A History of the World in 6 Glasses – by Tom Standage – independent book review – Non-fiction

An intriguing and easily digestible approach to world history. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

historyI seldom read non-fiction but this title was just too fascinating AND was recommended to me by a friend. It turned out to be a very interesting read, even if the title does over-promise.

Standage writes in a very accessible style, with a bit of humor here and there, as he makes an argument that six beverages can tell the story of human history.
Beer and other drinks made from fermented grains becomes the drink of choice for early civilizations for thousands of years, since it was safer and more interesting than water.
Wine, requiring specific geographical areas for proper cultivation, came next, launching cross-cultural trading.
Spirits emerge during the era of world exploration — after the process of distilling was discovered and there was demand for higher concentrations of alcohol that could be transported in smaller spaces.
Coffee became widespread during the Age of Enlightenment when male-only coffee houses sprung up as social locations for discussing and spreading ideas. It was also the first beverage that sparked alertness after generations of people always being slightly tipsy.
Tea, an alternate for women shunned from coffee houses, comes in the 1800s, imported from the Chinese and later grown in India. It’s a drink, many believe, had curative powers and is closely connected to the increasing power and influence of the British Empire.
Coca Cola, one of the most interesting stories, and it’s spread around the world parallels the emergence of the United States as a global superpower.

Tom Standage

Standage has written a few other books in this vein and I’m likely to explore them at some point. But after reading this one, I’m also reminded why I seldom read non-fiction. Instead of following a good story, at times, it feels a little like school-work.

More about author Tom Standage.

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