Books That Will Drive You to Drink

Book and cocktail

Some books go best with a blanket, a couch, and a cat on your lap. Some go best with a long train ride and a pair of headphones. And some should only be paired with a cold, hard drink. Here’s a handful of books that will drive all but the staunchest teetotaler to the nearest cocktail shaker:

The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler. I abide by the rules of The Long Goodbye, which states that “a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else.” That recipe’s the only definite in this bleak and rangy thriller, full of soap opera twists and narrated by the pitbull gumshoe Philip Marlowe. Gin gimlets are the drink of choice of the friend he meets in the book’s first pages, and Marlowe drinks them in his honor throughout. While we’re on the subject, don’t make friends with a noir-novel detective. Things never go well for those guys.

The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolaño. Specifically, the first section of Savage Detectives, a rowdy, darkly funny coming-of-age trip through Mexico City’s literary demimonde. Aspiring poet Juan García Madero drinks and steals and crashes with friends, in the headlong assurance that he’s on his way to greatness. Read it in one go, on a night you’ve got nowhere to be, then “Drink up, boys, drink up and don’t worry, if we finish this bottle we’ll go down and buy another one.” A fine, melancholy sentiment for a book that will make you remember how much fun it was to be young and stupid.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If Gatsby were a Monopoly piece, it’d be a cocktail shaker. While most of us were in high school the first time we encountered Nick, the Buchanans, and the doomed millionaire, here’s hoping you’re now of age and can raise a glass to a reread of this Prohibition-era classic. Start with something fizzing and sweet, then a brisk chaser to wake you back up from Gatsby’s flimsy dreamland.

Some Hope, by Edward St. Aubyn. The third in St. Aubyn’s mordantly brilliant Patrick Melrose series, Some Hope depicts its newly sober antihero, Patrick, attending a glittering party of snobs and decaying relics of the British upper crust that spawned him. He reveals a painful secret to a friend, drifts through the party, experiences the stirring of hope promised by the novel’s title, and doesn’t drink a drop, having managed, at last, to give up the vices that almost killed him. But oh, does this book make you long for a drink. Something clear, quick, and cold, just to make St. Aubyn’s casual cruelties and painful revelations cut a little less deeply.

What book pairs best with a drink?

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