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Proof: The Science of Booze Hardcover – May 27, 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 182 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Lively...[Rogers'] descriptions of the science behind familiar drinks exert a seductive pull." —New York Times

“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’ T 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 10,000-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’ 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."—The 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’ 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 The Bar 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' 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 20 books." —Vince Oleson, Head Distiller/Barrel Thief, Widow Jane Distillery

"An entertaining read...Rogers elegantly charges through what took me more than 5 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

"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

Book Description

HMH Hardcover 2014, Previous ISBN 978-0-547-89796-7
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Engineering & Transportation Books
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (May 27, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547897960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547897967
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By a scientist VINE VOICE on April 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Full disclosure: I saw the author give a talk on this subject at a conference about a year ago. The talk was a little better because this author is an outstanding public speaker and merely a very good writer. So, what of the fruits of his labor? Has the author managed to distill the essence of boozy knowledge into a coherent creation or a delirious foment?

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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you want to amaze your friends at the neighborhood pub or the next cocktail party, this book has all the right ingredients. In Proof: The Science of Booze, Kavli Science Journalism Award winner and first-time author Adam Rogers covers everything you can imagine about the subject. There are chapters on the science and history of yeast in the production of alcoholic beverages, the role of sugar, the processes of fermentation, distillation, and aging, the biochemistry of smell and taste, the effects of booze on the body, and the causes, prevention, and cure of hangovers. Rogers’ research was exhaustive; the bibliography is more than 13 pages long, and his travels took him from the ultra-exclusive New York cocktail bar Booker and Dax to Glen Ord Maltings in Muir of Ord, Scotland, to the San Francisco Brain Research Institute. The research was impressive, until Rogers described the “experiment” where he and two friends got totally blotto in order to test the effectiveness of some recommended hangover cures, at which point I decided his devotion to his subject had gone above and beyond.
So why only 3 stars? It’s not what he said; it’s how he said it. Rogers is an editor at Wired magazine, and Proof apparently grew out of a Wired article, The Angel’s Share, about the Canadian whiskey fungus. Proof is written in the same Wired style, and it just doesn’t work as well here. Wired often takes a light tone liberally laced with witty comments, which I normally enjoy, but the humor here often comes across as forced. Also the author will drop witticisms into the middle of an extended serious scientific description, where it seems out of place. The book also seems disorganized. There is a topic for each chapter, and the author covers a number of items under that topic without good transitions.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Long-time readers of Wired will quickly recognize the style, depth, and tone of Proof. Astute ones may recall the article that this book grew from: "The Angel's Share", which makes up a significant portion of the chapter on aging. The subtitle of this book, "The Science of Booze", could just as accurately be "A Memoir About Booze". Rogers firmly inserts himself into the book as he takes the reader on a journey of exploration through the world of alcohol. All the strengths and weaknesses of this approach come through in this book.

The scope of Proof is truly ambitious. Rogers begins with the cultivation and domestication of yeast, walks through the chemistry and types of sugars, ferments them, distills and ages the result, and then describes their effects on the body (both pleasant, such as smell and taste, and the less savory consequences like drunkenness and hangovers). My copy of the book only goes to 212 pages before the notes and bibliography, and that's a prodigious amount to cover in so few pages. I found that the chapters with material that I was already somewhat familiar with didn't hold enough new information to hold my interest. On the other hand, the light tone did make it easier for me to read the chapters which were farther outside my existing knowledge. I'd definitely say that the book is better for those who are less familiar with the ins and outs of brewing. While the chapters followed a definite progression, they didn't build on one another as much as I'd like. I normally would feel compelled to read a book like this straight through, but I found that I would put it down once I finished up each chapter.

There's one tidbit which left a sour taste in my mouth, and probably kept the book from getting a fifth star from me.
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