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Publisher's Summary

Michael Pollan, known for his best-selling nonfiction audio, including The Omnivores Dilemma and How to Change Your Mind, conceived and wrote Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World as an Audible Original. In this controversial and exciting listen, Pollan explores caffeine’s power as the most-used drug in the world - and the only one we give to children (in soda pop) as a treat.

Pollan takes us on a journey through the history of the drug, which was first discovered in a small part of East Africa and within a century became an addiction affecting most of the human species. Caffeine, it turns out, has changed the course of human history - won and lost wars, changed politics, dominated economies. What’s more, the author shows that the Industrial Revolution would have been impossible without it. The science of how the drug has evolved to addict us is no less fascinating. And caffeine has done all these things while hiding in plain sight! Percolated with Michael Pollan’s unique ability to entertain, inform, and perform, Caffeine is essential listening in a world where an estimated two billion cups of coffee are consumed every day.

©2019 Michael Pollan (P)2020 Audible Originals, LLC.

What listeners say about Caffeine

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    4 out of 5 stars

A history and geography of caffeine!

Michael Pollan, author of the masterful treatise 'Cooked', presents a comprehensive review of the history and usage, including physiological effects, of caffeine in different forms, mainly coffee. The story is made more poignant for being a personal narrative, as Pollan abstained from his regular daily cuppas while he was writing this.

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Not what I expected

I was thinking that caffeine being an addictive substance, the author would spend a lot of effort in pointing out the addiction part and the harm that comes from any type of addiction. That was not the case. The book delves into history of coffee trade and how it shaped the modern societies.

Caffeine, once ingested gives a boost of energy that is required to do everyday work. Regular consumption of caffeine made it easy for people to have a fixed schedule for work without solely relying on body's circadian rhythms. This made it possible for modern civilization to run effectively, where millions of people can predictively work around the clock, doing their part to contributing towards the society and making a living. It is a wonder chemical that shaped the way of life for practically every advanced modern civilization.

Caffeine, however addictive it might be, certainly does not have any significant harmful effects unlike cigarette and alcohol, although it may interfere with one's sleep, affecting the quality of deep sleep if there is too much of it in the system. So, if taken in moderation, there is no reason to be afraid of caffeine in spite of being habit forming and addictive in nature. The benefits far more outweigh the limitations.

1 person found this helpful

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insightful

should read or hear it atleast once to know the true role of coffee or tea in our life.
it will pose you a real question-should you continue drinking ignorantly or give it a second thought ?

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Michael Pollan is great at research and delivery.

This is one of those books where you did not expect much but are pleasantly surprised. I started drinking coffee in my mid 40's and have abandoned tea. This helps explain why 🙂

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Brief yet intriguing

Finished it in one go. it is more like a excerpts from history rather than a complete story. But worth the time spent listening to it

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  • SS
  • 03-07-20

Coffee and the makings of a modern world

As usual Michael Pollan brings his illustrious way of exploring the plant-human worlds, delving deep into their history, that simultaneously surface into observations of our contemporary life and culture. It is Michael Pollan's unique craft in bringing complex theories into a fabric of everyday observations, put them in plots that are easily accessible to a general reader. It's a very rare and unique skill, and here, it's perfectly crafted.
The content is more of a longish book chapter, than a standalone book in itself.

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Caffeine Lover

I chose this book only because of the title.But ended up enjoying it while sipping on my coffee. Light and easy listening with a bit of history and economics thrown in. #butfirstcoffee

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Interesting read

Pertinent read for in today’s times. Am not sure what exactly I’ve taken away from the book but it does make one think.

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  • Melody H
  • 02-02-20

Leaves much to be desired

I know this was free and, well, you get what you pay for; but this could have been awesome. Such a bummer this was so short and basically trivial information about coffee here and there but mostly just an essay of Mr. Pollan getting off caffeine than an actual study of it as the drug of choice in this country as the description would have you believe. Pollan is an amazing author, “In defense of food” transformed my life around food, so I guess I was hoping for something similar here but I guess that’s my expectations fault.

