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Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine
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Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  284 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Now, in Buzz, Stephen Braun removes the cloak surrounding alcohol and caffeine. In an entertaining blend of modern science and ancient lore, Braun takes readers on a remarkable tour of two substances as familiar as a cup of coffee or a can of beer and yet as mysterious and unpredictable as the spirits these beverages were once thought to contain. Much of what Buzz reveals ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 1st 1997 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1996)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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May 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clearly Braun is not familiar with the recipe for modern pop science texts. Where are the extrapolations from statistically insignificant correlations to bold sermons launching the next consumer craze? Why have they been replaced with tempered, conservative statements accurately reflecting the uncertainty of the scientific process and our current state of knowledge?

Genre-bending accuracy aside, Buzz is a handy user manual for the human body and the two drugs you almost certainly abuse it with -
Jun 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
For a book about liquids, rather dry.
Apr 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I definitely had dust off my sixth grade science knowledge for this. Luckily, Dr. Braun is good at making things accessible for non-science types. Even better, he has the rare ability to give just the right amount of information and no more (something many lawyers would do well to learn). Interspersed in all of this are asides from history and literature, giving the book a more expansive feeling than if it were simply science. I never knew reading about alcohol and caffeine while not drink ...more
Mar 18, 2010 marked it as to-read
Shelves: food
Notes from Starbucked

“Tea must be universally renounced. I myself must be weaned, and the sooner the better.” –John Adams in a letter to Abigail Adams, future president and revolutionary
“I asked Schultz if he agreed with those-including his former right and left-hand men, Behar and Orin Smith-who have claimed that Starbucks changed the world. ‘It’s a pretty arrogant thing to say, ‘We changed the world,’” he replied. ‘I don’t know if I’d say it like that I think we have managed to, with a simple
Christine Kenney
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Learned a good deal about brain chemistry and the subject matter is anything but dry.

Expected more of a fusion of the two topics throughout the book; with the exception of the final chapter, this book could be published as two separate books on their respective substance.

The "lore" was a bit light when weighed against hard science coverage. Braun could have delved a lot deeper into the commercial and cultural histories of these substances which in turn influence how quickly the medical communi
Eric Lazarian
A very fast and fun read on two of the most used substances in human beverage/food creation on earth. I will give the book 3.5 stars, actually, and if it weren't "dated" it's scientific back-bone, or, were longer, (it's about 100-200 pages too short) then I would have given it 4.5 or 5 stars. The work is written in a fun style that moves quickly and covers both the science and the history of both caffeine and alcohol. The author also does a great job of tackling the myths behind the uses and eff ...more
Yakov Pyatnitskov
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book is divided into 2 parts: alcohol and caffeine. I read into after reading another book about drugs and addiction called Never Enough and Buzz added up nicely to what was not clear (neurons, transmitters, another biochemical terms).

Some info in Buzz is of course dated but the most important information is still valid. Alcohol turned out more complex and interesting than other drugs (the term “sledgehammer” refers to its action on many areas in the brain and in many ways somehow mimicking
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative and fun. Made me look at the subject with a new perspective.
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant dichotomy of new neurochemistry implications and clinical studies
Don Cram
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I realize a non-fiction book discussing the scientific research on the effects of alcohol and caffeine is not the usual fare for fiction readers and writers. However, many of us who write include both substances in our daily routines. This book tells the story of alcohol and caffeine, what research has shown about their actual effects, and the hypotheses about how the brain and body respond to create those effects. I have taught high school chemistry and am sure anyone who has made it through hi ...more
I checked this out from the library on a recommendation from bwanderson.

Braun discusses the physiological and psychological effects of perhaps the two most common mind-altering substances in a clear, detailed and occasionally humourous manner. Alcohol is his first target, and after a brief history lesson, he takes us on a tour of the body via an alcohol molecule. This "exceptionally pudgy dog" of a molecule can sneak into our systems in a multitude of ways and cause havoc in nearly everything i
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I like coffee. I like non-fiction. I thought I would love this book and I just didn't. The chapters each open interestingly enough with a quote and an anecdote but then they drag on forever with a description of chemical and biological studies. I do not like chemistry nor do I like biology and unfortunately a large majority of the "science and lore" was dedicated to boring the pants off me with chemical compounds and how they affect every boring organ I've never cared to know more about. I need ...more
May 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013
Author made chemistry, molecular biology and neuroscience accessible and entertaining. I learned a lot from this book. Like why alcohol is both a stimulant and a depressant, how the body processes both alcohol and caffeine, and the little we do actually know about how they affect the brain. Especially interesting:
- stomach enzymes have more to do with alcohol tolerance than you think;
- while evidence suggests a genetic link for alcoholism, no gene has yet been isolated and the rate of alcoholis
Josh Hamacher
Dec 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a very enjoyable, very informative read. This short volume is a summary of the effects of caffeine and alcohol on the body and mind. It's clearly very well-researched (note that it dates from 1996, so I'm certain that there have been new discoveries since then). Braun goes into a fair amount of detail about the chemical pathways involved, but the basics should be a review for anyone who's taken a decent high-school biology class.

