The Disappearing Spoon, by Sam Kean

My favorite element is antimony, for the most arbitrary of reasons — Sb are the initials of both antimony and a nickname I had in high school. That’s it. That’s all I knew about antimony before reading this book. Now I know two important things about it: a) there used to be people who liked antimony more than I do, to the point where they were willing to dig it out of feces, and b) it’s used to make the strongest known superacid. I hope you can figure out which of these I appreciate more.

If you have a favorite element, or if you want one, you should pick up this book, because it will tell you everything you never knew you wanted to know about the periodic table.

There are element-specific facts, like those about antimony, and scientist-specific facts, including long passages about Mendeleev, the Curies, and various other scientists I can’t remember off the top of my head. There are also bits about alchemy, of course, and how aluminium (which is really annoying to hear over and over on the audiobook) became so amazingly devalued, and how Tycho Brahe may have had more than one fake nose, because you always need a good one for the fancy people.

And, I mean, that’s the whole book, really, is facts, which is a fun time and leads to a lot of me going, “Oh! Did you know that Paul McCartney got a rhodium record for making all the music, because rhodium is apparently awesomer than platinum?” at dinners with people who liked me better five minutes ago. But there’s nothing wrong with that!

Recommendation: It appeals to the science nerd and trivia nerd in me, so if you’ve got one of those, go for it!

Rating: 8/10

(A to Z Challenge)

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4 thoughts on “The Disappearing Spoon, by Sam Kean

  1. Steph says:

    Long, long ago, I dreamed of being a chemistry major at university. When I was in highschool, chemistry was by far my favorite science subject, mostly because it all just seemed to make sense to me. Then I went to university and it stopped making sense, but I still secretly love chemistry. All to say that I think I'd love this book a lot, even though I don't have a favorite element… but maybe after reading this, I would!

  2. Alison says:

    Oh, man, once I was done with my chem requirements at uni I was DONE. No organic chemistry for this girl! Terrifying. 🙂 So yes, you will probably like this — no higher-level chemistry here, just fun anecdotes and element love!

  3. TheBookGirl says:

    I read this last year and really enjoyed it — and I am definitely not a science-y person. I thought the author did a great job making the subject so accessible and fun.

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