130 people found this helpful

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  • Allyssia
  • 31-01-20

All things considered, it’s a great option

I’m writing this review having on mind that some people might be considering if they should spend their one of their 2 monthly audible originals pick on this book. The answer is yes and I’m going to tell you why.
Despite the fact it’s quite a short book (only 2 hours), I’ve noticed this format is quite common among the selected audible originals they offer. Considering the time restriction it’s worth mentioning one thing: this book covers a LOT of topics, but only talk about each briefly. You’re not going to have a deep analysis on any of the following subjects, however, this is expected when we’re talking about a 2 hours book.

It all starts when the author, Michael Pollan, decides to try going without caffeine for a couple months. This made him reconsider his relation with caffeine and the impacts it had on our history. Along his journey, Michael explains why the beverage, chemically speaking, got so popular, and even links it to the golden age of Middle East, when math was heavily studied, and many findings were made. On the western world, the introduction of coffee made possible quite a lot of changes, that were essential to the development of our modern life, such as the introduction of night shifts, the increase of employer’s production and an augmented tolerance to long hours. As Michael says, it “helped create a new kind of worker”.

However, that wasn’t something entirely beneficial. In fact, the benefits of caffeine are frequently questioned even nowadays. Caffeine was already blamed on cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and even mental illnesses. In the past, the author tells us that there was even a pamphlet claiming that coffee was responsible for the decrease of men’s sexual interest and fertility. Finally, the author wisely points that “caffeine helps us to cope with the world caffeine helped to create”, refereeing to the more demanding work shifts and sleep issues, leaving us with a last question - who’s getting the best out of the human/coffee interaction? Us, or the plants, that shaped us into assuring their survival and massive spread? The answer is up to you.

I for sure recommend this book as a fun listening for your evening. It might not make you an expert on the topic, however, it will surely give you lots of new information that can spice your conversations, as well as offer some perspective on how complex human civilization is, and how one detail (such the appearance of a new beverage) can change everything.


Some highlights:
*The appearance of the first coffee shops in Europe can be compared to Internet forums. Back then, people with the same interests would gather at specific coffee shops to talk, spread news and interact.
*Bees that are exposed to plants that contain caffeine come back to these same plants more often and remember them much more than other plants.
*The introduction of coffee reduced alcohol use and contributed to create a more sober work environment

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  • Dozer The Cat
  • 02-02-20

Wordy for a short book...

More like reading a diary. Not many facts to latch on to. The performance was very good though.

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  • Dennis J Gallagher
  • 02-02-20

Half Caf

Well written and told but science and history at Wikipedia level and sometimes appears overly credulous to broad conclusions reached by individual researchers

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  • 02-02-20

Best free audible yet!

I prefer scientific and historical books however I'm picky with the readers. The subject matter was good, the story telling kept me interested and overall i love it! I'm recommending this to my friends.

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  • R. MCRACKAN
  • 31-01-20

A deep look at the world's most common drug

Deeply researched, yet still suspiciously speculative, this title takes an objective and subjective look at everyone's favorite pick me up. I can't give it full marks due to how sensationalist some of it gets. Overall, a good quick listen as long as you can get it for free.

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  • Mr Dangerous
  • 30-01-20

Short, but an all encompassing look at caffeine...

Pollan is an excellent researcher and writer. He dives into coffee and caffeine. The effects. The economy. And More.

I also love his readings.

24 people found this helpful

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  • Notaprecinct
  • 02-02-20

Wonderful!

I learned so much about coffee in some of the most enjoyable couple of hours spent listening to a book. I am a coffee addict but I have what I consider reasonable willpower and do limit myself to only a morning cupful. This books information has provided insight in regard to that morning cupful and spurred addition research. But most importantly will keep me mindful in regard to the whole issue of coffee drinking. All offered in a delightful listening experience. I highly recommend and will look for more from this author who is also a great narrator.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 31-01-20

A worthwhile listen

I found this book insightful, entertaining, thought provoking, intelligent, personal & well researched. Loved it!

