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Sugar: The Grass That Changed the World Hardcover – 25 Nov 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Virgin Books (25 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852270349
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852270346
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 715,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sanjida O'Connell is a writer, journalist and broadcaster.

She's the author of four novels, Theory of Mind, Angel Bird, The Naked Name of Love and Sugar Island.

She's contributed to a number of non-fiction books, including Animal Life and Nature's Calendar, based on the BBC TV series, which she co-presented with Chris Packham.

Her other non-fiction books are Mindreading: How we learn to love and lie, Sugar: The grass that changed the world and Chimpanzee: The making of the film.

Product Description


...absorbing and illuminating history of sugar. -- New Scientist

...pulls the material together in an accessible and interesting way...exposing sugar's impact on health, economies, landscapes politics and culture. -- The Independent

An amazing insight into the development of the first sweets...with some brilliant evocative descriptions. -- Health and Fitness Magazine

From the Back Cover

Sugar is produced in 121 countries worldwide and annual production, which already exceeds 120 million tonnes globally, is increasing year on year. Sugar has been described as a medicine, a necessity, a drug, but its tale is one of both life and death - it is in every cell of our bodies. Humans are all dependent on sugar for life, but it was responsible for the enslavement and death of millions of Afticans and is at the root of one of today's most serious health problems: over one fifth of adults in the UK and third of adults and half of the children in America are clinically obese.

Our lust for sugar has changed the shape of the world economically culturally and scoially. Sanjida O' Connell reveals, in accessible and scintillating prose, the extraordinary and illuminating story of sugar's journey from a grass to world domination.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. D. Williams on 6 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
"does for sugar what David Sobel did for Longitude" said the cover - quoting "Guardian". Well it doesn't do it that well.
I have read a lot of these "single issue" books - this is not the best of the bunch. It was in impulse buy based on my enjoyment of other, similar, titles - I should have spent my money on something else.
The early chapters are fair - lots of interesting scientific and historical facts but the text is poorly structured (or edited?), with non-sequitors, muddy logic and inaccuracies - quite often I found myself stopping and thinking "no that's not right?", "where are we now then?", "what was that bit about?", "what was that aside for?"

For example - I think it was the Avon that ran through the centre of Bristol and has since been re-routed - I cannot see how, in geologically recent times at least, it was the river Severn (page 67)
The second half read like a set of notes for a student dissertation or a magazine article - trawled from the web, reference books and inteviews and hastily hacked together to meet a deadline. Bitty and a struggle to get through. it was hard to keep myself immersed in the book and I was glad when it was over.
The reader may wish first to consider:
COD: a Biography of the Fish That Changed the World - Mark Kurlansky (just the right size)
Longitude - Dava Sobel (!)
Salt: A World History - Mark Kurlansky (Though it is VERY comprehensive and really quite long)
Nathaniel's Nutmeg: How One Man's Courage Changed the Course of History - Giles Milton (Big surprise at the end!)
Honorable Mention:
The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus - John Emsley (How to make light from 200 gallons of wee and a lot else you did not know)
The best of these monographs are full of lovely stories, unanticipated connections and interesting characters.
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By Eileen G Sarah on 13 Dec. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What an informative book. I shall never look at sugar in the same way again!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
Sweet reading 18 Feb. 2007
By Frank Christiny - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Not been an historian or academic type, I am thoroughly satisfied with the way this author has presented her researches into the interesting history of sugar. From its humble beginning as a grass in the plains of New Guinea ten thousand years ago, to the building of nations, transiting through its modes of manufacturing, O'Connell gives us a travelogue of the trail and travails of sugar and its impact on human history, our current history, as no other author I have read on the subject of foodstuffs has. (I once had to return a book on the history of the potato due to its starchy style.) If, like me, you are hungry for knowledge and enjoy storytelling, this is a book you most definitely need to buy. And, who knows, it may put you off manufactured sugar and its derivatives altogether! Which is not a bad thing given that we humans do not need it in order to survive. Want to know more? Read the book.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Unimpressed 25 Nov. 2006
By Mike Elliott - Published on
Format: Hardcover
While I consider the subject matter of O'Connell's book is very interesting, her writing is uninspired and the academic honesty of the book is highly questionable. The book is readable, but could have used a hefty dose of editing before being printed. There are a number of places where O'Connell's meanings are unclear at best, and even occasionally uninteligible. She does not cite any of the information presented in the book, even direct quotes. She uses frequent long quotes to describe what she's discussing, but they're taken verbatim from other works. For example, many of the long quotes she uses to explain her points are exactly the same as those that Mintz uses in his 1985 book Sweetness and Power. Having just finished reading Mintz's work before starting O'Connell's, I can even say that many of her "paraphrased" descriptions are probably not paraphrased enough. I found myself frequently wondering how honest the author was in her writing. At the very least, her arguments are unoriginal. I would not recommend purchasing this book. I feel that O'Connell intended it for mass consumption at the lowest common denominator, and the writing style reflects that. If this is a topic that you find interesting, it would be better to check out other sugar classics, such as Mintz's work.
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