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I Have America Surrounded: A Biography of Timothy Leary

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President Nixon called him the most dangerous man in America, while Terence McKenna believed he made more people happy than anyone else in history. Few People have divided opinion as strongly as Dr. Timothy Leary. Leary, a brilliant behavioral psychologist, persuaded millions to tune in, turn on, and drop out. His influence was so wide-ranging that he had enormous impact o President Nixon called him the most dangerous man in America, while Terence McKenna believed he made more people happy than anyone else in history. Few People have divided opinion as strongly as Dr. Timothy Leary. Leary, a brilliant behavioral psychologist, persuaded millions to tune in, turn on, and drop out. His influence was so wide-ranging that he had enormous impact on shaping the post-modern 21st century world.


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President Nixon called him the most dangerous man in America, while Terence McKenna believed he made more people happy than anyone else in history. Few People have divided opinion as strongly as Dr. Timothy Leary. Leary, a brilliant behavioral psychologist, persuaded millions to tune in, turn on, and drop out. His influence was so wide-ranging that he had enormous impact o President Nixon called him the most dangerous man in America, while Terence McKenna believed he made more people happy than anyone else in history. Few People have divided opinion as strongly as Dr. Timothy Leary. Leary, a brilliant behavioral psychologist, persuaded millions to tune in, turn on, and drop out. His influence was so wide-ranging that he had enormous impact on shaping the post-modern 21st century world.

30 review for I Have America Surrounded: A Biography of Timothy Leary

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I saw this book at the Half Priced Book store and, well, I was intrigued. I've heard about this man and his famous quote, "tune in, turn on and drop out." I perceived Tim through the filter of pop cultures and stoned hippies. It turns out it was a far more interesting read. All the other individuals that were present in that time, music, political personalities, that he knew back then who have made influences on how we perceive American culture today. It was well written, funny and fact filled. I I saw this book at the Half Priced Book store and, well, I was intrigued. I've heard about this man and his famous quote, "tune in, turn on and drop out." I perceived Tim through the filter of pop cultures and stoned hippies. It turns out it was a far more interesting read. All the other individuals that were present in that time, music, political personalities, that he knew back then who have made influences on how we perceive American culture today. It was well written, funny and fact filled. I enjoyed it! "A fascinating book about an extraordinary subject" - The Beat

  2. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    I was absorbed in the stories about Leary and loved the "voice" of the author, as non-sensational and letting the facts speak for themselves. Leary's development as an influential and ground-breaking psychologist is well presented, and fleshed out the bits and pieces I had previously known from psychology study. The telling of Leary's personal life is astonishing, revealing, and fascinating to me. The media coverage at the time of Leary at Stonybrook dwelled on the counterculture rebellion. Higg I was absorbed in the stories about Leary and loved the "voice" of the author, as non-sensational and letting the facts speak for themselves. Leary's development as an influential and ground-breaking psychologist is well presented, and fleshed out the bits and pieces I had previously known from psychology study. The telling of Leary's personal life is astonishing, revealing, and fascinating to me. The media coverage at the time of Leary at Stonybrook dwelled on the counterculture rebellion. Higgs presents that, and other eras, with a more even hand. I laughed with the stories, and sometimes teared up. This is one of the few books that I might read again.

  3. 4 out of 5

    ury949

    This book gives a history of Tim Leary, mainly focusing on the period between 1967 to 1974. It delves into some of his theories and psychological conjectures and explains his thought processes as best possible. This made the book interesting and thought provoking. Furthermore, the book relates the reader to the structure and evolution of America at that time. The wonderfully thorough and unbiased research on Leary's influence on politics, cultural movements, the gender gap, and his relationships This book gives a history of Tim Leary, mainly focusing on the period between 1967 to 1974. It delves into some of his theories and psychological conjectures and explains his thought processes as best possible. This made the book interesting and thought provoking. Furthermore, the book relates the reader to the structure and evolution of America at that time. The wonderfully thorough and unbiased research on Leary's influence on politics, cultural movements, the gender gap, and his relationships with other prominent people in American history made me realize how big of an influence he had on the modern state of our country. I'm not saying this book is for everyone. At times I wondered if the points made would have any meaning for someone who had never tried LSD, or had only tried it once. I was a bit disappointed that so much of the book was like that and wished there was more description of his work with computers. One thing I really liked about the book is it explained everything - I was never left wondering why something happened or how a thought came about. I would recommend this book if you are looking for some interesting history on LSD and America.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Wesley Gerrard