18 people found this helpful

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  • Jonathan
  • 02-02-20

Very enjoyable

Great listen. I drink coffee and tea for pleasure, not for a caffeine kick. In fact, even when I have abstained for long periods of time I still don’t feel any boost from it. This book gave a lot of interesting information, and things to think about regarding even imperceptible effects the drug is having on my system. I also really enjoyed the historical context given. Ultimately, a wonderful book. Thank you!

11 people found this helpful

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  • Laura
  • 31-05-20

Michael Pollan's relationship with caffeine

Michael Pollan explores his relationship with caffeine. He goes cold turkey, and becomes a bit sanctimonious. Then he explores the science and a litte history. It was alright.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 17-01-21

Good

Nice easy listen. Mainly interesting for the history. I expected an expose of sorts but really it’s just a short exploration of the role of caffeine in society. You already know quite a bit on that I’d say.

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  • Aaron Wheeldon
  • 03-03-20

Short but just about the right amount of intrigue

Caffeine, and the human condition for caffeine dependency, is something that has greatly interested me for years now due to my own [previous] caffeination. This is the first such book I have found that looks directly into these effects - which left me longing to know more. Much of the book is spent on the history of the two most frequent sources of caffeine in society - tea and coffee. But what really gripped me was Pollan’s own experiment into becoming caffeine-free and then the transition from sobriety to caffeinated again. Chapter 16 includes some of the best and most accurate writing I have ever heard to describe the most common and pervasive psychedelic experience known to man - the initial hook & effects of caffeine to a sober user. This one passage of writing gave me a new appreciation for the ritual of caffeine and how this can be used in our lives. Probably due to the parallels that Pollan’s experience can draw to the vast majority of people’s lives - as caffeine is so vital to every day society - the book leaves you wanting to know more. Much of the scientific substance included in the book is a [very] condensed version of Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker which is the immediate next step to take in this journey. On a discovery journey, it is a good initial listen which opens the reader up to a much wider topic at hand.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Martin Cummerou
  • 21-10-21

Great book, but don't buy it

This is a great book, but just be aware that the entirety of it is included in "this is your mind on plants" so I'd recommend getting that book instead.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Renae Bounds
  • 26-08-21

you'll need coffee to stay awake

Listening to this was like listening to a stream of consciousness. Little drips of historical facts speckled an unending stream of self-awareness that I found utterly uninteresting.

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  • Will Sam
  • 16-11-21

Absolutely fascinating

A truly fascinating book about the history of caffeine and it's effects on human history. Pollan really gives a fair argument for living with caffeine and without. I feel like some coffee.

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  • Gautam
  • 20-10-21

Sales pitch for caffeine

Quitting caffeine is not as hard as the narrator believes.

I listened to the first 10 minutes, after that I switched it off.

This is a sales pitch for caffeine, teas and coffees to get you to consume.

Nothing particularly objective, all very opinion based. Avoid.

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  • Eleni Lekaki
  • 03-10-21

All should read 😊

Michael Pollan's narration skills are amazing! I have already quit coffee but he just confirmed all my reasons to. 😊

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  • Victoria S.
  • 30-09-21

Very interesting book

A very informative and well narrated book. Really worth a listen. Quite amazing how caffeine has changed the way society has worked.

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  • Andy303
  • 13-09-21

Sufficiently engaging

Short and sweet reading. I simultaneously enjoyed and disliked the anthropomorphisation of coffee. Yes this is a plant that is very significant in many peoples lives, but from an evolutionary standpoint there were some fallacies.

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  • Tiziano
  • 12-07-21

“At the right time”

I have been struggling with reducing caffeine or at least drink alternatively due to the fact I felt I just got ADD!!!
This audiobook has just confirmed to me what a powerful psychoactive drug caffein is.
Also, very accurate in the explanation or historical origin of coffee.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 24-05-20

An Interesting Introduction Into The World Of Coffee

I love coffee. I love the smell, the taste, the sound and the cafe coffee culture that surrounds the drink. So that’s why when I saw a book completely about the subject, (it’s called Caffeine, but really it should be called Coffee) it became an easy decision as to where I should spend my monthly credit.

