An Edible History of Humanity

  • by Tom Standage
  • Narrated by George K. Wilson
  • 10 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Throughout history, food has acted as a catalyst of social change, political organization, geopolitical competition, industrial development, military conflict, and economic expansion. An Edible History of Humanity is a pithy, entertaining account of how a series of changes---caused, enabled, or influenced by food---has helped to shape and transform societies around the world.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Interesting information, distracting accents

The information contained in this book is excellent, full and very interesting. I was disappointed with the frustrating narration and slightly stilted organization of the writing. Regardless of the minor writing style distractions and the major narration distractions, I would highly recommend the book.

I recently read Tom Standage's "History of the World in 6 Glasses." Similar to "An Edible History of Humanity," 6 glasses is a not-quite-chronological and broad-ranging history of the world focused on one aspect of humanity. Also similar to 6 glasses, Edible History is organized what feels like a 5 paragraph essay format or a textbook chapter. Standage starts with his general introduction to the chapter topic, fills it out with specific examples, interesting details and related stories or anecdotes. Unfortunately, he tends to then restate his "thesis" or the main chapter points before moving on to a related but separate topic which he introduces using similar phrasing to the previous topic introduction. I found this annoying at first (in both books) but was less bothered as the audiobook progressed (I skimmed the summaries in the 6 glasses book which I read instead of listening to).

The narrator's faults I had more trouble moving past. When the book began I thought I was listening to a filmstrip narration or an educational video being show during a particularly boring elementary school class. Later, when I had come to terms with the filmstrip-voice (though I never liked it), I was pained by the voices used by the narrator to distinguish quotes from various famous characters in the book. The Christopher Columbus voice was annoying, the Adam Smith voice was painful and the French pronunciation was painful to anyone who doesn't expect a nasal R in people and place names.

My frustrations with repetition and terrible narration aside, I enjoyed the book greatly. I was particularly pleased with some explanations on various topics that were more complete and more clear (except when spoken in French) than those I have read in previous books. I tend to devour a lot of this sort of book--idiosyncratic histories of specific topics--and I felt like this book was a complement to those I have read. On the few occasions when the author repeated information I already knew, he generally quickly related it to his topic of food and other ideas he had also been discussing.

Though the book suggests it will simply be a history of food, the author does an excellent job of integrating and incorporating politics, world events and individual experiences into his interpretation. I look forward to reading more of Tom Standage's work (hopefully with a different narrator).

There were a few remarkable specific areas where Standage improved upon my previous understanding of events or issues. Standage gave a much better explanation of the development of maize than I encountered in my previous reading (particularly Gavin Menzies' problematic 1421). I also was fascinated with the discussion of the health benefits of hunter-gather societies over agricultural ones and the explanation of why the nutritionally inferior agriculture took over and transformed the world.

Unfortunately I took notes for this book on my iPhone Audible App and the automatic spelling correction has replaced my note about something in 6000BCE in the near east with "bug blogs" I'm guessing they didn't have bug blogs in 6000BCE, so I'll have to go back and figure that out.
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- Rachel "I am a clay sculptor and an art instructor at a community college. I mostly listen to audiobooks while I work in my home studio."

A big heaping feast of history

An Edible History is a wide world history of food, agriculture, and society. Standage, who wrote the wonderful book "The Victorian Internet" about the rise and role of the telegraph, writes even more comprehensively about food and it's role in history. It's rich with detail and yet paints a broad picture of food, economics, and science across thousands of years and the entire globe. The audio production is crisp, even with the occasional strangely acted-accented quotation.

A high quality, well written work translated effectively for the audio format.
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- Eric

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-20-2009
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio