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A History of the World in 6 Glasses Audiobook

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

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Audible Editor Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Emily Sheldon 08-06-13 Member Since 2017
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    "Alcohol & Caffeine Forever!"
    Would you listen to A History of the World in 6 Glasses again? Why?

    I would listen to this audiobook again. It is a fascinating take on the roles played by beer, wine, liquor, coffee, tea, and cola in the development of civilization, religion, politics, imperialism, colonialism, and just about any other ism you want to name.


    Any additional comments?

    If you like history told as a story, this is the book for you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MillenniumMike Aurora, IL United States 07-27-13
    MillenniumMike Aurora, IL United States 07-27-13 Member Since 2017

    Favorites are histories and mysteries. Once avid reader trying to pick up the pace again later in life.

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    "Interesting history comes through dry storytelling"

    I learned a lot about the influence of beer, wine, distilled spirits, coffee, tea and cola shaping societies and historical events since the early civilizations. In fact, I am listening to this book for the 3rd time there is so much to learn from it. However, some histories are entertaining and others are more like dry encyclopedia articles and this is the latter. It is serious throughout in language and tone. There are many fascinating things to be learned, though, and these do come through. The reading style is just very direct and matter-of-fact, clean and clear with no distractions, but just as dry in tone as is the book. The 6 major units seem to get more interesting as the book advances, but that is perhaps because the more recent the history the more I am familiar with it already or that I can relate to it better.

    Anyway, this book contains lots of fascinating information; in particular I think of the chapters on coffee and how coffee houses were so prevalent in the Arab world in the last millennium and also their importance in the flow of information and the debates on human rights and revolutionary movements in western Europe in the past several centuries.

    Definitely worthwhile listening.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amy 05-24-13
    Amy 05-24-13
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    "Interesting book but so-so narration"

    Really interesting overview of the history of 6 popular drinks and how they played into cultural history.

    However, I was surprised at how harsh/hoarse the narrator's vocal tone was. His pronunciation and prosody was good, but my throat hurt just listening to him. I should say that I am a speech therapist, so it's possible I am more sensitive to this sort of thing.

    Still work the listen!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    patrick 05-15-13
    patrick 05-15-13
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    "an interesting take on history"
    Would you consider the audio edition of A History of the World in 6 Glasses to be better than the print version?

    i wouldn't know


    What other book might you compare A History of the World in 6 Glasses to and why?

    i wouldn't compare a book to another book. that is not a fair or accurate way to describe something.


    What about Sean Runnette’s performance did you like?

    fluency


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    yes, the brief section on the origin of whiskey.


    Any additional comments?

    i'm thirsty.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lexi 05-13-13
    Lexi 05-13-13 Member Since 2012

    I am an eclectic person who loves to learn.

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    "Best history book ever!!"
    Would you listen to A History of the World in 6 Glasses again? Why?

    Absolutely highly amusing and interesting.


    What other book might you compare A History of the World in 6 Glasses to and why?

    I would compare this to Guns Germs and Steel because both look at the bigger picture of history. This book focuses on drinks and their origins. Both take a unique perspective on history and teach in an interesting way. Although the History of the World in 6 glasses was a little more fun and much shorter. A must read!


    What about Sean Runnette’s performance did you like?

    Very good voice to listen to.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    So interesting the history of Coca cola and Pepsi. The politics about where they could sell their product in the world was interesting. Especially since Coca Cola was the drink of World War I.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr Deb 04-18-13
    Dr Deb 04-18-13

    Dr. Deb

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    "Fascinating & fun journey through history"
    What made the experience of listening to A History of the World in 6 Glasses the most enjoyable?

    What a fascinating book! Standage uses 6 major beverages as a hook to explain much of human history. Not only does he describe the history of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea & Coke, but he goes into how each of these sparked & fueled movements that changed the world. This is a refreshing alternative to boring history books that focus on names and dates. The book is extremely well written; I loved the audio version read by an excellent narrator. If you like any or all of these beverages & would like to understand their role in human history, read this book!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Chicago, IL, United States 04-13-13
    Robert Chicago, IL, United States 04-13-13
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    "A great excuse to taste history."

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Fred King City, ON, Canada 04-01-13
    Fred King City, ON, Canada 04-01-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Interesting Perspective"
    Would you consider the audio edition of A History of the World in 6 Glasses to be better than the print version?

    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.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    N/A


    What does Sean Runnette bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Very good narrator.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Wanted to finish the book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia K New York State, USA 03-20-13
    Cynthia K New York State, USA 03-20-13
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    "Interesting lens through which to look at history"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Donna Pensacola, FL, United States 03-15-13
    Donna Pensacola, FL, United States 03-15-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Unique quick read, fun facts"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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