Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776 does a decent job of painting the picture of rum in the lives of early American colonists. It's been praised as "rambunctious, rollicking history, sodden with tasty lore," (Kirkus Reviews), but I find the writing style a little lackluster, actually. The play on spirits (distilled alcohol), spirited (lively), and spiritual (in a religious context) can only be funny for so long, but Williams stretches it to the last drop. A minor quibble, though the author does occasionally give in to the temptation to use as much verbiage as possible without ending a sentence. It gives the book a much less scholarly attitude that it would otherwise have had.
That said, the information Williams presents is interesting, in its context. The author's focus is clearly early American history, which is not unreasonable, given that rum's very origin was in the New World, the Americas. However, the reader is occasionally left with the feeling that there may be a broader context he is missing out on. Of course, the title of the book does limit the focus, but limiting the focus of a book which is already very narrow in scope (rum, as a topic, is not especially broad compared to, say, trade in general, or even alcohol in general) doesn't help matters. Williams occasionally seems to be a little bit too eager to prove his points, sometimes grasping at straws; however, in a book about a subject often lacking in documentary evidence, some conjecture is not out of place.
Williams cites most of the same sources most other histories of rum use, mainly because there aren't many solid primary sources out there. He then proceeds into less murky areas, to the American Revolution and rum's role therein (which he exaggerates from time to time). The very end of the book contains a few short chapters about rum in different locales, and he closes with a brief chapter regarding the US Prohibition era. There is also a section of black-and-white pictures, including vintage advertisements.
All in all, Ian Williams' Rum is quite readable, and worth having in your collection, if you do indeed have a collection of this sort of book. If my review has sounded somewhat tepid, it's only because I have since read other treatments of the subject that I find better; another good addition to your liquor library would be Wayne Curtis' And a Bottle of Rum. But if you'd like a light read, and you're in no danger of taking everything you read at face value, A Social and Sociable History is worth picking up. I'd give it 3.5 stars, but Amazon won't allow it.