I enjoy reading about drinking almost as much as drinking itself. Sometimes, I’ll even read about drinking while drinking – hard to imagine, I’m sure. And with so many new authors, books, articles, commentary, etc., being published, it’s understandably difficult to keep up with what’s new, never mind separating the good from the not-so-good.
Most of the following books inspired me, in some small way, to begin describing my own thoughts and ideas on the culture of drinking. Most importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed reading them all. I won’t recommend anything until I’ve completed it myself. Some provide clever insights, personal philosophies, or miscellany musings to consider while drinking. Others will provide a bit more serious content, albeit related to specific drinks or drinking. But nothing too serious; drinking is fun remember, not work (or homework). All can be found at most local bookstores and/or online retail sites.
Although I don’t necessarily agree with everything written in the following, they do provide differing perspectives on this commonly-shared pleasure. Please use this list like an introduction to a few new bar-mates: you might not always (or ever) agree with them, but they sure are fun to have around while you toss one back.
I’ll update the list as I discover additional gems, so be sure to check back often.
Barbara Holland, The Joy of Drinking
This book was the book that encouraged me to think about the how and why of drinking. Ms. Holland is truly one of the most prophetic drinkers of the last century; she is greatly respected and revered.
Barbara Holland, Endangered Pleasures
Holland’s book reads as a guide to idleness, gluttony, and one hell of a good time. But her central point – to slow down and enjoy life a little more – should be seriously considered by all. Especially when drinking your gin martini.
Bernard Devoto, The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto
Mr. Devoto can only be described as the grandfather of old-school whisky and martini drinking. His text provides a far too limited glimpse into New York City’s bar and salon life during the 1940s and 50s. This book absolutely confirmed I was born in the wrong generation.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, On Booze
A collection of Fitzgerald’s writings on not just booze, but traveling, maturity, and even “cracking up” – a short and potent tome on the best and worst of boozing, according to one of the great American novelists.
Frank Kelly Rich, The Modern Drunkard
A ribald, humorous, and supremely definitive guide to all things drinking. If your only love is drink, this text is your Bible. For the rest of us, Rich’s words provide fond yet foggy memories of young adulthood: first jobs; second-hand furniture; and cases of cheap, canned beer.
Ian Buxton, 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die
Buxton’s extensive drinking experience is distilled down to this book; in the author’s words, a practical and realistic guide to complete your whisky education.
Jordan Kaye & Marhall Altier, How to Booze: Exquisite Cocktails and Unsound Advice
Regardless of where you are in life, this book will teach you a thing or two about choosing the right drink for the right time. Or at least make you reminisce about those glorious old times you once had.
Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, 6th Edition
The reference guide to single malts. Whether you’re new to whisky or an old lag, you can always learn something new; this book will teach it to you.
Tom Standage, A History of the World In Six Glasses
Know a little more about the history of what you drink. This book is a brief but particularly insightful look at the influence of (most importantly) wine, beer, and spirits on civilization. Standage provides a rich background of our favorite beverages at a brisk pace that provides the basis for lively conversation at any local tavern or dinner party.
In addition to the books listed above, I’ve discovered other excellent reads in which drinking only plays a supporting role. These are no less excellent works and are separated only for categorization’s sake. Put simply, they are damn good stories that cast the bottle as an important secondary character.
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
Beer, wine, and brawling punctuate Hemingway’s first grand novel of hard partying and lovelorn American expatriates drinking their way through Parisian salons and Pamplona’s bull fights.
Ernest Hemingway, To Have and Have Not
Hemingway’s lesser-known novel of Depression-era sea-smuggling is a rum-soaked tale of adventure and tragedy set against Havana’s intrigue, Key West’s poverty, and the Caribbean’s darkly sparkling water that connects the two worlds.
George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London
This fictional account of destitution and poverty demonstrates how drinking makes life a little more bearable; because regardless of your lot in life, life is most enjoyable when in the company of fellow drinkers.