Far Out in America

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A German Ethnobotanist's Wild Roots in the Psychedelic Sixties

By Wolf Dieter Storl

Arcana Europa/Wild Lives, 448 pages, ISBN 9798486264788

America in the 1960s was a hotbed of cultural and intellectual ferment—spiritual, sexual, racial, and political. Wolf-Dieter Storl, whose family immigrated to the United States from a Germany ravaged by the Second World War, experienced this upheaval firsthand. Trying his luck at a surprising array of careers and experimenting with different lifestyles, he crossed paths with hillbillies, hobos, bikers, hippies, scholars, spiritualists, Black Panthers, student revolutionaries, smut peddlers, perverts, and psychedelic explorers—just to name a few.

Through the candidly personal lens of a budding cultural anthropologist and ethnobotanist, Storl relates these encounters with a refreshingly nuanced perspective. Unlike most books about the sixties, Far Out in America steers clear of overly romanticized nostalgia and the moralizing hand-wringing of cultural conservatives. It is a vivid portrait of a country that is neither what its detractors, nor its defenders, imagine it to be. For Storl, a social outsider who sampled freely from everything this acid-drenched era had to offer, the strangest trip of all was the American experience itself.      

Wolf-Dieter Storl was born in Saxony, Germany in 1942 and immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was eleven years old. After attending college at Ohio State University, he completed his MA in Anthropology at Kent State University, where he also taught. In 1974 he received his PhD in Ethnology in Bern, Switzerland, as a Fulbright scholar. Mankind’s cultural relationship with the plant world is the theme of most of his writings, and his books and presentations weave myth and folklore together with natural history. Recent works appearing in English include: Healing Lyme Disease Naturally (2010), The Herbal Lore of Wise Women and Wortcunners (2012), A Curious History of Vegetables (2016), and The Untold History of Healing (2017). He has also contributed to the journal TYR: Myth—Culture—Tradition, published by Arcana Europa.

“A fabulous oral history from a participant-observer and eyewitness to the other American Way.”

— Christian Rätsch, PhD, author of Plants of Love (1997), Marijuana Medicine (2001), and The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants (2005)

“Wolf Dieter Storl offers a portrait of real life when it was still plump, juicy, and full of contradictions. There are many lessons to learn from his story.”

— Claudia Müller-Ebeling, PhD, author of Ahnen, Geister und Schamanen (2010) and co-author (with Christian Rätsch) of Pagan Christmas (2006) and The Encyclopedia of Aphrodisiacs (2013)

“An amazing autobiography of younger days spent in the eye of the colorful 1960s storm, and beyond. Storl’s intelligence and eloquence convey a message of existential curiosity, and also of a deep respect for nature. His macrocosmic and microcosmic perspectives blend beautifully into a fascinating story of a life well lived.” 

 — Carl Abrahamsson, author of Occulture: The Unseen Forces that Drive Culture Forward (2018), Sacred Intent (2020), and The Devil’s Footprint (2020) 

“A glimpse into the past can lead to a greater understanding of the cultural and social issues of the present. Far Out in America is the most politically unbiased and touching firsthand account of the American 1960s that I have encountered. Dr. Wolf Dieter Storl knows how to take his readers on an exciting journey into his personal past, which is simultaneously a journey into one of the most influential periods of upheaval that occurred in the last century. His outlook is that of a nature-loving citizen of the world, who never let himself be instrumentalized by the media or by political currents. 

Today, Storl is the most well-known ethnobotanist and cultural anthropologist in the German-speaking world. He is treasured for his clear and wise perspectives on contemporary cultural and political events, as well as for his connection to nature and a nature-loving way of life. Far Out in America is genuine, accessible, and touching. Anyone who reads this wonderful, eye-opening book will find something of real personal benefit in its pages."

 Sarah Moritz, PhD, Ethnobotanical Institute, Freisen-Grügelborn, Germany