The most recommended books about drinking

Who picked these books? Meet our 15 experts.

15 authors created a book list connected to drinking, and here are their favorite drinking books.
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What type of drinking book?


Book cover of Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization

Rick Szostak Author Of Making Sense of World History

From Rick's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Inter-disciplinarian Complexity organizer Reader Traveler

Rick's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Rick Szostak Why did Rick love this book?

This is an engaging but serious exploration of the role of alcohol in human history. Slingerland’s main argument is that alcohol encourages both community and creativity.

In particular, it can encourage trust if people are more likely to say what they truly believe when intoxicated. I am skeptical of a strong link to creativity, but many other arguments in the book persuaded me. Slingerland makes a good case that alcohol was a/the key reason that humans developed agriculture.

Importantly, Slingerland recognizes that the earliest beers and wines were not as strong as today; he treats alcoholism as a modern scourge.

By Edward Slingerland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

While plenty of entertaining books have been written about the history of alcohol and other intoxicants, none have offered a comprehensive, convincing answer to the basic question of why humans want to get high in the first place.

Drunk elegantly cuts through the tangle of urban legends and anecdotal impressions that surround our notions of intoxication to provide the first rigorous, scientifically-grounded explanation for our love of alcohol. Drawing on evidence from archaeology, history, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, social psychology, literature, and genetics, Drunk shows that our taste for chemical intoxicants is not an evolutionary mistake, as we are so often…

Book cover of Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages

Derek Sandhaus Author Of Drunk in China: Baijiu and the World's Oldest Drinking Culture

From my list on Chinese alcohol and drinking culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

Derek Sandhaus is an award-winning American author of several books on Chinese history and culture. He worked as an editor, publisher, and tour guide in Shanghai, then moved to Chengdu and turned to drink. In 2018 he co-founded Ming River Sichuan Baijiu with China’s oldest distillery, and now spends most of his time talking about Chinese alcohol to anyone who will listen. He currently lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and a very well-traveled dog.

Derek's book list on Chinese alcohol and drinking culture

Derek Sandhaus Why did Derek love this book?

Patrick McGovern is an archeologist on a mission to discover ancient tipples. In Uncorking the Past he recounts several of his most significant finds, including the world’s oldest-known manmade alcoholic beverage at Jiahu, a nine-thousand-year-old site near the Yellow River in north-central China. The story of its discovery—and recreation with Dogfish Head Brewery—is fascinating, but the explanation of the role of alcohol in neolithic Chinese life makes it required reading.

By Patrick E. McGovern,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Uncorking the Past as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a lively tour around the world and through the millennia, "Uncorking the Past" tells the compelling story of humanity's ingenious, intoxicating quest for the perfect drink. Following a tantalizing trail of archaeological, chemical, artistic, and textual clues, Patrick E. McGovern, the leading authority on ancient alcoholic beverages, brings us up to date on what we now know about how humans created and enjoyed fermented beverages across cultures. Along the way, he explores a provocative hypothesis about the integral role such libations have played in human evolution. We discover, for example, that the cereal staples of the modern world were…

Book cover of The Sober Girl Society Handbook: An Empowering Guide to Living Hangover Free

Hilary Sheinbaum Author Of The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month

From my list on dry months and dry lifestyles.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been completing Dry Januarys (and other sober months) since 2017! In turn, I’ve felt more energized, more positive, have experienced better sleep and better skin, among other benefits. I think giving up alcohol for any amount of time is beneficial and I encourage people to try it.

Hilary's book list on dry months and dry lifestyles

Hilary Sheinbaum Why did Hilary love this book?

As the founder of The Sober Girl Society -- and one of the voices leading the sobriety movement in the UK -- Mille Gooch offers personal advice and tips on how to abstain from alcohol in a world where so many social activities revolve around booze. The book is for anyone curious about sobriety or looking to adopt a sober lifestyle for the long term.

By Millie Gooch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sober Girl Society Handbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


*Voted an Independent best self-care book for 2021*
*Voted one of Heat's best self-help books to help you reach your full potential*

If you've ever woken up feeling anxious, or cringing with embarrassment, about something you did or said whilst drunk the night before, this book may just change your life.

