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Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition Audiobook, by Daniel Okrent Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Daniel Okrent Narrator: Daniel Okrent Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2010 ISBN: 9780743599221
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,675 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of America’s most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the US Constitution was amended to restrict one of America’s favorite pastimes: drinking alcoholic beverages.

From its start, America has been awash in drink. The sailing vessel that brought John Winthrop to the shores of the New World in 1630 carried more beer than water. By the 1820s, liquor flowed so plentifully it was cheaper than tea. That Americans would ever agree to relinquish their booze was as improbable as it was astonishing.

Yet we did, and Last Call is Daniel Okrent’s dazzling explanation of why we did it, what life under Prohibition was like, and how such an unprecedented degree of government interference in the private lives of Americans changed the country forever.

Writing with both wit and historical acuity, Okrent reveals how Prohibition marked a confluence of diverse forces: the growing political power of the women’s suffrage movement, which allied itself with the antiliquor campaign; the fear of small-town, native-stock Protestants that they were losing control of their country to the immigrants of the large cities; the anti-German sentiment stoked by World War I; and a variety of other unlikely factors, ranging from the rise of the automobile to the advent of the income tax.

Through it all, Americans kept drinking, going to remarkably creative lengths to smuggle, sell, conceal, and convivially (and sometimes fatally) imbibe their favorite intoxicants. Last Call is peopled with vivid characters of an astonishing variety: Susan B. Anthony and Billy Sunday, William Jennings Bryan and bootlegger Sam Bronfman, Pierre S. du Pont and H. L. Mencken, Meyer Lansky and the incredible—if long-forgotten—federal official Mabel Walker Willebrandt, who throughout the twenties was the most powerful woman in the country. (Perhaps most surprising of all is Okrent’s account of Joseph P. Kennedy’s legendary, and long-misunderstood, role in the liquor business.)

It’s a book rich with stories from nearly all parts of the country. Okrent’s narrative runs through smoky Manhattan speakeasies, where relations between the sexes were changed forever; California vineyards busily producing “sacramental” wine; New England fishing communities that gave up fishing for the more lucrative rum-running business; and in Washington, the halls of Congress itself, where politicians who had voted for Prohibition drank openly and without apology.

Last Call is capacious, meticulous, and thrillingly told. It stands as the most complete history of Prohibition ever written and confirms Daniel Okrent’s rank as a major American writer. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Daniel Okrent's Last Call is filled with delightful details, colorful characters, and fascinating social insights. And what a great tale! Prohibition may not have been a lot of fun, but this book sure is.”

    Walter Isaacson, New York Times bestselling author of Steve Jobs

  • “A triumph. Okrent brilliantly captures the one glaring 'whoops!' in our Constitutional history. This entertaining portrait should stimulate fresh thought on the capacity and purpose of free government.”

    Taylor Branch, author of the Pulizer Prize winning  Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–1963

  • “This is history served the way one likes it, with scholarly authority and literary grace. Last Call is a fascinating portrait of an era and a very entertaining tale.”

    Tracy Kidder, author of Strength in What Remains

  • “This is a marvelous and lively social history, one that manages to be both scholarly and exciting. Okrent takes us through a period of American history unlike any other. Fair-minded, insightful, and amused, he has a command of the material that makes the journey rewarding at every sober step of the way. I loved this book.”

    Lawrence Wright, author, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

  • “Daniel Okrent's Last Call fills a gaping void in American popular history that has been waiting for years to be filled, by providing a clear, sweeping, detailed and immensely readable account of Prohibition. His book is full of lively stories, incredible characters and fascinating research. It is, at once, great fun to read and solid history, a rare combination.”

    Michael Korda, author of Ulysses S. Grant,Ike, and With Wings Like Eagles

  • Last Call is—I can't help it—a high, an upper, a delicious cocktail of a book, served with a twist or two and plenty of punch.” 

    Newsweek

  • A New York Times bestseller
  • An ALA Notable Book
  • One of the 2010 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction

Listener Reviews

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  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathryn | 2/11/2014

    " I expected a light, fun history book, and this book delivered for about the first third. The rest of the book was slow-- full of names and dates and not much story. Very informative and interesting in political terms, but more in the vein of a textbook than a narrative history. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Barbara | 2/2/2014

    " This is the first non-fiction book that I have literally not been able to put down. Okrent's thorough description of the various factions and politics involved in shaping the prohibition debate and the passage and repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment is compelling. Particularly, in this contentious election year, the story is relevant and worthy of public discussion. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jedrek | 1/30/2014

    " An amazing view of the rise and fall of the prohibition movement, especially it's political causes. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Reed | 1/30/2014

