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Drinking: A Love Story
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Drinking: A Love Story

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  17,313 ratings  ·  1,115 reviews
The roots of alcoholism in the life of a brilliant daughter of an upper-class family are explored in this stylistic, literary memoir of drinking by a Massachusetts journalist.

Caroline Knapp describes how the distorted world of her well-to-do parents pushed her toward anorexia and alcoholism. Fittingly, it was literature that saved her: she found inspiration in Pete Hamill
Paperback, 286 pages
Published May 12th 1997 by Dial Press (first published May 2nd 1996)
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Barbara It gives you a good understanding of being an alcoholic, whether that says anything about yourself only you will know. She does a really good job of d…moreIt gives you a good understanding of being an alcoholic, whether that says anything about yourself only you will know. She does a really good job of describing what it's like after you quit drinking too, the difficulties you still face. If I were an alcoholic I think I would find it helpful. I read a lot of addiction memoirs and they tend to end when it gets to the daily grind of maintaining sobriety but she delves a little bit deeper.
It is pretty alcohol-specific, most addictions have the same m.o. so the ending could help but the majority of the book is about the unique issues with alcohol. (less)
Leah I think Caroline's book is one of the few that does NOT glamorize her struggle. As I said in my review... I think many memoirists now can't help but t…moreI think Caroline's book is one of the few that does NOT glamorize her struggle. As I said in my review... I think many memoirists now can't help but think about books like "Eat Pray Love", movie options, and Oprah's Book Club. When Caroline wrote this it was a different time and you can tell through her writing that this is really about sharing a story that needed to be let out. The world lost Caroline to lung cancer very young and in her best friend's novel about their friendship she is perhaps most proud that through even the darkest last days she maintained her sobriety. (less)

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Average rating 4.07  · 
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Jul 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to avoid this, to simply rate this touching book and be done with it. I wanted to just ignore my compulsion toward emotionally disemboweling myself on the internet. And I've never really been one to write an autobiographical book review, but ... here we are, or here I am. Here I am, in my claustrophobic room; books scattered about, the television set on the main menu of Oshima Nagisa's Three Resurrected Drunkards (the irony there is very much unintentional), dim lamp light, Beethoven so ...more
Ade Bailey
Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I just pulled my previous review after discovering the author died at the age of 42 from lung cancer. I'd been wanting to find out how she was getting on after ceasing drinking in 1995. She did maintain sobriety from what I know and continued a successful career until her untimely death in 2002.

It is a very well written book, by a skilled journalist, and charts her slow and painful descent into alcohol dependence. As a very insightful account of her relationship with her father it is outstandin
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs, addictions
I have an addiction to addiction memoirs, especially if the person is in recovery and is in a reflective mood. After all, who doesn't love a good redemption story?

Caroline Knapp's memoir of her alcoholism is one of the best addiction memoirs I've ever read. She described herself as a "high-functioning alcoholic," which meant she was mostly able to balance her journalism career with her excessive drinking. I read this in 2000, but the writing was so good that I still remember several scenes from
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My mother understood that drinking was more dangerous [than smoking] and she understood why: smoking could ruin my body; drinking could ruin my mind and my future. It could eat its way through my life in exactly the same way a physical cancer eats its way through bones and blood and tissue, destroying everything.

Beneath my own witty, professional façade were oceans of fear, whole rivers of self-doubt. I once heard alcoholism described in an AA meeting, with eminent simplicity, as “fear
Juan Valdivia
Mar 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
I seriously considered putting this book down around the 144 page mark—which I rarely ever do—but I managed to get through it.

Okay, first of all, I have much respect for what Knapp put down for this book. I know from experience that it's not fun to write about such difficult personal moments for others to read. Revisiting and reliving those memories is a difficult task of its own. That said, I found the book frustrating, at times agonizing to read, once I got to the halfway point of the memoir.
Sep 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Inside Information
This book is so well written, and is so honest and informative, it is perhaps the most compelling (and useful) story about addiction I've ever read. Caroline Knapp, an Ivy-League educated columnist and editor, shares the story of her slide into alcoholism and her road to recovery with brutal honesty. Her down-to-earth, conversational tone pulls you in, and paints a very credible picture of someone who goes beyond the singular, self-serving notion of merely writing a memoir. Rec
Oct 19, 2007 rated it it was ok
Almost done. Picked this up in my supervisor's office to read when i don't have any calls to make or meetings to run. It had some okay parts, but on the whole Knapp's broad generalizations about alcoholics "Alcoholics do this, alcoholics do that, we do this, blah blah blah" got really irritating. So she was/is an alcoholic--that means she can speak from her own experience, but not from EVERY alcoholic's. Plus her writing was just so... trendy. ...more
Apr 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
I thought this was well done. The book addresses one's relationship with alcohol and the difference between not being able to quit and not wanting to. I think the title is excellent.
Sadly the author's personality led her to various addictions including anorexia and smoking. This supports recent studies noting that many people who have undergone gastric bypass surgery later struggle with alcohol and other addictions, often leading to depression.
Knapp died too young, from lung cancer secondary
3.5 stars

