The Disappearing Spoon-Sam Kean


First, this is later than usual–I usually post on Fridays–but I have a good excuse. I had a baby a week ago. He and I are both healthy and recovering well but it has impaired my blogging.

Fortunately, he isn’t really impairing my reading, since I was in labor for nearly 30 hours and sit up with him and feed him while I can read on my phone.

This week’s book is a nonfiction book about the periodic table. I will grant you that it’s not the most exciting sounding premise, but the book itself is fascinating. The author takes us through the table as the elements were discovered, telling stories about how they were discovered and facts about the elements themselves.

I can’t help but think I would have gotten more out of it if my chemistry knowledge was more than a single inadequate chemistry class in high school, lo, these many years ago. He explains the basic principles of chemistry and I could follow along with it, but still. I think a better chemistry background would have been tremendously helpful to me.

There are great stories in here, from stories about Marie Curie and other famous scientists, to the great push to create or discover new elements in the years following World War II, mostly based at the University of California at Berkeley, at least in this country. There were fierce rivalries with the scientists in the Soviet Union and in Germany, which led to a situation where for a while there were two names for many of the elements on the table and people had to resolve that issue so we could get a standardized table again.

This is an interesting book, easy to read, written in an engaging manner.


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