    " Easily one of the best historical accounts I've ever read. If you've ever wondered how something like Prohibition could have happened during a time when Americans *loved* alcohol you will enjoy this book. The writing is superb and the amount of research that when into the book is astounding. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Joshua | 1/28/2014

    " I was interested in the subject, but this book was just too much of a slog. It felt like the author was putting a lot of information down just to get it into the record, which is a fine undertaking, but it can make for difficult reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marie | 1/26/2014

    " History of the politics of the prohibition "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 1/24/2014

    " Okrent places the rise and fall of Prohibition in the context of a number of historic events and trends -- the suffrage movement, anti-immigrant sentiment, the depression, income tax. In addition to the larger trends Okrent covers a number of smaller, fascinating biographical notes such as the rise of Mabel Willebrandt, who was the second female US Assistant Attorney General and assigned responsibility for enforcing the Volstead Act, and how John Sirica (of Watergate fame) started off as a prosecutor working for Willebrandt. From an economic perspective the book is a wonderful tale of unintended consequences, such as the tremendous increase in the prices of California grapes one Prohibition was enacted. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mary | 1/18/2014

    " It took a while to get through it, the first part was really dry (no pun intended), but then it got really good so I'm glad I stuck with it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rick | 1/15/2014

    " Great narrative on the roots, execution, and aftermath of prohibition. Thoroughly researched...excellent read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dmknoell | 1/13/2014

    " The way we should always learn history "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael | 12/16/2013

    " Excellent reading. Makes one wonder why we are engaged in the "drug war" -- another endless, futile waste of government money and lives. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tracey | 12/15/2013

    " I learned a lot from this book, and I liked the writing style. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Charles | 12/13/2013

    " Great book. I was surprised how major an issue Prohibition was at the time. Interesting how underhanded both sides of the Prohibition issue were. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Clint | 11/11/2012

    " This is a great mini-history of the US from the mid-1800s to about 1935. It is very well researched and written, providing great insight into the politics that drove the adoption of Prohibition and its subsequent repeal. It also provides a good look at what America was like during the Twenties. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Zach | 10/12/2012

    " Very interesting. And there's a copy of the US Constitution included. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tina | 8/3/2012

    " Exhaustive and dense (because it's such a rich subject), but also entertaining. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Clay | 1/9/2012

    " A very well written and entertaining book about the rise and fall of Prohibition. Seeing the machinations of the actors at work, the products that came about as a result of prohibition (Welch's Grape, anyone?) and seeing the parallels to the currently ill- fated war in drugs makes for a good read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Evan | 9/23/2011

    " The first chapter was really the best. Fun fact johnny apple seed, spread the kind of seed around america that was not for food. Instead it was to make hard cider, which was the traditional way to great someone at your house. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jody | 8/19/2011

    " It's a slow read but a good one - definitely learned a lot from the book. It was very interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbara | 6/28/2011

    " Interesting history of incredibly stupid law. good read "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andy | 6/16/2011

    " Breezily, effortlessly written. Sort of like having noted 1930s-era lushes Nick and Nora Charles narrate a history of Prohibition to you. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Joshua | 6/15/2011

    " I was interested in the subject, but this book was just too much of a slog. It felt like the author was putting a lot of information down just to get it into the record, which is a fine undertaking, but it can make for difficult reading. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tod | 6/6/2011

    " A great study of unintended consequences. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Geoff | 5/10/2011

    " Last Call is an interesting read that really examines the causes and effects of prohibition. The focus is mainly on figures from prohibition history that have been largely forgotten, and I found it enjoyable to learn about these people. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Keith | 5/3/2011

    " Fantastic Book! Loads of new information to me on an important time in US History with heavy policy implications on what we are doing today. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 William | 4/20/2011

    " Outstanding history of prohibition and all of the ramifications to that constitutional amendment. A great review of the roaring 20 and beyond. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tom | 4/5/2011

    " Detailed history of prohibition. Have a drink before you read the boring parts. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mary | 3/30/2011

    " It took a while to get through it, the first part was really dry (no pun intended), but then it got really good so I'm glad I stuck with it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 James | 3/23/2011

    " I really enjoyed this book. Well written, thorough, and interesting from beginning to end. I'm glad someone took the time to research this topic so thoroughly. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jose | 3/15/2011

    " Pretty good audio book. Interesting to learn about impact of prohibition, temperance mvmt, taxation. "

About the Author

Daniel Okrent is author of four books, one of which, Great Fortune, was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in history. He was a featured commentator on Ken Burns’s PBS series Baseball. He was a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he is an associate. He was the first public editor of the New York Times, an editor-at-large of Time, Inc., and managing editor of Life magazine. He also worked in book publishing as an editor at Knopf and Viking and was editor-in-chief of general books at Harcourt Brace.