    Timothy Leary is an acid guru. It was him who truly brought LSD to the masses in the psychedelic 1960s as he turned from Harvard professor and dropped out of society to promote the new wave of LSD hippy counterculture. He became public enemy number 1 and was jailed but launched a daring escape and went into exile. He flirted with the Black Panther movement and in exile counted on the support of the masses to lead a crazed party existence, fuelled by drugs. He had a string of lovers and several c Timothy Leary is an acid guru. It was him who truly brought LSD to the masses in the psychedelic 1960s as he turned from Harvard professor and dropped out of society to promote the new wave of LSD hippy counterculture. He became public enemy number 1 and was jailed but launched a daring escape and went into exile. He flirted with the Black Panther movement and in exile counted on the support of the masses to lead a crazed party existence, fuelled by drugs. He had a string of lovers and several children. He was an extreme character and a very influential man. His personality was highly intellectual yet fun. He brought out the best in people. This biography delves into Leary's life and examines his close relationships that form the blazing trail of real life fiction as he leads one of the most bizarre lives possible. The book flows and it inspires the imagination as to what it must have been like to form part of this amazing guru's life.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    The old maxim Truth is stranger than fiction applies more here than almost anywhere I can think of. I knew a large part of the middle (1960s) section of this story already but this filled in a lot more weird bizarre and intriguing detail before and after. Like Higg’s great KLF book, this is a hell of a ride. Fascinating. And you really couldn’t make it up!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Al

    What a man. What a book. What an ending.

  7. 5 out of 5

    R7835

    A fascinating read. The pacing of the book was good - I particularly liked that side information was introduced just before it was required and was kept to a minimum but was still packed with detail. e.g. details regarding the Black Panthers, Ram Dass, Ash Ra Tempel etc. I also liked the way the author tries to let the facts speak for themselves. There was plenty negatives said about Leary, but also plenty of positives too. Speaking of the positives, some of his theories are really interesting su A fascinating read. The pacing of the book was good - I particularly liked that side information was introduced just before it was required and was kept to a minimum but was still packed with detail. e.g. details regarding the Black Panthers, Ram Dass, Ash Ra Tempel etc. I also liked the way the author tries to let the facts speak for themselves. There was plenty negatives said about Leary, but also plenty of positives too. Speaking of the positives, some of his theories are really interesting such as his Seven Levels of Consciousness. Leary's life was a life lived. Mostly once I read a biography or autobiography it's unlikely that I'd read it again as there usually isn't that much to get out of them on a second read, but this is one I'll likely read again. I'll also be looking out for more books by Higgs - based on this book alone I think he has a very nice way of writing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rob Adey

    Fast-paced biog, and lots of interesting stuff (never knew the Black Panthers had an embassy in Algeria, for example). But I didn't get a very deep impression of what Leary might actually have been like, and crucially, the effect of psychedelics, so central to the book and to Leary, isn't very clearly explained. I mean, that's notoriously difficult to do, but quote some Huxley or something. Fast-paced biog, and lots of interesting stuff (never knew the Black Panthers had an embassy in Algeria, for example). But I didn't get a very deep impression of what Leary might actually have been like, and crucially, the effect of psychedelics, so central to the book and to Leary, isn't very clearly explained. I mean, that's notoriously difficult to do, but quote some Huxley or something.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    Much better than Greenfields book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Zitroneneis

