"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!)
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.