My Book

The Book of Vice

By Peter Sagal

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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 strip clubs to gambling halls to swingers clubs to porn sets – and then back to the strip clubs, but only because he left his glasses there – Sagal explores exactly what the sinful folk do, how much they pay for the privilege, and exactly how they got those funny red marks. He hosts a dinner for three of the smartest porn stars in the world, asks the floor manager at the oldest casino in Vegas how to beat the house, and indulges in molecular cuisine at the finest restaurant in the country. Meet liars and rich people who don’t think consumption is a disease, encounter the most spectacular view ever seen from a urinal, and say hello to Nina Hartley, the only porn star who can discuss Nietzsche while strangers smack her butt.

With a sharp wit, a remarkable eye for detail, and the carefree insouciance that can only come from not having any idea what he’s getting into, Sagal proves to be the perfect guide to sinful behavior. What happens in Vegas – and in less glamorous places – is all laid out in these pages, a modern version of Dante’s Inferno, except with more jokes.

Read an excerpt from The Book of Vice

Read a Q & A with Peter Sagal about researching The Book of Vice


“NPR host Sagal (Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me) offers a hilarious, harmlessly prurient look at the banality of regular people’s strange and wicked pleasures. In the wake of the late-1990s obsession with other people’s fun, notes Sagal, the hoi polloi have pursued their own indulgences, such as sex joints, swinging couples’ clubs, gambling and pornography. He describes the three necessary elements of vice that distinguish it from sin and give it that irresistible frisson: social disapprobation, actual pleasure and shame.

“A buttoned-up journalist and family man, Sagal visits the respective dens of inequity, interviewing the principals in the name of research while preserving his academic irony, e.g., during the shooting of a hardcore porn sequence for Spice TV, he remarks of the actors: ‘I began to appreciate how very well Evan and Kelly did their work.’ Indeed, the dedicated hedonists, such as the regular joe habitus of San Francisco’s Power Exchange or the normal-seeming couples who frequent the Swinger’s Shack, face ‘the same problems of meeting supplies, logistics, expense versus income, and time management as does any warehouse foreman.’

“Sagal is a terrific, lively writer, and while some of his segments are repetitive and stretched, he is admirable in humanizing the participants.”

Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)