'A (Brief) History of Vice' - Book Review

A Brief History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization
2016, Robert Evans
Plume (260 pages)

For me, it started with a video: "4 Awful Ways Our Ancestors Got High (That We Tested!) - Cracked Goes There with Robert Evans" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGEdFcqt8rw ). Cracked is a humour website, the offspring of the now deceased humour magazine also titled Cracked. Robert Evans works for them, and also has an interest in vice. The video was ... illuminating. And had the desired effect of leading me to his recently published book, A (Brief) History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization. This might imply that the book is a work of comedy (partially true) and fiction (apparently not). It seems to be exceptionally well researched (seriously - he did a lot of reading for this). Evans makes what might otherwise have been a boring academic piece about bad behaviour eminently readable through a combination of foul language, self-experimentation, and practical examples. As one cover review says: “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). Personally, I don't consider self-experimentation more than mildly irresponsible: but Evans branches out into experimenting on his fiancée and fellow staff members at Cracked. That's impressively irresponsible. But their terrible experiences are fodder for our education!

He covers (among many other things!) getting high on fly agaric (nasty, nasty side effects if you're not careful), the long histories of prostitution and smack-talk, and weird ways of ingesting tobacco and pot. He printed recipes for all the concoctions he tried including - but not limited to - "soma" (made from fly agaric), ur-booze, and a proto-power bar made from whole coffee berries. It's a well written, well researched, and hugely entertaining journey. Highly recommended!