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A History of the World in 6 Glasses

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  24,643 ratings  ·  2,580 reviews
Throughout human history, certain drinks have done much more than just quench thirst. As Tom Standage relates with authority and charm, six of them have had a surprisingly pervasive influence on the course of history, becoming the defining drink during a pivotal historical period.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the 21s
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 16th 2006 by Bloomsbury (first published May 31st 2005)
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This book should really be called "A History of the Western World in 6 Glasses," as it doesn't consider the drinks of South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and much of Asia. Indeed, tea is considered only through the lens of the British empire, even though the formal Japanese tea service is arguably more interesting than a British tea party. Even as a Western history, it kind of fails, as there's a large gap between wine production in the Roman empire and the distillation of rum in Barbado ...more
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
A well-written book is sure to quench the thirst of a curious reader, full of facts or action that keeps them coming back for more. But, how did people throughout history quench their literal thirst and how do the beverage choices made throughout history help define the advancements the world has seen since its inception? Tom Standage seeks to answer these and many other questions as he examines how six beverages (beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola) help to explain global advancemen ...more
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, food
I seem to be in a phase where I like books that show me the hidden life of the everyday things all around us, especially food and drink. A few years ago I read "Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany", by Bill Buford, which started me on this quest, which was followed by several more books, including "The Omnivore's Dilemma", by Michael Pollan. Most recently I read "The Search for God and Guinness", by Stephen ...more
An interesting and engaging way to learn about history. I found it fascinating. Will look on these beverages through new lenses now.
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I noticed this book on a few friend's 'to-read' lists and thought I should write a review on it since I have read it a few years back and it is still very much part of our family's proud ...intellectual history...8-)

We do not realize how necessary fluids are for our survival. As Tom Standage states, we can live without food for quite a while, but will die very soon of fluid deprivation. In fact, aren't we looking for water on Mars before we migrate there? :-))

Initially I did not plan to buy thi
Patrick Peterson
23 Feb 2015 - I read this book since my son recommended it to me, while he was reading it for his World History AP class this year. I see why he liked it and I generally did too. It is fun and breezy and covers some fascinating ground that is indeed important, and grossly undercovered in most books or courses in history.

However, the book is a bit presumptuous in stating it is a “History of the World…” or that the six drinks have “defined humankind’s past.” Neither statement is totally true, exce
Stefan Burrell
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book, I've read twice. It takes you from the formation of beer and society in Mesopotamia, to the use of wine as currency and how wine types represented a social classification system in Greece and Rome. It went through spirits and colonial time: We only have whiskey because it took too long to ship scotch and brandy by wagon out west, so we made corn whiskey. To how coffee was at first banned in Muslim society and called black wine - till they figured that it caused a different state of mi ...more
Alex Givant
Excellent book about 6 drinks (beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Cola) that impacted live of mankind through different ages.
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pop non-fiction with clever gimmick of six beverages to summarize world history. Plenty of interesting factoids.

One problem is that the flip side of the cleverness of the gimmick is that all sorts of beverages are left out. The human consumption of animal milk, for example, is an interesting story with important implications but we don't learn about that.

Another problem is that the research does not appear to be very deep and so some of the factoids don't seem to be true. For example, tea is c
Sep 29, 2016 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
An interesting way of breaking history up by beer, wine, whiskey, coffee, tea, & cola. Each came into its own in our history & may well have driven it in some ways. The basic idea along with a thumbnail of each is laid out in the introduction pretty well. Well enough that I didn't want to continue listening after about half the first section on beer. I didn't care much for the narrator & that wasn't helped by repetitious writing. This would probably be a great book to read, though.

It's doubtful,
Sep 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2016
It is funny how we prefer certain aspects of books. Another review here enjoyed the non-alcoholic drinks better than the alcoholic drinks due to the amount of history and economics it covered, but I found the alcohol drinks to be far more interesting, in depth, and entertaining. Overall, I liked this book and learned a lot about how these drinks affected trade and became popular worldwide.
A History of the World in 6 Glasses having mentioned it several times in conversation haha bit funny when you have had a few. History of the world Beer, wine, spirits liquor, tea, cofee and coke. Very informative and one way of looking at world history. Enjoyed it immensely and worth the time.
May 25, 2007 rated it liked it
6 Glasses zeroes in on six liquids--from beer in ancient Mesopotamia to wine and spirits to coffee and tea and finally to cola and the globalization of brands such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola--and targets each as being responsible (or at least culpable) for the shaping of cultures (quite likely), writing itself (quite possible), and industrialization (believable, especially in light of Coke).

Each of the libations receives its proper dues. The organization of the book itself is very well done, and the
Sep 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I saw this in my sister's to-read list and, boy, am I glad! This was a really fun book to read.
For me.
It was not so fun for my husband, who was stuck sitting next to me and hearing, "Hey, listen to this --" and "Here's something interesting --". But now I'm done, so he can read all the little leftover bits where I managed to hold my tongue and let him enjoy his own book (which probably wasn't half so interesting).

The book attempts to tell the history of the world using six beverages that illus
Apr 18, 2013 rated it liked it
It is possible to view history through almost any lens...in this case the author chose drinks to tell a story of the world's development. Filled with interesting facts and carefully researched, the author deftly recounts human/political/religious events from the perspective of six different drinks. Interestingly, half of them contain no alcohol!