Despite the fairly technical nature this is a re
Feb 15, 2018 rated it liked it
I started taking caffeine quite late, so thought I’d check up on it. This is fun, with lots of historical flavour and scientific wonder. (The coolest fact in it is that the body’s direct link between effort and fatigue is the result of an incredibly elegant cycle using adenosine: the production of energy in the body (by breaking down adenosine triphosphate) is exactly the same process as inducing sleep, as the process’ byproduct adenosine triggers dampening receptors in the brain.)

He doesn’t gi
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was more science than lore. And that is not a bad thing!
I especially liked that the author mentions studies that have not been replicated (or that were faulty to start with). There's a lot of nonense that gets repeated, and it's good to have a book that sorts out the real facts.
I also like the author's general stance that there's enough variation among individuals that none of his information could ever be one-size-fits-all.
Carole Bucher
Apr 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the author's capacity to educate while entertaining. A little bit like Norman doidge's book on the brain only a bit more graphically detailed. I loved getting such a close up description of what actually happens to me when I do certain things to myself. I was very entertained and will probably read it again. ...more
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Out of 200 pages, I would say that between 150-160 pages were fascinating. We drink too much coffee and alcohol to not have a firm understanding of how these substances work. That is where this book shines, when he explains things from a biochemical perspective. Worth the read, and also a very easy read.
Sep 16, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a non-fiction book. Interesting finding out what alcohol does on its way through your body, alot of chemical and biological descriptions. It did drag on a little though at times so one of those books you pick up and put down over time, for me anyway, overall good to learn some interesting scientific things about Alcohol and Caffeine.
Mar 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
Accessible and easy to read. I didn't find the writing dry, but it definitely is more focused on the science than the lore of these drugs, so you have to be interested in that.

I would say where this book suffers is that it's slightly dated. In particular, the information around caffeine is somewhat anemic compared to the current day knowledge of its mechanisms. Still an informative read.
Stuart Bobb
This was interesting to me, given my own experiences with caffeine and a good way to get a clear update on the latest thinking on how these drugs work on the brain.

It isn't long or engaging enough to quite earn a recommendation for anybody that isn't already quite interested in brain chemistry things.
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
must have read this a few years late (i got it used), because the pop culture references and humor missed their mark for me. interesting, but it was kind of like watching 200 Cigarettes in the movie theater only to leave in the middle for a smoke break. just kidding, i never did that.
Feb 09, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: inquring iminds
Shelves: psych-sociology
Book about basic information on what Alcohol and caffeine does to the body.
B/B = Borrow
Bought this book to learn the effects of caffeine on the body, as I had given it up for 2 years, and longed for a Pepsi or a cup of hot cocoa...
Nov 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
Mr. Braun reminded me of a the myriad effects of alcohol and caffeine on the mind and body. I ended up skimming a fair bit because I didn't discover much revelatory information, much I wasn't already aware of. ...more
I don't remember why I grabbed this at the library but I am loving the scientific explanations behind why these drugs affect us.
Won't make me change my caffeine or alcohol habit. I may even start to combine them. Hello irish coffee.
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Buzz is the perfect combination of scientific information with light hearted humor and real case studies. It's a fascinating look at how little we know about the effects of the world's two most popular drugs. ...more
Apr 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Bright history of everyone's two favorite mind-altering substances. This is almost 20 years old, so it would be interesting to see how modern neuroscience and genetics have changed our view of how people react to these substances. ...more
Apr 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
My only real complaint about this book is that it's almost 20 years old. I now need to find a follow up that looks at energy drinks. Otherwise, this is a quick, informative read, that strangely made me want to watch The Magic Schoolbus. ...more
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
A fun exploration of the world's favorite psychoactive drugs. It goes into detail on how both work, why we like them so much, and their repercussions. Great fun and a new way to think about your daily drink(s). ...more
Something about the way everything is presented in extensive, scientific detail makes the message stick. I have definitely become more conservative in my consumption of both chemicals since reading this book.
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