Well this is apropos, listening to a book on the history and science of caffeine while doing my own experiments with the stuff. This short book – what’s the novella equivalent of nonfiction? – discusses how the human race discovered and spread caffeine in the forms of coffee and tea across the world, and how that spread changed our culture and biology. Coupled with that are Pollan’s own experiments with caffeine abstinence and re-introduction.
A couple thoughts on this book. First, it could have been much longer and encompassed a whole hell of a lot more information. I’ve enjoyed most of Pollan’s food-history books in the past and this one felt like it barely skimmed the surface of the subject. I suppose that’s what you get for a two-hour long audiobook. Because of the short length, I didn’t learn nearly as much as I would have liked. I’d hoped to use this as a supplement to my own research into caffeine, but other than a few facts about bees and caffeine-infused nectar, I didn’t really learn much. It was definitely beginner’s nonfiction.
Second, I’m not sure I react to caffeine the same way as most people. Pollan described his reaction to caffeine after three months without it as an insane drive to go-go-go. It reminded me exactly of Alice’s reaction to coffee after a week without it in What Alice Forgot. I’ve never had any kind of intense energy or drive to do stuff after drinking caffeine, not in the beginning, not after going without it for longer than normal. I thought that was just something that happened in fiction, to be honest. It was interesting to hear about this happening to someone in real life, especially as it apparently happens to Pollan every week as he tries to abstain every day except Saturday. Do you all experience caffeine as a jolt or rush? I’d love to hear about those experiences. I find that quite fascinating. For me, drinking a cup of coffee is no different than drinking a glass of water or a cup of orange juice. (Or a cup of decaf coffee, for that matter.)
Altogether, I’d say that this book was okay. Could’ve been better/more, but I did get something out of it.