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The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them) Hardcover – October 16, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

NPR host Sagal (Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me) offers a hilarious, harmlessly prurient look at the banality of regular people's strange and wicked pleasures. In the wake of the late-1990s obsession with other people's fun, notes Sagal, the hoi polloi have pursued their own indulgences, such as sex joints, swinging couples' clubs, gambling and pornography. He describes the three necessary elements of vice that distinguish it from sin and give it that irresistible frisson: social disapprobation, actual pleasure and shame. A buttoned-up journalist and family man, Sagal visits the respective dens of inequity, interviewing the principals in the name of research while preserving his academic irony, e.g., during the shooting of a hardcore porn sequence for Spice TV, he remarks of the actors: I began to appreciate how very well Evan and Kelly did their work. Indeed, the dedicated hedonists, such as the regular joe habitués of San Francisco's Power Exchange or the normal-seeming couples who frequent the Swinger's Shack, face the same problems of meeting supplies, logistics, expense versus income, and time management as does any warehouse foreman. Sagal is a terrific, lively writer, and while some of his segments are repetitive and stretched, he is admirable in humanizing the participants. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Peter Sagal is the host of the Peabody Award-winning NPR™ news quiz Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!™ He is a playwright, a screenwriter, a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered, a onetime extra in a Michael Jackson music video, and a regular contributor to "The Funny Pages" in the New York Times Magazine. Sagal lives near Chicago with his wife and three daughters.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Dey Street Books; First Edition edition (October 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060843829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060843823
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. Maslanka on October 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
While this is nominally a book about vices, it is really a book about virtues, and it is an effective one: there are no lectures, no finger wagging a la Bill Bennett, no holier than thou passages. The chapter on lying savages those who bald face lie, taking apart Holocost deniers and Kerry defamers and both presidents Clinton and Bush. The one on consumption is a thoughtful review of evolutionary biology (we are wired to display the fruits of our wealth; it helps with a female finding a mate that will ensure the genes get passed on; who knew:waste is sexy) and how this wiring--- once useful --- now makes us do nutty stuff , like paying millions for celeb musicians to play at sweet sixteen parties. The chapter on swinging reminds us---as with many of the vices---that, as Shaw remarked, there are two great tragadies---one not to get your hearts desire , the other to get it. Sagal reminds us, in the end, not to get too worked up over what we think we don't have that others do, to be grateful for the small things, and to understand that a life without tempting vices is a life well worth living
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Debra Hamel VINE VOICE on October 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Peter Sagal is the whip-smart host of NPR's news quiz show Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! Fans of the program will be delighted to learn that Sagal is also now the author of a deliciously titled (and even more deliciously subtitled) exploration of iniquity: The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (And How to Do Them). The book is as fun as its title suggests.

Sagal discusses a different vice in each of the book's seven chapters--though sex looms as the dominant theme of three of them--dropping keen observations while describing his research into the subject at hand. For his first chapter, for example, on swinging, Sagal and his wife Beth observed the goings-on at a weekly swinger's party. He describes the logistics of the operation--the uses to which the various rooms of the place were put--while trying to understand the nature of the Lifestyle: becoming emotionally attached to the people you have sex with is not the done thing, for example, yet people who are in it only for the sex are apparently frowned on as well. In the end Sagal finds that he is not cut out for swinging himself:

"We are told, via their occasional interviews in the press, that swingers or Lifestylers or whatever are no different from you and me...they meet up to socialize, talk, drink, and dance with their good friends, old and new. And then they have sex with them. Which makes me stop, and consider the various good friends my wife and I have, and then consider how it would be if one of our suburban dinner parties ended with us removing our clothes and performing sexual acts, and I have to put my head between my knees and take deep breaths."

Elsewhere in the book Sagal writes about strip clubs and pornography. For the latter chapter he visits the set of a live, call-in sex show.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Holden Caulfield on October 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
While the subtitle is a bit misleading (it really should be "Very Naughty Things (and why you shouldn't REALLY want to do them after all)", this book is enormously fun, especially - but not only - for those already familiar with Sagal's sarcastic wit and extraordinary verbal dexterity. He's sort of a perverse, Ivy League version of Milo leading us through the Phantom Tollbooth to the Lands Beyond Expectations. You couldn't ask for a better guide, especially since he lets you feel like it's really okay to be missing out on the swingers clubs, strip joints, casinos, etc.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Michael Meredith VINE VOICE on January 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's taken a while for someone to come out with a worthy counterpoint for William Bennett's Book of Virtues, but Peter Sagal makes the wait worthwhile (or should I say the Wait, Wait.. ?).

My contrived attempt at humor aside, The Book of Vice is a far more enjoyable read than most attempts to explain and rationalize or criticize the various vices of our times. Never straying from the intelligence that is a hallmark of his "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me" show on NPR, Sagal manages to package information about what some might regard as "the dark side" of human nature into a bemusing recounting of his research into the things that drive the cash to and from the likes of Bill Bennett, anonymous swingers, conspicuous consumers, and other gluttonous souls with far too much money and time. Along the way he makes a number of observations (substantiated or not) regarding trendsetters with roots in the Midwest (don't laugh, get us past the Rockies or the Appalachians and we just might surprise you) and other cultural influences. He also (either knowingly or not) provides ample evidence that he is married to a wonderful saint of a woman, Beth, who accompanies him on his research.

For those of you with more prurient interests, you're going to be disappointed. Yes, they attend a party at the Swingers's Shack. No, they don't indulge in anything more than conversation and innocent observance of the uh... mingling. In the area of gastronomical vice the Peter/Beth duo become a little more participatory, and I would have loved to be seated at the next table as Peter interviewed three female porn stars while Beth chatted enthusiastically with each of them about non-biz type topics.
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