Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sweet and Low: A Family Story” as Want to Read:
Sweet and Low: A Family Story
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Sweet and Low: A Family Story

3.49  ·  Rating Details ·  1,013 Ratings  ·  183 Reviews
Sweet and Low is the bittersweet, hilarious story of Ben Eisenstadt, who invented sugar packets and Sweet'N Low, and amassed the great fortune that would later destroy his family. It is a story of immigrants, Jewish gangsters, and Brooklyn; of sugar, saccharine, obesity, and diet crazes; of jealousy, betrayal, and ambition. Disinherited along with his mother and siblings,
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 20th 2007 by Picador (first published 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sweet and Low, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Sweet and Low

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Aug 05, 2007 Charly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my first house I owned- a tiny bungalow that has since been abandoned -the neighbors had some outrageous family fights. These weren’t your typical domestic violence dealies between a man and his wife. Instead, it seemed the entire extended family would partake. Over time, I began to enjoy the theatrics. I would sit on my stoop, drink beer and giggle uneasily as this cast of characters humiliated themselves. So, it’s no wonder I enjoyed Sweet and Low by Richard Cohen.

Cohen is jaded over his i
Memoir of estrangement from a dysfunctional family + history of sugar and sugar substitutes + history of New York corruption = surprisingly compelling read. I actually laughed out loud a couple of times.

"There was an ancient form of primogeniture at play in the family; as the son of the oldest son, Cousin Jeffrey was golden. One week, Grandma Betty decided that a grandchild would, for no particular reason, have a party thrown in his or her honor, complete with cake and gifts. While standing in m
Nov 09, 2012 Oriana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
So I've been doing a crazy amount biking lately, which may I please just say is the best goddamn thing ever. I've gotten a little obsessive about it; like zero to biking everywhere, every day, all the time, inventing faraway errands to run just so I can bike to them, or only making plans in other neighborhoods because biking around Williamsburg isn't good enough, or just getting on the bike at midnight and zipping around because I can. I didn't bike in the hurricane (this guy did, though), but I ...more
Jan 26, 2008 Troy rated it really liked it
I found this book fascinating, in multiple ways. Since moving to Brooklyn, I love walking the streets of Carroll Gardens with the impressions stories of Brooklyn have given me. This is true for both of Jonathan Lethem novels, and now I'm happy to add to that with this wonderful story of small pink packet, and how it impacted the rise and fall of a truly Brooklyn family.

Most of us are divided either by our love of sweet, or savory. It's as strong as politics or religion. You have to side, and you
Jun 17, 2007 Erin rated it did not like it
I thought I would like this book since I like non-fiction with some drama and a bit of teaching involved. But I found the whole thing rather uninteresting. The family really had no redeeming features. The history of Sweet and Low (and the diet revolution) also was tiresome. I sped through to the end to see why the author's family was disinherited and ended up not caring.
Nov 07, 2007 Julia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: huge history buffs
I had high hopes for this book buoyed by favorable reviews on Amazon. I invested time in what I thought was a pretty good method of potential book research, but this time it hit a snag. I had to make a new bookshelf for this book - unfinished by choice books. That probably says it all for me.

If you really like a lot of history with your books, you will likely love this book. The author included a purposefully dated Xerox copy of an obituary that encapsulated Sweet and Low's founder and the compa
Aug 05, 2008 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Liz by: Joanne Sliker

I have officially lost all of my faith in mankind, except for Rich Cohen. Cohen manages to fit all of fake sugar's (saccharin, cyclamate, aspartame, sucralose) history into a few pages--although I was constantly wondering why scientists kept discovering these chemical compounds by licking their fingers . . didn't we learn in 5th grade t
Nov 06, 2007 Carrie rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: History buffs
Recommended to Carrie by: Allison Woolfe
Shelves: effed-up-memoirs
Couldn't make it to the end. This memoir about the family who brought us Sweet and Low was funny in parts, but way too heavy on history lessons for my taste. Along with the story of this family, which I think is pretty interesting, you also get pages and pages about how New York neighborhoods evolved and all kinds of background about inventions that have only a tangential connection to the story at hand. My suspicion is that the writer promised a book of a certain length and did the college-kid ...more
I wanted to love this book, being a Brooklyn resident and appreciating the historical aspects of the family's history here.

However, as much as I laughed at Cohen's telling of family tales, his repetitiveness became not only annoying but confusing. I struggled to keep track of all the family members and which generation they belonged to, and ultimately could care less what happened to them.

