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High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze

4.2 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1922070227
ISBN-10: 192207022X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"We all have something to gain from reading this book . . . Jill describes this year where her 'outer and inner worlds' collide in intimate detail, with total honesty and with courage."  —John Rogerson, CEO, Australian Drug Foundation

"A beautifully written book, immensely readable from start to finish, as profound as it is honest. Jill Stark spares nobody, least of all herself, as she weaves an account of her journeys with and from alcohol into discussion of broader issues around the role of alcohol in our society. While a deeply personal story, the lessons for society and decision-makers are there for all to see. . . . This should be on any reading lists for health professionals and students: it will teach them more than any number of textbooks."  —Mike Daube, director, McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth

"A wonderful and disarmingly honest insight into the personal, societal and global challenges that handling our booze presents to us. An essential read for anyone interested in alcohol, whether you think it is the divine elixir or the demon drink. But it can be read without moderation. The new Bridget Jones."  —Rob Moodie, professor of public health, School of Population Health, University of Melbourne

"A roaring, two-fisted exorcism of the demon drink—a demon inside us all."  —John Birmingham, Australian author, He Died With A Felafel In His Hand

"A frank and entertaining glimpse of what Australia might look like without a hangover." —Annabel Crabb

About the Author

Jill Stark is a senior writer at the Sunday Age and the two-time recipient of the National Drug and Alcohol Award for excellence in media reporting. She is the author of the Alcohol Timebomb series, which investigated Australia’s binge drinking problem.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribe Publications Pty Ltd. (July 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 192207022X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1922070227
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,105,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Westy74 on February 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I just read this book, while doing FebFast, raising money while giving up booze for a month. Just the right blend of stats and personal experience, High Sobriety has made me reflect and question my unhealthy relationship with alcohol. This book is humourous and human. I thoroughly enjoyed it and feel thoroughly inspired by Jill Stark's journey. I recommend to anyone who is questioning their relationship with booze or those who want to understand it more.
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I brought this book after hearing it reviewed on the book Club on ABC TV. Some of the reviewers had also decided to stop drinking for awhile after reading the book. I drink but do not binge drink so the descriptions of binge drinking for me was eye opening - why would people do that, and think that it is enjoyable. I hate vomiting, and can't see the point of getting drunk - takes the enjoyment away. It is this question of why do we drink and why to excess that is explored in this book and makes it worthwhile to read. Also why do others expect you to drink, if the group is out partying hard.. In Australia we do have a drinking culture and we have a problem of binge drinking on weekends and this book as the question can I go out socially and enjoy myself without out a glass of alcohol in hand to provide the necessary social lubrication.
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As a life-long abstainer who grew up WAY before binge-drinking became an accepted part of young lives, I found this book both fascinating and horrifying. Stark was a product of Scotland where both the economy and national traditions center around the making and imbibing of whiskey. Her family offered no viable alternative, so she stuck her head in a bottle when she was 13 years old and didn't pull it out until she was 35. Sound shocking? Wait 'til you read the details.

As a young woman she went on a back-packing trip Down Under and fell in love with Australia and the fun-loving Aussies. In terms of moderating her alcohol intake, it was jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Australians boost that they consume more beer per head annually than any other country and they don't stick to beer, either. After a stint working in bars (not a good place to go on the wagon) she got a job reporting for a newspaper. Journalists are traditionally two-fisted drinkers and she set out to show them that the "girlie" could match them shot for shot. Good for her standing with the boys; not so good for her liver.

At 35, she began to realize that her life of every night boozing and hook-ups wasn't getting her what she wanted. But ALL of her social and professional life centered around drinking. Could she possibly stay sober and not become a hermit?

So ingrained is alcohol in Aussie society that someone started a tradition called "FebFast." Lay off the booze for a whole month and donate the money you save to a charity. She took part in one and made it to the end of the month. She also became clear-headed enough to realize that one sober month surrounded by eleven sodden ones was not a good game plan.
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This book takes a candid look at how alcohol is accepted as part of our lives and how the damage it can cause is ignored. Jill Stark, a successful journalist, Scottish-born but now living in Australia, decided, after one of her customary heavy drinking, hangover-inducing nights out with friends and colleagues, to give up alcohol for the first time in her adult life. The book not only describes her personal challenges surviving as a non-drinker in an environment in which people automatically reach for a glass no matter what the occasion, but also raises fundamental questions about the acceptance, indeed promotion, of the use of alcohol by every aspect of Australian society--governments, businesses, sporting bodies, families etc--yet ignores the ultimate cost to that society. What did she do at the end of the three months' sobriety that evolved into twelve? Read the book and find out. It's worth it, if only to make you pause and consider your own drinking habits and those of people around you.
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I loved this book. I thought it was a fascinating insight into the history and culture of drinking in society as well as an interesting personal anecdote and even touching on medical research. The book was easy to read and kept me wanting to continue.
The author's voice in text is enjoyable and relatable.
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Format: Paperback
I picked up Jill Stark's topical book after seeing a largely positive review on television. There was some inference that throwing around statistics to support moral arguments and a largely personal story did not gel. I could not disagree more. Stark's passion, humor and gentle style provides a perfect vehicle to make larger points about society. I am one of a large cross-section of society, within Australian, Scotland and abroad, who can empathise with her concerns about the role alcohol plays in lives, including my own, and how it causes deep problems and confounds our understanding of other behavior which we might otherwise attribute to alcohol. It exposes a complex problem that is well addressed by her anecdotes about popular culture, pubs, gigs, family, journalism, relationships and many alcohol fueled shenanigans.

I also share a Scottish tradition, and Stark's observations about her family and Scottish society, with her charming commentary about that country as a backdrop, rang true. Aspects of our origins reach out like tentacles to hold and shape the people we are decades on and generations on. It is not in the least surprising that, on questioning, half of the book's reviewers on the television program had given up the booze, albeit temporarily, since finishing the book. All the more telling was that the other half, seasoned presenters, seemed unaware of the flash of denial as they laughed off the question.

The structure of this book, especially the 'After' section, facilitates a strong focus on understanding why people drink alcohol. It's breathtakingly clear, and Stark's ability to 'look you in the eye' through her narrative, without proselytizing, is remarkable. For any reader toying with similar questions, one totally satisfactory proxy for a quenching draught of their booze of choice would be the enjoyment of Stark's warm, self-effacing and poignant prose.
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