Gin has been a drink of kings infused with crushed pearls and rose petals, and a drink of the poor flavored with turpentine and sulfuric acid. Born in alchemists’ stills and monastery kitchens, its earliest incarnations were juniper flavored medicines used to prevent plague, ease the pains of childbirth, even to treat a lack of courage.
In The Book of Gin, Richard Barnett traces the life of this beguiling spirit, once believed to cause a “new kind of drunkenness.” In the eighteenth century, gin-craze debauchery (and class conflict) inspired Hogarth’s satirical masterpieces “Gin Lane” and “Beer Street.” In the nineteenth century, gin was drunk by Napoleonic War naval heroes, at lavish gin palaces, and by homesick colonials, who mixed it with their bitter anti-malarial tonics. In the early twentieth century, the illicit cocktail culture of prohibition made gin – often dangerous bathtub gin—fashionable again. And today, with the growth of small–batch distilling, gin has once-again made a comeback.
Wide-ranging, impeccably researched, and packed with illuminating stories, The Book of Gin is lively and fascinating, an indispensible history of a complex and notorious drink.
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What is wrong with today’s banking system? The past few years have shown that risks in banking can impose significant costs on the economy. Many claim, however, that a safer banking system would require sacrificing lending and economic growth. The Bankers’ New Clothes examines this claim and the narratives used by bankers, politicians, and regulators to rationalize the lack of reform, exposing them as invalid. Admati and Hellwig seek to engage the broader public in the debate by cutting through the jargon of banking, clearing the fog of confusion, and presenting the issues in simple and accessible terms. The Bankers’ New Clothes calls for ambitious reform and outlines specific and highly beneficial steps that can be taken immediately. They argue we can have a safer and healthier banking system without sacrificing any of the benefits of the system, and at essentially no cost to society. Theyalso demonstrate that banks are as fragile as they are not because they must be, but because they want to be–and banks and bankers get away with it. Whereas this situation benefits bankers, it distorts the economy and exposes the public to unnecessary risks. Weak regulation and ineffective enforcement allowed the buildup of risks that ushered in the financial crisis of 2007-2009. Much can be done to create a better system and prevent crises. The lessons from the crisis have yet to be learned.