Whichever way you look at it, it's hard to avoid how alcohol really makes us feel: terrible. After years of partying and hangovers started taking a toll on her mental health, Millie Gooch gave up alcohol and has never looked…

Book cover of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Sarah Rowlands Author Of The Periodic Table of Wine

From my list on how history has influenced wines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became intensely interested in wine while working in a Michelin Star kitchen where understanding how flavours work together, developing nuances in my palate, and an interesting wine list combine. Enthusiasm and passion led to success in wine examinations at the highest levels, working in wine retail, travelling the globe visiting amazing vineyards, and wineries, meeting iconic winemakers, influential vineyards managers, as well as other luminaries in the world of wine. The greatest benefit being many new friends and lifelong special memories. Along with the wine tastings I give, The Periodic Table of Wine is a way to share discovering wine and the joy it brings to new audiences.

Sarah's book list on how history has influenced wines

Sarah Rowlands Why did Sarah love this book?

Americans have quite a different relationship with alcohol compared to Europeans. This book uncovers the background of how Prohibition came about, how influences other than alcohol were key, along with the ingenuity of people on both sides of the debate to put their case or dodge the restrictions. Full of stories that explore the men, indomitable women, bootleggers, and economic as well as social forces and hypocrisy involved in the establishment and eventual repeal of Prohibition laws across America.

By Daniel Okrent,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Last Call as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of America’s most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the US Constitution was amended to restrict one of America’s favorite pastimes: drinking alcoholic beverages.

From its start, America has been awash in drink. The sailing vessel that brought John Winthrop to the shores of the New World in 1630 carried more beer than water. By the 1820s, liquor flowed so plentifully it was cheaper than tea. That Americans would ever agree to relinquish their booze was as improbable as it was astonishing.

Yet we did, and Last Call is Daniel Okrent’s dazzling…

Book cover of Doctors and Distillers: The Remarkable Medicinal History of Beer, Wine, Spirits, and Cocktails

Lou Bustamante Author Of The Complete Cocktail Manual: Recipes and Tricks of the Trade for Modern Mixologists

From my list on the future of cocktails by SF Bay Area writers.

Why am I passionate about this?

While the Bay Area’s impact on the way we eat as a country, being at the forefront of the farm-to-table and seasonal produce movement, cocktails are being equal consideration. Why not? Distilled spirits are agricultural products, the same way wine and beer are, and so it reasons that we would worry about how they are made, their history, and the future. Can cocktails be made in a more sustainable way? Can I use beets in my cocktail? Do spirits have a sense of place? And will applying beer to a wound help it heal (note: it won’t)? Here’s a selection of books that explore the past, present, and possible future of how you drink.

Lou's book list on the future of cocktails by SF Bay Area writers

Lou Bustamante Why did Lou love this book?

A fun read that explores the surprising history of alcohol used to treat medical maladies, from the Carthusian monks creating herbal elixirs, to the invention of tonic water to cure malaria.

English winds though the various maladies like wounds to worms to snakebites, and all the questionable, but delicious prescriptions, from gin and tonics to bourbon whiskey.

By Camper English,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Doctors and Distillers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“At last, a definitive guide to the medicinal origins of every bottle behind the bar! This is the cocktail book of the year, if not the decade.” —Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants

“A fascinating book that makes a brilliant historical case for what I’ve been saying all along: alcohol is good for you…okay maybe it’s not technically good for you, but [English] shows that through most of human history, it’s sure beat the heck out of water.” —Alton Brown, creator of Good Eats

Beer-based wound care, deworming with wine, whiskey for snakebites, and medicinal mixers…

Book cover of Alcohol in Latin America: A Social and Cultural History

Deborah Toner Author Of Alcohol and Nationhood in Nineteenth-Century Mexico

From my list on the history of food in Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a social and cultural historian of North America and Latin America, specializing in the history of alcohol, food, and identity. When I’m not researching, writing, or teaching about food history, I’m generally cooking, eating or thinking about food, perusing recipe books, or watching cookery programs on TV. I have been especially fascinated by all things Mexico since I read Bernal Díaz’s A True History of the Conquest of New Spain as a teenager, and I think Mexican cuisine is the best in the world. 

