Anarchist Cookbook FAQ 
Summary: The Anarchist Cookbook is a book published in 1971, and you won't find the real thing online, although it is easily purchased from your local bookstore or from There are various files available on the Internet that rip off the name "Anarchist Cookbook" and have somewhat similar content, but they are not the real Anarchist Cookbook. The Anarchist Cookbook has a poor reputation for reliability and safety, and most of the online files are considerably worse.

What is the Anarchist Cookbook 
The Anarchist Cookbook, by William Powell, is a 160 page book, originally published in 1971 by Lyle Stuart. It is currently published by Barricade Books under ISBN 0-9623032-0-8. (Note that the name is not the "Anarchist's Cookbook"; there is no possessive in the name.)

Some people consider the Anarchist Cookbook to be a classic while many people consider it total junk. Many anarchists say that the Anarchist Cookbook has nothing to do with "real anarchy." The Anarchist Cookbook generally has a bad reputation.

Where can I get the real Anarchist Cookbook? 
You can buy it from the online bookstore You can also easily order it (or any other book in print) from your local bookstore. Give them the ISBN above and you should get it in a few weeks. Alternatively, you can send $22 (includes postage) to Barricade Books, PO Box 1401, Secaucus NJ 07096. Other mail order places also sell it, such as Paladin Press.

Can I get the original Anarchist Cookbook off the net? 
It's easy to find files called the "Anarchist Cookbook" online, but I have never found the original despite extensive searching. If you find the real thing, feel free to send me a working path. Note that the original tells you how to make bail in New York City, provides a recipe for cacodyal, and explains how to demolish suspension bridges. If your file doesn't have this, sorry, you haven't found the real thing.

What files can I get online? 
There are lots of online files similar to the Anarchist Cookbook. Reviews and links are here.

Is the Anarchist Cookbook safe and accurate? 
No. According to people who know explosives, it contains many dangerous errors and formulas that are likely to hurt you. People strongly advise to stay away from it if you enjoy having your limbs.

If you want to read it just for entertainment or to impress friends with it, however, go ahead. I thought it was rather silly and contained a lot of tedious 60's political rhetoric. I'd suggest saving your money, but buy it if you want.

Also note that kids regularly blind, maim, deafen, or kill themselves or their friends by playing around with pipe bombs and other explosives. Please avoid this, as it will not only mess up your life and upset your parents, but also motivates laws against the Internet and professional pyrotechnicians.

A few safety tips to think about: a) Constantly ask yourself: what would happen to me if this mixture blew up _right_now_, say from static electricity? b) Look at a .22 and consider that the fraction of a gram of gunpowder in this could kill you thousands of feet away. Admittedly a gun is a special case, but the point is that a little bit of explosive can fling deadly bits of metal long distances at you. c) You don't need high explosives to hurt yourself; people get themselves killed with match heads, gasoline, or gunpowder.

Where can I get information on responsible pyrotechnics and explosives?  
Look at the rec.pyrotechnics FAQ file, which, like most FAQ files, can be ftp'd from . I also list some books on responsible pyrotechnics.

Shouldn't online cookbooks be banned?  
Journalists may ask, "Isn't it terrible that people can get the Anarchist Cookbook over the net? Shouldn't this be stopped?"

Note that the Anarchist Cookbook is available from nearly any bookstore in the U.S. These dangerous institutions will also sell you Nazi and hate literature, pornography, instructions on growing drugs, and so forth. For some reason, getting this stuff from a bookstore is not news, but getting it over the Internet is. Before calling for restrictions on the Internet, think of how you would like these restrictions to be applied to books, which really provide much more dangerous information than the Internet does.

Some examples of what you can get at bookstores: The Poor Man's James Bond by Kurt Saxon, Guerrilla's Arsenal : Advanced Techniques for Making Explosives and Time-Delay Bombs by David Harber, The Anarchist Arsenal : Improvised Incendiary and Explosives Techniques by David Harber, Homemade C-4 : A Recipe for Survival by Ragnar Benson, Highly Explosive Pyrotechnic Compositions : How to Make Them, How to Use Them by Peder Schultz.

