The best books that will make you rethink the way we drink and why

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in bar culture in my 20s when I worked at a neighborhood "local" in Toronto and was struck by how close people could become when sharing drinks and stories across a bar. Since then, I’ve spent most of my life researching the history of cocktails and bars—both as an academic topic and as a columnist for magazines and newspapers, including the Toronto Star. I’ve written a podcast on Prohibition for Wondery Media, as well as four books, Mondo Cocktail, America Walks Into a Bar, Canadian Spirits (with Stephen Beaumont), and the forthcoming Cocktails: A Still Life (Running Press), with James Waller and still-life artist Todd M. Casey.   

I wrote...

America Walks Into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops

By Christine Sismondo,

Book cover of America Walks Into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops

What is my book about?

Some people dismiss taverns as trivial. Others might argue that saloons are a bad influence. This book re-frames bars as valuable community spaces by exploring the role they’ve played in American history—from the Salem Witch Trials to Stonewall. Even though the United States has an ambivalent relationship with its bars and alcohol—a substance that has been and still can be a destructive force—taverns and saloons have also been key players in many social, cultural and political movements. And, since our local dives are an increasingly endangered species, now is a good moment to consider exactly what we are losing.   

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer That Changed the World

Christine Sismondo Why did I love this book?

One thing I love about this book is that Mansfield fleshes out a beautiful history of a business whose founder genuinely cared for his workers and the community, which is both a refreshing change, as well as a beacon of hope that we can build a more compassionate model. If you’ve ever wondered why people are so loyal to this particular brand of stout and why Guinness is such an important part of Dublin’s history, this will help you understand why. When I read it, I’d never been to Ireland, despite its being high on my bucket list. I finally got there last year and, thanks to this book, I enjoyed sitting in a pub with a pint so much more than I might have, knowing the beer’s amazing back-story.   

By Stephen Mansfield,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Search for God and Guinness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The history of Guinness, one of the world's most famous brands, reveals the noble heights and generosity of a great family and an innovative business.

The history began in Ireland during the late 1700s when the water in Ireland as well as throughout Europe was famously undrinkable, and the gin and whiskey that took its place was devastating civil society.

It was a disease ridden, starvation plagued, alcoholic age, and Christians like Arthur Guinness, as well as monks and evangelical churches, brewed beer that provided a healthier alternative to the poisonous waters and liquors of the times. This is where…

Book cover of The Tender Bar: A Memoir

Christine Sismondo Why did I love this book?

Although I loved the city of New York more than ever after 9/11, it was sometimes hard to feel optimism and hope about the bigger picture and humanity as a whole in the first several years of the new millennium. This book was one of several things that helped restore my faith, since Moehringer so lovingly portrays the community where he grew up in Long Island—an area profoundly impacted by the attack on the World Trade Center. While I was fact-checking the title, et cetera, I discovered there’s a movie version coming out in early 2022. Obviously I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m really looking forward to it.  

By J.R. Moehringer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Tender Bar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Now a major film directed by George Clooney and starring Ben Affleck**

'Highly entertaining . . . constructed as skilfully as a drink mixed by the author's Uncle Charlie' New York Times

In the rich tradition of bestselling memoirs about self-invention, The Tender Bar is by turns riveting, moving, and achingly funny. An evocative portrait of one boy's struggle to become a man, it's also a touching depiction of how some men remain lost boys.

JR Moehringer grew up listening for a voice, the voice of his missing father, a DJ who disappeared before JR spoke his first words. As…

Book cover of Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol

Christine Sismondo Why did I love this book?

I became aware of this book shortly before it was published because Mallory and I were on a radio show together in 2021 to discuss alcohol in the age of COVID. She was bold, radical, funny, and obviously super-smart. So is her book.

I also love that she saw that women had largely been written out of alcohol histories, then went ahead and decided to fix that. Throughout the years, we’ve heard bits and pieces about women being early brewers, distillers, tavern-keepers, and bartenders but, until now, nobody ever dealt with it comprehensively. It was about time.

