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A Brief History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization Paperback – August 9, 2016
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“Mixing science, humor, and grossly irresponsible self-experimentation, Evans paints a vivid picture of how bad habits built the world we know and love.”—David Wong, author of John Dies at the End
“Evans's goal is to investigate and illuminate the human tradition of merriment and debauchery, which he does with tact, humor, and insight.”—Publishers Weekly
“An engaging and compelling assemblage of pop culture and cultural anthropology (pop cultural anthropology?), an exploration of the growth of civilization via things that our own culture has in many ways declared taboo. This is one of the more entertaining books, fiction or nonfiction, or whatever, that you'll read this year.”—Allen Adams, The Maine Edge
About the Author
Robert Evans is an editorial manager at Cracked.com. His articles rack up an average of sixty-four million views a year. He was a contributor to the bestselling You Might Be a Zombie and The De-Textbook.
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As interesting and entertaining as his explanations of the history of various vices are (and they are VERY entertaining), I enjoyed just as much his re-creations of a variety of ancient vices – mostly the drinkable kind. In these re-creations, Evans documents his experiments with ancient intoxicants, chronicling their effects on him, his friends, and his fiancée Magenta (who evidently has the patience of a saint). He also provides the recipes for these ancient head trips. Oddly, this is the point where the book veers deeper into philosophical waters, as Evans reflects on the cultural and psychological value of intoxicants and their role in making life better and (as Evans would certainly argue) more fun.
A (Brief) History of Vice is a bizarre (but wonderful) blend of sociobiology, gonzo journalism, and Betty Crocker. Author Robert Evans elucidates the connection between behaviors and attitudes society frowns on (vices) and the ancient and robust underpinnings of our advanced civilization.
In a display of truly excellent writing, he delivers this information with irresistible charm and wit that is completely unique to him. It's as though he's actually right there, sitting in a comfortable chair and sharing a mind-blowingly awesome drink with you while talking companionably about some of the most fascinating things you'll ever learn about the history of human life. He made me laugh many, many times, but he also made me cry--twice. While the general tone of the book is classic Cracked funniness, he still manages to treat the entire subject with the reverence it deserves. His experiences--such as nearly dying of dysentery in Pushkar, India because of the lack of safe, potable water there--have made him into someone far older and wiser than his years suggest, and he is able to make you feel those experiences, yourself, with honest, candid description and rich detail. He alerts the reader to world problems that make the media storms and political nonsense all around us seem unimportant to the point of total absurdity. There are people on this earth who cannot drink a cup of water without risking agonizing death, and Robert does not spare us from the details.
Once you've read this book, you WILL be inspired to reexamine not just your own life, but your perspective on life itself. I was left feeling profound gratitude for the things that allow us to write reviews like this, for the human dignities and miracles born of "vice" that allow us to live in relative comfort today, and for simply being alive today. Put bluntly, we're damn lucky to be alive in this golden age of humanity, and we owe it all to those who suffered, fought, experimented, and risked their lives in the exploration of mind-altering chemistry, sex work, and other taboos long before we were born. When you read this book, you do honor to those brave pioneers (many of whom were tortured, imprisoned, and murdered for their vices--including the coffee we casually drink every morning), and you have a wonderful opportunity to share the journey they took, yourself. The history of vice is not over, and probably never will be. Robert alerts his readers to incredible studies being done even now on "controlled" or downright illegal substances that may literally save lives as soon as 2017, which is absolutely astonishing.
It really doesn't matter how you feel about drugs, sex, or rock n' roll...this book is for you because it's *about* you. This is where we come from. And if you read this book, you'll have a brilliant view of where we're headed.