Book Reviews

Eminently readable, clear, and engrossing, its balance of voices combines a very personal narrative of initiation and participation in a particular world of healing with almost encyclopedic research on South American plant medicine. This is really outstanding, important work. I would not hesitate to say that this could become one of the classics of its kind.

Kagan Arik, Ph.D., Professor of Central Asian Civilization, University of Chicago, author of Shamanism, Culture and the Xinjiang Kazak
Inspirational… a true labor of love… much more than an academic work… warmth, humanity, and respect shine throughout… Probably one of the most definitive books on the subject.

Howard G. Charing, co-author of Plant Spirit Shamanism and The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo
The best book on ayahuasca yet… Beyer has found the sweet spot between scholarly and popular writing, the otherworldly and the disenchanted, participation and observation… A manifestly solid work of scholarship designed, happily, for the rest of us.

Erik Davis, writer, social historian, and cultural critic, author of TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information and Nomad Codes
Both a consummate scholar and an expert in wilderness survival, a compelling and elegant writer, the author is an authority on hallucinogens and a most compassionate mystic. His rare combination of qualities gives multiple dimensions to the story he tells — spiritual, anthropological, and political.

Wendy Doniger, Ph.D., D.Phil., Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago Divinity School, author of Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities
Gorgeously written and eminently practical… A rare mixture of exhaustive scholarship and gripping first person narrative… Scholars will appreciate the depth and breadth of the learning here, and would-be ayahuasca pilgrims should consider this a must read. Find room in your backpack… You’ll want to return to this one again and again.

Richard Doyle, Ph.D., Professor of Rhetoric and Science Studies, Penn State University, author of Darwin’s Pharmacy: Sex, Plants, and the Evolution of the Noösphere, writing in Cultural Anthropology, 25(4), 2010
Stephan is an elder… A gifted writer and academic. An elegant voice. A sincere heart. Singing to the Plants is the most comprehensive examination of Amazonian shamanism ever written, at once personal, accessible, and incredibly intelligent.

Adam Elenbaas, author of Fishers of Men: The Gospel of an Ayahuasca Vision Quest
Brilliant as an ethnographic portrayal, encyclopedic in scope, theoretically nuanced, eminently readable and thoroughly spellbinding. A tour de force, soon to be recognized as the definitive work on this topic.

Bonnie Glass-Coffin, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Utah State University, author of The Gift of Life: Female Spirituality and Healing in Northern Peru
Beyer makes his virtual encyclopedia an effortless pleasure to read. He works with a full palate of writing skills, understanding and a fine ear for detail. Coupled with a larder full of anecdotes, Singing to the Plants is as good as it gets if one wants to know what the heck shamanism in the Upper Amazon is all about.

Peter Gorman, journalist, former editor-in-chief of High Times magazine, and author of Ayahuasca in My Blood: 25 Years of Medicine Dreaming
A riveting, yet thoroughly academic, nonfiction page-turner… Beyer’s gift is conveying this far ranging and voluminous material while walking a finely nuanced line between personal memoir and scholarly discourse… Though verifiably academic, each page reads like a novel — with layers upon layers of intrigue and information, and with the plants, the animals, and the teachers as finely drawn characters imbued with complexity, mystery, and wisdom.

John Harrison, Psy.D., University of Colorado, principal investigator for the MAPS study of ibogaine in the treatment of opiate addiction, writing in the International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011
His own experiences with the potent hallucinogen ayahuasca are woven seamlessly into local, regional, and even global contexts… confronting some of the most difficult philosophical questions posed by a practice that challenges our taken-for-granted view of the world… Serious scholarship blended, where appropriate, with subjectivity and self-reflection.

Donald Joralemon, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Smith College, author of Sorcery and Shamanism: Curanderos and Clients in Northern Peru and Exploring Medical Anthropology, writing in Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 25(1), 2011
Written with clarity and keen academic observation, Beyer deconstructs the methods of shamanic ontology and ritual with both a healthy skepticism and sincere admiration… Beyer pushes past surface elements of shamanic craft and takes an objective look at everything he reports… By far the best book on ayahuasca shamanism I have ever read.

James Kent, former publisher of Trip Magazine and author of Psychedelic Information Theory: Shamanism in the Age of Reason
A classic volume that provides its readers with an unsurpassed understanding of the healing power of shamanism, its use of spiritual rituals and visionary plants such as ayahuasca, and both its light and its dark sides, its sophistication and its humor.

Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, co-author of Spiritual Dimensions of Healing and co-editor of Varieties of Anomalous Experience
The real deal — a scholarly and quite compellingly written account of ethnographic fieldwork with shamans in the Upper Amazon. Treated as an apprentice, the author was able to gain insights into the rituals, beliefs, and practices that form the social context and the inner world of shamanism.

David Lukoff, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, author of Shamanistic Initiatory Crises and Psychosis and Transpersonal Psychology and the Journey to Spirituality
A wild ride out and across the jungles of mestizo shamanism… The book, and its wonderful cast of characters, curanderos, animals, plants, spirits and stories presents honest, accurate, respectful, levelheaded and, at times, outrageously marvelous descriptions of the environments and climates of mestizo shamanism in the Upper Amazon.

Morgan Maher, artist and photographer, author of Espiritu
An elegantly written description of shamanic healing ceremonies around the world, especially those involving ayahuasca, incorporating thoughtful analyses of psychological, cultural, and spiritual perspectives. A very valuable contribution to the literature.

Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychology, California Institute of Integral Studies, author/editor of Sacred Vine of Spirits and Sacred Mushroom of Visions
An exhaustively researched and detailed study, unique among its kind, and an absolute “must-have” for college library collections strong in anthropology and information on indigenous religions.

The Midwest Book Review, 5(2), 2010
Steve Beyer has encyclopedic knowledge about Amazonian plant medicine, and his book Singing to the Plants is a must-read on the subject… Beyer joins an exclusive club of authors who have written important books about ayahuasca shamanism… An instant classic that people interested in ayahuasca will be happy to have on their shelves.

Jeremy Narby, Amazonian projects director, Nouvelle Planète, and author of The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge and Shamans through Time, writing in Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft, 8(1), 2013
Meticulous and rewarding … weaving academic discourse with his own personal recollections of training with his maestro and other curanderos. The result is a fresh and evocative journey … an invaluable collection of indigenous wisdom sifted with reasoned Western critique … infused with the colorful detail and ring of authenticity. This is a serious and scholarly compendium for the academic and layperson alike.

Rak Razam, author of Aya: A Shamanic Odyssey, writing in HerbalGram, The Journal of the American Botanical Council, 88, 2010
This extraordinary book is as thorough an account of any shamanistic complex as is available today… Surely one of the more lucidly written books in the broader field of religious studies… This book deserves a wide readership, and can comfortably be assigned in a wide array of undergraduate and graduate courses.

Frederick M. Smith, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies, University of Iowa, author of The Self Possessed, writing in Religious Studies Review, 36(3), 2010
Both highly readable and scholarly… This is an excellent and strong book that, because of its reach and detail, will become a classic in the field of Amazonian shamanism.

José Luis Stevens, Ph.D, president and cofounder of Power Path Seminars, writing in The Journal of Shamanic Practice, 3(1), 2010
A vast book… interesting, informative and comprehensive… Despite its size and breadth, it is not written from a strait-laced academic standpoint; the author has made a study of these traditions as one who is inside them… A very important addition to the list of books about these traditions.

Nicholas Breeze Wood, author of Voices from the Earth and The Book of the Shaman, writing in Sacred Hoop Magazine, 75, 2012