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)
The book's content itself is interesting. However, the audio delivery reminds me of a college class I took on Copernicus and his persecutions and the college prof presenting the course. I still wake up screaming.
Teeth grindingly flat presentation
The book is truly fascinating. Lot's of great facts about history, great storytelling and narration. Couldn't recommend more.
During the first hour or so, I was wondering if I had made a poor choice by getting this book, but once we got beyond the first "glass" and into the second, it got much more interesting. From that point on, the details, connections, and side notes make this a fascinating story to follow. I learned a lot of trivia about how different drinks became popular and influenced social development and history in the process.
This is not a "stretch" to force history to fit the author's title. He does not overstep the influence that each drink has or has not had. It is just another fascinating way to look at the trends of history from a new angle.
It is well told and well worth the listen!
A History of the World in 6 Glasses
2.5 stars The loosey goosey logical leaps and lunges made me drop a star.
With a limited respect, or really even a nod towards logic Tom Standage takes one on a fun romp through history utilizing broad generalizations and sweeping rationalization to make points about how the various drinks mankind has preferred have effected human history.
Beer, wine, coke, tea, coffee and water.
Some historical points are well made, i.e. the addition of lemon to the mixture grog for English sailors did make them healthier than their wine swilling French counterparts, as they were not riddled with scurvy (probably syphilis, the clap and other things, but not scurvy)
It was entertaining, not particularly serious. Let us say a peek at history via a very narrow tunnel.
Excellent research into why the drinks came and went, and I now have random interesting facts about the different drinks
I bet not many people know the history of drinks they have every day. The book is well structured with many fascinating and little known facts about most popular beverages. I you listen to a small random segment, you wouldn't know it is about beer/wine/etc. In short, the content is very interesting for those who like trivia, history and such. I couldn't believe how much the history of drinks was intertwined with general history.
Now about performance - there wasn't any. Just reading. I couldn't help thinking that the narrator ran a marathon after a few days of sleep deprivation before turning up to the recording studio. Eventually I got used to the monotonous and sleepy narration, but the book suffered from the "performance".
An enjoyable journey through many countries with all the facts that you never knew about the various liquids we embrace and enjoy today. Very well researched and written with sound knowledge. It was a guided tour of how they were discovered and why the production became so important. I will take this enjoyable journey several times more with the fine Narrative of Sean Runnette. Fascinating read from beginning to the very end. I thank Tom Standage for this fine book. A must read...
The liquid journey through the centuries and all it's changes.
Amazing info on Water
Simply a great enjoyable book.
Yes, it provides insights into the sweep of history that I never managed to absorb in high school history class, while at the same time providing interesting history and trivia on the beverages themselves.
Beer, but then I am biased. On the other hand, I found the section on beer to be one of the least compelling personally, but I believe this is primarily because I already knew much of the information provided on beer, while I'm a relative novice on the other five beverages.
The narration was decent but nothing to write home about. The strength of the audio format was in helping to wade through the initial pages. The book starts out fairly dry, and I would have had a harder time continuing had I been reading rather than being read to.
Not really, but it was enjoyable in chunks.
I you like history and beverages, this is a slam dunk. If you like one or the other, probably still worth giving this one a go.
Once I stopped expecting a history of the beverage and realized that the author was summarizing aspects of world history as affected by the beverage I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed the later material more so I think it helps to have a background understanding of the history to proivde context. A fun book.
Learning how society and drink flow together.
learning the different aspects of beer, wine, whiskey, brandy, and soda pop!
Sean used his voice very well to accent interesting facts about each of the six glasses.
This book made me go (wow, really, that is cool) I enjoyed all of this book.
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