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Audiobook Review: A Short History of Drunkenness

A Short History of Drunkenness: How, Why, Where and When Humankind Has Gotten Merry from the Stone Age to the Present by Mark Forsyth and narrated by Simon Vance

A Short History of Drunkenness is a collection of humorous short essays about drinking to excess across time and cultures. It’s a great format for an audiobook, because you can listen to it one short chapter at a time, or soak in many chapters as you go about your day. The whole audiobook is only five and a half hours long, so you could easily get it done in one day.

Forsyth drops lots of interesting tidbits as he illuminates the social importance of alcohol and its effects on societies across history. He takes us from prehistoric times through the Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Huns, Vikings, and on up to America’s Prohibition. 

The author doesn’t always get his facts straight, like the statement that alcohol has been preferred over other drugs by societies through history, which seems a somewhat Eurocentric statement that gives short shrift to indigenous North American cultures, among others).  On the other hand, I thought he did an excellent job of sussing out truth from myth when taking on American Prohibition.  

As you’d expect from the title, this is light reading rather than serious history. In fact, I’d challenge you to read / listen to the book without at least cracking a smile (or more likely many). Forsyth succeeds in making his history of drunkenness a brisk and entertaining read.

The author is perhaps best known for his earlier, and similarly witty, books about the English language (The Etymologicon, The Horologicon, and The Elements of Eloquence). This book came out in 2018 in print and audiobook editions. 

Narrator Simon Vance has done several other audiobooks, though this is the first one I’ve listened to. Like the author he is British, and brings a smooth delivery to the book with just the right tone that brings the humor home.

I’m just now getting around to indulging in this book, after having seen a rave review earlier this year on  (if I recall correctly) Bookstagram. I can definitely add my recommendation, particularly of the audiobook version. 

RATING: Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Title: A Short History of Drunkenness: How, Why, Where and When Humankind Has Gotten Merry from the Stone Age to the Present

Author: Mark Forsyth

Publisher: Tantor Media

Publish Date: September 30, 2018

ISBN-13: 9798200402687

Publisher’s List Price: Not Sold directly by the Publisher