Sunday, 24 February 2008

Thoughts About Tom Standage's History of the World in 6 Glasses.

I first heard about Tom Standage's book A History of the World in 6 Glasses back in 2005 and I think it was on Boing Boing. I only managed to buy it from Kinokuniya almost a year later, and only managed to read it this year. I regret not reading it earlier.

Its conceit is simple: tell history from the perspective of six different drinks, Beer, Wine, Spirits, Coffee, Tea and Coca-Cola, and how they shaped certain civilisations in each of their dominant eras.

We all know history can be very dry, but in the hands of capable writers, even the driest parts of history can be saved from being a total wash out. (Sorry.) I am glad to report that Tom Standage makes reading about history fun and interesting and occasionally even thirsty.

It was enlightening to read, for example, about how coffee helped kickstart the age of reason due to its so-called "mind-sharpening" qualities and how it was as controversial as alcohol in the early days of Islam.

I found every chapter (each dedicated to a drink) a pageturner, but only the last, the chapter about Coca-Cola left me with a bad aftertaste. (Sorry again.) It was the shortest chapter and wasn't as fleshed out or as filled with neat trivia as the rest of the chapters.

But that small nitpick aside, the book's a definite must read, especially for fans of any of the drink mentioned. I am now keen on checking Mr. Standage's other books, The Victorian Internet, and The Turk.

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