    Because I have a rather strong personal interest in psychology and psychedelics I have come across the character of Timothy Leary numerous times in different books and films about the subjects. My main points of contact have been "The Harvard Psychedelic Club"  by Don Lattin and "Outside Looking In" by T.C. Boyle. In both of these works he plays an important role but is only one of the protagonists and it is hard to get a better understanding for the certainly intriguing character that is Timoth Because I have a rather strong personal interest in psychology and psychedelics I have come across the character of Timothy Leary numerous times in different books and films about the subjects. My main points of contact have been "The Harvard Psychedelic Club"  by Don Lattin and "Outside Looking In" by T.C. Boyle. In both of these works he plays an important role but is only one of the protagonists and it is hard to get a better understanding for the certainly intriguing character that is Timothy Leary. I was curious if this biography of Timothy Leary could provide a little glimpse into the person behind the public image of T.L. and also shine light onto some of his contributions to the world of science, understanding of the mind and philosophy. While I think the book does a great job of providing an thrilling account of the life of T.L. it falls a bit short on conveying the contents and implications of his work. But that is admittedly an extremely hard challenge for a biography. The biography part reads very easy and covers a lot of ground of the excessive life ot T.L. I got to experience a lot of the stories and key characters I had already known about from yet another perspective, filling in some gaps and contextualizing important events. In the end I felt like there was at least the tiniest bit of a understanding for the person behind the image, even though this is a very far stretch for a person so far from my frame of reference. While the life story of T.L. alone is worth multiple books and often reads more like a fictional story then something that could possibly have happened, coverage of the actual work of T.L. was a bit of a disappointment for me. At least in parts of his career he (seems to have) contributed majorly to the advancement of the field of consciousness science and was a controversial but respected member of the scientific community. The book does not go further into these contributions then mentioning a few high level sentences about key ideas. So to actually 'get' Timothy Leary it will be necessary to dive into some of his actual work and try to develop an understanding for the context and relevance of this work (maybe guided by the references in this biography) Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anybody interested in larger-than-life biographies, the emerging of the counterculture of the 60s/70s and psychedelic substances

  11. 5 out of 5

    Franco Victorio

    I heard about this book in the podcast that Ezra Klein did with the author, John Higgs. In the interview, they talk about The KLF, Alan Moore, metamodernism, discordianism, the history of the 20th century and, of course, Timothy Leary. The book is great and weird and, as you read it, it only gets weirder (in this sense it reminded me of the very different, but also recommended, Bad Blood). Having such a controversial person as its subject, it's hard to give a more or less complete picture of his I heard about this book in the podcast that Ezra Klein did with the author, John Higgs. In the interview, they talk about The KLF, Alan Moore, metamodernism, discordianism, the history of the 20th century and, of course, Timothy Leary. The book is great and weird and, as you read it, it only gets weirder (in this sense it reminded me of the very different, but also recommended, Bad Blood). Having such a controversial person as its subject, it's hard to give a more or less complete picture of his life. I think the author manages to do it in a very balanced way: on one hand, it's clear he admires the genius of Leary and recognizes his influence; on the other hand, it doesn't skip the ugly parts: how he was a terrible father and a manipulative partner. Random quote I highlighted: Tim's notes about the event are somewhat vague. "Tuesday," he wrote in his diary, "orgy."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    This was certainly interesting to read. Although I have never had much interest in LSD or Timothy Leary - someone bought this book for me when I was about 17 and at the time I was really into The Beatles - particularly the post LSD records. It’s nice to think that after all these years it’s finally been read. The story was fascinating and I learned a lot more about the influence LSD has had (more than I thought) - I kind of thought Leary himself was a bit of a cunt? I was expecting to be amazed This was certainly interesting to read. Although I have never had much interest in LSD or Timothy Leary - someone bought this book for me when I was about 17 and at the time I was really into The Beatles - particularly the post LSD records. It’s nice to think that after all these years it’s finally been read. The story was fascinating and I learned a lot more about the influence LSD has had (more than I thought) - I kind of thought Leary himself was a bit of a cunt? I was expecting to be amazed by him after the Winona Ryder forward but nah. The whole thing about him brainwashing his wife so that she would worship him has not aged well at all. I felt a lot of sympathy for his family.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mercedes Vaughn

    This book contained a lot of interesting information, but had at least two misleading statements and six typographical errors. Also, while I appreciate that all biographers have an understandable bias towards their subjects, I like that bias to be a little less obvious. I would have appreciated this book at lot more if it had either been a straight report of the facts (as far as they can be discerned) or an all-out psychedelic love letter rather than the uncanny valley between the two that it see This book contained a lot of interesting information, but had at least two misleading statements and six typographical errors. Also, while I appreciate that all biographers have an understandable bias towards their subjects, I like that bias to be a little less obvious. I would have appreciated this book at lot more if it had either been a straight report of the facts (as far as they can be discerned) or an all-out psychedelic love letter rather than the uncanny valley between the two that it seems to inhabit.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tech XXIII