I have too many other books waiting to be read to continue plodding on with this one.
The writing was not particularly interesting or good but the historical fiction element was enjoyable and I suppose the family dynamics were somewhat interesting, but there didn't seem to be too many likable characters to be rooting for and they seemed a little flat. It's definitely a story and setting driven book.
Anita Smith
I thought this book sucked. I basically skimmed it in an attempt to find all this "family drama" that I never actually found. Hell, my family had more drama than this last week. And that was a light week for us.

Thank God I only paid a dollar for this at a library book sale. Although I still feel like I overpaid.
Dec 27, 2007 Hannah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of the Sweet and Low company, as written by the extremely bitter, disinherited heir. Almost impossible to get through due to HORRENDOUS writing, despite seemingly fascinating subject matter and fabulous cover design. A huge disappointment!
It's hard to imagine that this book would have been published if it hadn't been about a family connected to Sweet N Low. Moderately interesting, though the inter-family problems are either not clearly written or just not that serious. A light, entertaining read.
Jul 18, 2008 Molly rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs
This book, about how the fortune of the family owned business Sweet 'N Low fractures the members into haves and have nots, had great potential but in the end, I just didn't like the way it was written. It didn't engage me at all and I had to force myself to finish.
Brian Bess
Sep 15, 2013 Brian Bess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Millions of little sweet, low, pink heirlooms

The pink cover grabbed my attention initially. I know that color well. I have torn open thousands of packets in that shade as I gratify and sustain my unrepentant vice: unsweetened ice tea with extra lemon and one or more of those little sweet, low pink packets. What kind of book lurks inside this American Splendor-esque graphic novel cover? Little pink junkie that I am, I told myself I had to read this book. Would it change my attitude toward my cons
Apr 06, 2010 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were two things about Sweet N Low: A Family Story that stood out for me. (1) Rich Cohen is a very good writer. He knows how to use metaphors and analogies to convey a point and does them in really funny ways. He's got a great sense of humor and used it to make what could have been a boring story much more engaging. (2) Cohen comes across as rather self-absorbed. I don't know of another author who's used a quasi-family scandal as a plot for a book. No doubt the Cohen family is unique. The a ...more
Feb 13, 2017 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent double history, one of sweeteners from ancient times to Nutrasweet, and the other of the Eisenstadts, the family whose patriarch invented Sweet and Low and handed the factory down to his son. Neither of these histories is pretty. The two sentences that blew my mind were on page 88: "The British turned against slavery only when steam power and other advances made the harvesting and refining of sugarcane far less labor intensive. That is, slavery became reprehensible only when slaves wer ...more
Not a huge fan - this was supposed to be an interesting look at the invention of Sweet 'N Low, how it created a family fortune, and the legal/mafia troubles that befell the company as told by a disinherited grandson. What it actually was, was a rambling history of Brooklyn, family squabbles, complaints about being disinherited (though the author makes it perfectly clear that of course his family didn't need the money, what with the chartered flights, player pianos, and Concorde jet rides he and ...more
We all know how rare it is to literally laugh out loud while reading a book, yet I found myself doing so, to the point of tearing up. Full disclosure: I'm Jewish, and family has a generally similar Eastern European background, timeline of immigrating, American Dream, cultural worldview, so part of why I really liked this book is because I know "these" people, I know the brooch on every sweater in the same spot, I know how older sons are crowned the Mayor of their college, grad school, company, e ...more
Kelly Tillman
Jun 27, 2013 Kelly Tillman rated it really liked it
This isn't a book about Sweet and Low. This is a book about sugar, Brooklyn throughout the ages, the dieting craze, a dysfunctional family with money, corruption and Sweet and Low. Rich Cohen has written a memoir that was entertaining as well as informational. At some point I felt sorry for the company when alternative sugars came on the market (Don't. This company now makes Sugar in the Raw which I would steal by the handful from Starbucks, Stevia in the Raw, Agave in the Raw and Monk Fruit in ...more
Sep 27, 2009 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is written by the grandson of the inventor of Sweet and Low, the artificial sweetener. It tells the story of the company, but more than that, it tells the story of his family -- including how his parents were disinhereted. The history of Sweet and Low includes development of a sugar replacement just at the time when a large number of people started to become interested in dieting, possible ties with the mafia, embezzlement, and the politics of public health and food safety.

The book is
Jan 21, 2013 Al rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To Rich Cohen’s credit he doesn’t let “Sweet and Low,” his memoir of the Eisenstadt family and its rise to fortune with its artificial sweetener, descend into a diatribe against the members of his family that engineered his disinheritance. He doesn’t let them off the hook, either, but he provides the kind of insider’s perspective that is all too rare in corporate histories. “Sweet and Low” is more than a mere corporate history,though; Cohen transforms the Cumberland Packing Company tale into an ...more
Aug 03, 2008 Jonathan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who watch "unwrapped" on the food network
This was a story about the creation of sweet n' low, written by the grandson of the inventor. The book is part history of sugar/artificial sweeteners/New York City, and part memoir of the Eisenstadt and Cohen families.

