Saturday, June 26, 2010

Daniel Okrent's 5 best books on alcohol

Daniel Okrent was the first public editor of the New York Times, editor-at-large of Time, Inc., and managing editor of Life magazine. He worked in book publishing as an editor at Knopf and Viking, and was editor-in-chief of general books at Harcourt Brace. He was also a featured commentator on Ken Burns’s PBS series, Baseball, and is author of four books, one of which, Great Fortune, was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in history. Okrent was also a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he remains an Associate.

His new book is Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on alcohol. One title on his list:
The Alcoholic Republic
by W.J. Rorabaugh
Oxford, 1979

This excavation of the most drink-sodden era in U.S. history (1790-1840) is as damning as it is enlightening. At a time of easy access (there were 14,000 American distilleries by 1810), rough frontier mores and poor water quality, liquor seeped into every corner of national life, writes W.J. Rorabaugh. Americans "drank at home and abroad, alone and together, at work and at play, in fun and in earnest. They drank from the crack of dawn to the crack of dawn." If you wish to understand the temperance movement's nobler impulses—that is, those that were untouched by the xenophobia and political cynicism that later drove the campaign— you might start here.
Read about another book on the list.

The Alcoholic Republic is also one of Garrett Peck's best books about Prohibition.

--Marshal Zeringue