Caroline Knapp's Appetites stole my heart earlier this summer; if I could I would quote every single page of that book. Drinking, Knapp's earlier memoir, has a similar strength in its empowering vulnerability regarding Knapp's alcoholism. While this book lacks some of the insights within Appetites, it gives a searing look into the life of a former high-functioning alcoholic.

Of course, there is no simple answer. Trying to describe the process of becoming an alcoholic is like trying to de
Leo Robertson
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Compelling memoir which paints a perhaps counterintuitive picture of what alcoholism looks like. It's pretty depressing.

Sarah Hepola's Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget is also pretty good :)
Oct 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, 2016
Possibly the best book about alcoholism that I've ever read. Caroline Knapp drank for 20 years. She chronicles how and why she started. Her writing is clear, raw and personal. This explains the fear that alcoholics deal with, and helped me understand the alcoholic mindset. The writing was really good and there were tons of facts in here that helped me learn things like-

1. An alcoholic's life generally has a major negative impact on the lives of at least 4 other people
2. 11 % of the US population
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
In vino veritas the saying goes. Being a wine drinker for years, I can agree and disagree with the common saying. When one drinks to excess, we certainly get very free with our feelings and emotions. I can also disagree with the saying as I didn’t always remember what I said at a certain point.

Ms. Knapp’s book was certainly a rude awakening for me. So many of her stories were simply me. Where will I get that next glass of wine, if I went out to dinner I would have wine before and after the meal
Sonja Arlow
“Anyone who's ever shifted from general affection and enthusiasm for a lover to outright obsession knows what I mean: the relationship is just there occupying a small corner of your heart, and then you wake up one morning and some indefinable tide has turned forever and you can't go back. You need it; it's a central part of who you are.”

Alcoholism happens to the privileged, to the rich, to the very successful. It is not a picky lover.

This very touching memoir describes in painful detail the hig
Sep 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
If you're from another planet, just a visitor who's never been to Earth before, this book might be interesting to you.

If you're a teetotaler who has never had a drink in your life, and you've also lived all alone in a cabin in the woods for your entire existence, this book might be informative and enthralling to you.

But if you've ever watched a movie or read a book or imbibed alcohol or met someone who has imbibed alcohol, this book is one big DUH.

You mean to tell me that alcohol makes people le
Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
As a child of two alcoholic parents, I wanted to read this book to gain a better understanding of what drives people to have such a love affair with alcohol. This book was a brutally honest memoir but I will admit it was difficult for me to actually read it.
Jenn Sadai
Jul 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well-written, informative and emotional story about one women's struggle with alcoholism. ...more
David Groves
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I had the good fortune of reading, before "Drinking," the two contemporary classics of memoir, "Lit" and "Liars Club," both by Mary Karr and both about the subject upon which Caroline Knapp essays. It is interesting to compare them, because they take very different tacks to the same subject.

