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)
A fascinating review of several historical trends and how they were shaped by commodities we largely take for granted today. Highly recommended for food and beverage lovers.
This was a curious book about how our choice of drink through the ages has evolved and may have impacted our overall civilization development. It makes for great party conversations!
I love the story of different topics under an interesting umbrella. The history of the world wrapped around what people drank is fascinating.
There is a wonderful book about French food based on the fat used in that cuisine.
Really I can't identify what his tongue was doing. Sure sounded like dentures, but he looks young. Irritating listening to an interesting topic with whistles.
Not yet. All interesting.
Why is this book good? Because it caused me to memorize parts, share them with others, and reflect upon what I learned.
It's history in a bottle! Or, cask/cup/stein.
This book could have been almost twice as long and still a good read. The only part that got long to me was the greek/roman culture and wine portion--but the wine portion was my least favorite, anyways.
This book was so good, that it has caused me to read several other books written along similar lines.
The narrator was a bit slow and not quite as inflective as I like, but I got used to him quickly and was no problem.
Excellent book packed full of fascinating statistics and little nuggets of information. The one slight criticism is that I don't believe that Coca Cola really qualifies as a drink that has changed history. Rather, it owes its spread and success to the spread of US influence. Even so, the book is well worth the read.
Yes. I love trivia as well as history. This book delivers on the history of six different beverages. Tea, beer, coffee, coke etc. my favorite was where did beer originate. Coffee too. I think many will be surprised with some of the information in this book.
Listened to it on my way to North Carolina
My reading and listening tastes are eclectic.
With the interesting premise that what people are drinking has a major influence on world history, the author makes a good case that it is true. I learned a some stuff I didn't know, got a whole new (and radically different) insight into some of the world's history turning points, and realized that like the book about the history of salt and its influence on historic events state, history does not happen in a vacuum. It is an entertaining and informative listen that is well read by Mr. Runnette. I look forward to more texts by Mr. Standage.
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!
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