This is the second copy of Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol that I have owned. I read my first copy (the paperback version) almost cover-to-cover, then read it through again, highlighting all the best anecdotes, so that I could do my best to commit them to memory. It is such an entertaining and informative read that, like me, you'll probably want your friends to read it too. I have replaced my first copy (now on a friend's bookshelf) with the hardback version, which I intend to guard jealously.
Iain Gately's writing engages from the first page, and keeps you fascinated right the way through ten thousand years of world history. Alcohol is so embedded in our modern culture that we normally fail to grasp just how big a part it played in the past. Mr Gately seamlessly covers pretty much every kind of alcoholic drink, everywhere (and everywhen), as well as the respective impacts they have had on the evolution of societies and events. The research that went into this book must have been staggering; it is a remarkably detailed piece of work, fascinating, endlessly entertaining, and so easy to read.
My particular favourite anecdote (one of many from this splendid compendium) surrounds the work of Jabir Ibn Hayyan and the origin of the word 'Alcohol'. I won't spoil it for you -- it's all there in Chapter 6.
If I could give it more than five stars, I would. I fully expect to buy additional copies for my friends in the future, though perhaps if I had better friends they would just take my word for it and buy their own! In any case, I will be sure to hang on to my own copy this time.
Go on and buy this book; you'll love it.