From Little, Brown Spark:
A “entertaining and enlightening” deep dive into the alcohol-soaked origins of civilization—and the evolutionary roots of humanity’s appetite for intoxication. (Daniel E. Lieberman, author of Exercised)
While plenty of entertaining books have been written about the history of alcohol and other intoxicants, none have offered a comprehensive, convincing answer to the basic question of why humans want to get high in the first place.
Drunk elegantly cuts through the tangle of urban legends and anecdotal impressions that surround our notions of intoxication to provide the first rigorous, scientifically-grounded explanation for our love of alcohol. Drawing on evidence from archaeology, history, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, social psychology, literature, and genetics, Slingerland shows that our taste for chemical intoxicants is not an evolutionary mistake, as we are so often told. In fact, intoxication helps solve a number of distinctively human challenges: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal primates to cooperate with strangers. Our desire to get drunk, along with the individual and social benefits provided by drunkenness, played a crucial role in sparking the rise of the first large-scale societies. We would not have civilization without intoxication.
From marauding Vikings and bacchanalian orgies to sex-starved fruit flies, blind cave fish, and problem-solving crows, Drunk is packed with fascinating case studies and engaging science, as well as practical takeaways for individuals and communities. The result is a captivating and long overdue investigation into humanity’s oldest indulgence—one that explains not only why we want to get drunk, but also how it might actually be good for us to tie one on now and then.
“Wide-ranging and provocative…Drunk helpfully synthesizes the literature, then underlines its most radical implication: Humans aren’t merely built to get buzzed—getting buzzed helped humans build civilization.”―The Atlantic
“Absorbing…Slingerland makes a compelling case that human societies have been positively shaped by alcohol.”―The Wall Street Journal
“Engrossing. This heady book is best savored as a fresh take on a contentious topic.”―New Scientist
“Compelling and, above all, a whole lot of irreverent fun.”―Smithsonian Magazine
“Drunk is one of those rare, enthralling books that is as entertaining as it is enlightening. Slingerland’s uproarious and erudite exploration of the history, anthropology, and science of intoxicants will revolutionize how you drink and think.”―Daniel E. Lieberman, Edwin M Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences at Harvard University, and author of Exercised
“Drunk is a punchy and stimulating intellectual cocktail that takes a fresh look at one of our species’ most puzzling obsessions—our routine consumption of sublethal dosages of a psychoactive poison. Despite a deep erudition that effortlessly weaves together history, anthropology, genetics, and chemistry, Slingerland’s book feels like a chat with an old friend over a couple of pints. You’ll learn a lot, but you won’t notice, because you’ll be so entertained.”―Joseph Henrich, author of The WEIRDest People in World, and Professor and Chair of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University
“Does booze make us human? In this wide-ranging, provocative, and very funny exploration, Edward Slingerland makes an excellent case that intoxication is a powerful force for trust and love. From the first paragraph about the appeal of masturbation, Twinkies, and alcohol, to the rousing ending where Slingerland urges us to leave a place for ecstasy in our lives, Drunk is a delight.”―Paul Bloom, author of Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion