Caffeine

How Caffeine Created the Modern World
Narrated by: Michael Pollan
Length: 2 hrs and 2 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (9,508 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Michael Pollan, known for his best-selling nonfiction audio, including The Omnivores Dilemma and How to Change Your Mind, conceived and wrote Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World as an Audible Original. In this controversial and exciting listen, Pollan explores caffeine’s power as the most-used drug in the world - and the only one we give to children (in soda pop) as a treat.

Pollan takes us on a journey through the history of the drug, which was first discovered in a small part of East Africa and within a century became an addiction affecting most of the human species. Caffeine, it turns out, has changed the course of human history - won and lost wars, changed politics, dominated economies. What’s more, the author shows that the Industrial Revolution would have been impossible without it. The science of how the drug has evolved to addict us is no less fascinating. And caffeine has done all these things while hiding in plain sight! Percolated with Michael Pollan’s unique ability to entertain, inform, and perform, Caffeine is essential listening in a world where an estimated two billion cups of coffee are consumed every day.

©2019 Michael Pollan (P)2020 Audible Originals, LLC.

Our favorite moments from Caffeine

Caffeine withdrawal
Alertness, focus, and stamina
Caffeine in sodas

  • Caffeine
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Caffeine
  • Alertness, focus, and stamina
  • Caffeine
  • Caffeine in sodas

About the Creator and Performer

Michael Pollan is the author of many books on food, cuisine, and addiction, including How to Change Your Mind, Cooked, Food Rules, In Defense of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and The Botany of Desire, all of which were New York Times bestsellers. A longtime contributor to The New York Times Magazine, he also teaches writing at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley. In 2010, TIME magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. In addition to his reporting and writing, he has garnered praise for his narration; Audible listeners have hailed Pollan’s audiobooks as "especially marvelous [to hear] in his own voice."

Photographed by Jeannette Montgomery Barron

Interview with author Michael Pollan

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    2 out of 5 stars

Leaves much to be desired

I know this was free and, well, you get what you pay for; but this could have been awesome. Such a bummer this was so short and basically trivial information about coffee here and there but mostly just an essay of Mr. Pollan getting off caffeine than an actual study of it as the drug of choice in this country as the description would have you believe. Pollan is an amazing author, “In defense of food” transformed my life around food, so I guess I was hoping for something similar here but I guess that’s my expectations fault.

61 people found this helpful

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All things considered, it’s a great option

I’m writing this review having on mind that some people might be considering if they should spend their one of their 2 monthly audible originals pick on this book. The answer is yes and I’m going to tell you why.
Despite the fact it’s quite a short book (only 2 hours), I’ve noticed this format is quite common among the selected audible originals they offer. Considering the time restriction it’s worth mentioning one thing: this book covers a LOT of topics, but only talk about each briefly. You’re not going to have a deep analysis on any of the following subjects, however, this is expected when we’re talking about a 2 hours book.

It all starts when the author, Michael Pollan, decides to try going without caffeine for a couple months. This made him reconsider his relation with caffeine and the impacts it had on our history. Along his journey, Michael explains why the beverage, chemically speaking, got so popular, and even links it to the golden age of Middle East, when math was heavily studied, and many findings were made. On the western world, the introduction of coffee made possible quite a lot of changes, that were essential to the development of our modern life, such as the introduction of night shifts, the increase of employer’s production and an augmented tolerance to long hours. As Michael says, it “helped create a new kind of worker”.

However, that wasn’t something entirely beneficial. In fact, the benefits of caffeine are frequently questioned even nowadays. Caffeine was already blamed on cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and even mental illnesses. In the past, the author tells us that there was even a pamphlet claiming that coffee was responsible for the decrease of men’s sexual interest and fertility. Finally, the author wisely points that “caffeine helps us to cope with the world caffeine helped to create”, refereeing to the more demanding work shifts and sleep issues, leaving us with a last question - who’s getting the best out of the human/coffee interaction? Us, or the plants, that shaped us into assuring their survival and massive spread? The answer is up to you.

I for sure recommend this book as a fun listening for your evening. It might not make you an expert on the topic, however, it will surely give you lots of new information that can spice your conversations, as well as offer some perspective on how complex human civilization is, and how one detail (such the appearance of a new beverage) can change everything.


Some highlights:
*The appearance of the first coffee shops in Europe can be compared to Internet forums. Back then, people with the same interests would gather at specific coffee shops to talk, spread news and interact.
*Bees that are exposed to plants that contain caffeine come back to these same plants more often and remember them much more than other plants.
*The introduction of coffee reduced alcohol use and contributed to create a more sober work environment

52 people found this helpful

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listened at x3 speed

i drank a couple cups of coffee and read this at x3 speed in under an hour.

47 people found this helpful

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Wordy for a short book...

More like reading a diary. Not many facts to latch on to. The performance was very good though.

32 people found this helpful

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Half Caf

Well written and told but science and history at Wikipedia level and sometimes appears overly credulous to broad conclusions reached by individual researchers

29 people found this helpful

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Best free audible yet!

I prefer scientific and historical books however I'm picky with the readers. The subject matter was good, the story telling kept me interested and overall i love it! I'm recommending this to my friends.

20 people found this helpful

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Short, but an all encompassing look at caffeine...

Pollan is an excellent researcher and writer. He dives into coffee and caffeine. The effects. The economy. And More.

I also love his readings.

20 people found this helpful

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A deep look at the world's most common drug

Deeply researched, yet still suspiciously speculative, this title takes an objective and subjective look at everyone's favorite pick me up. I can't give it full marks due to how sensationalist some of it gets. Overall, a good quick listen as long as you can get it for free.

17 people found this helpful

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  • kw
  • 02-02-20

Wonderful!

I learned so much about coffee in some of the most enjoyable couple of hours spent listening to a book. I am a coffee addict but I have what I consider reasonable willpower and do limit myself to only a morning cupful. This books information has provided insight in regard to that morning cupful and spurred addition research. But most importantly will keep me mindful in regard to the whole issue of coffee drinking. All offered in a delightful listening experience. I highly recommend and will look for more from this author who is also a great narrator.

13 people found this helpful

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Very enjoyable

Great listen. I drink coffee and tea for pleasure, not for a caffeine kick. In fact, even when I have abstained for long periods of time I still don’t feel any boost from it. This book gave a lot of interesting information, and things to think about regarding even imperceptible effects the drug is having on my system. I also really enjoyed the historical context given. Ultimately, a wonderful book. Thank you!

9 people found this helpful

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  • Andrew Murphy
  • 02-11-20

Not as in depth as a usual Michael Pollan

Was expecting a full Michael Pollan book but it is more of an extended long read.