• The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

  • By: Tom Wolfe
  • Narrated by: Luke Daniels
  • Length: 13 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (865 ratings)
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Our favorite moments from The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Just a little routine ‘messing up the minds’ of the citizenry.
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The answer can be found in one short word, my friends.
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All the senses open wide.
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  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
  • Just a little routine ‘messing up the minds’ of the citizenry.
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
  • The answer can be found in one short word, my friends.
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
  • All the senses open wide.

The subject is a seemingly esoteric one, many of the details are blood-chilling and nauseating, but the book is undeniably a major journalistic contribution to the future analysis of our own and America's strange period of this century.

- The Guardian
Tom Wolfe

About the Author

Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Tom Wolfe is perhaps best known for his work as a trailblazer in the New Journalism movement of the 1960s and as the author of searing best-sellers such as The Bonfire of the Vanities. Originally a reporter, Wolfe worked in news for ten years, writing for publications including The New York Herald Tribune, Esquire, New York Magazine, and The Washington Post. In 1965, Wolfe published his first book, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, a collection of essays about the freewheeling 1960s, launching him into the public sphere as a whip-smart and madly inventive cultural critic. Several best-selling nonfiction publications followed, including The Right Stuff, The Pump House Gang, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, works that introduced popular slang—including statusphere, the right stuff, The Me Decade, and good ol’ boy—into the English lexicon.

Wolfe released his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, in 1987 to much praise; the book remained on The New York Times best-seller list for over a year after its initial publication. Three of his books have been adapted into blockbuster films including The Last American Hero (1973), The Right Stuff (1983), and The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990). Wolfe was also the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the National Book Award, the Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence, the National Humanities Medal, and the National Book Foundation’s 2010 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. A writer with a keen eye for style and all things sensational, Wolfe was known for not only his attention-grabbing writing but also his eye-catching fashion sense—he wore his trademark white suit for decades, donning his ivory tie and matching fedora no matter the season. He died in 2018 in New York City, leaving behind a legacy of deft, neon prose and razor-sharp satire.

Luke Daniels

About the Performer

Luke Daniels is the award-winning performer of more than 500 audiobooks. Known for his imaginative story telling and dynamic characterizations, he has always been a listener favorite. In 2018, Luke was inducted into Audible’s Narrator Hall of Fame. With a background in classical theater, film, and education, Luke has performed and taught around the country.

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What listeners say about The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

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  • JE
  • 03-29-19

Extremely well-narrated

This is maybe the most effective audiobook I’ve yet experienced. As a text, the book is such a flurry of description, mood and energy that it can get exhausting. Here, the narrator embraces Wolfe’s manic prose in a way that carried me along and made me love the language. The book is wild, vivid and unruly, and this production helped make it feel like a lived experience.

57 people found this helpful

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Maybe it resonated with a different time and place

I have read other works from Tom Wolfe and enjoyed them. I'm a fan of "gonzo journalism" and the kind of realism and embedded story telling that Wolfe pioneered. I'll even stipulate that this book accurately reported what happened.

None the less, it's not for me. I'm a Gen Xer so I didn't grow up fearing some vague hippie threat and I don't have fears or hang-ups about drugs or people living different lives. You want to drive around high as a kite in a whacked out van with loud speakers, you do you. But when one starts doing "outrageous" things to try and "freak out" others......eh, that's where I get off the trolley. You're not revolutionary. You're not leading people to some hidden truth. You're just being a jerk.

And that's what this book was. Page after page of stoners doing things for the sole purpose of trying to get a rise out of people. It's amusing once or twice. 100 pages in you start wondering who is trying to prove what to whom.

The audiobook performance isn't bad. Daniels changes voices and inflections appropriately. The performance may have been why I kept listening to the book long after checking out on the story (I got a little more than halfway through).

237 people found this helpful

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A great one

Definitely in the top 3 audio books I've listened to. Wonderful. Delightful. Hilarious. Couldn't stop listening. Great performance, really added character and clarification to the interesting personalities. I felt that the voices helped me understand the characters on a deeper level than if I had simply read it.

