This was a fascinating read! A great topic, well-researched and wonderfully interesting.
Carpenter is a good writer, but he isn't a great writer. I kept waiting for this book to really get interesting and blow me away - similar to other great nonfiction books - but, it never quite got there.
Caffeinated starts off right into the story, without a good introduction, and starts talking about chocolate, and the international chocolate industry. We then head straight into tea and coffee, and then into caffeinated drinks (like Redbull and 5-Hour Energy).
Obviously, this book is on why caffeine is so addictive - and there is plenty of great information on that aspect of caffeine in this book. What was missing, and what would have made this a 4-star read, is more context, background, and information on how the caffeine industry is effecting the people who grow this crop. There is a bit of discussion of this in the chapter on chocolate, but not all that much. There is also no discussion of the other caffeine crops, which are mentioned, but not really explained. Yerba Maté, guarana, and Kona are the ones that come to mind.
There is no discussion of caffeine in any other industry (like painkillers or drugs), but there is a discussion on the use of caffeine in sports, which was interesting, although not all that useful to me. I guess what most people would have been looking for in a book like this is what to do about caffeine use in everyday life? There are some interesting stats listed about how caffeine effects a person, but in the end, no prescription about how much is too much, or if you should even keep drinking it.
The book also ended on a very abrupt note. There was no conclusion chapter, or even a few pages at the end to bring it all together. I turned the page and ended up at the appendix! A few words bringing everything together, and melding all of Carpenter's research into a few main points, would have really helped the book feel complete.
A fascinating topic - but a non-fiction book that left a bit to be desired.
Venti caramel macchiatos, Red Bulls, super-sized Cokes, chocolate. One needn't look far to find a source of caffeine; no wonder it tops the charts of Americans' favourite drugs. In "Caffeinated," journalist (and coffee addict) Murray Carpenter provides an entertaining compendium of facts and figures on this “largely unregulated drug” and describes how easily caffeine takes hold of the human mind and body. “What few of us are willing to admit,” Carpenter writes, “is that the essence of our longing is this bitter white powder.”
Carpenter's book blends history, interviews, personal accounts and a multitude of test results into a huge compendium of statistics. Though initially engrossing, so much data eventually leave the reader glassy-eyed and overwhelmed. Instead, Carpenter's discussion of political issues proves more gripping; he sites thought-provoking examples of corporate marketing tactics designed to underplay caffeine’s ability to cause panic attacks, insomnia, anxiety and addiction.
The author also details uses of caffeine that border on the absurd: caffeinated "apple pie" in a toothpaste-like tube for keeping military personnel "amped up" and caffeine-infused pantyhose that promise weight loss. Finally, Carpenter pleasantly recounts his visits to coffee farms in Guatemala and a coffee roasting plant in Vermont. Refused access to the world’s largest synthetic caffeine factory in China, however, Carpenter notes that the industry has a long way to go. These factories rarely undergo inspection and often sink into unsanitary condition. Something to keep in mind considering that "just three Chinese factories exported seven million pounds of synthetic caffeine to the United States in 2011, nearly half of our total imports.”
The book reads as a sort of travelogue. Lots of worthwhile history, trends, and recent scientific research regarding caffeine use. Also discussed is off-shore synthetic caffeine production, and corporate attempts to evade any regulations and profit from caffeinated beverages.
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