The Cohens, including Rich, the author, were written out of the Eisenstadt will, which denied them any share of the sweet n' low fortune. Rich wrote the book as an attempt to get to the bottom of why his mother was denied her share of the family fortune.

The actual history of the
This memoir/history had a good mix of family drama, crime and the history of sugar substitutes. As someone who is actually allergic/intolerant to aspertame I found the history fascinating, and the family drama added some spice. However, it might be partly because I put the book down for several months before picking it back up, but some of the story of the family seemed to drag and become overly confused. The author goes back and forward in time, and names so many relatives and employees that th ...more
Dec 27, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very strange story - the dark secrets and family feuds behind a seemingly mundane sweetener manufacturer. I’m not sure what I expected with regards to this book – it had been on my to-read list for so long I’d forgotten why I’d added it in the first place. But it didn’t disappoint. I’ll admit there were a few times when I thought the technical details about the industry could have been scaled down, & at times there just wasn’t enough dirt dishing for my liking. But as it was writt ...more
Jan 22, 2008 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
excellent book. it is the story of the jewish immigrant who moved to brooklyn, NY from eastern europe in the early 1900s and founded the sugar packing company "sweet'n'low". it is partly a history lesson of what brooklyn first looked like when the dutch settled it several hundred years ago, it is a story of a dysfuntional family that became wealthy through sweet'n'low, and it also talks about the history of the american fad of dieting and how that fad has made the company successfull. it is by ...more
May 20, 2007 liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The comic-book graphics on the book's jacket feature Cohen exclaiming, "To be disinherited is to be set free!" Ain't it the truth! He describes the rise and fall of Sweet 'n' Low (yes, the sweet chemicals in the pink packet) from the viewpoint of an insider on the outside: due to family politics, Cohen's mother was cut out of his grandmother's will. His grandfather had originally bought the factory and patented Sweet 'n' Low's formula and appearance. Cohen seems surprisingly aware of his strengt ...more
Aug 26, 2007 Ryan rated it liked it
Really 3.5 stars. Was on track to be 4 stars, but it became a bit too catty towards the end - felt like he was revenging his family for cutting his mother and himself out of the inheritance just by writing the book - which started to feel like he was takng low blows. Also, I felt like he was trying to be really profound with the ending, and I thought it was pretty flat. HOWEVER, up to that point, it was a great book. Really interesting story of a family's self-destruction, the power of money, th ...more
This was an excellent book. After reading the reviews I was a little nervous that it was going to be 300 pages of the author whining about not getting his inheritance. I was pleasantly suprised to find within these pages an indepth history of Sweet and Low, including the fight to ban saccharine, the power of the FDA, corrupt politicians as well as a good history on New York. While Cohen does address the fact that his branch of the family was written out of the fortune he does so only in the fina ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Reviewers don't blame Eisenstadt scion Rich Cohen for bearing a grudge. The Los Angeles Times notes that "[h]ell hath no fury like a writer deprived," but in the hands of Cohen, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone and author of Tough Jews and The Avengers, the ire is transformed into compelling reading. Intimate family details__and not everyone is cast in the most flattering of lights__personalize a larger story of the family company and pre- and postwar Brooklyn.The only lapses? A grasp for

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Huntsville-Madiso...: Staff Pick - Sweet and Low by Rich Cohen 1 3 Sep 15, 2013 02:29PM  
  • Holy Days: The World Of The Hasidic Family
  • How to Cook Like a Man: A Memoir of Cookbook Obsession
  • The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws
  • Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration
  • Shocking True Story: The Rise and Fall of Confidential, "America's Most Scandalous Scandal Magazine"
  • True Porn Clerk Stories
  • Thoughts Without Cigarettes
  • Reasons To Be Cheerful
  • Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector
  • When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down
  • The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities
  • ¡Guerra!: Living in the Shadows of the Spanish Civil War
  • The Joy of Drinking
  • The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs
  • When God Looked the Other Way: An Odyssey of War, Exile, and Redemption
  • Awkward Family Pet Photos
  • Ambulance Girl: How I Saved Myself By Becoming an EMT
  • Seven Seasons in Siena: My Quixotic Quest for Acceptance Among Tuscany's Proudest People
RICH COHEN is the author of Sweet and Low (FSG, 2006), Tough Jews, The Avengers, The Record Men, and the memoir Lake Effect. His work has appeared in many major publications, and he is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. He lives with his family in Connecticut.

For more information, please see
More about Rich Cohen...

Share This Book