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Publisher's Summary

A "entertaining and enlightening" deep dive into the alcohol-soaked origins of civilization—and the evolutionary roots of humanity’s appetite for intoxication. (Daniel E. Lieberman, author of Exercised)

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, Slingerland shows that our taste for chemical intoxicants is not an evolutionary mistake, as we are so often told. In fact, intoxication helps solve a number of distinctively human challenges: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal primates to cooperate with strangers. Our desire to get drunk, along with the individual and social benefits provided by drunkenness, played a crucial role in sparking the rise of the first large-scale societies. We would not have civilization without intoxication. 

From marauding Vikings and bacchanalian orgies to sex-starved fruit flies, blind cave fish, and problem-solving crows, Drunk is packed with fascinating case studies and engaging science, as well as practical takeaways for individuals and communities. The result is a captivating and long overdue investigation into humanity's oldest indulgence—one that explains not only why we want to get drunk, but also how it might actually be good for us to tie one on now and then. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2021 by Edward Slingerland. (P)2021 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"Absorbing...Slingerland makes a compelling case that human societies have been positively shaped by alcohol.”―The Wall Street Journal

“A spirited look at drinking”―Kirkus

“A witty and well-informed narrator, Slingerland ranges across a wide range of academic fields to make his case. Readers will toast this praiseworthy study.”―Publishers Weekly 

What listeners say about Drunk

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

The equivalent of Harvey Weinstein writing a book why male dominated workplaces thrive

Appreciate the history and explanation how low BAC drinking historically was.
and irresponsibly written and edited as a celebration of getting drunk with only a squeezed in mention of health, financial and social impact of drinking. Actually states “men, women and alcohol don’t mix”. This is a misogynists dream to celebrate drinking. The authors only evidence that drinking is beneficial is that Google has alcohol at work. No research. Just anecdotal and dangerous reference.

4 people found this helpful

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Interesting but not what I was expecting

This is not a book about the history of alcohol. Its an interesting book but not what I was expecting. I thought it would be purely about humanity's history with alcohol and what we know about that and current theories. He does touch on that stuff but it is mainly about the author's theory of why humans drink and how it is beneficial. He then uses historical evidence as well as studies to back this up.

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Too academic.

Way to technical foe me. Textbook like. Reader is very dry. Good book for researchers or students.

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Oh Dionysus,

where in this world would you fit today? Well, anywhere you did before. Only except on terms largely more complicated by these over thinking, highly stressed, fastly evolving apes. But nevertheless just as emotional.

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Want to get drunk?

A book that increased my cravings for intoxication. Not just a defense of alcohol but also of psychedelics, well done!

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Don't let the length of this book fool you...

…into thinking it’s a rigorous or balanced treatment of the title subject. It’s written from a consistently privileged and misogynistic lens—it often felt that this was the work of an undergrad [frat] student trying to convince himself that drinking alcohol is a virtuous activity.

The examination of alcohol related sexual assault doesn’t occur until nearly the end of the book—and then, only superficially and ham-handedly. How ham handedly? Well, the first cited example of alcohol related sexual assault is the bible story of Lot’s daughters. It’s a shameful opening anecdote, chosen to deliberately evade inconvenient truths about sexual assault:
• % of female victims: 81% of all women have been harassed or assaulted compared to 43% of men (https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics),
o “women accounted for 85% of victims of sexual offences reported to a sample of police service” (https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/ccs-ajc/rr06_vic2/p3_4.html)
• % of male perpetrators
o women and men commit sexual assault, but more than 90% of people who commit sexual violence against women are men.1 (https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/sexual-assault-and-rape/sexual-assault)
• and the relationship between sexual assault and alcohol
o about 50% of reported assaults entail alcohol use https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-1/43-51.htm;
o similarly, the connection between acts of violence and alcohol https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3170096/).

And that's relatively current stats--a deeper look at the historical social norms of systemic sexual assault of women and the relationship to alcohol would also have been worthwhile. This book simply fails to do a meaningful accounting of these costs--historical or present day.

(And yes, the book repeatedly cites stories from the bible as--seemingly-- supporting evidence. Is that an academic thing these days? Are we doing that now?)

Another gaping hole in this purportedly balanced look at the costs and benefits of alcohol is the absence of a proper analysis of the impact of alcohol production on fresh water supply (https://www.ehow.com/how_7479562_much-used-make-pint-beer.html) and climate change.

It wasn’t all hooey, though, and I appreciated the exploration of the community-building benefits of alcohol, and also the recommendation to do away with tip-based compensation for servers and bartenders. That earned the 2nd star overall.

In short, one simply cannot regard this work as a holistic accounting of the full costs and benefits of alcohol use by humans. With the ease of both book publication and access, it’s more important than ever to view quasi-academic work with clear and critical eyes and not assume that just because an author is credentialed that their work is of intellectual rigor. This book is such a case.

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Interesting concepts but bit long and repetitive

Honestly listening to this book feels like a chore. An editor should have removed most of the repetitive parts and kept it short and interesting.