Friday, July 10, 2009

Tom Standage

Tom Standage is the business affairs editor at the Economist and the author of A History of the World in 6 Glasses, The Victorian Internet, The Turk, and The Neptune File. He has written for Wired, the New York Times, and numerous magazines and newspapers.

His new book is An Edible History of Humanity.

A couple of days ago I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I'm reading three books at the moment. On the fiction side, I'm reading Neal Stephenson's Anathem. This is a very large book — so large that it does not fit in my bag — so I have the e-book of it on my iPhone, too. The book depicts an alternative history in which mathematics has become a religion. It takes a while to get going, but it is packed with geeky in-jokes, as Stephenson's books generally are.

On the non-fiction side, I'm reading Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler. It's a megahistory that looks at world history through the prism of language, and it's fascinating, particularly in the way it draws analogies across space and time. I enjoy megahistories a great deal, which is why I have written two myself (looking at world history from the perspectives of drink and food).

Finally, I'm reading Chris Anderson's Free, which I am reviewing for The Economist. It does not have an elegant central thesis in the way Anderson's previous book, The Long Tail, did. So I find it less intellectually satisfying. But much of the criticism of the book seems to be coming from people who have not read it, and who think it says that everything ought to be free. Actually, the book does not say that. What it says is rather more complicated: that some products can have zero as one of their many prices, or something. The fact that I can't neatly sum up what it says is telling.
Read an excerpt from An Edible History of Humanity, and learn more about the author and his work at Tom Standage's website.

--Marshal Zeringue