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A Brief History of Vice

How Bad Behavior Built Civilization
Narrated by: Tristan Morris
Length: 7 hrs and 42 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (30 ratings)

Non-member price: $34.76

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Publisher's Summary

History has never been more fun - or more intoxicating.

Guns, germs, and steel might have transformed us from hunter-gatherers into modern man, but booze, sex, trash talk, and tripping built our civilization. Cracked editor Robert Evans brings his signature dogged research and lively insight to uncover the many and magnificent ways vice has influenced history, from the prostitute-turned-empress who scored a major victory for women's rights to the beer that helped create - and destroy - South America's first empire. And Evans goes deeper than simply writing about ancient debauchery; he recreates some of history's most enjoyable (and most painful) vices and includes guides so you can follow along at home. You'll learn how to:

  • Trip like a Greek philosopher
  • Rave like your Stone Age ancestors
  • Get drunk like a Sumerian
  • Smoke a nose pipe like a pre-Columbian Native American

A celebration of the brave, drunken pioneers who built our civilization one seemingly bad decision at a time, A Brief History of Vice explores a side of the past that mainstream history books prefer to hide.

©2016 Robert Evans (P)2016 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"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, author of John Dies at the End)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Jon
  • 05-03-2018

Ok but not amazing

Interesting book. Not the most amazing but if you like weird and wonders you might get a kick out of it

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Tedious

Didn't like the narrator. Interesting concept but spoilt by the author's personal tales which I had no interest in.

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  • Neuron
  • 20-08-2016

Funny and somewhat informative

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

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Carl
  • 31-08-2016

Wonderful Intellectual Surprise

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.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • DGE 2020
  • 28-08-2016

Get an Audible High With a Hit of this Book

If Audible was a drug (and sometimes it is an addition, right?) then this hilarious book is like a quick sure fire buzz that will get you feeling happy.

Note: I've never taken a drug in my life, so perhaps I am not the best source for that advice. :)

What makes this book fun is the writing style. The author has an ingenious and original style for writing some fairly serious and in depth prose and then busts out a joke or phrase that is outrageous. I don't remember the last time I laughed outloud from listening to an Audible book, but I have to admit I was listening to this book while sitting on a Southwest airlines flight, sandwiched in the middle seat and I was trying to hold in my laughter and just shaking silently. I am sure the other two people thought I was crazy. I was having the best middle seat experience of any flight I have ever been on.

As for content, I liked how the author tried to not just look at drugs and alcohol, but how he examined the entire world of things that alter moods. There are even chapters on the physiological effects of music and coffee. I appreciated the science and was grateful that while I felt the science was credible, it was not so in depth that it made the book get dry.

Best of all, this book did made me re-examine my attitudes toward all things vice. I wouldn't say it changed me - I still have not tried any drugs and do not plan to, but I have a slightly different and more happy attitude that might be considered a bit more relaxed.

The reader is very clear. Audible picked the best person possible to read this book, Tristan Morris. Because he can read something dead pan, it makes the jokes funnier. If it had been a reader that really wanted to accentuate the jokes, it would have ruined them.

All in all, I found this book to be informative, entertaining and a simple pleasure to experience. Don't be afriad my fellow listeners, if this is the only drug you ever try, you will safely get a great buzz for hours.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amanda Lape-Freeberg
  • 14-08-2016

Extraordinarily engaging

Having been a fan of Robert Evans work at cracked, I was excited to see that this book had come out on audible just in time for me to take a long car trip. I can conclusively report that his trademark mixture of laugh out loud funny and surprisingly informative and well researched nonfiction makes an extremely effective transition to longer form work, reminiscent of a more crass and adventerous Bill Bryson. The narrator also does a wonderful job of bringing the book to life (although it was occasionally difficult to tell from the narrator's tone of voice exactly when a quotation from a cited source ended and Evan's text resumed.) All in all, I would highly recommend it.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Rocky Brashear
  • 21-05-2019

let down by the narrator

The narrator sounds like a dare officer spying a skit about doing drugs. Terrible disservice to the content of the book. Evans himself would be a far superior narrator.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-05-2019

Good approachable history<br />

Book altogeather was enjoyable. though through audible there were some small skips and unfinished paragraphs being read aloud. Havnt jad a problem with this before. But if u like history and enjoy your own vice would recommend reading

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  • Joseph Merritt
  • 01-04-2019

Very interesting.

I've listened the authors podcast for awhile, and was pleasantly surprised to find this book. Robert Evans is always the perfect blend of well researched information, and a tongue and check delivery.

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  • Robert MacKenzie
  • 28-01-2019

Tristan

I had to stop.

It's an interesting subject but how Tristan narrates it makes it intolerable. Keep in mind that I play video games while listening. Tristan often tried to overcome my focus. I typically listen to the same audio book several times, yet, Tristan's punctuated style does not work for me.

"A Brief History of Vice" has a good narrative, in which the listener base I am apart of, would love to hear more.

I don't know. I got the right right subject with the wrong narration. Tristan Morris has his time and place but I found it distracting beyond the narrative.

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  • Cameron
  • 30-12-2018

Hilarious and interesting with surprising heart!

Robert Evans' dive into mankind's debauched history with mind altering substances is richly detailed and wonderfully heartfelt. His glib writing style is genuinely funny, but manages not to become disrespectful of the material. His accounts of his own attempts to recreate classic methods of drinking, smoking, or otherwise ingesting insane concoctions bring an extra layer of fun to the work.

While the book mostly avoids the all-too-common trait amongst non-fiction works to cram in extraneous chapters to pad the page count, I did feel that some of the chosen subjects didn't fit very well with the overall theme. That aside, I look forward to more from Robert Evans!

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  • Karmyn Edrea Blaylock
  • 22-11-2018

Fantastic. Seriously.

Loved every second, literally went and bought 4 more copies for various friends and family within an hour of starting it. Well written but relatable, hilarious but with a genuine respect for the cultures and history. If I could give it fifty stars I would!

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  • Ryan McGeough
  • 12-02-2019

Very interesting and well written

Well written and with some unique insights. Would highly recommend as an interesting take on our shared history.

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  • Louise O'Hanlon
  • 20-12-2018

Thought provoking and entertaining.

Evans has an absurdist sense of humour that pairs brilliantly with his equally absurd subject matter. Fascinating from start to finish.