Knapp is an excellent prose stylist. Her sentences pull you along and keep you glued to the page. There are virtually no stylistic mistakes or even awkwardnesses. This is not a first draft or even a fifth dra
Gerry Pirani
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous on many levels, this book will take you on the nightmarish journey resulting from alcoholism. Articulate, brilliant, talented Knapp brings you through the bowels of hell and back with her as she struggles to overcome the addiction. Powerful writing detailing the pain of this path. A must read for anyone inflicted with alcoholism and for anyone still trying to figure out who's in charge - the alcohol or you. ...more
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
This practically ancient bestseller (1996) might seem like a strange choice for a committed teetotaler like myself. But over the years, and especially lately, I have noticed and been intrigued by this category of sobriety memoir and/or addiction memoir. I know and love at least one alcoholic myself and certainly know plenty of heavy drinkers. And although i fall into neither of these categories, I have some genetic predisposition to addictive or compulsive behavior which I see in my life sometim ...more
Lucy Kate
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Hands down the best book I've read in 2020. Knapp's tight and eloquent prose made an addiction that is foreign to me remarkably relatable. ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: addiction, memoirs
A bit of background: I first ‘met’ Caroline Knapp through Let’s Take the Long Way Home, a memoir by her best friend, Gail Caldwell*. They met via puppy ownership in Cambridge, Massachusetts and connected because they were both single, childless, full-time authors with a history of alcoholism. Ironically, the cigarettes that Knapp had smoked all along and relied on even more heavily to help her kick the alcohol habit would kill her: in 2002 she was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, an inoperab ...more
Ellie Midwood
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, favorites
I rarely come across books like this one, which I instantly fall in love with and which are destined to be re-read in the future. “Drinking” was one of such books. It’s a brutally honest memoir of a successful columnist/writer who has one little secret: she’s a functioning alcoholic. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, functioning alcoholics are the ones who lead double lives and masterfully hide their problem from the outside world much like the protagonist of this story did: during the ...more
Jul 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
I'm deep into a self help/memoir kick and I'm not the least bit sorry. I've been thinking more about my own drinking lately and what it means and I've always tended to read/research a problem to death. This book was lovely and introspective but also somewhat dated at this point. I found much more to identify with in Blackout (parts of this were just completely foreign to me). It's still a valuable story and a compelling read. ...more
Ted Haussman
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing

This book was fantastic. Best addiction genre autobiography I have read. Knapp wrote with such perception and insight about her disease and how she fought the demon until she surrendered. What I found so sad is that while she got sober and seemed to find serenity, an outgrowth of her addiction ultimately killed her. She was a heavy smoker until she contracted lung cancer and died at 42.
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the most powerful book I have read about alcoholism. It is down-to-earth and poignant. I not only felt I got to know the author, but I grew to understand myself and my own history with alcohol, which assisted in positive changes in my life. I was sad to read later than Caroline Knapp died at only 42 years of age. I would have liked to thank her.
Dec 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
I started with "Take the long way home" and now I'm driven to read the other books written by Knapp/Caldwell to fill in the blanks. I wasn't surprised at how much I learned about alcoholism, but I was at how my empathy I now have for those struggling with it. ...more
Jennifer S. Brown
Never had a read a memoir that is both so difficult to read and so page-turning. Knapp's journey to sobriety is heart-wrenching and she so completely brings us with her into the world of addiction (without glamorizing it in the least--in fact she quite successfully makes it completely repelling). I've had loved ones in my life who have been alcoholics, and I wish I'd read this book years ago, to gain a better understanding of what they went through. I never understood before. And while I can nev ...more
Lisa Fluet
Sep 10, 2007 rated it liked it
very good stairmaster'll spend half the time being annoyed with this pretentious chick, and half the time wanting a glass of wine/beer/tequila shot. Not that drinking isn't a complicated love story for all of us--but she seems to think her love story with the bottle is on a heathcliff/catherine earnshaw level. Whereas the rest of us are at, apparently, more of a harlequin novel level.

ok--as I've spent more time on the stairmaster with this chick--and on the subway (since she's als
Sep 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
moving, sad, and gossipy. being a contemporary of hers living in the same city, it was inevitable that sightings came up with her dog at fresh pond.. she looked wan, and kind. She talks in the book about being smashed at lunch, but being able to function. I once met someone who worked with her, who said, actually, on those days she came back from lunch impaired, she couldn't do a thing, and everyone just let her be. very helpful metaphors throughout "i deserve this now" .. good to pair with Pete ...more
May 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
So far, my favorite quote is, from the first chapter:

"Trying to describe the process of becoming an alcoholic is like trying to describe air. It's too big and mysterious and pervasive to be defined. Alcohol is everywhere in your life, omnipresent, and you're both aware and unaware of it almost all the time, all you know is you'd die without it, and there is no simple reason why this happens, no single moment, no physiological event that pushes a heavy drinker across a concrete line into alcoholi
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2017 Reading Chal...: Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp 1 24 Mar 23, 2015 07:07PM  

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Caroline Knapp was an American writer and columnist whose candid best-selling memoir Drinking: A Love Story recounted her 20-year battle with alcoholism.

From 1988-95, she was a columnist for the Boston Phoenix, where her column "Out There" often featured the fictional "Alice K." In 1994, those columns were collected in her first book, Alice K's Guide to Life: One Woman's Quest for Survival, Sanity

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