Caffeine is an introduction to the world of coffee. It brushes on the history of the plant, how it survived, propagated and evolved, how humans discovered it and began to manipulate it for their own benefit and the threads of culture that began to arrive around it. It also documents Pollan’s own relationship as a coffee drinker who relinquishes the drink for his own research and the reintegration of this caffeine back into his life. The positives and negatives of drinking coffee and brushed upon as well, however, there isn’t an ironclad conclusion to be reached; like most things in life the reality isn’t ‘do or do not do’ but somewhere in the middle where balance can be struck.

I enjoyed listening to this book. Pollan is a great writer and narrator and I enjoyed the ebb and flow of the history and reasonings interspersed with Pollan’s own running commentary and experience. My only fault would be that the book is too brief; I wanted more of everything, more history, more biology, more anecdotal theories, but alas, it may just be the coffee drinker in me.

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  • Alexander
  • 14-04-20

An excellent listen

A must listen if you are a regular caffeine consumer ! I really enjoyed listening. I won’t be given up caffeine just yet but I will ensure I drink less and perhaps start to use it in a micro dose format or just drink more consciously.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-11-21

An interesting look at caffine

I really enjoyed this book, the information was well presented and fun, though the history was very eurocentric, I would have loved to seen more about traditional uses of caffine.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-11-21

As ever, Pollan is interesting

As ever Pollan is worth the listen. And I need a coffee to do so.

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  • alex_d
  • 05-11-21

it's ok

it was a good light listen and well presented. I especially enjoyed the last part where he gets back on the coffeine wagon. it was fun to listed and I giggled a few times as I was sipping on my own cup of coffee. I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend this book to my friends but it is a good conversation starter.

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  • Helen Engstrom
  • 31-10-21

Well written, lively and interesting

As with all of Michael Pollan’s books, this short study is well written and so interesting. The author makes a great narrator too.

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  • Wide Eyes, Big Ears!
  • 21-10-21

A delicious appetiser!

Writer and narrator Michael Pollan details the history, pharmacology, and social effects of drinking caffeinated beverages with a big focus on coffee as well as diarising his experiment with giving up coffee. Among the interesting facts: Arabs first started drinking coffee and roasted the beans before exporting so no one else could grow them; microbial diseases declined with the rise of tea and coffee because we boiled the water needed to make the drinks; coffee houses affected literature because authors could sit and listen to a huge range of naturalistic dialogue; and like alcohol, coffee has been banned as times by monarchs and religious rulers. I found Pollan entertaining, especially when he griped: “What work of genius has ever been composed on camomile? What mental breakthrough has ever been credited to mint tea?”

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  • Graham Perth Western Australia
  • 18-09-21

A fascinating look at the world’s favourite drug.

This is my second book by Michael Pollan.
I very much like his writing style as well as his narration.
Being an ex caffeine addict, now a decaf drinker, this book explained for me my behaviour on my long coffee journey.
My next audible book is also by Michael.
If you drink tea or coffee, or if you don’t, you will enjoy this story.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 29-07-21

Brief & Engaging

I don't know what it is about Michael Pollan but he has a way of making everything he writes about seem so fascinating. Despite it's length, I got a lot of value from this work given that I too am experimenting with cutting caffeine from my diet.

Given that coffee is such a staple in the modern world, I was surpsied to find out how little I knew of its origins which are are succinctly put here. Further, I enjoyed the reference to Dr Matthew Walker's work, acting as a good memory aid to his book Why We Sleep.

There is an obvious progression of thought throughout Pollans work, I feel like this could have been a chapter of both The Botany Of Desire or How To Change Your Mind. However, given our almost univeral love for it, I'm glad that caffeine got it's own book.