Caffeine~ by Michael Pollen

This is mainly an entertaining and informational listen. (I’m not sure it’s a whole book.)  It was free with my Audible membership. I’ve read two or three books by Michael Pollan and enjoyed them quite a lot – especially The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006).  I know he’s got a lot of critics and I tend to side with them (GMOs and LSD etc).  There shouldn’t be much trouble with Caffeine.  Pollan drinks it in various forms (probably not sodas though).

Caffeine: How caffeine created the modern world 
by: Michael Pollan (1/20) 
read by author 2 h 2m
rating:  B / social sciences

In order to do a worthy job on the book, he had to stop drinking any kind of caffeine for three months. Not an easy task.

It’s part history and part science with some social science thrown in.  He mentions Tom Standage’s A History of the World in 6 Glasses  (link to my review) which I read several years ago and found to be quite fun.

A chunk of the book revolves around Pollan’s own withdrawal from caffeine.  “What musical masterpiece was ever written under the influence of chamomile?”  And while abstinent, he misses the cultural associations in his daily life.  Then like with any drug, there is the  awareness of how caffeine comes to control the life of an addict,  For instance, when out of town, you scope out where you’ll get your morning fix before you go to bed.

Pollan enumerates the benefits and drawbacks of caffeine along with a few of the difficulties of research.  It does improve mental faculties like focus and linear thinking to a certain extent.  It lightens the mood, too.  But it might not do so well with improving creativity – not known.

He goes on with the less attractive aspects, like sleeplessness which is bad and itself produces more negative effects.

There’s lots more along those lines, plus the origins of Peet’s, a Berkeley original.  Pollan, also from Berkeley,  is a great narrator.  So if you have Audible it’s definitely worth the price and time, so I  say go for it. There are reviews around but  I don’t know if the book is available anywhere else.



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