A Pint of Plain, By Bill Barich

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What an enviable idea for a travel book: an extended pub-crawl around Ireland, in search of the perfect pint in the perfect pub.

Bill Barich is an American expat living in Dublin and in love with all things Irish, and as well as being a disquisition on Irish pubs, Irish whiskey and Irish stout, his book takes in Irish history, Irish music and Irish literature. (The title is a reference to Flann O'Brien's immortal verse, "A pint of plain is your only man".)

It's full of curious facts: for instance, that Ireland is only the world's third largest consumer of Guinness (after Britain and Nigeria); or that "craic" is a journalistic faux-Celtic spelling, replacing the original "crack" to avoid confusion with crack cocaine; or that Joyce's friend Oliver St John Gogarty, the model for stately, plump Buck Mulligan, was the first man in Ireland to purchase a Rolls-Royce.

A Pint of Plain is an amiable, meandering read, slow in places but always good-humoured and occasionally amusing – a bit like a long, lazy afternoon in a pub. If you like Bill Bryson, you'll like Bill Barich.

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