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By Rosie Schaap. Riverhead, $27.
As the “Drink” columnist for The New York Times Magazine, Schaap burnished her credentials as both a drinker and a writer, so it follows that her first book would stick to what she knows best. For her new collection of autobiographical essays, she muses about the sundry pleasures of alcohol and company, male and otherwise.
Schaap begins her story as a free-spirited 15-year-old on a train trip from her home in Conneticut. Advancing to the bar car on Metro-North, she discovers her lace among the regulars. From that point, the story unfolds chronologically, starting in California and going through Ireland and Vermont to, ultimately, New York City. As something of a nomad, Schaap maps her life with those drinking establishments that made her adopted homes feel more welcoming.
She relates her tales with ingratiating breeziness and the authority of a seasoned veteran. Still, there’s a sense of melancholy throughout. In nearly every case, the saloon she embraces ends up closing, its denizens thrown to the winds, suggesting the ephemeral nature of loving such spots in the first place. This may disappoint those readers wishing to visit Schaap’s beloved locals, but on balance, Drinking with Men serves as a heartfelt testament to the community and bonhomie that can be found at any neighborhood watering hole.