(Our Secret History) by Susan Cheever.
It is a 273 page book which you could read over in about a week.
It's a long discussion over our drinking habits.....from 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived, on up to today.
You see....we were a fairly hard-drinking crowd from day one. If you read through Cheever's book....you come to realize this list of priorities that existed with the crowd who landed there at Plymouth Rock.
Most of us have been led to believe shelter, firewood, hunting, fishing.....all would have been priority number one. It wasn't. Brewing beer was the first and absolute priority. On board the Mayflower? Passengers stayed mostly lit up and blitzed....even the women.
Most of us would also say that these were hand-picked individuals for this enormous task of landing on the coast of the US and making something out of nothing. Other than religious enthusiasm and a passion for alcohol consumption....there was nothing remarkable about their resumes.
Cheever covers the different periods,and how our habits changed.....intensified....and were part of our success (and failure). Drunk guys do stupid things....even taking orders to go and do something really risky and dangerous. Drunk guys win revolutions, take on overwhelming odds with British Army regulars, and face fierce Indians in combat.
Cheever comes to the period after the Civil War and discusses the industrial revolution going on in America and how safety/accidents were now part of the failures of the nation.....when you inject drunk workers into the scenario.
For anyone who has an interest in the Revolutionary War period....the early 1800s....the Pilgrims period....and the Civil War.....I'd note this book as mandatory reading. It will influence your perception of your ancestors and the type of lives that they actually led.
There's a great two page piece over George Washington's distillery operations and how successful his 'brand' became in the local region.
Cheever writes in a method that makes it easy to follow and keeps your interest high. It's probably not a book I'd endorse for high school kids because it'd beg a lot of questions over how history has been written for our general consumption. But if you have a keen interest in history....I'd put this on the top twenty "must-read" books for a history enthusiast.