I got interested in reading Stoned because it’s just not everyday that you pick up a nonfiction book, or any book, and see a blurb from Madonna on the cover. It’s also a great title, especially since the book is mostly about gemstones but a little bit about spices, which people apparently used to get stoned. Who knew?
As it turns out, she can pick ‘em, or at least this one. It’s not exactly about gemstones as much as why people want them. I mean really, what can we do with them? Over the course of the book, Aja Raden hits just about every continent too: starting with the United States and why we think getting engaged with a diamond ring is so important. Then we go to South America and their emerald fortune, to France, to investigate how a diamond necklace helped start the French Revolution, and finally to Russia to find out how they used Faberge to help the United States pay for THEIR revolution. The last section, finally, takes to the Far East to learn about how Japan used pearls to modernize itself, and finally, to find out how the wrist watch went from being a fancy piece of jewelry (and not that functional) to basically, our earliest form of Smartphone.
Stoned is properly researched and footnoted, which is good because most of the time you forget that you are reading a nonfiction book and enjoy all the good stories, even the ones that you already know (or at least, I did). Raden has a hilarious, snarky style…and don’t skip the footnotes, because some of them are as much fun as the text. I kept flipping to the back of the book and asking myself, “Is she real?”
Did Madonna actually read this book?
Read and listen to From Trading Beads To The First Wristwatch, A History Of Shiny Objects for a recap of the last chapter of Stoned and an interview with Raden (skip the article if you want to read the book).
For a recap of some of the stories in Stoned, read The New York Post’s 5 jewels that changed the world, but skip it if you want to read the book, which I recommend because Raden is much more entertaining “in person”.
Read more about the Historical Figures in Stoned: