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The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them)

3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  1,459 Ratings  ·  287 Reviews
Somewhere, somebody is having more fun than you are. Or so everyone believes. Peter Sagal, a mild-mannered, Harvard-educated NPR host--the man who put the second L in vanilla--decided to find out if it's true. From s
ebook, 272 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 2007)
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Oct 16, 2007 Maya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me," so I thought I'd really love this book. And I'll say this for it; Peter Sagal has such a strong narrative style that I could practically hear him reading it aloud.

Some sections were better than others, but I expected something a little different, I guess. In many cases Sagal takes one sample case and runs with it, rather than comparing several. In the section on swingers, for example, all his subjects come from one "club" or society, so what you get deal mor
Feb 23, 2008 Kara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kara by: Karl Krekeler
Not nearly as naughty as the title suggests, The Book of Vice appeals to the voyeur in all of us, at least those of us who know nothing about $700 24-course meals, swingers' parties and the porn industry, and Peter Sagal is a fantastic and hilarious guide. Usually, I find that non-fictions like this one (read: not memoirs or collections of essays) tend to lag a bit at the end, but that certainly wasn't the case with this one.

What really surprised me was how much I liked the chapter about lying.
Jul 24, 2011 Joanna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was mildly funny at times, but I was surprised to find Sagal so judgmental of "vices" that are not, to my twentieth-century liberal understanding, either unusual or particularly problematic. He tries to downplay the judgment by claiming he is simply too "vanilla" for the pornographic, polyamorous, or gourmand-y activities that form the subject of his text, but I felt there was a distinct tone of disapproval throughout, a fastidious sense of separation--only people who "aren't like us" commi ...more
Susan Union
Feb 11, 2008 Susan Union rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With most non-fiction books, I read the first couple of chapters, the table of contents, and the last chapter and I'm satisfied. I usually find the middle superfluous.
Not so with The Book of Vice.
Sagal says, "everybody is a tourist outside the bounds of his own life," and aims to find out why people cross the lines that society has drawn for us.
He touches on swingers, eating (Sodom's restaurant), strip clubs, lying, gambling, consumption (keeping up with the Joneses), and pornography. He inte
Dec 08, 2008 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have you recently thought, "man, I wish I could read an NPR transcript?" Do you enjoy droll humor with a variety of literary allusions which will make you feel witty and cultured? Are you moderately intrigued by social vices like pornography and gambling? If so, you will heartily enjoy "The Book of Vice."

Sagal, one of the hosts of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" superficially explores a variety of vices and summarizes his findings in amusing little essays. He's not breaking any new ground (he visits
Feb 06, 2009 Joel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A potentially juicy subject was rendered nearly dull by one of those self-satisfied NPR commentators (Sagal).

Admittedly the topic drew me in and kept me reading, but the writing reeked of smirkiness and failed attempts at cleverness. The result was a choppy read without a whole lot of depth. Seemingly, the author threw himself a big, fat softball and could only manage a foul tip.

Or maybe, just maybe, vice really isn't that interesting
nor worth delving into. In that case, Sagal, in a roundabout w
Feb 28, 2013 Ciara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
so, peter sagal did a talk up on campus about the role of satire in political discourse. jared & i are good lefty retired anarchists who listen to a fair amount of NPR, including "wait wait, don't tell me" every weekend (my favorite panelist is paula poundstone). peter sagal hosts "wait wait, don't tell me," so we decided to make a date of it & go see what he had to say. we brought ramona, of course, because who the hell has the money for a babysitter? plus it's easy to take tiny babies ...more
Jun 13, 2008 Rose rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (And How To Do Them), Peter Sagal, host of NPR's weekly news quiz Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me, sets out to explore, through first-hand experience, how and why humans indulge in various vices. Each chapter, save the introduction & conclusion, is devoted to a particular vice, including swinging, eating, strip clubs, lying, gambling, consumption, and pornography. Sagal lightly researches and then experiments on his own with each vice. Each chapter, then, ...more
Feb 04, 2008 doreen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people curious to know what they're missing
I had read this book after reading America Unzipped by Brian Alexander, and I enjoyed the writing and topics in The Book of Vice much better. The two books are different, but Vice touches upon some similar topics that Alexander's book covers: strip clubs and pornography.

