- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Walker Publishing Company; 5333rd edition (May 16, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802715524
- ISBN-13: 978-0802715524
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 644 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A History of the World in 6 Glasses Paperback – May 16, 2006
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“[A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 6 GLASSES] is loaded with the kind of data that get talked about at the figurative water cooler...Incisive, illuminating and swift.” ―Janet Maslin, The New York Times
About the Author
Tom Standage is technology editor at The Economist magazine and the author of four history books, "A History of the World in Six Glasses" (2005), "The Turk" (2002), "The Neptune File" (2000) and "The Victorian Internet" (1998). He holds a degree in engineering and computer science from Oxford University, and is the least musical member of a musical family. He is married and lives in Greenwich, London, with his wife and daughter.
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I have read a decent number of books about food and drink, but what sets this book apart for me is how it embeds itself into a historical context. Maybe it's just that I didn't take enough history classes in high school, but this book actually made me very interested in knowing about the history of the Persian empire, the various revolutions and monarchies in France. Did I learn how to make a great cappuccino or brew my own beer? Nope, but this is not a recipe book.
Just to re-emphasize, I really dig how the book basically spans the entirety of human history from the dawn of civilization to modern day and beyond. The writing style is also interesting, entertaining, and at the same time historical/scientific. I'll have to check out his "Edible Hisstory of Humanity" next.
"A History of the World in 6 Glasses" is a view of the history of the world through the lens of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. Science correspondent and accomplished author Tom Standage has come up with a clever book that shows how the aforementioned drinks were reflections of the eras in which they were created. This 311-page book is broken out by the six drinks (two chapters per drink): Beer in Mesopotamia and Egypt, Wine in Greece and Rome, Spirits in the Colonial Period, Coffee in the Age of Reason, Tea and the British Empire and Coca-Cola and the Rise of America.
1. A fun way to learn about history.
2. A well-written and well researched book. Reads like a novel.
3. A fascinating topic. The author cleverly charts the flow of history through six beverages: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola.
4. Every beverage has a story and the author does a good job of relaying it.
5. Great use of basic science to explain how the beverages were discovered.
6. Interesting tidbits throughout the book. This is the greatest strength of this book. Some of the stories will definitely stick with you.
7. Interesting perspective on beer, "it seems most likely that beer drinking was just one of the many factors that helped to tip the balance away from hunting and gathering and toward farming and a sedentary lifestyle based on small settlements".
8. Guaranteed to learn something amusing, spoiler alert..."The workers who built the pyramids were paid in beer..."
9. I love the stories of how mythology and beverages intertwine, "According to one legend, Dionysus, the god of wine, fled to Greece to escape beer-loving Mesopotamia".
10. The philosophy of drinking wine.
11. What wine represented to the Romans. Once again, some amusing stories, a recurring theme of this book.
12. The relationship between some of these beverages to medicine/health.
13. The relationship between the beverages and religion. Amazing...
14. The invention of distillation.
15. Interesting stories of how some of these beverages were used as a form of currency.
16. The evil trade of slavery and how alcohol was related. Enlightening information.
17. Find out what truly was the decisive factor in the Royal Navy's victory over the French and Spanish fleets.
18. The impact of rum for the North American colonists. Everything to do with American history and its relation to alcohol was fascinating. Colonialism by the bottles.
19. The second half of the book dealing with caffeinated drinks was superior to the first half.
20. The diffusion of rationalism and the relationship to coffee. Great stuff.
21. The history of coffeehouses. The drink of intellectuals. Great stories.
22. Each chapter opens up with a quote, "Better to be deprived of food for three days than of tea for one". Chinese proverb.
23. China, England and it's a tea thing. Fascinating history.
24. The fascinating history of tea. Very popular with women, who had been excluded from coffeehouses.
25. My favorite chapters in the book had to do with Coca Cola.
26. Coca Cola and lawsuits. "Wiley put Coca-Cola on trial in 1911, in a federal case titled the United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola. In court, religious fundamentalists railed against the evils of Coca Cola, blaming its caffeine content for promoting sexual transgressions..." I live for tidbits like this.
27. Coca Cola the global icon.
28. The epilogue provides the impact of water.
29. A cool appendix on ancient drinks.
30. Notes and sources.
1. As much fun as the book was to read, the quality wasn't consistent throughout. To illustrate my point, I felt that the chapters on caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea and coca-cola) were superior to the ones pertaining to the alcoholic beverages (beer, wine and spirits).
2. In desperate need of a timeline chart. The author has a tendency of going back and forth in time which may cause the reader to lose their point of reference a timeline chart describing the main milestones of a given beverage would have certainly helped.
3. The lack of charts and diagrams that would have aided the reader in understanding the full impact of the beverages involved. As an example, consumption of a given drink by country...
4. A bit repetitive at times. Sometimes the author has a tendency to overstay his welcome with some tidbits...
5. The history that is here is really simplified. This book is more an entertaining look at the impact and influence the beverages had in the context of the societies in which they were consumed. That being said, don't underestimate what is here.
6. The Kindle version of the book garbled up some words.
7. Links not included for Kindle.
In summary, I enjoyed reading "A History of the World in 6 Glasses". It's a fun and at times enlightening read. Cocktails will never be the same, now that I have added to my repertoire thanks in large part to all the fun facts that I picked up from this book. That being said, the danger with a book like this is that it is too general for history buffs and it may not be interesting enough early on to keep the casual reader engaged. So as long as you are not expecting an in-depth history lesson and have a little patience with the drier sections of this book, it will go down smoothly and ultimately lead to a satisfying experience. I recommend it.
We are surrounded with objects that we take for granted and there are any number of great books that spin the historical tale around such objects; however, this work excels because of its brevity--the author manages to cover the topic without the pace of the book ever lagging. The lawyer in me appreciates a finely honed argument; Standage's book is so good that he makes the supremely difficult job of summarizing world history look easy.
Many authors of history are unable to prune the many fascinating insights that history presents. And to be sure, I enjoy a nice meandering presentation of interesting tidbits organized around a central theme, but it is always refreshing to find a history that has the same "can't put down" type of feel as a thriller or mystery. I can't think of a more excellent example of a history that is both appropriate for a younger student as well as an overeducated adult. Highest Recommendation.