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)
I found the history very entertaining and to see how civilization and culture and food/drink is all intertwined is very interesting.
For breaking down most of history into 6 stages, the information was more detailed than I was expecting.
I had read other things about most of these beverages, though most of the spirit information was new to me.
This is a good book to listen to - as it gives an interesting history lesson using beverages as the yardstick. People can relate to all the beverages discussed.
Very good narrator.
Wanted to finish the book.
As a historian, I wasn't sure I would like this book. However, it was pretty good and I recommend it. Each beverage is a really useful vehicle to discuss the history of a particular era/culture. Standage did a good job of transitioning from one to another and letting us see the evolution of his concept. I like his vision of the next important "glass" (probably water). The book isn't long, and it is a worthy listen.
I love historical trivia connected to the present day life. This is purely informational, no story lines or characters, like a very interesting chapter in a history book. Caveat: I am a lover of all 6 glasses discussed, so each one i found interesting. I read this book glass by glass, listening to one chapter between other books i was reading. And, with a glass (or 2 or 3) of the highlighted beverage to toast the chapter. Would make a nice gift.
This was a great history lesson based on what the drink of the time was and how it impacted decisions and politics. Dating back to wine in rome to rum in American, tea in England and coffee house decisions. It really was fascinating to listen to, but I love history
Each "glass" was it's own story and equally as memorable
Yes, the making of beer when America was first settled and they wanted more then just water to drink. Also the market for Rum and England trying to control the import of key ingredients and America getting around that rule.
Symposiums and Their Origin
Good book and narrator. I'm not sure if it because I read a lot but I knew a great deal of this already and I read nonfiction to learn new things. Still, it was a pleasurable read.
I enjoyed this book, focused on beverages (coffee, tea, beer, etc.) and world history. A pleasant listen while learning a new thing or two is always fun.
This is the kind of styles I like: good pace, cerebral, well-documented, meaty, mind-bending.
A rather illuminating perspective on modern history, the book builds an interesting theory that the big ages of humanity were coincidental with changes in the most popular drinks. The book is non-committal, however, as to whether the new availability of the drink was a significant factor in the end of an era, or if it is the new era that caused the greater popularity of the new drink. Nevertheless, it makes it very clear that the new era and the new drink did reinforce each other.
Paradoxically, my main reservation on the book is that the general topic is a bit dry. Like a coffee table book, the material is interesting but it is difficult to get interested about short snippets about the drink or its context with few characters or grand historical events. Another missed opportunity is that the book does not really follow-up on old drinks, through the ages, when their main era ends. I wish I would know more about the slow decline of a drink or if that decline is permanent, specially given the importance of beer, wine, etc. in modern America.
Yet, this is a very real treasure trove of historical about just about everyone's favorite drink.
The first 2 parts on beer and wine are very informative and entertaining. The part on coffee and tea have also provided valuable insight on the development of modern industrial society. Very light, enjoyable and thought-provoking.
Very interesting concept, well researched and written.
The detail of the subject matter; it was concise yet thorough.
No, but he certainly reads well and I would be pleased to hear him read again.
I found the history of beer to be particularly engaging, as I had no idea it was one of the earliest beverages ever made.
Highly recommended to any history buffs.
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