The best books on culture and booze

The Books I Picked & Why

Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis

By Kingsley Amis

Book cover of Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis

Why this book?

The first book I read by British novelist Kingsley Amis was Lucky Jim, one of the greatest satires on academic life ever written (I do not, however, recommend reading it when you are applying for a teaching position as I foolishly did, since it will mess, mess, mess with your head). Amis enjoyed the drink far more than he should have, earning him the reputation, as he put it, “of being one of the great drinkers, if not one of the great drunks, of our time.” His extensive familiarity with the bottom of a glass bore at least one good fruit. Everyday Drinking is a painfully witty, laugh-out-loud collection of essays and even quizzes on different kinds of alcohol from around the world. 


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Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking

By Mark Will-Weber

Book cover of Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking

Why this book?

Will-Weber extensively researched the drinking habits of every U.S. president from George Washington to Barack Obama to compose this outstanding volume. Mint Juleps is brimming with fascinating facts. Did you know that the Carters, who were Southern Baptists, were much heavier drinkers than the Reagans? (Ronald Reagan, who effectively imposed the twenty-one-year drinking age on all fifty states, was the son of an alcoholic and wary of alcohol abuse). I think that I enjoyed the profile of George Washington the most, who not only plotted American independence over a pint or two but distilled his own applejack brandy as well.


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Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist

By Tim Federle

Book cover of Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist

Why this book?

It’s hard not to relish a clever pun, especially when it involves an allusion to good literature, and it’s even harder not to relish an entire book of them. Tim Federle combines the Great Books and great drinks with cocktails such as Brave New Swirled, The Cooler Purple, Paradise Sauced, Moby-Drink, The Sound and the Slurry, and The Last of the Mojitos.


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To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion

By Philip Greene

Book cover of To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion

Why this book?

Philip Greene is probably the world’s greatest living cocktail historian (how cool is that?). I am personally grateful to him for correcting and guiding my own work. Greene has written several excellent cocktail books. In To Have and Have Another, he canvases Hemingway’s personal preferences as well as the drinks featured in his writings. I hope that Greene one day does something similar with Evelyn Waugh and his novels, though it may fill several volumes.


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The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey, & Song: A Spirited Look at Catholic Life & Lore from the Apocalypse to Zinfandel

By John Zmirak, Denise Matychowiak

Book cover of The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey, & Song: A Spirited Look at Catholic Life & Lore from the Apocalypse to Zinfandel

Why this book?

This could be the most bizarre monograph you will ever have on your bookshelf. The subtitle is no lie: for every letter of the alphabet, Zmirak has assembled an entertaining assortment of food recipes, drinking songs, history lessons, wine suggestions, or one of the Ten Commandments impishly explained. In the dedication, Zmirak and contributing author Denise Matychowiak list as their inspirations Pope Benedict XVI, food authors Paula Wolfert and M.F.K. Fisher, and Weird Al Yankovic. Need I say more?


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