Boozy Novels

Boozy Novels

The New York Times Magazine “Drink” columnist, author of the new memoir Drinking with Men, and longtime Brooklyn bartender shares her five favorite novels involving inebriation.

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At Swim-Two-Birds
Flann O’Brien
“This hilarious, wholly original mashup of Irish legend and Dublin life is best read with several pints and whiskey chasers close at hand. It could earn its place on this list solely for the ‘pome’ recited in its pages, with the emphatic chorus: A PINT OF PLAIN IS YOUR ONLY MAN. But if that’s not enough, Dylan Thomas’s endorsement might persuade you: ‘just the book to give your sister if she’s a loud, dirty, boozy girl!'”

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In the Drink
Kate Christensen
“Kate Christensen writes wonderful, believable bar scenes in most, if not all, of her novels. But it’s her first, In The Drink, that focuses most directly on the drinking life (in case the title didn’t give that away). Claudia Steiner—its young, smart, untethered, hard-drinking, totally lovable heroine—is my kind of girl, and watching her try to pull herself together is a rewarding pleasure.”

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Shamrock Tea
Ciaran Carson
“The title beverage isn’t alcoholic. Instead, Shamrock Tea imparts both hallucinations and clarity of vision, and demands that its drinkers slip into another world via van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding Portrait. Carson’s strange, beautiful novel is composed of 101 three-page chapters, each named for a different color. Rare and contemplative, it is the book I give most often as a gift. I want everybody to read it.”

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Ulysses
James Joyce
“Stout, whiskey, porter, gin, brandy, rum, wine, cider, and even absinthe all are drunk (or at least mentioned) throughout the course of Leopold Bloom’s June 16 perambulations. ‘Cyclops,’ my favorite episode, is set in a pub. Anyone who’s spent enough time in bars has encountered some version ‘The Citizen’—the kind of blustery, bullying boor who can make even the silkiest pint of stout go sour.”

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Lucky Jim
Kingsley Amis
“Perhaps the funniest campus novel ever written, this almost got edged out by another liquor-soaked Amis book, The Old Devils, but the hangover scene alone made it impossible to exclude it: ‘He lay sprawled…spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning…During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.'”

This article originally appeared on Zola Books.

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