Deborah's book list on the history of food in Latin America

Deborah Toner Why did Deborah love this book?

As a historian of alcohol, I sometimes get asked why I study something so niche; this book shows that alcohol history is anything but! The ten scholars who have contributed to Alcohol in Latin America cover issues of commerce, taxation, regulation, and state-building; the formation and expression of different ethnic, gender, class, and national identities; and concepts of progress, modernity, tradition, and authenticity. They discuss these issues over more than five hundred years of history, with reference to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, the Andes, Guatemala, and Mexico, and by drawing on archaeological, anthropological, literary, and marketing studies. It is incredibly wide-ranging. As a wine-lover, I found the chapters by Nancy Hanway and Steve Stein tracing the development of the Argentine wine industry from the 1860s to the 1990s especially interesting. 

By Gretchen Pierce (editor), Áurea Toxqui (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Alcohol in Latin America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Aguardente, chicha, pulque, vino—no matter whether it’s distilled or fermented, alcohol either brings people together or pulls them apart. Alcohol in Latin America is a sweeping examination of the deep reasons why. This book takes an in-depth look at the social and cultural history of alcohol and its connection to larger processes in Latin America. Using a painting depicting a tavern as a metaphor, the authors explore the disparate groups and individuals imbibing as an introduction to their study. In so doing, they reveal how alcohol production, consumption, and regulation have been intertwined with the history of Latin America since…

Book cover of Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis

Michael P. Foley Author Of Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour

From my list on culture and booze.

Why am I passionate about this?

One of my fondest childhood memories is the holiday parties that my parents threw. Lying in bed I could hear roars of laughter crash the silence and gently ebb as the grownups shared stories and made merry. Later in life, I came to realize how different that kind of drinking is from the frat-boy binging of college and the anxious bracers at singles’ bars. As an adult, I became a Catholic theologian, got married, and had a family of my own. My wife Alexandra and I have relished an evening cocktail together in order to unwind and catch up on each other’s day (Alexandra has homeschooled all six of our children, which is itself a compelling reason to drink daily).

Michael's book list on culture and booze

Michael P. Foley Why did Michael love 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. 

By Kingsley Amis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everyday Drinking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kingsley Amis was one of the great masters of comic prose, and no subject was dearer to him than the art and practice of imbibing. This new volume brings together the best of his three out-of-print works on the subject: Kingsley Amis in Drink, Everyday Drinking and How's Your Glass? In one handsome package, the book covers a full shelf of the master's riotous and erudite thoughts on the drinking arts: Along with a series of well-tested recipes (including a cocktail called the Lucky Jim) are Amis's musings on The Hangover, The Boozing Man's Diet, The Mean Sod's Guide, and…

Book cover of A History of the World in 6 Glasses

Mike Gerrard Author Of Cask Strength: The Story of the Barrel, the Secret Ingredient in Your Drink

From my list on cocktail lovers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an award-winning travel and drinks writer and have worked for National Geographic, The Times, BBC Travel, American Express, AAA, Waitrose Drinks, and many more. My love of spirits and travel led to me starting the Travel Distilled website and I'm the author of Cask Strength, which tells the story of the barrel, and of the travel guides Islay Distilled and Cognac Distilled. I've visited numerous distilleries in the UK, Ireland, USA, France, Greece, Iceland, Sweden, Mexico, and elsewhere. I was persuaded to try drinking vodka for breakfast while touring Siberia. It seemed a good idea at the time but it's not a habit I've kept up.

Mike's book list on cocktail lovers

Mike Gerrard Why did Mike love this book?

I love books that delve deep into seemingly small topics, like the best-sellers Cod and Salt, on subjects we take for granted.

The author, who has written several history books, here chooses six beverages through which he does indeed tell a history of the world, by linking each beverage to a time period. Only one is spirits, the others being beer, wine, tea, coffee, and Coca-Cola.

Again it's aimed at the general reader, not the specialist, and is an entertaining journey down the centuries. It zips along and is packed with those quirky 'I never knew that' facts.

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 Intoxicating Manchuria: Alcohol, Opium, and Culture in China's Northeast

Annika A. Culver Author Of Glorify the Empire: Japanese Avant-Garde Propaganda in Manchukuo

From my list on Manchukuo (Manchuria).