However, Peter Sagal's situations seem a bit more interesting for me. Much of that has to deal with his sense of humour, but also with the presence of his wife in some of the experiences. Also, the vices focused on in the book ar
Feb 19, 2008 Bronwen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tag along with Peter Sagal as he tours the underground worlds of various vices, from swingers clubs to high-stakes casinos to strip clubs. I enjoyed Sagal's observations and humor, as well as the glimpse into the darker side of life.

What does it say about me, though, that everything I know about stripping, swinging and porn I've learned from a Harvard-educated NPR host who, by his own admission, "put the second L in vanilla?"
Jun 22, 2009 Terri rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I expect better from Peter Sagal. The underlying conclusion of this book is that vices are only titillating as long as they remain exotic...if we look at them too closely in the light of day they all seem a little sad. Well...duh. If we're just going to use commonsense, then it's not a very interesting read.
Jan 13, 2009 Kaara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am a huge and longstanding fan of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, and for a long time was convinced that, if only I could find a way to ask him, Peter Sagal would surely set me up with some friend of his that was as funny, smart, and geekily gangly as he was and who would then turn out to be the love of my life (convoluted Public-Radio-Geek story...stay with me here...). So you can imagine how Iwas anticipating in this book a pithy, insightful, impossibly clever take on the most fundamental and fasci ...more
Aug 16, 2009 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A funny, enjoyable book that may not be the best thing to read on the subway.

Day 1. Chapter: "Swinging". Chuckling a bit. Eyes widening a bit. Suddenly aware that the people sitting on both sides of me are women. Book slams shut.

Day 2. Chapter: "Eating". Phew: entertaining, but completely safe. Interesting look at molecular gastronomy and a very intense chef.

Day 3. Reaching the end of Chapter 2, turning the last page, and the title of chapter 3 is "Strip Clubs". Did I mention that each chapter h
Apr 28, 2009 Tung rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The Book of Vice is a nonfiction exploration of some human vices – from pornography to gluttony to gambling. Sagal (an NPR host) attempts to explain why people pursue these vices by visiting establishments of said vices, experiencing the vices (to some degree), and interviewing the people who partake of, cater to, or enable these vices. Sagal is smart and witty, and his descriptions of his experiences with these vices is often insightful, and almost always amusing in a dry wit sort of way. The b ...more
Apr 21, 2010 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I suspect this would have far more 1 star reviews if the author had been someone else. Just because you might enjoy NPR does not mean this guy poops rainbows.

The book of boring suburbanites might be a more accurately title. The book covers basic vices(gambling, sex,lying, etc). It has problems on many levels. Primarily, the author draws conclusions about everyone from his preconceived notions. He then makes condescending comments about their lives, lifestyles, actions, or anything he can get inf
Dec 06, 2009 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're not the biggest fan ever of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me", the news quiz show on NPR, you may not be dying to read anything written by the host of the show, Peter Sagal. Because I nearly split my sides laughing when I'm able to listen to the show, I sought some respite - comic relief- in these pages. I found some. More interesting to me, however, was how Peter Sagal narrated these journalistic forays into vice. His investigation of 'very naughty things' is wondrously crafted - not the st ...more
Dec 18, 2007 Margot rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An anecdotal surface treatment of various vices, focusing primarily on sex-related vices. This fits with our American squeamishness about sex as opposed to violence. Sagal focuses on mainstream American mores, and when he hearkens to a historical background, it is to our Western cultural roots in the Roman empire, etc. Sagal uses a working definition of vice as something which is enjoyable, forbidden fruit, and a choice. He doesn't deal with alcohol or drugs in this book, as he sees addiction as ...more
Apr 28, 2008 Brett rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Moralists
Similar to the author's take on many of the topics covered in this book, the book itself sounds more interesting than it actually is. The topics are "investigated" in a fairly superficial manner, with much of each chapter consisting merely of the author's musings on the topic and what he thinks the participants motivations might be. I was really hoping to read more history and scholarly discussion of the topics. Instead, the author seems to mostly enjoy his own creative writing skills, as he wor ...more
Eh. Ever read a book and, when you get down to the last fifty pages or so, you'd like to read something else but you're so close to the end you feel you might as well finish? I had that experience with "The Book of Vice." Some chapters (lying, gambling) were interesting but not particularly groundbreaking, and the author's "tie it together" insights didn't do much for me. This book reminded me that writing memoir-type essays is probably harder than it looks because Sagal swung and mostly missed. ...more
Apr 24, 2008 Megan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are comfortable learning the brutal truth about NPR announcers.
Ah, Peter Sagal. I have a comforting image of him in my brain: five feet, four inches of non-threatening midwestern nerd.