22 people found this helpful

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Great Reading

I loved Luke Daniels reading of this story. He really brought it to life and in a way vastly superior to what my own reading of the text would be. The story itself is an interesting story of a failed experiment in changing the world. If I could, I would certainly want to be on-the-bus and in-the-movie of the Pranksters.

17 people found this helpful

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Bizarre.

This book is... not what I expected. It's hard to understand what is actually happening a lot of the time. The author recounts these events to you like you are both on acid at an afterparty at 3AM. It devolves into poetry at many points. There is a LOT of expired slang and pop culture references. For your reference,

Heads = People who do acid ("acid heads")
Straights = People who don't do acid
Spades = Black people

That ought to make the intro a bit less confusing for you.

Also, be warned that the narrator takes it upon himself to really embody the craziness of all the people the author describes. His voices are quite over-the-top.

That said, it's a alright book about a bunch of crazy people that did a bunch of acid in the 60s and did a bunch of crazy stuff.

46 people found this helpful

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Outstanding Performance!!

The book that brings the psychedelic hippy age into day-glo clarity. While the book is a classic and captures the essence of the Kesey acid tests, what makes it is the reading by Luke Daniels. His reading makes you FEEL the book. You are tripping as he reads it. Excellent!

18 people found this helpful

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You're either on the bus, or you're off the bus

While it's true that Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a stellar example of late '60s Gonzo Journalism (or, as Wolfe preferred, "The New Journalism"), the value of this book goes beyond simple journalism. It's an "inside history" of an important and, to many, little-known transition in American culture.

Much has been written about the Beat Generation of the 1950s - Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, etc. Also well-chronicled is the 1960s Hippie movement that began in San Franscisco's Haight-Ashbury district and spread throughout the world. But not everyone realizes one movement emerged, if not "directly," then at least sidereally, from the other. Unlike any other book I'm aware of, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test takes the reader inside the singular events connecting the Beats and the Hippies, revealing the individuals, ideas - and chemicals - that allowed the cool, hipster Beats to give cosmic birth to psychedelic day-glow Hippiedom.

There are thousands of reviews of this book out there already, so I won't go into detail about the storyline. Basically, Ken Kesey + LSD = the seed that flowered into the Hippie movement. Along for the ride (literally driving the Merry Prankster bus) was famed Beatnick poet and author Neal Cassidy, the model for Dean Moriarty of Kerouac's On the Road. Beat poet Allen Ginsberg wasn't on the bus, but he was present for many of the key events. This book connects the dots between the Beats, Kesey, guys like LSD superstar Stanley Owsley, the Grateful Dead, related but oppositional forces like Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (later, Ram Das) and on and on. A thousand scattered stars are revealed to form a single constellation whose influence permanently reshaped American culture. An important history, and a great read.

The very best thing about my 2021 read of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, however, is that I listened to the 2019 Audible Studios audiobook edition, narrated by Luke Daniels. Run, don't walk to buy this audiobook. I've listened to hundreds of audiobooks, and this is far and away the best performance by an audiobook narrator I've ever encountered. There's a lot about the way this book is written, the language and style of dialog, that is very 1968, and might give the modern reader pause. None of that is a problem when listening to Luke Daniels' narration. He brings The Electric Kool-Aid Acid test to such dynamic life that you, the listener, are on the bus, riding with Kesey, a Prankster yourself, along for the ride.

If you've never dropped acid, but want to know what it's like, this is the book for you. This is the narration. You're either on the bus or you're off the bus. This audiobook is your ticket. All aboard!

2 people found this helpful

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Narration was excellent

I read this book several years back and was hesitant to get the audio version, but I am glad I did. The narrator really brings this to life..
I absolutely love the Pranksters, Kesey, Wavy Gravy,Owsley etc and that period of history and every time I drive through Wikieup Az I wonder where the Bus got stuck!!

Ive always been on the bus...... I think as readers that sums it up///You are either on the bus or off the bus....
The narrator put me right in the middle of it!

2 people found this helpful

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phenominal

This audiobook felt like I had someone who was there at the acid tests telling me all these stories from his own memories.

10 people found this helpful

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Disappointed

Struggled to finish. I remember this book being referenced many times as I grew up so I decided to give it a shot. I was very disappointed with the overall story. I feel this book was more hype than anything else.

24 people found this helpful