"Powerfully engaging . . . [a] highly readable narrative. . . . Strongly recommended for general readers who are interested in changes in the American diet and in their own food choices and for collections that focus on the history of industrial food."
-Story Circle Book Reviews
"Carolyn de la Pena conducts a thorough review of artificial sweeteners and how their role and perception have changed over the years."
-The New Yorker
"Book Bench" blog
"[De la Pena] is diligent, mostly even-handed and non-polemical."
"De la Pena's substantial skills as a social and cultural historian are on fine display. . . . Illuminating discussion. . . . Offers a too rare glimpse of how the business of chemistry actually works."
-Chemical & Engineering News
"This book does an excellent job of exploring the contested history of artificial sweeteners and their use in packaged food and drink. In de la Peña's hands these substances become windows onto important aspects of the American experience."
-American Historical Review
"Charmingly written and exhaustively researched, de la Pena's exploration provides a fascinating look into a seemingly commonplace food additive."
"An insightful, multidisciplinary work particularly attractive to students of American studies."
-The Journal of American History
"A welcome and an enlightening examination of consumption and its consequences."
is full of insights about artificial sweeteners."
"A well-cited, thought-provoking, and fascinating analysis of the sociological, psychological, political, and financial underpinnings of the promotion and use of artificial sweeteners in the U.S. . . . Highly Recommended"
"In its most intriguing chapter, the book details the "saccharin rebellion" . . . [which] reveals much about ordinary Americans' perceptions of pleasure in a risk-filled world."
-A Nota Bene Selection of The Chronicle Review
"In this cultural history, de la Pena shows how everyone from scientists to food conglomerates to ad agencies to women's magazines have conspired to make Americans believe we can have our sweets and eat them too."
"Absolutely fascinating. . . . This is not a book that scolds you for your gum habit or insists that drinking diet soda will cause you to put on pounds in the long term. Rather, it is a well-written guide to the history and development of a product that permanently changed our meal preparation, our manufacturing system, and our self-perception."
From the Inside Flap
In Empty Pleasures
, the first history of artificial sweeteners in America, Carolyn de la Pena blends popular culture with business and women's history, shedding light on the invention, production, marketing, regulation, and consumption of sugar substitutes such as saccharin, Sucaryl, NutraSweet, and Splenda. These companies have enjoyed enormous success by promising that Americans, can "have their cake and eat it too," but Empty Pleasures
argues both that these "sweet cheats" have fostered troubling and unsustainable eating habits and are ultimately too good to be true.