Best Book Blog

Collectible Ian Mcewan




On Drinking by Kingsley Amis

The drink has claimed many a poor author - Dylan Thomas, Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kingsley Amis, Truman Capote, and Charles Bukowski to name just a few. Many writers embraced the bottle and wove drinking themes in their writing - Amis alone published On Drink and Everyday Drinking. Evelyn Waugh, a contemporary of Amis, once wrote: “Wine is a bride who brings a great dowry to the man who woos her persistently and gracefully.”

Things have changed. Today, there seems to be an unlimited supply of memoirs about how people beat the booze and conquer their addiction. A number of non-fiction writers are keen to understand how alcohol has shaped society with books about how booze “changed the world.” That's fair enough but books celebrating bars, beer, wine, and the hard stuff used to be commonplace but they now appear to belong to another generation.

Perhaps the greatest bookish irony of alcohol is that the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the most collectable literary items of the 20th century - it's the tome that single-handedly created a genre and launched a hundred thousand self-help books.

We have selected 20 books, mostly from the dim and distant past, on drinking. Ale, wine, gin, inns, bars, cocktails, drinking songs, beer cans, bartending and staying off the stuff - it's all there.

 

Twenty Drinking Books

Old Waldorf Bar Days by Albert Stevens Crockett
Old Waldorf Bar Days
by Albert Stevens Crockett

A piece of history from 1931 that reveals how posh folks drank before Prohibition.

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The Savoy Cocktail Book
The Savoy Cocktail Book

A highly collectible example of 1930 Art Deco but affordable reprints are available.

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The Tale of John Barleycorn or, From Barley to Beer by Mary Azarian
The Tale of John Barleycorn or, From Barley to Beer
by Mary Azarian

Printed in 1982, a beautiful version of this folksong illustrated with woodcuts.

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Twenty-five Years of Brewing with an Illustrate History of American Beer by George Ehret
Twenty-Five Years of Brewing with an Illustrated History of American Beer

First published in 1891, this book is one of the great early studies of the history of brewing in America.

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Born in a Beer Garden or, She Troupes to Conquer by Christopher Morley
Born in a Beer Garden or, She Troupes to Conquer
by Christopher Morley

The story of the resurrection of the Old Rialto Theatre in Hoboken, New Jersey to stage a Morley play.

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The Curiosities of Ale & Beer by John Bickerdyke
The Curiosities of Ale & Beer
by John Bickerdyke

Published in 1886, an eccentric history of beerlore from Leadenhall Press. Reprinted in 1965.

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Ardent Spirits: The Rise & Fall of Prohibition by John Kobler
Ardent Spirits: The Rise & Fall of Prohibition
by John Kobler

Printed in 1973 and reprinted in '93, this book also looks at America's early temperance ideals.

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Wine in War and Peach by Evelyn Waugh
Wine in War and Peace
by Evelyn Waugh

Waugh's 1947 tribute to his beloved vino with illustrations by Rex Whistler.

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Drinks-man-ship by Len Deighton
Drinks-man-ship
by Len Deighton

This 1964 collection of essays were culled from Town Magazine. Very scarce.

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The Common Sense of Drinking by Richard R Peabody
The Common Sense of Drinking
by Richard R Peabody

Very collectible, this 1931 book influenced AA creator Bill Wilson. Peabody was a recovering alcoholic.

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The Stork Club Bar Book by Lucius Beebe
The Stork Club Bar Book
by Lucius Beebe

First published in 1946, this cocktail recipe book also offers an insight into saloon society.

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Bar Room Ballads by Robert Service
Bar Room Ballads
by Robert Service

First published in 1940, a lusty collection of poems and ballads from frontier saloons.

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The Blood of the Grape: The Wine Trade Textbook by Simon L. Andre
The Blood of the Grape: The Wine Trade Textbook
by Simon L. Andre

Published in 1920, this book contains a series of Andre’s lectures to the Wine Trade Club.

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Inns, Ales and Drinking Customs of Old England by Frederick W. Hackwood
Inns, Ales and Drinking Customs of Old England
by Frederick W. Hackwood

First published in 1909, this covers the lot - pub signs, drunkenness, breweries, songs etc.

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The Guinness Book of Guinness 1935-1985 by Edward Guinness
The Guinness Book of Guinness 1935-1985
by Edward Guinness

Self-published in 1988, this book concerns the firm's Park Royal brewery in Northwest London

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Bass & Co. Limited by Alfred Barnard
Bass & Co. Limited
by Alfred Barnard

These are 1977 reprints (100 copies) of an 1889 edition about this Burton-on-Trent brewer.

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The Broom is Out by Dick Wall
The Broom is Out
by Dick Wall

A memoir from an Anheuser-Busch executive - details pre-WWII life in St Louis, Missouri

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The History of the Wine Trade in England by Andre L. Simon
The History of the Wine Trade in England
by André L. Simon

A scarce and important study by this most influential contributor to the literature of wine and culinary studies.

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Old Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartender's Guide by Mr. Boston
Old Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartender's Guide
by Mr. Boston

First printed in 1935 and still going strong - more than 1,400 recipes

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Straight Up or on the Rocks by William Grimes
Straight Up or on the Rocks
by William Grimes

The author investigates 350 years of American drinking in this 1993 book.

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Thirsty for More?

Creative Juices - how drink and drugs shaped writing