By the author of the Sunday Times no. 1 bestseller The Etymologicon
Almost every culture on earth has drink, and where there's drink there's drunkenness. But in every age and in every place drunkenness is a little bit different. It can be religious, it can be sexual, it can be the duty of kings or the relief of peasants. It can be an offering to the ancestors, or a way of marking the end of a day's work. It can send you to sleep, or send you into battle.
A Short History of Drunkenness traces humankind's love affair with booze from our primate ancestors through to Prohibition, answering every possible question along the way: What did people drink? How much? Who did the drinking? Of the many possible reasons, why? On the way, learn about the Neolithic Shamans, who drank to communicate with the spirit world (no pun intended), marvel at how Greeks got giddy and Romans got rat-arsed, and find out how bars in the Wild West were never quite like in the movies.
This is a history of the world at its inebriated best.
The unpredictable origins and etymologies of our cracking Christmas customs
For something that happens every year of our lives, we really don't know much about Christmas.
We don't know that the date we celebrate was chosen by a madman, or that Christmas, etymologically speaking, means 'Go away, Christ'. Nor do we know that Christmas was first celebrated in 243 AD on 28 March - and only moved to 25 December in 354 AD. We're oblivious to the fact that the advent calendar was actually invented by a Munich housewife to stop her children pestering her for a Christmas countdown. And we would never have guessed that the invention of crackers was merely a way of popularizing sweet wrappers.
Luckily, like a gift from Santa himself, Mark Forsyth is here to unwrap this fundamentally funny gallimaufry of traditions and oddities, making it all finally make sense - in his wonderfully entertaining wordy way.
Born in London in 1977, Mark Forsyth (a.k.a The Inky Fool) was given a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary as a christening present and has never looked back. His book The Etymologicon was a Sunday Times Number One Bestseller and his TED Talk 'What's a snollygoster?' has had more than half a million views. He has also written a specially commissioned essay 'The Unknown Unknown' for Independent Booksellers Week and the introduction for the new edition of the Collins English Dictionary. He lives in London with his dictionaries, and blogs at blog.inkyfool.com.