    i bought this, primarily, as i enjoy john higgs' writing, but also with the intention of becoming informed regarding the life of timothy leary, although i had no particular admiration for the man. still don't really, as (to me) the book makes clear what a self-serving glory hunter he was - how dismissive of people he was, and borderline cruel to those closest to him. looks like hunter s. thompson was spot on with his assessment of the man! maybe this was how he had to behave in order to pursue h i bought this, primarily, as i enjoy john higgs' writing, but also with the intention of becoming informed regarding the life of timothy leary, although i had no particular admiration for the man. still don't really, as (to me) the book makes clear what a self-serving glory hunter he was - how dismissive of people he was, and borderline cruel to those closest to him. looks like hunter s. thompson was spot on with his assessment of the man! maybe this was how he had to behave in order to pursue his goals! worthy or not, i don't know how relevant his work and research into mind expanding substances is now, and maybe his legacy is as celebrity academic? whatever my impression of leary has become, this is exceptionally well written, researched and balanced biography by an author that could write entertainingly about the hardening of faecal matter and make it interesting and valid! contains all we need to know, and set out in a neutral narrative that allows the reader to form opinion and learn. what more? i have thoroughly enjoyed this, 'k.l.f.....' and 'stranger than we can imagine....', now looking forward to a 'trip' down 'watling street'!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Akin

    Interesting, inquiring biography. Neither hagiographic nor unnecessarily cynical, it presents an informed and opinionated summary of Leary without forcing the reader to embrace the author’s point of view. A bit longer than it needed to be; nonetheless, captures the significance of Leary in the emergence of the 1960s counterculture movement quite well.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Iamreddave

    I loved Higgs' KLF and Stranger than we can Imagine so I bought this even though Leary did not really interest me. The book is great. More about society than this one crispy. Higgs gives the impression that almost everyone around Leary was odder than he was. Particularly those on the right side of the law. I loved Higgs' KLF and Stranger than we can Imagine so I bought this even though Leary did not really interest me. The book is great. More about society than this one crispy. Higgs gives the impression that almost everyone around Leary was odder than he was. Particularly those on the right side of the law.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Picked this up at a charity shop a few years ago, mainly on the strength of the Hunter S Thompson quote on the back. A mixed bag for me. Certainly an interesting life, and Higgs isn't afraid to show Leary to be a complete shit at times as well as a genius. The book itself became a bit of a slog to get through. 2.5 stars really. Back to the charity shop for someone else to have a read. Picked this up at a charity shop a few years ago, mainly on the strength of the Hunter S Thompson quote on the back. A mixed bag for me. Certainly an interesting life, and Higgs isn't afraid to show Leary to be a complete shit at times as well as a genius. The book itself became a bit of a slog to get through. 2.5 stars really. Back to the charity shop for someone else to have a read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tony Smyth

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Higgs writes well and keeps the story moving, which is not too difficult given the life that Leary lived.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kami

    Probably the best book on Timothy Leary and his influence in culture. Top notch.

  20. 5 out of 5

    michelle stoneham

    I love this book author very insightful.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Eileen Vert

    fun-to-read, honest, nuanced biography of a frequently bastardly, prophetic, and mythical man

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    Good look at Leary. The man, the myth, the legend, the legacy. Probably biased but fun. A shame that his own autobio Flashbacks is now out of print...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christina Kent

    all of the craziness of his life was kind of presented as a list of one thing after another, which ended up being not so interesting

  24. 4 out of 5

    Simon Cowley

    Really an eye/mind opening read, will definitely read it again.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Oscar

