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Extended Audio Sample Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, by Daniel Okrent Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,669 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Daniel Okrent Narrator: Richard Poe Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of America’s most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the U.S. 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!


Quotes & Awards

  • “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 

  • “Assiduously researched, well-written, and continually eye-opening.” 

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Fast-paced and fascinating, his narrative assembles a wide collection of comical stories and outrageous personalities.” 

    Bookmarks magazine

  • “Okrent asks and answers some important questions in this fascinating exploration of a failed social experiment.” 


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

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Don Mader | 2/18/2014

    " Fascinating look at the prohibition movement, its inevitable failure and its role in spawning organized crime in the U.S. Didn't know Ohio played such a pivotal role. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Margaret Sankey | 2/18/2014

    " In my lazy Americanist history thinking, I always stick prohibition at the end of WWI and its repeal in the hands of FDR, but of course, it was much more complicated than that--the bizarre union of dry forces (women's suffrage, the Klan, Ford and his Anti-Semites, Progressives), the results like the foundations of the Seagram, Welch, Gallo and Mondavi fortunes, the economic transformation of the Caribbean, booze cruises, women's bathrooms in bars, tax implications (Andrew Mellon and the wet solution to inheritance taxes), cocktail recipes to hide rotgut, state nullification by refusing to fund enforcement, the pioneering legal career of Mabel Walker Willebrandt, and the early years of Hugo Black. Not to mention the repeal, masterminded by Pauline Sabine--pearl-wearing, gracious maternal Republican committeewoman. And the Beck rally reminded me strikingly of Billy Sunday bellowing that he had no use "for a God who does not smite!" "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Will | 2/11/2014

    " A great look at Prohibition and the organized crime surrounding it. Especially fun to read while living in Chicago! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Budd Bailey | 1/31/2014

    " It's hard to believe anyone has done a better job of covering the various aspects and affects of Prohibition. Daniel Okrent is an extremely bright person and a fine writer, and his smarts shine through throughout the book. The basic drawback is that the subject is, pardon the pun under the circumstances, a little dry in spots, and it's a little tough to zip through. Still, there are great little stories told along the way without ignoring the big picture by any means. This certainly is a very solid piece of research and writing. "

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