Does the Anarchist Cookbook really contain errors?  
Yes. Lots of them. A classic error is the recipe for extracting the drug bananadine from banana peels. The flaw is that bananadine does not exist; it was mentioned in the March 1967 Berkeley Barb as a joke but the Anarchist Cookbook took it seriously. [Reference: "Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream, p. 336, thanks to Lamont Granquist.]

There are more inaccuracies in the demolition section. Most of this section was cribbed from the U.S. Army Field Manual 5-25 "Explosives and Demolitions". However, the Cookbook discussion is simplified or even made up in several cases. For instance, while the Field Manual has a long discussion of the difficulty of demolishing suspension bridges, the Cookbook simply gives six places to put charges.

On the other hand, despite the errors the author of the original Anarchist Cookbook did use actual reference materials. This is in contrast to many of the online files, which get much of their content from pure imagination.

For a review with several specific errors, see the anarchistic publisher Spunk Press's rather negative page on the Anarchist Cookbook: .

Also see a review at that describes the Anarchist Cookbook as a flawed classic, full of all sorts of mistakes.

For a detailed look at some errors, I have analyzed one paragraph from the Anarchist Cookbook:

"To conclude this chapter, I will present the most horrendous recipe I could find. Since it is not feasible to make napalm in your kitchen, you will have to be satisfied with cacodyal. This is made by chemically extracting all the oxygen from alcohol and then replacing it, under laboratory conditions, with metal arsenic. The formula for alcohol is C4H5O, whereas for cacodyal it is C4H5AR. Now, this new substance, cacodyal, possesses spontaneous inflammability, the moment it is exposed to the air. [Followed by a description of the deadly arsenic fumes it gives off]"

Now for a closer look at this paragraph: a) There isn't actually a recipe described above, unless you consider "replace oxygen with arsenic" to be a recipe. It starts out telling you something to do in your kitchen and ends up with "in laboratory conditions." b) The formula for alcohol is C2H6O (C2H5OH), not C4H5O. You can't have C4H5O. c) The valence of oxygen is 2. The valence of arsenic is 3 or 5. Thus, simply replacing oxygen with arsenic isn't possible. d) The symbol for arsenic is As, not AR. e) The Merck Index and the dictionary list cacodyl (notice the Cookbook's misspelling) as As2(CH3)2. This formula is totally different from C4H5AR.

So, there are four obvious errors and a totally useless recipe in one short paragraph. I hope this brief review has pointed out the quality of the information in the Anarchist Cookbook.

(As a random aside, the early studies of cacodyl were done by Dr. Bunsen (of burner fame), who lost one eye and nearly died of arsenic poisoning in the process.)

Did the CIA sabotage the Anarchist Cookbook?  
Some people claim that the CIA/FBI/author/whoever sabotaged the Anarchist Cookbook to blow up would-be anarchists or to make the recipes fail. However, there is little evidence to support this theory. I find it much more likely that the errors are just due to incompetence. Note that many of the above errors (e.g. wrong symbol for arsenic, wrong formula for alcohol) don't sabotage anything but are just stupid errors. I would expect that if it were deliberately sabotaged, it wouldn't have errors like these.

What was the author's motivation?  
I received an interesting message explaining why the Anarchist Cookbook was written:

I was Bill Powell's roommate and close friend during the 60's when Bill wrote the book. The idea of the Anarchist Cookbook was originally conceived as a series of recipes in the form of broadsides that would be pasted up all over Manhattan. More....

What is Anarchism?  
"Real anarchists" tell me that the "Anarchist Cookbook" has nothing to do with anarchism. Get information on real anarchism.

What is the point of this FAQ?  
The goals of this FAQ are to provide a book review, to cut down on repetitive questions about the Anarchist Cookbook, to keep people from blowing themselves up, and to point out to journalists that books contain more dangerous information than the internet.

Back to the Anarchist Cookbook FAQ.
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I have no connection with the Anarchist Cookbook other than writing this review. I support the right to read such books, but actually doing anything from them is stupid, dangerous, and illegal. More disclaimers here.

Ken Shirriff:
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Copyright 2000 Ken Shirriff. Last updated 9/22/2000.