A Critical Book Review on a History of the World in 6 Glasses

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Tom Standage’s purpose in writing this book is to give the history of the world based around 6 beverages and their impact on culture, the economy, politics, religion and society as a whole. The drinks used in the book are beer, wine, spirits, coffee tea and coke. This novel utilizes specific moments in history dating all the way from ancient egypt to the 2000’s and pulls events from all over the world. The book explains the unique origin of each drink and its impact worldwide over time. Standage uses researched facts and stories paired new discoveries to unite the time period ranging thousands of years.

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Standage used many different sources in his writing and has them all listed at the end of the book in the ‘sources’ section, taking up close to nine pages.The author uses both primary sources and secondary sources dating from the 1600’s until the 2000’s. His research from Mesopotamian times ,where not many first hand accounts were documented, is based primarily on secondary sources and stories such as the Epic of Gilgamesh which is known as the world’s first written story. Things such as articles and journal entries were used to get a better understanding of the impacts taking place. Throughout his career, Standage wrote seven books total , all involving the motif that past human history and the present are connected.

The formatting of this book is in chronological order connect how the 6 drinks discussed all impacted and even replaced each other around the world over time. As time progressed, so did technology, and the author recognized this by explaining how culture, politics, and day to day life changed and stayed the same with the introductions and impacts of these drinks. There are two chapters for each drink, one explaining its origins and the other telling stories and insights on events that took place following. The author left no gaps or misunderstandings, he went in depth with the actual history in the places the stories take part in as well as how countries all around the world were involved. There is minor repetition in the book in which the author explains quotes and ideas that are almost self-explanatory or influenced to, using context.

The overarching thesis Strandage makes throughout the book is that these six beverages have had powerful effects politically, economically, socially, and culturally all over the world during crucial times serving as a catalyst, ultimately shaping history. This work shares specific insight into conflicts and societies all over the world through time. It covers a vast period of time while also keeping it contained in one publication, making it an overall in-depth storytelling summary.

Standage has professions as a writer and a journalist but his journalist side shines through in this book, as it is based on the course of history through facts and events showing no bias or personal opinions. Since there is more than one subject relayed through the book, the author shows no particular reason his writing choice other than curiosity or knowledge he had previously attained to cause his gain in interest to further research the impact of important drinks on society. Based on his prior works he seems to have an attraction to relating items of common knowledge in the context to the past as well as the present.

The demographic intended to be reached by this book is students for their world history classes and people who are genuinely interested in expanding their knowledge or gaining new information on the topic of world history. This book is written to where someone who has no prior knowledge on the topic can understand and enjoy it while simultaneously, those who do have knowledge on the topic are not faced with the same regurgitated information just in another form, but new insights to learn from and connect back to. The discussion of beverages also fits a larger demographic because they are well known, allowing readers understand societal standpoints on these drinks.

This book is close to the organization of a novel, telling stories while also communicating facts. The incorporation of both facts and stories blend together nicely also instead of seeming choppy.It was not a shocking critically acclaimed take on history, but more so an entertaining way to project the overview of eras. In the grand scheme of historical books , the formatting is not choppy as anticipated when there are new stories and topics introduced every two chapters.

I found the book surprisingly interesting , just not something I usually gravitate towards when reading. It was refreshing to be able to connect the timelines of the different drinks in the world while reading. It allows you to see different perspectives from different civilizations of regions of historical events that you might’ve never seen prior to reading. Even though the information held in this book won’t necessarily be of any use to me in the future, I would still recommend it to people who enjoy to learn things from a variety of historical events. Personally though I was not completely engaged with the idea of reading a book about world history and would recommend it to others like me who don’t read school related books for fun. On the other hand, for the sake of furthering one’s knowledge on a variety of topics relating to world history ‘A History of the World in 6 Glasses’ would be a beneficial addition to your library.  

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