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Are you looking for a funny, somewhat decently researched book about sex and drugs and trash talking, with some trivia that will impress your friends and step by step guides to getting like people in ancient times? If that is what you seek, then this is the book for you.
In contrast to the impression one might get from the title, there is, admittedly with a few exceptions, little information on how the vices explored in the book have formed civilization. Sure, Churchill and Stalin, who couldn't stand each other, became BFFs after getting drunk together and then they planned their invasion of their common enemy. I'll also grant that coffee is good for alertness which I suppose maybe results in a better civilization, but the author doesn't tell us how BDSM, getting high from mushrooms, or salamander brandy has helped form our society. This is not something that bothered me when I read the book, though. But if you expect to gain deep lessons about how you can use drugs and be a jerk and at the same time build a better society, then you might end up disappointed.
Much of the charm of this book, and it is a very charming book, comes from the willingness of Robert Evans to expose himself, or his friends and acquaintances, to ancient drug recipes and "cures" for various ailments. For instance, he tries to make beer by following the oldest known beer recipe (not a hit), he tries communal pot smoking (a moderate hit), and he tries to drink his own waste products to help self-inflicted, cheese induced, constipation (could be judged either way depending on your criteria). Evans keeps reassuring the reader that he did not do certain things and did not try certain drugs because "that would have been a felony" - an argument that makes me a little suspicious. Thankfully, the author always seems to have some "friends" who can provide him with whatever knowledge gaps the law prevents him from exploring in himself.
This book is entertaining to be sure. It will also give you a whole new arsenal of trivia to show off at your next party. The information seems relatively well researched. Evans makes references to scientific studies, even if he may be cherry picking a bit. Sometimes Evans prefers a theory because it is just more awesome which, as long as you are honest about it, is fine with me.
Taken together, I would say that this book was well worth the time it took to read it. I may not have learned a ton, but I did learn some new things. Above all, this book was funny, and I think, an assessment I think >90% of all readers will agree with. Recommended
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
Great book and narrator. Took chance on book and loved it. I love non fiction books that tell about how history was vs how we like to sugarcoat it. Factual, honest, and surprisingly funny. Written in a bit of a Gonzo style that makes it fun and easy to listen to without glorifying the habits we guiltily love.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful
Interesting book. Not the most amazing but if you like weird and wonders you might get a kick out of it
Didn't like the narrator. Interesting concept but spoilt by the author's personal tales which I had no interest in.