History of the World in 6 Glasses
by Tom Standage

Screen shot 2013-03-08 at 1.09.35 PMA captivating exploration of the significant role that six beverages have played in the world’s history—such as beer in Mesopotamia and Egypt, coffee in the Age of Reason, tea in the English Empire, and Coke in today’s America.

Opening paragraph:  Thirst is deadlier than hunger.  Deprived of food, you might survive for a few weeks, but deprived of liquid refreshment, you would be lucky to last more than a few days.  Only breathing matters more.  Tens of thousands of years ago, early humans foraging in small bands, had to remain near rivers, springs, and lakes to ensure an adequate supply of freshwater, since storing it or carrying it was impractical.  The availability of water constrained and guided human-kind’s progress.  Drinks have continued to shape human history ever since.

Quotes by critics:  “Loaded with the kind of data that get talked about at the figurative water cooler.  Incisive, illuminating and swift.” (The New York Times); “Standage starts with a bold hypothesis—that each epoch from the Stone Age to the present has had its signature beverage—and takes readers on an extraordinary trip through world history.  The Economist’s technology editor has … knack for summarizing vast concepts in a few sentences.”  (Publishers Weekly); “History, along with a bit of technology, etymology, chemistry and bibulous entertainment.”  (Kirkus Review)

Bio:  London-based Tom Standage is a journalist and author.  Currently he is the digital editor at The Economist; formerly he was deputy editor of the technology section of London’s Daily Telegraph, he has also written for Wired, The Guardian, and The Independent.