By Mallory O'Meara,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Girly Drinks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2022 James Beard Book Award

Nominated for the 2022 Spirited Awards

This is the forgotten history of women making, serving and drinking alcohol. Drink has always been at the centre of social rituals and cultures worldwide-and women have been at the heart of its production and consumption. So when did drinking become gendered? How have patriarchies tried to erase and exclude women from industries they've always led, and how have women fought back? And why are things from bars to whiskey considered 'masculine', when, without women, they might not exist?

With whip-smart insight and boundless curiosity, Girly…

Book cover of A History of the World in 6 Glasses

Christine Sismondo Why did I love this book?

I’d already read The Victorian Internet by Standage by the time A History of the World in Six Glasses was released, so I had a feeling I would like it before I even cracked it open. Most of my favorite history books are similar to these two—written by a generalist, who has a keen ability to tell a big story and clearly articulate insight into when, how, and why humans changed the way they lived in the past. In this book, he divides up the history of the world according to what people drank and tells us what it means about that era. Great read.   

By Tom Standage,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A History of the World in 6 Glasses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times Bestseller

“There aren’t many books this entertaining that also provide a cogent crash course in ancient, classical and modern history.” ―Los Angeles Times

Beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola: In Tom Standage’s deft, innovative account of world history, these six beverages turn out to be much more than just ways to quench thirst. They also represent six eras that span the course of civilization―from the adoption of agriculture, to the birth of cities, to the advent of globalization. A History of the World in 6 Glasses tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age…

Book cover of Notes On A Beermat: Drinking and Why It's Necessary

Christine Sismondo Why did I love this book?

You know how, when you read a book that’s so clever, funny, and perfectly written you want to actually get to know the author? That’s what happened to me when I read this book. Even though I didn’t know him, I knew he’d be the kind of person that you hoped to run into at the bar—a generous man with a great sense of humor, a bright outlook, and plenty of great stories.  

We did eventually come to be friends in real life, too. It turned out that we’re practically neighbors and both enjoy the occasional glass of gin. True story.

By Nicholas Pashley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Notes On A Beermat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 2001 to national acclaim, Notes on a Beermat is Nicholas Pashley’s ode to the amber nectar of the gods, a witty meditation on beer and everything that goes with it―from socializing to the solitary pleasures of a beer and a book, to the qualities necessary in a good pub.
    Most books about beer focus on the beverage itself, how to make it and how to buy it. Notes on a Beermat, the only Canadian book of its kind, explains how to drink beer and why it is absolutely necessary. With characteristic wit and charm, Pashley observes, for…

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The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

By Sammy Stein,

Book cover of The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

Sammy Stein Author Of Fabulous Female Musicians

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been passionate about music for almost my entire life. Jazz music in particular speaks to me but not just jazz. I love music, full stop. I really discovered jazz when I attended a jazz club workshop in London and there, I had to join in or leave. I chose to join in and since then I have never looked back. I was introduced to more jazz musicians and now write about music for three major columns as well as Readers’ Digest. My Women In Jazz book won several awards. I have been International Editor for the Jazz Journalist Association and had my work commissioned by the Library of Congress. 

Sammy's book list on female musicians

What is my book about?

With input from over 100 musicians, the book discusses what exactly jazz is, and how you know you are listening to it. Do we truly know when and how jazz first originated? Who was the first jazz musician? How does jazz link to other genres? What about women in jazz? And writers and journalists? Do reviews make any difference? 

This book is a deep dive into jazz's history, impact, and future. It discusses jazz's social, cultural, and political influence and reveals areas where jazz has had an impact we may not even realize.Its influences on hip hop, the connection to…

The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

By Sammy Stein,

What is this book about?

This book is very different from other, more general jazz books. It is packed with information, advice, well researched and includes experiences from jazz musicians who gleefully add their rich voices to Sammy's in-depth research. All genres, from hard bop to be-bop, vocal jazz, must instrumental, free jazz, and everything between is covered in one way or another and given Sammy's forensic eye. There is social commentary and discussions of careers in jazz music. The musical background of those in the book is rich and diverse.
Critics comment:
"This new book by Sammy Stein is a highly individual take on…

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