I would have rated it higher were it not for the sometimes confusing prose. Transitional phrases from one subtopic to the next did not have the flow need
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: no-ficcion
This was a great book. If you're interested in history and beverages I highly recommend it to you.

It explores world history from the point of view of the discovery and consumption of several key beverages: beer, wine, rum, coffee, tea and cola.

I learned a lot. My favorite chapters were the ones about coffee.

I recommend it, specially in audiobook format.
Victor Sonkin
A great account of six drinks which were important at different times through the ages (though many of them remained quite important even after they were the drink: beer, wine, spirits (rum/whiskey), tea, coffee, soda. One of the best ways to describe human history.
Wayland Smith
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read about this book and was interested in the concept. How have various drinks helped shape human history? I wasn't sure what to expect, but what I got was a light read that was entertaining and informative. Discussed are beer, wine, rum, coffee, tea, and Coke. I know it sounds like a weird and random assortment, but the author makes it work.

Beer was one of the first drinks mankind made, and some theories about how it happened, ancient stories about it, and its importance to ancient cultures
May 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As someone who's never really enjoyed "proper" history, I'm always surprised when I find myself enjoying a history book. This managed to both entertain and educate me, because with just the 6 drinks highlighted the author managed to create a brief history of civilisation as we know it. It really is amazing how much the fashions for certain drinks (and/or the lack of taxation on certain drinks) has shaped the world!

I think the last chapter, on CocaCola, let the book down slightly though. For the
Apr 27, 2018 rated it did not like it
Had to read this book for school so I obviously didn’t enjoy it 😂
3.5 stars. This book purports to tell the history of six iconic drinks in world history and how they were spread all over the world hand-in-hand with trade and conquest/colonialism, and as an introductory & popular history book, it fulfills its role just fine. I think those reviewers complaining about the lack of depth and stuff like "where's Germany for the beer section?" and "Where's France and California for wine history?" and "large gaps between wine in Rome and rum in Barbados," and even si ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I would probably not have picked this book to read if it were up to me, because I tend to prefer books that go a bit more in-depth on a topic. After all, I read an entire book about one kind of fish (Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World). This was the holiday read for my in-person international book club, so I was able to breeze through it over the holidays.

The author gives a brief overview of the history of six beverages - beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and... Coca-Cola. Yeah
May 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club, nonfiction
Meh... Where it was good, it was GREAT. Oddly (for me, 'cos I don't touch the stuff) the section on coffee was the most interesting.
Where it wasn't great, it ran to boring. Part of me wanted more, thinking it had to be more interesting than what I was reading. But after a while, part of me thought maybe it's just not, and more would be only more of the same.
If you're already interested in this book, go ahead & pick it up. You'll get through it; you will learn some interesting facts; and you may
Jon Biggerstaff
Jan 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoy history. I enjoy libations. Standage combines them both to wield a fascinating book on how 6 distinct beverages helped to shape and, at times, even define a time-period. From the Neolithic period and how the Mesopotamians stumbled into making beer, to the Industrial Revolution and the rise of Coca-Cola, it impresses the idea that beverages were not simply for enjoyment but were often catalysts of change in our society and in global influence.
Mary Catelli
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This got recommended at Lunacon at more than one panel I was at. The title is a bit hyperbolic. The six drinks discussed are indeed significant in the history of beverages, and their adoption occured at otherwise historically significant times, but sometimes they were just harbringers, or even merely coinciding -- though sometimes they were indeed movers and shakers in history. Then, the drinks by themselves can be fascinating.

Beer is the first, and obviously, the least well-documented, since it
Sep 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was a lot of fun. Tom Standage is a writer for The Economist, and this book, A History of the World in 6 glasses, reads well. It takes you through 6 chapters dedicated to: beer, wine, distilled spirits, coffee, tea, and Coke.

Beer was a big part of the development of domestication and agriculture, and he goes through how it probably developed and what customs still survive. Beer used to be drunk from one huge jar, and everyone would use a straw, so it was a very communal thing - one of the
I enjoyed this overview of six influential and historically important beverages throughout human history. This is a very broad, surface-level overview, but that's not a bad thing! I liked how the author focused on each beverage in regards to a specific time/place. It's inspired me to try and read further about these topics. ...more
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My favorite chapters were wine, coffee, and Coca-Cola
Patricia Foreman
Jun 10, 2022 rated it liked it
3 stars is a bit harsh but it did take 3 weeks to finish. I was super interested in half the book and just interested in the other half. Very good if you like history. I wish I could give half stars.
Dennis Littrell
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very readable with interesting detail

This is about six beverages that changed world history. They are: beer, wine, distilled liquor, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola.

Author Tom Standage begins by taking us back to the dawn of the agricultural age with beer in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and in pre-Columbian Europe. Beer was the drink of choice for just about everybody because there was little else to drink (no coffee, no tea, and only the occasional grape or fruit wine or mead made from honey). And beer wa
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Omnibus Futurelings: A History of the World in Six Glasses 1 10 Mar 10, 2022 10:01AM  
Wear Eyeglasses to Protect Your Eyes 1 2 Sep 17, 2018 06:56AM  
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Tom Standage is a journalist and author from England. A graduate of Oxford University, he has worked as a science and technology writer for The Guardian, as the business editor at The Economist, has been published in Wired, The New York Times, and The Daily Telegraph, and has published five books, including The Victorian Internet[1][2]. This book explores the historical development of the telegrap ...more

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