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The Book of Drugs: A Memoir Paperback – January 10, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Rock musician Doughty, former leader of the band Soul Coughing, makes clear from the start that he loves drugs, especially heroin. He just doesn’t like what they do to him, and at this point in his life, he has no desire to try them again. Cognizant of the James Frey syndrome, Doughty admits that he has changed names in an effort to avoid problems even as he asks, “Isn’t memory itself an act of imagination?” In this conversational, rambling, and picaresque memoir—one without chapter breaks—Doughty recalls a childhood and adolescence where after his sophomore year in high school, he attended an experimental college (“a weird school,” he says) in Massachusetts. He recalls, too, his various druggie activities, including dancing in a club under the influence of acid and snorting heroin in a basement dressing room. Although Doughty’s many drug escapades become a bit redundant after a while, anyone with an interest in pop culture generally and rock music in particular should appreciate this insider’s account of life on the road. --June Sawyers


Publishers Weekly, 10/3/11
“Hardly your typical rock star memoir. Doughty is brutally honest about life as an addict…Bringing the writing skill that he has crafted to his underground poetry, magazine articles, and songs, Doughty conveys his message with both despair and humor…A compelling look at one man’s struggle to come to terms with the much-discussed connection between addiction and art.”

New York Daily News, 10/28/11
The leader of the New York band Soul Coughing comes clean about the local music scene as well as his (semi) undiminished love of the high.”
TheRumpus.net, 10/20/11
“Doughty’s life, as chronicled in these pages, is not so much a revelation for its narrative arc (kid makes the big time, starts in with the dope, the band breaks up, kid is redeemed), as it is for the astonishingly vital, energized, and natural voice contained in its pages, one which never once had a ghost writer presiding over it, likewise its acerbic and sometimes lacerating honesty.”

Boston Globe,
“Engrossing and extremely candid.”
Seattle Weekly, 11/9/11
“A salacious memoir.”
Billboard.com, 12/7/11
“Chronicles his treacherous, intoxicated years as frontman of Soul Coughing in the 90s, through his transition into a fruitful (sober) solo career, with plenty of self-deprecating humor, band squabbles, music biz debauchery, and notable cameos from Jeff Buckley, Dave Matthews and Ani DiFranco and along the way.”
Library Journal, December 2011
“[A] soul-baring memoir…Much more than a musician's autobiography, this is a tale about the resurgence of the human spirit; Doughty captures a little bit of all of us in his journey. Recommended.”
Jambands.com, 12/16/11
“Not only an open look by Doughty at his past addiction problems, but a smart, funny, and honest view of the late 80s/early 90s NY music scene, Doughty’s years with the band Soul Coughing, and what it was like to reach the other side of a very dark place. Don’t for a moment think that Mike Doughty has written your typical I-got-clean-and-now-I’m-above-all-that sort of book."
Relix, January/February 2012
“Love stories to drugs that [Doughty] had to quit. Suddenly, the fine points of ‘The Huffer and the Cutter,’ about love between damaged people, takes on an even deeper meaning.”
Booklist, 12/28/11
“[A] conversational, rambling, and picaresque memoir…Anyone with an interest in pop culture generally and rock music in particular should appreciate this insider’s account of life on the road.”
The Arts Desk (UK), 12/29/11
“A thrillingly lucid and bravely honest memoir.”
Boston Globe, 1/10/12
“What’s shocking and fresh about The Book of Drugs is how vividly it captures the psychic stasis of addiction…Much of the memoir’s appeal resides in Doughty’s lacerating candor.”
Black Book, 1/10/12
“A refreshingly genuine rock 'n' roll memoir, with the typical rise and fall of a rock star you might find as the plot of a musical biopic…But it's also a poetic look at the music industry in the late '90s, a seemingly mythical time before the rise of .mp3s and iPods.”
Interview, 1/11/12
“A layered memoir…A musical person with a passion for prose, Doughty's writing is self-deprecating and honest.”
Ink 19, January 2012
 “Not your typical memoir…Fascinating, especially for a Doughty fan…This will put some clarity into the man behind the music.”
You’re Beautiful, New York, January 2012
“Full of succulent period errata, much like Patti Smith's Just Kids and Eileen Myles' Inferno.  We go to legendary places and meet legendary people along the way…Like Smith and Myles, Doughty recreates downtown Manhattan in his formative moment with adroit and insouciant deftness. One comes to see and know as he has. It is a deeply enchanting backdrop for a deeply disenchanting behind-the-scenes.”
PopMatters.com, 1/17/12
The Book of Drugs can simultaneously be a rock ‘n’ roll tell-all, harrowing drug account, and a uniquely personal tale all in one, without ever feeling like it’s playing any of those angles deliberately. The reason why The Book of Drugs works is because it’s absolutely unflinching…A highly entertaining read…All in all, The Book of Drugs is an outstanding book. It’s a litany of stories filled to the brim with personality, wit, and humor…One of the best books you’ll read this year.”                                
Addiction Inbox (blog), 1/14/12
“It seems almost unfair that a talented singer/songwriter like Doughty should also turn out to be a good writer, but there you have it. The Book of Drugs is informative but not confessional, rock-snarky but tempered with a round of amends. It is also whip-smart and bitterly funny.” 

