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)
Of my Nonfiction downloads, this is one of my favorites!
I learned a lot and enjoyed it at the same time....already listened to it twice and recommended it to friends.
I would try another book by Tom, but not narrated by Sean. Sean's delivery is very monotone and dry.
I love all of these beverages, so hearing the history of them and how they affected our world was a pleasure!
I am not as familiar with the variety of narrators, but the delivery was very monotone and dry. This topic should be sparked with enthusiasm, so any narrator with a bit more passion in his/her voice would have been better. Still worth the listen.
can't see this book as a movie at all
I have been talking to all my friends about this book every since I read it. Fascinating concept and one that really provides a great review of world history as well as some astounding trivia about the beverages you find yourself drinking regularly. Makes for great party conversation!
You should enjoy history books, but even if you don't, this is a very interesting book that is both compelling and informative.This story was well reviewed, but even then it was a well crafted "history" book that brings the context of various beverages into highly interesting context. I guess that it would be all too easy for the author to claim that all of the world is ruled by what they drink. But care is taken not to go over the top on that claim.
I think that the construction of the story is very much like a novel. Three alcoholic beverages followed by three caffeine containing beverages was interesting. The volume of alcohol routinely consumed by early man - probably a life saver from a public health perspective given early sanitary conditions - was staggering and revealing. Was the age of enlightenment and industrial revolution fueled by caffeine? Some of the historical speculation is just fascinating.
There are no real "characters" in this book. It is a book of facts well woven into an interesting theme.
Not really an applicable question for this book. It is a solid "story" from start to finish.
This book has lead me on a further journey of discovery. Have just finished Salt which is a look at the influence of salt on the development of nations.
"Salt", because it looks at the influence of salt on historical trends and events. Am also looking at Fermenting Revolution which is the story of beer from an historic angl
I really enjoyed this audiobook. It starts with a quote that says something along the lines of there are no true histories of the human race, only various histories of human activity. This book puts forward an amazing history of the human race through the lens of our beverages. I have been dropping these facts on my wife for three weeks. She's been kind of astounded by the change in worldview that this book is brought about in me. I've been delighted by the stories, which are fast-paced and informative. Just the right balance of information and example..
The role of beer in establishing the first settlements of mankind. I know it's a little speculative, but it made tons of sense and was really awesome to think about.
The pacing is really excellent. I never once thought that I'm listening to an audiobook, more that I'm listening to a story.
I was really shocked at the description of the early coffee houses in England and how much that contributed to the rise of the Enlightenment. I mean, this is like our entire worldview came from this one social experience, which had at its core the imbibement of a slightly stimulating drink. We are amazing creatures.
A great listen! If you like history and science and social theory, this book is gonna be awesome for you.
I enjoyed this "guided tour" through history. Only six beverages and I have a better understanding about the differences and the similarities between world cultures. Enjoyed listening to Sean Runnette. What must have been a jigsaw puzzle for the author was enlightening - painless learning one might say!
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!
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