And then I find out that he took Dan Savage's "Skipping Towards Gomorrah," a book about the seven deadly sins that's funny because it's written by a gay (har!) man, and re-wrote it from the perspective of a straight man trying to research these sins with his wife in tow.

It doesn't really do much for me, which I bet is more or less what his wife said when he took her to a swing
Jul 13, 2008 Amber rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, npr
Cute book. Peter Sagal is pretty funny- there are a few laugh-out-loud lines. Being a very conservative-seeming man (not in the political sense but in the lifestyle sense) he does not come off as too judgmental and he seems to easily admit when his preconceptions have been incorrect.

It is what it is. It isn't a ground breaking study or something trying to persuade anyone to follow a line of thinking- it is a guy investigating things that he has never done. It is not meant to be objective. It is
Dec 17, 2008 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a gift. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'd own it. In "The Book of Vice" Sagal looks at a handful of activities people simultaneously delight in and are ashamed of admitting to: gluttonly, gambling, pornography, etc. I was hoping the author would more closely scrutinize what motivates people to indulge in such behaviors. If he had, I suppose the book would be twice as long. Alas, we get but a cursory glimpse. On the whole, I enjoyed reading "Vice." I might have enjoyed it more were it not ...more
Nov 15, 2008 Isis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Superficial but enjoyable, well written, an easy read, although the footnotes are generally an irritating conceit. Less interesting when Sagal is just cracking jokes, more interesting when he probes beneath the surface and actually talks to, for example, casino card-counters and porn stars. Rather self-centric: his experience at the stratospherically expensive restaurant Alinea, his experience at a strip club. My favorite part: a step-by-step guide, based on the strategies of Holocaust deniers, ...more
Nov 08, 2008 Dave rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
How could a book about strippers, swingers, porn stars, and other libertines be so boring? Mostly because Peter Sagal (the guy who hosts NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me) insists on walking a weird line between prurience and puritanism: He clearly likes titillating readers with tales of taboo-breakers, but constantly has to remind us that he has a purely academic interest in such matters and that this stuff is not is bag, no sir! Too bad he couldn't make a better case for the thrills of nonparticip ...more
Jan 05, 2009 Seth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps the most disturbing end result of reading this book is a sort of horrified fascination when listening to Peter Sagal on "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!" -- some of his jokes have a bit more of an edge, now that I know more about what he's seen and knows. The first few chapters are standard "square visits the swingers" kind of stuff, but it gets really fascinating as he starts to explore less carnal vices and turns his sights on things like conspicuous consumption and lying.
Sep 18, 2009 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Book of Vice is a must-read for any fans of Peter Sagal; heck, any fans of Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!

This is not an expose or groundbreaking, but is instead a humorous account of various 'vices' found in America. Looking at these parties and clubs through the eyes of a middle-aged man with a gift for humor really perked up my train ride in the morning and evening. Only down side is that it was so short!
Absolutely does not live up to the premise, and the vices Sagal explores do not even fit the definition of vice he goes to some trouble to outline at the beginning. Sagal repeats anecdotes and observations and very occasionally strikes an off-puttingly prissy and judgmental tone. But still! Entertaining and made me laugh out loud a few times.
Oct 19, 2014 Crysta rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sagal methodically traces some of the the most common vices - lying, pornography, eating, gambling, etc - and explains why some people are drawn, and what pleasure they receive. I read this while in Vegas, which was the perfect setting for further musing.
Jun 13, 2009 scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable enough, but very light and certainly NOT very naughty. More like a stroll on the mild side. Perfect for NPR devotees heading to a weekend on the cape.
May 16, 2010 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fun, enjoyable to read. I didn't realize that porn actors don't get residuals for their "performances." I liked this book.
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“These were strange caricatures of human beings, weirdly inflated, their breasts enormous spheres, held in place by string bikinis with cups the size of fourteen-meter yacht spinnakers. Their legs were elongated too, their toes pointed straight downward into high-heeled shoes steeper than double black-diamond ski runs.” 4 likes
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