Salon.com, 1/26/12
“The unspoken rule of rock ‘n’ roll memoirs—especially ones about drug-addled players who get clean—is that the author tends to mend fences rather than sling mud. Mike Doughty: not so much. In The Book of Drugs, the former Soul Coughing frontman writes with a lacerating candor about his family, his narcotic and sexual excesses, the idiocy of the music industry, and, most of all, his former band mates.”

Penthouse, February 2012
“Doughty strips away the glamour many people associate with the rock-star life, and his sharp writing reinvigorates even the most overdone clichés about recovery.”
The Daily, 1/22/12
“Being a Soul Coughing fan, or a fan of Doughty's solo career, isn't required to enjoy reading The Book of Drugs...The warts-and-all approach of The Book of Drugs works.”
New York Post, 1/29/12
"[A] riveting new memoir."
Tucson Citizen, 1/23/12
“Brutally honest, stark, cringe-worthy, and unexpectedly witty…This is not your typical rocker-hits-the-skids memoir but one that pulls no punches, and is so candid and brutally honest, it almost sucks the oxygen out of the room…I hope there will be a sequel to this book. It is that satisfying.”
The Rogovy Report, 1/30/12
“A funny, haunted tale in which no one—bandmates, producers, fans, A&R reps, fellow musicians such as Jeff Buckley and Redman, and least of all Doughty himself—is spared.”
Rolling Stone, 2/16/12
“Doughty is a funny, unsparing writer, and if he often comes across as a prick (like most everyone else here), he’s a deeply self-aware one; his eventual salvation – qualified, full of doubts – feels as real and lived as they come.”
MTVHive.com, 1/30/12
The Book of Drugs has many of the staples we’ve come to expect from a rock ‘n’ roll tell-all. There are stories about consuming ridiculous amounts of illegal narcotics, and having ridiculous amounts of raunchy sex with people you’ve just met, and hating your bandmates for not respecting your awesomeness, and then kicking the drugs and meaningless sex and stupid band and realizing what’s important in life…But The Book of Drugs manages to transcend its own clichés…Doughty’s misadventures are weirdly relatable, even if you’ve never spent a small fortune on heroin or had sex with strangers in multiple time zones.”
Wisconsin State Journal, 2/1/12
“Candid and unsparing, and better written than most of its ilk…A powerful read.”
This Week in New York, 2/1/12
“A no-holds-barred look at that old music cliché, sex, drugs, and rock and roll.”
Blurt Online, 2/6/12
“Written in more of a conversational collection of anecdotes, remembrances and one-off stories, though largely chronologically, Doughty eschews the traditional chapter by chapter story in the life of, opting for a more original take on the standard rock memoir…His time in Soul Coughing and his relationship with drugs clearly made for some fascinating stories.” 
The Nervous Breakdown, 2/6/12
The Book of Drugs reads like a late night conversation, Doughty’s candor charged by a quick wit and a merciless sense of humor that bring an electric edge to the stories within his story…The Book of Drugs is much more than Doughty’s memoir, however—it is a bare-knuckle...

