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America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops Hardcover – June 21, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review


A Boston Globe "Best Nonfiction Book" of 2011


"A robust homage to the history and proliferation of bars and their vast and often overlooked cultural significance." --Kirkus Reviews


"Breezy, anecdotal, and pun-laden yet complete with a selective bibliography of print sources, Sismondo's book surveys a myriad of American drinking establishments, accenting their importance in social, political, and cultural history and discerning subtle differences over the centuries." --Library Journal


"Displays both detailed research and wit..." --David Wondrich, The Wall Street Journal


"Many of the author's anecdotes offer interesting glimpses into the history of the Americas and the important role drinking establishments have played in the development of our society." --Wine Enthusiast


" A wide-ranging, often hilarious, always sharp and thoughtful look at the way our nation's drinking establishments have shaped and reflected our history."
--Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe


"America Walks Into a Bar isn't a paean to drinking or a love letter to alcohol. It is an insightful, well-told look inside the unique thing that is the American tavern, and how the tavern has helped change American history. It is a worthy addition to the bookshelf of anyone who appreciates the nuances of American history and an occasional visit to the local watering hole." --Dan Murphy, Buffalo News


"I found the history to be interesting... the level of detail spectacular, and the information on the changing bar formats and their ever-changing reputation fascinating. If you are interested in American history and bar history, this is your new favorite book." --Camper English, Alcademics


"'America, as we know it, was born in a bar.' This is the thesis of a fascinating, informative, well-researched and well-written new book called America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops."
--Ted Scheffler, City Weekly


"The book is a revelation." -- American Interest


About the Author


Christine Sismondo is a writer and lecturer in Humanities at York University in Toronto. She has written numerous articles about film, literature, drinking, and vice, as well as the book Mondo Cocktail, a narrative history of cocktails.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 21, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019973495X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199734955
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Don't look for the punch line here - this is not a joke book. It's a well written history with plenty of wry humor and chock full of fascinating stories. It's not just another book about bars nor is it a boring historical treatise. The author has meticulously researched and documented the ties between the tavern, bar etc, and the social, cultural and political evolution of America but written about it in such a way that it feels like a conversation taking place in - well - a bar. This is a really enjoyable book that taught me a great many things I thought I already knew.
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Format: Hardcover
(As reviewed by Ted Scheffler in Salt Lake City Weekly)

"America, as we know it, was born in a bar." This is the thesis of a fascinating, informative, well-researched and well-written new book called America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops, by Christine Sismondo. It's not just that America was born in a bar, however; it also grew up in a bar, as we discover from reading Sismondo's book.

From the get-go, bars and taverns have been crucial gathering places for Americans. Sismondo documents the importance of bars to the earliest colonists, writing, "Taverns were absolutely critical for the new settlers' survival. Establishing a tavern was the first priority--not just the first choice--of every colony." In Boston, for example, the first official government building wasn't built until 1658. Until then, "all legal and government proceedings took place in taverns and meeting houses." Since the earliest days of this country, bars, taverns, saloons, grog shops--whatever you want to call them--have served as centers of political, social and cultural expression, ideas, opinion and organization.

In passages about early American urban centers, Sismondo reminds us that most people lived in small, cramped quarters--tenements, in particular. There was no place to recreate or socialize--no place, really, to think. Thus, bars became a logical neighborhood locale for simply finding a little bit of space. And Sismondo does a great job of detailing the importance of bars, from the mundane to the monumental: John Wilkes Booth plotted his infamous assassination with accomplices in the Surratt Tavern in Clinton, Md. Andrew Jackson met Jean Lafitte in a New Orleans grog shop to plan their defense against the British.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am well pleased with this informative and entertaining book. Put in the hands of another author, this subject might have come up dry. But in our author's hands, the subject comes up refreshingly wet. This text is important for American history buffs as well as for those of us who study food and drink in America's past and present. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It OK, I had to buy it for research into placing a LGBT bar on the National Register. I read the chapter on gay bars which was interesting but still think that The Big Oyster is the best food/spirits book I have ever read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a writer you want to take out for a drink. Her sense of history is informed by her knowledge of the culture of bars and drinking. I wish I had read this book when I wrote the Short Course in Beer, and I'm glad i read it before publishing the Short Course in Rum.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book! This book is well researched and certainly gave me a new perspective on American History. They don't tell you in high school American History classes what a bunch of drunkards many of our "founding fathers" were. (Many would never pass the scrutiny of contemporary social and broadcast media.) The book is well written and interjects humor and fun anecdotes about many well known and not so famous people. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An interesting and semi-academic book examining the history of bars/taverns/saloons in the U.S. Don't read this expecting a lot of footnoted material, or heavy analysis. It is more of a narrative meant to give the reader interesting anecdotes while still retaining the overall sense of the "flow" of history as it relates to bars/taverns/saloons.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow! As a student of American history, I was amazed to read such a frank and entertaining piece of what really occurred behind what you typically find in historical textbooks and biographies. This is a story of about the United States that delves into the lives of everyday people, behind the scenes politics, civil disobedience, and crafty maneuverings of citizens revolting against oppressive laws. When politicians create unjust laws to control society, in particular, the prohibition of enjoyment of life and the pursuit of happiness, e.g., the consumption of alcohol, citizens always seemed to find a way to thumb their nose at such oppression and continue such pursuits. This is a loveable, quick read for anyone interested in what life was really like for the common folk throughout America since the founding of the country.
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