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Proof: The Science of Booze Paperback – May 12, 2015
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“One of the best science writers around.” — National Geographic
“Rogers’s book has much the same effect as a good drink. You get a warm sensation, you want to engage with the wider world, and you feel smarter than you probably are. Above all, it makes you understand how deeply human it is to take a drink.” — Wall Street Journal
“A great read for barflies and know-it-alls—or the grad student who is likely both.” — New York Times Magazine
“In this brisk dive into the history and geekery of our favorite social lubricant, Wired editor Adam Rogers gets under the cap and between the molecules to show what makes our favorite firewaters so irresistible and hard to replicate—and how a good stiff drink often doubles as a miracle of human ingenuity.” — Mother Jones
“A comprehensive, funny look at booze . . . Like the best of its subject matter Proof’’s blend of disparate ingredients goes down smooth, and makes you feel like an expert on the topic.” — Discover
“A romp through the world of alcohol.” — New York Post
“This science-steeped tale of humanity’s ten-thousand-year love affair with alcohol is an engaging trawl through fermentation, distillation, perception of taste and smell, and the biological responses of humans to booze . . . Proof is an entertaining, well researched piece of popular-science writing.” — Nature
“A whiskey nerd’s delight . . . Full of tasty asides and surprising science, this is entertaining even if you’re the type who always drinks what the other guy is having.” — Chicago Tribune
“Written in the same approachable yet science-savvy tone of other geeky tomes (think Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist and Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos), Rogers’s book sheds light on everything from barrels to bacteria strains.” — Imbibe Magazine
“This paean to booze is a thought-provoking scientific accompaniment to your next cup of good cheer.” — Scientist
“Follow a single, microscopic yeast cell down a rabbit hole, and Alice, aka Adam, will take you on a fascinating romp through the Wonderland of ethyl alcohol, from Nature’s own fermentation to today’s best Scotch whiskies—and worst hangovers. This book is a delightful marriage of scholarship and fun.” — Robert L. Wolke, author of What Einstein Kept Under His Hat and What Einstein Told His Cook
“Proof, this irresistible book from Adam Rogers, shines like the deep gold of good whiskey. By which I mean it’s smart in its science, fascinating in its complicated and very human history, and entertaining on all counts. And that it will make that drink in your hand a lot more interesting than you expected.” — Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
“Absolutely compelling. Proof sits next to Wayne Curtis’s And a Bottle of Rum and Tom Standage’s A History of the World in Six Glasses as a must-read.” — Jeffrey Morgenthaler, bar manager at Clyde Common and author of TheBar Book
“Proof is science writing at its best—witty, elegant, and abrim with engrossing reporting that takes you to the frontiers of booze, and the people who craft it.” — Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think
“Rogers distills history, archaeology, biology, sociology, and physics into something clear and powerful, like spirits themselves.” — Jim Meehan, author of The PDT Cocktail Book
“A page-turner for science-thirsty geeks and drink connoisseurs alike, Proof is overflowing with fun facts and quirky details. I’m drunk—on knowledge!” — Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks
“Adam Rogers writes masterfully and gracefully about all the sciences that swirl around spirits, from the biology of a hangover to the paleontology of microbes that transform plant juices into alcohol. A book to be savored and revisited.” — Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex and A Planet of Viruses
“Reading Proof feels just like you’re having a drink with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic friend. Rogers’s deep affinity for getting to the bottom of his subject shines through on every page.” — Adam Savage, TV host and producer of MythBusters
“As a distiller I find most books on booze to be diluted. The science and history here are sure to satisfy the geekiest of drinkers. While the chapters, carried by stories, told through the lens of a rocks glass do not lose the casual. To get this kind of in-depth overview of how spirits are produced, consumed, and studied, you’d have to read twenty books.” — Vince Oleson, Head Distiller/Barrel Thief, Widow Jane Distillery
“An entertaining read . . . Rogers elegantly charges through what took me more than five years of research to learn . . . Proof will inspire and educate the oncoming hordes who intend to make their own booze and tear down the once solid regulatory walls of the reigning royal houses of liquor.”
— Dan Garrison, Garrison Brothers Distillery
“From the action of the yeast to the blear of the hangover, via the witchery of fermentation, distillation and aging, Wired articles editor Rogers takes readers on a splendid tour of the booze-making process.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Impressively reported and entertaining . . . Rogers’s cheeky and accessible writing style goes down smoothly, capturing the essence of this enigmatic, ancient social lubricant.” — Publishers Weekly
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Well the good news is that this is an entertaining book that is easy to recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in wine, beer, or spirits. It's written to be read, not used as a reference book. The narrative, such as it is, is loosely organized into chapters that deal with specific facets of booze. Chapter one is about yeast. As a former yeast biochemist, I can say that it was one of the most accessible chapters written on one of my favorite organisms, yet I definitely learned a few things. However, I'm not convinced that everything I learned is absolutely accurate. The book is clearly much better researched than the average blog post but is it up to reference standards? If your reference standard is wikipedia, it probably is.
Chapter 2 is another strong chapter about sugar. Chapters 3 and 4 handle fermentation and distillation, and these highlight the weakness of the book's organization: how can you discuss fermentation without discussing yeast? Well, it's hard and it doesn't quite happen. Instead, the author's passion and enthusiasm clouds the narrative and he ends up switching topics so many times that it's hard to follow the thread. The next few chapters are occasionally choppy accounts of aging and smell/taste. The final couple of chapters are all about alcohol's effect on the body and brain, with an entire chapter devoted to hangovers. Much more time is spent discussing getting drunk (how exactly does that work?) and curing a hangover than exploring alcohol's impact on society, whether positive or negative.
But what it lacks in comprehensiveness, it makes up for with gusto! Even though I got a little lost in several chapters, it was usually because there were just too many interesting facts to cram in. This book is chock-full of fascinating tidbits of information, including the origins of the term 'bain-marie' (a type of double boiler) with side references to almost everything from British sailors to the Library of Alexandria. Perhaps it's fair to say the mixology on display slowed me down a bit, but didn't really affect my overall enjoyment of this slightly dizzying concoction. It does explain the deduction of a single star, though.
This book isn't perfect, but the author's passion and enthusiasm have created a book that's both entertaining and interesting. When it is finally released, I will recommend it to friends and buy at least one copy for my Dad. And if I ever see the author again, I'll buy him a drink.
Mr. Rogers exposes a meritorious and extensive investigation he made in Canada, USA and Scotland, that deserves a slow and careful reading by those people interested in knowing what they are getting when drinking alcoholic beverages.
The large bibliography shown at the end, provides profuse information for the prospective investigators on the booze theme.
The notes extend the scope of the book and the index, which is an orderly list of concepts, is very helpful to search information along it.
Since the book is written in colloquial language, it has somehow difficult passages to be quickly understood by nonnative English language readers.
Ultimately, Adam Rogers won't be shocking you with insight, but I'd say he distils (pun unintended) the science into something that is palatable and entertaining - kinda like your favourite domestic brew.
I can admit that my curiousity was certainly stirred by the book, but I can't say I was shaken!
p.s. The author's recommendation to switch it up to a Bloody Maria (tequila instead of vodka) is appreciated.