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 3rd Printing edition (January 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818776
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I think Doughty is a 5 star writer but I decided I wanted to change this review upon realizing that this book kinda made me really dislike him. Essentially this is page after page about how he got hurt feelings and about how unstable his bandmates were, a shocking display of self-unawareness after admitting right off the bat that the drugs may have affected his memory. To sum things up - Doughty meets Jeff Buckley, gets jealous of him, for the women that sleep with him and his god-like status among his followers, then spends the next decade of his life trying to capture that with his band Soul Coughing. Thus, he gets increasingly annoyed with his bandmates, who demand equal pay (which they didn't always get, by the way) and equal credit. I've read both Doughty's account and De Gli Antoni's account and they both actually line up quite well, but I must say that when you listen to the discs, De Gli Antoni's is the one that rings more true. "A band is only as good as its drummer", he says, and Soul Coughing had a really great one. Soul Coughing was a band effort - they needed all four members to work, and Doughty's freestyling and jangly guitar scratching complimented what everyone else was doing. Meanwhile, Doughty really just wanted to be a solo act all along it seems, and would get upset that the band photos didn't highlight him, and that he wasn't being featured enough (for example, demanding a new video be made for "Circles" because the excellent cartoon video didn't make it clear who the singer was). Then, Doughty became a solo act, and you know what, he did alright. He's a better songwriter now. The great thing about Soul Coughing was that they could make magic whether a song was really there or not (and really, Doughty, you think you deserve sole credit for "Super Bon Bon"?Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This episodic but roughly chronological memoir clips along at an addictive pace. It's very honest and unsparingly self-critical, and portrays a world of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll so squalid and numbingly repetitive you'll be glad you're not a rock star after all. In one especially memorable passage, Doughty recounts how, at the height of his addiction, he was so unhealthy that it took 90 minutes just to walk across the street to the ATM and back.

Alongside the addiction story, Doughty delves into the astonishingly toxic personal politics in Soul Coughing. Most band-infighting narratives are about friendships gone sour, but here we start with strangers who disliked each other from the first rehearsal, yet somehow slogged through three albums and several tours. The "Let It Be" -era Beatles seem positively chummy by comparison.

However, as some other reviewers have noted, the book takes a surprisingly off-putting turn near the end, when Doughty unleashes several pages of white-hot hatred at not just his former bandmates, but at the SC music itself -- and voices more than a little resentment of fans who bring it up. He talks about playing SC songs live in the past, but getting angry when people cheered for them(!), and portrays fans who request those songs or mention the band to him as being a nuisance at best and belligerent tormentors at worst. This may come as a surprise to fans have heard him play SC songs live as recently as a few years ago, and readers who were just told, throughout the first 4/5 of this book, that Doughty wrote all the SC material singlehandedly and wasn't properly credited for it.
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Format: Paperback
I had a funny reaction to this book - I was a fan of Soul Coughing, and have enjoyed Doughty's solo stuff, as well. And now I'm sorry about that. My enjoyment of Mr. Doughty's music would probably have continued unabated, but now that I know he thinks I'm an idiot, I'm going to have a hard time ponying up cash for his work, or enjoying what he produces.
The book is well-written, it carries the reader along, and some of the prose is gorgeous. However, after finishing it, it occurred to me that no one ended up looking anything but awful in this book. It starts off with a giant "f*** you" to his family, continues on with a "f*** you" to the New York music scene, then a "f*** you" to the band, the record label, the A&R rep, the manager, and everyone involved with the band, all underscored with a really notable amount of self-loathing. Not to mention a GIANT "f*** you" to the fans of Soul Coughing or anyone who ever enjoyed the music of Soul Coughing, who seem to deserve a special extra helping of contempt from the author. Then the book moves on to the recovery story, which I found to be also underscored with a lot of loathing from the author - not just of himself, but of everyone around him, though there were bright points here and there about people who might not be as awful as everyone else. When the book moved on to stories about his travels, the fact that everyone (including the author) was portrayed as a total jerk......well, that's really distracting, to read about someone visiting amazing places and seeing amazing sights and being sober and recovering and still being so full of self-loathing that it spills out onto everything and everyone around him.
After finishing this book and having had some time to think about it, I'm truly sorry I read it.
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