Thursday May 20th, 2010

Last Call by Daniel Okrent

lastcallDaniel Okrent’s biggest impact on the culture (and certainly on my life) might always be his invention of Rotisserie/“fantasy” baseball. But of course, he’s also a celebrated author. His latest is a history of Prohibition. In Business Week, Tyler Cowen writes that Okrent has produced “what is likely to be one of this year’s best books on American history . . . the most persuasive, witty, and best-documented explanation yet as to why Americans decided to endure a ban on alcohol, the federal government’s most intrusive regulation of all time.” In order to persuade, Okrent digs into the history of the country leading up to Prohibition: “Figuring per capita, multiply the amount Americans drink today by three and you’ll have an idea what much of the nineteenth century was like.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Russ Smith judges Last Call a “superb history,” and says: “Another of the book’s virtues is that it is likely to prompt the reader to reflect in a benign way on life in America today. It’s the accepted, and lazy, wisdom of the current moment that the nation suffers to an unprecedented degree from a ‘partisan’ and ‘polarized’ political culture. We’ve got nothing on the ‘dry’ versus ‘wet’ combatants.”

In the Louisville Courier-Journal, Matt Frassica writes: “[T]hough the book spares us a subtitle claiming that its subject changed the world forever or created the one we know today, Okrent leaves no doubt that Prohibition did both. Consider some of its consequences: women’s suffrage, single-issue political activism, organized crime syndicates, mixed-gender bars, and Las Vegas.”

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent
Scribner, 468 pp., $30.00