronobiologists, anthropologists, and monks have learned about them...This entertaining book, complete with Warren's own black-and-white, cartoonlike drawings, manages to convey a good deal about the science of cognition in an easy-to-absorb narrative. Highly recommended for public and undergraduate libraries."
-The Library Journal

"The Head Trip is notably distinct from most books on the subject of consciousness. Rather than issue recondite field reports on contending theories, such as the debate between those who believe that what we call "the mind" can be located in the neurons and other physical properties of the brain, and those who contend that it is an irreducible process, Warren instead sets out to actually experience what it feels like to measure, and inhabit, altered states of consciousness ...He treks in winter to an isolated cabin without electricity, heat or water to experience sleep the way our ancestors did...In another exploration, Warren uses a delightfully odd device called a NovaDreamer to induce "lucid dreaming" ... He also endeavors mightily to become hypnotized, experiments with biofeedback and spends seven days at a meditation retreat. Through all these inner adventures, he gracefully interweaves descriptions of new empirical methods to detect and describe conscious states ... in The Head Trip, [Warren] manages to plumb inner depths that few other writers have attempted to explore."
-Michael Antman, Chicago Sun-Times

"In this likeably evocative book, Jeff Warren goes on a safari of his own mind ... The author illustrates his ideas with cartoon strips and amusingly rambling footnotes, and the book is full of sentences that make you stop and consider daily experience from a different angle. For example: "All wakefulness is in theory sleep deprivation." It struck a powerful chord with me."
-Steven Poole, The Guardian


Advanced Praise:

"In The Head Trip, Jeff Warren takes readers on an audacious, enchanting, and often hilarious journey into the slippery nature of human consciousness, from deep slumber to lofty states of enlightenment. This book will blow your mind."
-Sandra Blakeslee, New York Times science writer,
co-author of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own, On Intelligence and Phantoms in the Brain

“Jeff Warren has done a great job with The Head Trip. Writing about any aspect of consciousness is treacherously difficult, but his take on the subject is clear, original and — amazingly — funny!”
-Rita Carter, author of Mapping the Mind and Exploring Consciousness

“The Head Trip is an amazing book. Jeff Warren manages to be funny while packing in tons of fascinating science. Rather than sticking to conventional boundaries, Warren follows his own formidable curiosity, producing a book that is quirky, refreshing and nothing short of groundbreaking.”
-Tom Stafford, co-author of Mind Hacks

"As readable and fun as a novel, yet accurate and up-to-date, The Head Trip is about your most precious possession – your consciousness – and the fascinating states it goes through."
-Charles T. Tart, author of Altered States of Consciousness

All these beguiling trails, spun like crop circles in the cornfields of your mind.

The Book