The precursor to his equally excellent book on hunger through the ages, An Edible History of Humanity, Tom Standage here charts the developmental course of beverages and their significance for human progress. Standage is really a journalist and a technologist, so A History of the World in Six Glasses is not your average history book. The author is clearly well-researched, but it’s his parlaying of the facts into a cohesive evolutionary narrative that keeps things interesting. Liquid refreshment is an essential part of our existence, and Standage doesn’t simply map out the parallel developments of drink and civilization, but more excitingly, builds a strong case for how each drink has made foundational contributions to its era.
Earphones Award winner and Audie Award-winning producer Sean Runnette does a terrific job of letting beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola speak for themselves. Standage has set forth a tone that is highly interested, but not pedantic or overly exclamatory. Runnette knows just what it takes to fade away into the background, neither bombastically lecturing to the listener nor merely monotonously reading Standage’s text. Every pause is justified and every consonant is crisp. This is nothing less than expected from Runnette, who has been in the audiobook business for more than a decade and is the son of Grammy Award-winning producer John Runnette. As the beverage cultures advance, Runnette increasingly recedes, leaving the text to shine on its own surprising merits.
No matter what your choice of drink, hearing more about its influence on the world is actually quite engrossing. Of particular interest is the appendix at the end, where you can learn about exactly which modern beers most closely resemble the ale of yore, which ancient blends of tea are still available today, and so on. Standage also gives us a taste of the future and comes full circle by speculating on the new millennial prospects for water, that most basic of all beverages. An underrated gem of scholarship, A History of the World in Six Glasses is completely worth the listen for all the fascinating tidbits you will soak up and then deliver the next time you’re pouring a glass of wine at a dinner party, or meeting someone for coffee. Megan Volpert
Throughout human history, certain drinks have done much more than just quench thirst. As Tom Standage relates with authority and charm, six of them have had a surprisingly pervasive influence on the course of history, becoming the defining drink during a pivotal historical period.
A History of the World in 6 Glasses tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the 21st century through the lens of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. Beer was first made in the Fertile Crescent and by 3000 B.C.E. was so important to Mesopotamia and Egypt that it was used to pay wages. In ancient Greece, wine became the main export of her vast seaborne trade, helping spread Greek culture abroad. Spirits such as brandy and rum fueled the Age of Exploration, fortifying seamen on long voyages and oiling the pernicious slave trade. Although coffee originated in the Arab world, it stoked revolutionary thought in Europe during the Age of Reason, when coffeehouses became centers of intellectual exchange. And hundreds of years after the Chinese began drinking tea, it became especially popular in Britain, with far-reaching effects on British foreign policy. Finally, though carbonated drinks were invented in 18th-century Europe, they became a 20th-century phenomenon, and Coca-Cola in particular is the leading symbol of globalization.
For Tom Standage, each drink is a different kind of technology, a catalyst for advancing culture by which he demonstrates the intricate interplay of different civilizations. You may never look at your favorite beverage the same way again.
©2005 Tom Standage (P)2011 Tantor
"Standage starts with a bold hypothesis - that each epoch, from the Stone Age to the present, has had its signature beverage - and takes readers on an extraordinary trip through world history." (Publishers Weekly)
Interesting historical perspective
"Beer" was certainly the best character of the 6.
The realization that much of humanity may have been steered based on the ability for people to get drunk.
Great look into how drinking of all kinds likely had a major part in defining humanity and progressing as a species.
My husband and I enjoyed learning about the roles various beverages had in shaping history. We had never thought about how various drinks came into being or how they or the plants from which they were derived became sources of power for different countries and led to laws, struggles, and even wars. It gave us a new understanding of the history of the world and an appreciation for the things we drink. I'll never look at tea the same after realizing that, in bygone eras, society's elite might have been unwittingly sipping animal excrement in addition to tea leaves!
His narration is great. You must trust the reviewers feedback on this.
It made me wonder how drinks are tied to the development of mankind. Sources of joy and at the same time pain. We learn the importance of healthy drinks in lives of ancient people and how it determined world geopolitics towards current times. Amazing is that the author begins and ends with the most crucial of all drinks: water! Meaning he has all the material put together in a logical and well-thought manner.
This is a great read (or listen) for the an entry level history enthusiast. It provides an integrated macro view (rather than detailing on micro issues) of human development. Its depth and breadth is suitable for a quick cover up of most important historical highlights and after it you'll not look dumb when your archeologist friends rock on the argot.
Fun and informative, such an interesting way to view history. I felt so much more connected to our history since I've experienced the main drinks discussed. I listened to the book over a few days and each time I was enjoying one of the drinks discussed I kept thinking about how much has happened with this drink in hand.
I think the overall arc of the story is what is most memorable more so than a specific element. The organic and connected nature of each of these drinks and how each one aided the human spirit and how they impacted history.
I wasn't a fan of the narrator, there's nothing in particular I could pinpoint as to what I disliked. I just kept thinking that this wasn't the right person to read this book. Maybe he sounded to young... I think I would have preferred hearing someone older read 'A History of the World in 6 Glasses'.
No, but I rarely listen to a book in one sitting.
The narrator was definitely skilled and added to the audio experience, although I didn't read the print version so I don't have much to compare to.
I would recommend it, especially for intellectual types and drinkers who never really put much thought into cultural reasons and norms behind reaching for a beer, wine, tea, cola, etc. For people who enjoy learning and questioning the world around them, this will certainly be an easy read. Otherwise, it might start to get dry and read like a textbook if you're expecting an entertaining thrill-ride - if you're not 100% invested in the reading while you have your headphones in, it's easy to zone out and miss entire portions of the book.
Mr. Runnette does an excellent job reading and relaying the history of the drinks in the book - like having a skilled history teacher who genuinely sounds interested in the material, it helps listeners get drawn in too. Although sometimes, not even a skilled reader can make otherwise dense or dry material seem anything else. That is a rarity though for this book.
No real extreme reactions, just a lot of interesting facts and tidbits to share with friends and bring out at cocktail parties.
I do not have the print version so I cannot honestly answer this question. I chose this title to listen to while flying and enjoyed it.
I have not read the book so cannot comment
There were so many different facts about the way that beverages had been consumed,made and enjoyed over the decades, centuries, and millennia. There were a lot of social/historical aspects of the drinks also that were fascinating. It gave me a new perspective on consuming beverages of all types and a much more thorough history that is behind each beverage
I felt the audio book was quite entertaining and it was fun to listen to.
I personally enjoyed this book tremendously. It had so many different fascinating aspects of the beverages that most of us consume in one form or another. It also pointed out a lot of the social aspects that were associated with each beverage and from now on it will be hard for me to consume any beverage without thinking about where it has come from and the history behind it.
Again a really fun audio to listen to
Going through the ages with a drink in your hand (or head) is a fun way to go through history.
the last two parts are a bit too long and detailed, making them a bit of a bore. but all in all a fun read!
Highly recommended. Very interesting and informative. The historical significance of these drinks was a big surprise. Well worth the credit.
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