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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test Paperback – August 19, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 147 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

They say if you remember the '60s, you weren't there. But, fortunately, Tom Wolfe was there, notebook in hand, politely declining LSD while Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters fomented revolution, turning America on to a dangerously playful way of thinking as their Day-Glo conveyance, Further, made the most influential bus ride since Rosa Parks's. By taking On the Road's hero Neal Cassady as his driver on the cross-country revival tour and drawing on his own training as a magician, Kesey made Further into a bully pulpit, and linked the beat epoch with hippiedom. Paul McCartney's Many Years from Now cites Kesey as a key influence on his trippy Magical Mystery Tour film. Kesey temporarily renounced his literary magic for the cause of "tootling the multitudes"--making a spectacle of himself--and Prankster Robert Stone had to flee Kesey's wild party to get his life's work done. But in those years, Kesey's life was his work, and Wolfe infinitely multiplied the multitudes who got tootled by writing this major literary-journalistic monument to a resonant pop-culture moment.

Kesey's theatrical metamorphosis from the distinguished author of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest to the abominable shaman of the "Acid Test" soirees that launched The Grateful Dead required Wolfe's Day-Glo prose account to endure (though Kesey's own musings in Demon Box are no slouch either). Even now, Wolfe's book gives what Wolfe clearly got from Kesey: a contact high. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Tom Wolfe is a groove and a gas. Everyone should send him money and other fine things. Hats off to Tom Wolfe!” ―Terry Southern

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is not simply the best book on the hippies, it is the essential book . . . the pushing, ballooning heart of the matter . . . Vibrating dazzle!” ―The New York Times

“Some consider Mailer our greatest journalist; my candidate is Wolfe.” ―Studs Terkel, Book Week

“A Day-Glo book, illuminating, merry, surreal!” ―The Washington Post

“Electrifying.” ―San Francisco Chronicle

“An amazing book . . . A book that definitely gives Wolfe the edge on the nonfiction novel.” ―The Village Voice

“Among journalists, Wolfe is a genuine poet; what makes him so good is his ability to get inside, to not merely describe (although he is a superb reporter), but to get under the skin of a phenomenon and transmit its metabolic rhythm.” ―Newsweek


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Sixth Printing edition (August 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031242759X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312427597
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book probably gives the most detailed and essential guide to the sixties. Being a teenager now, i have no idea what the time period was like, but after reading Tom Wolfes book, i have a pretty good idea.
The book delves into the heart of 60's America, giving (in as much detail as possible i think) a wierd and wonderful account of people, pranks and LSD. The book is written in a style i have never come across before, Wolfe using very inventive terms. The style itself is used mainly to re-create the feel of the time period, getting the feel of being 'On The Bus', and providing fantastic results.
Kesey and the Merry Pranksters aren't given bias either. They aren't praised or put down and that gives the book an extra strength. Wolfe using a 3rd person account, simply tells a story (and what a story).
Some parts of the book are somewhat longwinded, but on a whole its a masterpiece, quite simply a classic. Its certainly different, sometimes providing a somewhat LSD account of things, but wasn't that the sixties in a nut-shell? Probably. This is what Tom Wolfe set out to create, and how well he manages it.
Reading it now you'll think, "Wouldn't it be great to experiance the sixties for myself. Being on the bus, grooving with Kesey and the Pranksters, playing the cops and robbers game..." and then you realise you only went and got born in the 80's!
Still, opening the book again will transport there in the comfort of your own home. 'ELECTRIC' and 'KOOL', a must-read.
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Format: Paperback
I'm a 24 year old guy who never got to live in the golden era of music, drugs and consensual sex. Although I did (and still do) my fair share of partying into the first half of my twenties, I always wondered what it was like back then. I got turned on to the sixties by the music first. My mom was a big Stones, Doors and Hendrix fan and I listened to that music a lot. Then I saw Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. After I saw it I read every single book the man ever wrote. Especially Hell's Angels and Fear & Loathing fascinated me because the era in which it took place seemed so radically different from what I'm used to.

This book follows a group of hippies who take a lot of acid and go on an adventure to find higher meaning in it all. That's basically the plot. There is a lot of craziness going on, funny situations involving out of control people and interesting revelations. Throughout the whole book there is the feeling of something hanging in the air, lifting everyone up, that's hard to describe. The thing I loved most about this book was the positive mentality and the love people had for one another. Sure, it's easy to be happy when you're on drugs, but still. My generation is one of individuality, to the point where people don't even talk to each other anymore. You can hear this in today's music too. It's digital, sterile, pitch perfect. The human element of it is pretty much stripped out. It is such a contrast compared to the raw, hissy recordings from the 60's and 70's. This book is like that. I wasn't around to see it myself, but I feel this is the best way to read up about what it must have been like.

I loved it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fun ride. I read this book in 2015, decades after it was written. Takes you back in time, great insight into the drug culture and hippie hedonism. You feel like you know these people, although I would never invite any of them to my house!
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Format: Paperback
This book is unlike anything I had ever read before. Every single word, emotion, description, piece of language is so colorful and entertaining that one can not help but turn the pages. At times, you wonder if this man did, indeed, drop acid to write this account of Ken Kesey's spiritual journey across America, but that just shows the utter, raw talent that Tom Wolfe has.

Never before has a book had so much of an impact on me that I actually experience withdrawals after putting it down. This book is not only about drugs and the free and spiritual lifestyle made possible by the 1960s counterculture, this book is a drug, giving the reader hallucinations from its vast style of exploration. You don't read this book; you experience it. It's not necessary to take peyote or mescaline or acid to understand the concepts Wolfe brings to life; you just need an open mind. An expansion of your intelligence while you leave the rest of your existence on the outside.

Those ideas being said, this book is not for everyone. Wolfe's thought processes are sometimes difficult to follow, and the casual reader may not enjoy the nonlinear style he utilizes; however, I do encourage everyone to give it a try. A few years ago, a friend of mine recommended it to me, but for some reason, I just could not get into it. Just a month ago, I decided to give it another try and lo and behold, it's quite possibly my favorite work. Whatever you're into - music, culture, politics, paraphernalia - I highly recommend The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. And even if you can't get into it now, give it a few years. It'll give you a brand new outlook on life and question your very existence and purpose. So, if you're not prepared, don't read it.
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