Terence McKenna's Library

The man collected 2,641 books over 30 years
August 20, 2021

I'm in the process of building out a new personal site (inspired by Justin Hall and Gus), and I wanted to have a library section in it. I also found it neat to see a reading list on Jordan Peterson's website.

I never got to meet my grandfather "Pappou George," but he did leave his library behind. A collection of books, even if only a quarter of them have been read, are a way to understand the ideas that someone was interested in grappling with.

If someone is a writer or creator themselves, then a library is a way to understand the source material that shaped their lens.

When I think of libraries and creators, I think of Terence McKenna. He was radically original writer and speaker, as well as an obsessive book collector. His personal library burnt down from a fire in 2007, but at least we have a catalog of the 2,641 books he collected between 1970 and 2000.

Here's a quote on his collection:

Terence's brother Dennis owns an index of Terence's collection, which will at least give us an overview of his library—sorta like a playlist without the MP3s. But even this valuable document will not replace the body of knowledge itself—a body that had become, in the weird ways of the memetic world, a kind of second body for Terence's fabulous and fascinating mind. No budding head will ever be able to poke through this collection again, with its faintly perfumed volumes on Chinese alchemy and butterflies and hash. And the world has one fewer 1659 folio of Isaac Casaubon's A True and Faithful Relation of what passed between Dr. John Dee and some spirits, and one fewer old-school copy of Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy, which Terence swapped for a pound or two of yummies back in the day. The content of these books, at least, is reproducible; Terence, of course, was one-of-a-kind. Link

This link shows the bibliography for his books.