Book Review: The Cigar Story

The Cigar Story:  How It All Started, by MJ Mattson

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Books Go Social.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Although in general my sentiments are strongly anti-smoking unless my meats are concerned, I have at least a few reasons to be more fond of cigars than most such products [1].  As a child I grew up in Central Florida, and the cigar industry of Ybor City has always been something I have been aware of and respectful towards.  Likewise, my great-grandfather Chauncey, who I got to know in his later years, was very fond of drinking root beer (and perhaps stronger stuff) and puffing on his Cuban cigars while we watched college football.  On top of this, a friend of mine in Los Angeles once had the hobby of making finely crafted humidors as well as nylon-stringed acoustic guitars.  This book gives at least some of the context as to why someone who is generally opposed to smoking has at least some room for a respect of cigars at least.  The author, who appears relatively new as far as writing books is concerned, is very detailed in giving many reasons why cigars are so honored as far as culture is concerned.

This book is a short one at only a bit over 100 pages, liberally endowed with photos of cigars and the drinks that go with cigars and the famous and culturally influential people who have smoked cigars.  After a short introduction, the author gives a brief history of cigars which is told largely through the types of cigars that exist and the types of wrappers, all of which demonstrate the places where tobacco for cigars is grown and where cigars themselves are manufactured.  After that comes a chapter on how cigars are made, including the curing and fermenting process as well as the rolling of cigars.  The author then instructs the reader in how to smoke a cigar and what the ash says about the cigar and the smoker.  The fourth chapter of the book looks at what drinks work best with cigars, depending on whether depressants (alcohol) or stimulants (like coffee, tea, and soda) are of interest at the particular time one is puffing on a cigar.  The fifth chapter provides advice on how to choose the best humidor, where the author makes the case for quality.  The sixth and final chapter gives some profiles as to famous people throughout history who smoke or have smoked cigars–strangely, Ulysses S. Simpson is omitted.  After this, the author gives a short conclusion in which he openly asks for help with his writing, an aspect that would likely be changed in future editions of the book.

As far as the contents of this book are considered, it is hard to tell the extent to which the author was seeking to educate the reader on cigars and their history and to what extent the author is seeking to promote and sell cigars and associated products.  The book did not feel like the work of a historian of culture, but rather the work of someone in marketing or advertising who was working on behalf of corporate interests.  This feeling that I was listening to a sales pitch kept me from fully buying in to what the author had to say.  I would have far appreciated a more scholarly and academic tone to the sort of boosterism that I read here.  That is not to say that this book was bad–it was quite entertaining, although on more than a few occasions there were typos because of an absence of a space bar between words, something that should be corrected in future copy-editing.  Overall, I would say that this is the sort of book that a seller of fine cigars and humidors or the drinks associated with them would want in their store as an auxiliary product for customer education, and that is a worthwhile purpose for a book to have.  I’m not a smoker myself, even of fine cigars, but the appeal of this book and of cigars is something I can definitely understand.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/01/14/have-a-cigar/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/05/20/a-letter-to-my-ten-year-old-self/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/01/13/a-stick-set-fire-in-the-rain/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/08/22/he-didnt-have-to-be/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/04/29/youre-a-new-morning/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/07/03/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-victimless-crime/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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