Why am I passionate about this?

I began formally researching Japanese occupied northeast China in the late nineties in graduate school at Harvard University. Manchuria always fascinated me as a confluence of cultures: even prior to the 19th century, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Russians, Eastern Europeans, Mongols, and indigenous peoples circulated within the region in China's periphery. In the 1930s until 1945, Japanese propaganda portrayed the area as a "utopia" under Confucian principles, but in the mid-1990s, the horrors of the occupation for colonized peoples as well as imperial Japan's biological weapons experimentation during the Asia-Pacific War came to light in Japan and elsewhere as former Japanese settlers as well as researchers began to tell their stories.

Annika's book list on Manchukuo (Manchuria)

Annika A. Culver Why did Annika love this book?

This excellent book illuminates the culture of intoxicants in northeast China under Japanese occupation. Smith examines Chinese literature, advertisements, and popular culture to show how liquor and opium were depicted in contemporaneous mass media and impacted local urban communities. He also investigates how popular conceptions of "health" tied in with programs initiated by the Japanese authorities to control local populations, while advertisers of patent medicines, cordials, and tonics also picked up on these themes. Some of the highlights of Intoxicating Manchuria include masterfully vivid descriptions and illustrations of cartoons revealing the uneasy relationship between law enforcement, retailers, public health practitioners, and corporations.

By Norman Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Intoxicating Manchuria as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Intoxicating Manchuria reveals how the powerful alcohol and opium industries in Northeast China were altered by warlord rule, Japanese occupation, political conflict, and a vigorous anti-intoxicant movement. Through the lens of the Chinese media's depictions of alcohol and opium, Norman Smith examines how intoxicants and addiction were understood in this society, the role the Japanese occupation of Manchuria played in the portrayal of intoxicants, and the efforts made to reduce opium and alcohol consumption. This is the first English-language book-length study to focus on alcohol use in modern China and the first dealing with intoxicant restrictions in the region.

Book cover of ¡Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico

David Carey Jr. Author Of Distilling the Influence of Alcohol: Aguardiente in Guatemalan History

From my list on alcohol in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Why am I passionate about this?

Raised on happy hours on Cape Cod, MA patios with my Irish-American relatives, I long have been fascinated by how alcohol can bring people together and facilitate bonds that traverse both hardship and joy. During my travels and research in Mexico, Chile, Peru, Guatemala, and Ecuador, I observed how alcohol could both render families asunder and unite communities. As addiction makes clear, alcohol could hold tremendous power over individuals. But it also marked the identities of even the most casual drinkers. Throughout my research on other topics—crime, gender, medicine—alcohol consistently emerges as a crucial avenue of inquiry. The books listed below offer innovative and insightful ways of centering alcohol in scholarly narratives. 

David's book list on alcohol in Latin America and the Caribbean

David Carey Jr. Why did David love this book?

With clear and engaging prose, Gaytan reveals the power dynamics that shaped tequila’s trajectory in Mexico and abroad.

She traces tequila’s meteoric rise past other agave-derived drinks like pulque and mezcal. I really appreciate how she approaches her study as a sociologist but does not eschew history in her analysis. Although ancient Mayas were among the first to produce and consume tequila, its association with modernity can be attributed, in part, to modern marketers disassociating tequila from indigenous inebriation.

Even as she firmly grounds tequila in lo Mexicano or being Mexican, Gaytan also explores tequila’s influence and popularity in the United States. Her book reminded me how different my experience of drinking tequila in the United States has been from my enjoyment of tequila in cantinas in Mexico. 

By Marie Sarita Gaytán,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked ¡Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Italy has grappa, Russia has vodka, Jamaica has rum. Around the world, certain drinks-especially those of the intoxicating kind-are synonymous with their peoples and cultures. For Mexico, this drink is tequila. For many, tequila can conjure up scenes of body shots on Cancun bars and coolly garnished margaritas on sandy beaches. Its power is equally strong within Mexico, though there the drink is more often sipped rather than shot, enjoyed casually among friends, and used to commemorate occasions from the everyday to the sacred. Despite these competing images, tequila is universally regarded as an enduring symbol of lo mexicano.