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The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink Hardcover – September 16, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"Blanding roots his tale in the birth of the advertising era, and he is particularly effective in telling the story of how Coke fought to monopolize the sale of soft drinks to school children."

"Like Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me and Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, The Coke Machine embeds current issues with history, policy, and interviews to reveal the wizard behind the curtain."

"An eye opening expose which blows the plastic lids off a company known to associate itself with love and happiness... The book lays out the case against Coke in startling clarity."

"The book's sixty-three pages of notes attest to [Blanding's] careful research, and lend a vital legitimacy to his allegations--this is much more than an activist's polemic." --[tk] review

"Important and readable... Blanding's painstakingly reported book reminds us that Coke's global success--perhaps like all spectacular global success--came at a price" --The Atlantic

"Every company has a dark side, and you won't believe how dark Coca-Cola's is. After reading this book, good luck having a Coke and smile." --Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me

"Coca-Cola wants to teach the world to sing, but in the process they've trashed water supplies, peddled sugar to generations of kids, and undermined worker rights around the world. Put down your soda, read The Coke Machine and join the global movement to rein in unaccountable corporations." --Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed and Brightsided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

"In The Coke Machine, Michael Blanding takes a tough, unsweetened look at the business practices of this iconic American company. His investigations reveal the costs--in ethics, health, public resources, and sometimes even human life--of Coca-Cola's relentless pressure to expand sales of its products. This book is a terrific introduction to the inner workings of corporate capitalism as it plays out on a global scale." --Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and author of Food Politics and What to Eat

"In shocking detail, Blanding uncovers Coke's numerous transgressions against humanity and nature... Blanding's thoroughly detailed, stimulating and challenging study will have many readers saying, 'Give me a Pepsi.'" --BookPage, September 2010

"By this account, Coke's domination of the market begins to look less like a triumph of advertising and more like a symptom of the dark side of globalisation." --The Financial Times, September 20, 2010

About the Author

Michael Blanding is an award-winning magazine writer whose investigative journalism has taken him around the globe. Based in Boston, he has written for The Nation, The New Republic, Salon, The Boston Globe, Conde Nast Traveler, and Boston magazine, where he is a contributing editor.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Avery (September 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583334068
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583334065
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Blanding is an award-winning book author and magazine writer whose first book, The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink, was published by Avery/Penguin in September 2010. He has also written about politics, social justice, and travel for publications including The Nation, The New Republic, The Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, and Consumers Digest; and co-written several travel guides to New England destinations for Moon Handbooks. He is currently a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Reporting at Brandeis University and a staff writer at Harvard Business School. His latest book, The Map Thief, will be published by Gotham in June 2014.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By embz on October 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I had a hard time deciding which part of The Coke Machine I found most compelling. In the first third of the book Blanding creates an absolutely riveting history of the Coca-Cola corporation despite being shut out for interviews by company employees. Court documents with corporate officials admitting that the original formula had coca leaves and kola nut in it are juxtaposed against current corporate officers' claims to the contrary. Blanding examines Coca-Cola's aspirational advertising push (or should I say "putsche"?), with the company focusing less on product quality and more on emotional branding, including some arm-twisting contracts with public schools designed to brand 5 year old kindergarteners and train them to have a Coke with that gap-toothed smile.

The last section of the book deals with Coca-Cola's constant growth, requiring globalization and aspirational marketing that paints Coca-Cola as a squeaky-clean beverage company even if the reality is dirtied water supplies in India, contaminated sludge sold as fertilizer, toxic chemicals in recycled tap water marketed under the Dasani brand in England and France, or the snuffing out (quite literally, in the case of the murder of union organizer Isidro Gil in Venezuela) of union organization worldwide.

The Coke Machine ties together disparate memes such as obesity, underfunded public schools, environmental damage, corporate overreach and globalization and does it well. A wild ride and a great read.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jijnasu Forever VINE VOICE on December 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Books in the business profiles categories typically fall into two categories - blind adulation or angry tirades. This one tries to avoid becoming "Exhibit A" for the latter...almost admirably. Blanding does a good job in outlining some of the key controversies Coke has been involved in - bottled water, water pollution, handling unions,impact of advertising on kids, etc. While Blanding takes on a decidely, pre-determined critical view of Coke's role, the issues are well recounted, though one would hard-pressed to find anything significantly "new" information.

Blanding's eagerness for a passionate argument for encouraging readers to take a critical look at Coke would have been helped if the book was better organized - perhaps across 3-4 themes - environmental (bottled water, pollution in India), union and labor standards (most of the events around bottlers in Latin America) and other issues such as advertising and obesity. The frequent shifting of the narrative from one of these themes to another is distracting and prevents Blanding from building a real case, even if there is sufficient research (mostly by his own interviews) into his narrative. In fact, the final chapter, "The case against coke" is a disappointment - instead of summarizing the key arguments and suggest remedial measures and/or any actions by an average reader, Blanding falls back to continue his narrative and fails to make a powerful closing argument.

Blanding's recounting and first-person reporting on the issues around bottlers/unions in itself an interesting read. Perhaps, focusing on this theme alone would have given the book far more attention than what it will probably receive. Overall, a well-researched re-hash of Coke controversies - that unfortunately doesn't live up to its potential. An OK read. 3.5*
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Format: Hardcover
If you're planning on reading Blanding's THE COKE MACHINE there's one thing you need to be prepared for: you'll walk away from the book with a Coke jingle or two stuck in your head indefinitely. Despite this, the book is an excellent read that should be passed along to family and friends because when you're done with it you'll want to discuss it.

From a purely aesthetic point of view, THE COKE MACHINE is well organized, strongly researched and superbly written. The introduction begins with a grueling story of a murdered union worker in Columbia and compels the reader to consider the complex question of corporate responsibility for moral and ethical behavior in the face of a corporation's drive toward stakeholder profits. Blanding builds momentum by describing the history of Coke, its ad campaigns, and its national struggles to resist any negative mark on its brand image. Part two weaves Coke's international story through Mexico, Colombia, India and Guatemala, raising questions about Coke's role in environmental destruction, water shortages, dismantling of unions, and even murder.

There's something interesting for everyone in this book, because the Coca-Cola Company is ubiquitous within the United States and internationally, and because it has affected all of our lives whether we realize it or not. As The Coke Machine describes, Coke has spent its more than one hundred years in existence protecting its image and sales beyond anything else; the "dirty truth" about Coke that Blanding so factually lays out before us. If you're a parent, the book's chapter on "The Battle for Schools" should not go unread.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Burgundy Damsel VINE VOICE on March 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The author's writing style just didn't click with me, and paying attention was harder than I expected throughout this book. That's probably just a personal quirk, but its the main reason why I'm only giving this three stars. With as much explosive and dirty material as the pages contain, I expected a much higher fascination factor.

That said, the information proffered is excellent, all-encompassing and well organized. I already knew Coke was terribly bad for you on a dietary level, and had heard about their infiltration of schools and machinations in the obesity debate. But I'd had no idea how galling the company's policies and practices were at the corporate and international levels. I gave up soda years ago, but if I hadn't I'd definitely be motivated to do so now!

This expose is well worth everyone's time and attention, and genuinely deserving of the praise it received from Real Food icons like Marion Nestle.
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