#3 on the histories of everyday objects
list, Standage's overview of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola succeeds in what is actually a sort of difficult writing exercise--finding the special in the mundane, in one sense; and showing how everyday objects impacted history. the book is not perfect. there's an entire literature in military writing about alcohol and its effects on armies (a direct correlation between war crimes and alcohol, as one would expect), so Standage's one major flaw was not to delve into military history and meet military historians for that major uncovered angle. in the naval sphere, 'grog' is mentioned, but Standage doesn't cover that the grog ration was maintained in the Royal Navy well into the 1980s if not the 90s. (although he mentions the vitamin-c containing grog was superior to the french ration of eau de vin/ acqua vitae) I think it was Beevor who wrote that the Red Army was well-behaved in German cities where the burgomeisters had destroyed the liquor stocks; where they had failed to take this precaution, massive war rape, gang rape, atrocities against civilians broke out.
however, keeping as he does mostly to the civilian sphere, Standage succeeds in showing the importance of six beverages, and his account is interesting and attention-grabbing.