Thursday, May 3, 2012

Book of the Week: A History of the World in 6 Glasses

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

by: Tom Standage

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Early in my Cal Poly career I developed a habit of strolling through the library (yeah, mostly procrastinating). The place was huge and I could head up to the 4th floor and find the architecture section and lose 2-3 hours grabbing interesting books and looking/reading through them. I was exposed to so much that I never would have seen if I went to the catalog and looked up something specific. So I still stroll through libraries whenever I get the chance, and that is how I came across this title. Seemed appropriate because I have been interested in the processes of making alcohol and have recently developed an addiction to coffee...
The basic idea is to follow 6 of the most influential beverages in human history looking at what they made possible and how they shape our lives. It has the feel of The Botany of Desire which was a book about 4 of the most influential plants in human history. The drinks that are detailed are beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and cola. There is also an epilogue about water that is probably the most interesting section. An example is how beer became a way to store grain and basically became a form of currency for early civilizations. Egyptians that built the pyramids were paid in beer. In fact it might have been the reason that civilization was possible (conjecture and opinion but it is interesting to think about). This book is a bit egocentric in the sense that it looks at history through the lens of these drinks and so makes a history that is centered around the drinks... The author backs up his thoughts with facts and historical sources but I can't help thinking that he was just choosing sources that meet his needs. Interesting and a quick read. So go browse your local library and find something fun or go there specifically for this book.

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