    A refreshingly unsentimental biography of one of the most interesting people of the post-war period. Very little of what I personally, not having been born at the time, refer to as the 1960's would have happened if it were not for this man. He hung out with the Beatles and the Stones, sang backing vocals on "Give Peace a Chance", rode along with Jagger on the helicopter into Altamont and recorded "Seven Up" with Ash Ra Tempel. Then there's the flipside of the coin, of course, namely his affiliati A refreshingly unsentimental biography of one of the most interesting people of the post-war period. Very little of what I personally, not having been born at the time, refer to as the 1960's would have happened if it were not for this man. He hung out with the Beatles and the Stones, sang backing vocals on "Give Peace a Chance", rode along with Jagger on the helicopter into Altamont and recorded "Seven Up" with Ash Ra Tempel. Then there's the flipside of the coin, of course, namely his affiliation with the armed factions of the US counterculture like the Brotherhood of Eternal Love who recruited the Weather Underground to spring Leary from prison and whisky him into exile in Algeria under the protection of the Black Panther Party. That's certainly not for everyone. To summarize, the man comes across as anything but a saint, but there really is no discounting his influence. Without him there would most probably be no "Revolver" (Let alone "Sgt. Pepper"), no "Satanic Majesties Request", no "Pet Sounds", no "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" and no "Freak Out!" and that's just a few of the pivotal albums of the 60's off the top of my head. That's definitely not to be scoffed at.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    An entertaining, and informative biography which sheds a lot of light on the roots and aims of the counter-culture whilst also being fun to read. I knew next to nothing about Leary before reading this book, but was tempted by the 99p Kindle edition, and am rather glad I was. Leary was no doubt an extraordinary guy; hugely charismatic, highly intelligent, and fearless, but also narcissistic, selfish and a sucker for the limelight. He must have had the constitution of an ox to have survived the qu An entertaining, and informative biography which sheds a lot of light on the roots and aims of the counter-culture whilst also being fun to read. I knew next to nothing about Leary before reading this book, but was tempted by the 99p Kindle edition, and am rather glad I was. Leary was no doubt an extraordinary guy; hugely charismatic, highly intelligent, and fearless, but also narcissistic, selfish and a sucker for the limelight. He must have had the constitution of an ox to have survived the quantity and variety of substances that he consumed, and at one point it does appear he comes slightly off the rails. I came away from this book understanding a lot more about the reasons Leary was so keen on the use of LSD and other psychoactive substances, although not entirely persuaded by the wider role claimed for LSD in fields as diverse as music, the discovery of DNA, post-modernism and chaos theory. However, I was also left feeling that I'd just read an entertaining adventure story; which I think is probably how Leary saw his own life.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Agitatus

    As with most 60s lit, this one does not differ too much in its hero worship, but it does fairly well at sticking to the whole truth, and you can decide from there if Tim is your hero or not. So I liked it alot for it's readability, succinctness, and somehow cramming all the very important facts in its pages about a very complex life, now gone. Some would say a waste, some would say he was not around long enough. Me, I'd say I wish that he could have been just a bit more circumspect and saw his o As with most 60s lit, this one does not differ too much in its hero worship, but it does fairly well at sticking to the whole truth, and you can decide from there if Tim is your hero or not. So I liked it alot for it's readability, succinctness, and somehow cramming all the very important facts in its pages about a very complex life, now gone. Some would say a waste, some would say he was not around long enough. Me, I'd say I wish that he could have been just a bit more circumspect and saw his own life more objectively. As it was, he stayed too much within his own bubble and LSD blinded him to reality, a delusion that many can easily be said to have succumbed to. The human being, in our current state, cannot handle the depths of the unleashing of the mind. It's just too much. But the book is a great read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nadya Zdravkova

    All the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll of the 1960s' and 1970s, plus lots of politics, psychology and philosophy. If you are interested in reviewing the second part of the 20th century through the mastermind and the ideas of Timothy Leary, you will enjoy this narrative of his life. The book is well written and easy to follow despite being full of names, events, places and connections. All the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll of the 1960s' and 1970s, plus lots of politics, psychology and philosophy. If you are interested in reviewing the second part of the 20th century through the mastermind and the ideas of Timothy Leary, you will enjoy this narrative of his life. The book is well written and easy to follow despite being full of names, events, places and connections.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lynsey Ilett

    OMG BEST FRICKIN BOOK EVER!!! Can't describe in words how I loved this book, I feel like I've been on an amazing journey and cannot believe all this stuff revolved around one man... Crazy, inspiring and beyond the realms of what is humanly possible! OMG BEST FRICKIN BOOK EVER!!! Can't describe in words how I loved this book, I feel like I've been on an amazing journey and cannot believe all this stuff revolved around one man... Crazy, inspiring and beyond the realms of what is humanly possible!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessie Dzielski

    I found this at half price books while browsing the cultural studies section. It turned out to be a very quick read and super interesting if you've ever been curious about lsd or radical terrorist groups and whatnot. I found this at half price books while browsing the cultural studies section. It turned out to be a very quick read and super interesting if you've ever been curious about lsd or radical terrorist groups and whatnot.

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