Book Review: The Search for God and Guinness

I wasn’t sure how I was going to get on with this book, I’m not a Guinness drinker and wondered whether that lack of connection would hinder the reading, but it didn’t. I really enjoyed it.

This book is subtitled “A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World” which is true, but this book is also a biography of a family, the biography of a company and to a certain extent the biography of a country.

I used to do some work for Diageo who now own the Guinness brand so was interested to understand the history of the company. Like many of the great brands it turns out that Guinness was born out of the vision of one man and maintained through a number of generations, each of them holding true to an overall philosophy.

Speaking as a product of my age, who only knows beer as a highly commercialised product, I was surprised by the ancient history of beer which is covered as an introduction to the book. I particularly liked the idea that St. Patrick won over many an Irish tribal chief with his tasty beer.

Arthur Guinness the founder of Guinness sounds like a fascinating person – forward looking and practical. Reading about Arthur I’m drawn to a man of action and of principle. Many companies talk about Corporate Responsibility, it’s a current trend, and Guinness stands as a historic example that few come close to.

It’s fascinating to read, though, about a family that continues on through the generations with the same set of high principles inspired by Arthur. It seems that there are only two career choices for Guinness’s – brewing or the clergy. Their influences read like a who’s who of western Christianity – Wesley, Whitfield, Barnardo, Hudson Taylor, Spurgeon, Moody, Booth, Shaftsbury.

My favourite of the family has to be Rupert Guinness who, having received £5 million as wedding gift decided that he’s going to move into a slum and to use the money to improve the community where he was living.

The book also goes on to talk about the more modern company that is Guinness and in particular their use of advertising. Imagine releasing tens of thousands of bottles of Guinness into the seas as an advertising gimmick these days – but that’s exactly what they did in 1954 and 1959, and these bottles are still being found.

I enjoy biography most of the time, and this book was no exception. It’s a great mix of history, biography and story. It’s also immensely challenging to see what one family can achieve.

Amazon: The Search for God and Guinness.

(This is the first book review I’ve done, but I think I’ll do some more of them. Let me know what you think.)

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