Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Book of Vice

You knew you shouldn’t.
You loved it.
And now…
You feel terrible.
-Peter Sagal

The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them) by Peter Sagal: The host of NPR’s “Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me!” travels the country to understand the naughty indulgences of American society. From gambling to pornography, lying to gluttony, and conspicuous consumption to strip clubs, each chapter covers a different vice: who does it, how they do it, and why they do it.

Overall Quality: Very good. Every topic is both well-researched and funny, and if you tend to “hear” books as you read them, you’ll probably hear this one in Sagal’s voice if you’re an NPR fan. My one criticism is that, in the sexual vice chapters, he definitely seems to be writing for more of a male audience. I know it must be hard to get away from the male perspective when writing about strip clubs and singers’ parties, but there were a couple of times when I felt slightly alienated as a female reader. On the whole though, I did really enjoy this book, especially the interviews. He really delves into why people give in to their particular indulgences. The lunch interview with Nina Hartley, Shane, and Stormy Daniels (all porn stars) is the best. Expert tip: if you sleep with a porn star, don’t ask for an autograph afterward.

Bus Readability: Good. Once again, non-fiction holds up quite well to reading in small sections. Much like Packing for Mars, each chapter is a different subject, so there’s always something new to read about. The hardcover is about 250 pages, so it fits reasonably well in one hand.

Cocktail Party Conversation Starter: During World War I, a man named Commodore Ned Green wanted to own the largest yacht in the world. Since such a yacht wasn’t for sale, he purchased a 225 foot steamer, had it sawed in half, and added 40 feet. The finished result sank promptly in15 feet of water.

Too G rated for a book on vice? Okay.

Eadweard Muybridge, after using his fast-shutter photographic technology to settle a bet for Leland Stanford on whether a racehorse ever has all four legs off the ground, next turned to images of a naked, writhing woman: the first pornographic movie.

TL;DR: Naughty stories for a far more interesting bus ride.

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