A Brief History of Vice
By Robert Evans
Plume

Some authors have friends proofread their books. For his volume on the history of vice, Robert Evans used his besties as guinea pigs to test, with him, recreations of ancient drugs. One experiment involved salamander schnapps, believed to be produced in Slovenia. After a research trip proved fruitless, he made up a batch (the recipe is included), cruelty-free, meaning his pet amphibian was not killed for his high. Readers wondering what to make of all of this should know that Evans works for Cracked, an infotainment humour website. While laddish in his writing and conclusions (“a douchebag lives in all of us”), there are sufficiently interesting historical anecdotes and insights from his examinations of everything from hallucinogens to prostitution to ancient raves to show how bad behaviour built civilisation. We hear how the Sumerian shekel, minted in bronze around 3000BC, was originally to pay for state-sponsored sex work, and that ancient Greek philosophers may have been persuaded of an afterlife because they were tripping on “kykeon”. The subject being vice, prepare to be at least a little shocked. “Sexual surrogacy” should test how broad-minded you are.