It seemed a bit of an odd premise, to describe the World's history in terms of 6 drinks, but it worked a treat. Starting with beer, the author progresses through wine, spirits, coffee tea and coke and weaves it skillfully into the history of civilisation.
I learnt a lot. (e.g. I was surprised that beer arose so early in our history) and I was also entertained by countless anecdotes about these beverages: How the British navy was stronger and fitter than its rivals because of the serendipitous use of lime juice to flavour and preserve rum (thus preventing scurvey); how coffee houses in London evolved into institutions such as the Stock Exchange and Lloyds of London; how coke was manufactured in a transparent form and packaged like vodka in the soviet era to be acceptable to the Russian communists.
The narrator was pretty good, although he had the annoying habit of rushing the chapter titles so you didn't realise when a new one had begun. Aside from this, the book was one of my most 'listenable' downloads.
If you ever viewed the world through the bottom of a glass you know the field of vision is a bit limited, much like trying to understand all of human history through its beverages, yet there is no question in my mind that Tom Standage presents a very valid perspective on how humanity's thirst has shaped it's politics and its economy.
The book is chock full of interesting historical detail and draws intriguing comparisons and conclusions. Its a fast read (listen) and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in drink or history.
Some basics trivia about what you imbibe can't hurt especially when you can get for free some insight into how these drinks have influenced or have come to reflect society during certain crusial periods of time.
There could perhaps been some more technical detail for some of the drinks, as I'm particularly into fizzy drinks myself, I would have loved a chapter on bubbles in anything from beer, champagne or softdrinks/carbonated drinks. Lots of lovely physics to be explained there ;-)
I was surprised that I enjoyed this book so much. I bought it on sale, and I saw many great reviews, but I figured those were the history buffs out there that read encyclopedias as children, likely. :0) But it was very inexpensive, so I bought it and listened. Wow. Very interesting and very quick-moving, I loved hearing history I knew told from the perspective of the most popular drink of the day/region. My 11 year old heard me talking to my husband about it and snagged the book on his iPod. He really liked it as well, listening to it over the weekend. Very good book.
This books gives an excellent explanation of how beverages we all consume became important parts of our lives.
Interesting perspective on the development of civilization. I was thoroughly intrigued with the knowledge and writing style of the author. The author makes history come alive by teleporting the listener back to the times when what was drank was limited and reveals the effects of the dominant beverages of the times.
sorry I guess that's more than 3 words but I refuse to be put in the box by the audible man
This book is very similar to Botany of Desire and The Fruit Hunters by depicting the interaction of human beings with their food choices and what causes us to eat and drink what we do.
it was very informative - got a little dry in spots but over all quite good
I love history and this book made me view world events in a totally different light. The scholarship is solid with the numbers to back up the statements.
The material was interesting enough to keep you engaged while listening. The way the author outlined each section made it very enjoyable to listen to and the narrator spoke in a way that was informative but entertaining.
I would compare this book to the Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan because of it's format. Both books take consumption items that are culturally relevant and tell the historical tale of each in a unique and thought provoking way.
Everyday drinks that shaped the outcome of the human race.
I debated how to review this, but I'll put it this way: The book was exactly what I expected it would be, and I was very glad I listened. The author laid out his history and arguments compellingly and never, in my mind, overstated his claims. Every time I felt the author was telling me that one drink or another had changed the whole world, he gently stepped back and pointed out that this drink wasn't the only factor involved and that it fit into a larger picture. As a result, I never felt disbelieving or pulled out of the history.
The narrator was very competent and pleasant to listen to, clearly understandable at 2x listening speed.
I've already shared quite a lot from this book with my wife, and would recommend it as a casual and enjoyable listen to anyone.