Publisher's Note:  

The Periodic Table is one of man's crowning scientific achievements. But it's also a treasure trove of stories of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The infectious tales and astounding details in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON follow carbon, neon, silicon, and gold as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, the arts, poison, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.  We learn that Marie Curie used to provoke jealousy in colleagues' wives when she'd invite them into closets to see her glow-in-the-dark experiments. And that Lewis and Clark swallowed mercury capsules across the country and their campsites are still detectable by the poison in the ground. Why did Gandhi hate iodine? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium? And why did tellurium lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?  From the Big Bang to the end of time, it's all in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Back Bay Books

The Disappearing Spoon

by Sam Kean

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Overall Review:  

Reading ‘The Disappearing Spoon’ is like being in a chemistry 101 class with a very passionate and enthusiastic teacher who wants more than anything for you to love and understand the periodic table and the elements as much as he does!  And while he’s explaining those elusive protons, neutrons, and electrons and their various reactions, you get to delve into how each and every element has affected the history of mankind: wars (the beginnings and endings of), money, space travel, revenge, food production, art, media, medicine…EVERYTHING!  This is an absolutely astounding book full of chemistry, physics, astronomy, warfare, alchemy, biology, history—with an intense amount of information to the point where I felt a bit bogged down at times.  Just like the minuscule elements themselves, copious amounts of information is presented down to minute details (such as who won the Nobel Prize for what, when they won, and what they decided to wear that day)!  There were many little nuggets of history with some very fun stories showing how the periodic table played roles in just about every moment of known (and unknown) life.  I found all of it fascinating and loved following the periodic table through time; from the very first findings to what sort of research is going on at this minute.  I feel as if my eyes are now opened to a wonderful new world that I barely even knew existed.  Everything is well researched and at times becomes very technical, but the author’s voice is fairly easy to grasp.  That said, this is by no means a ‘light and fluffy’ (or even moderately fluffy) recreational read.  It takes some mental energy and would make for a fantastic textbook (or required extra reading) for a chemistry class in high school or college.  I feel much more intelligent and informed after having read it, so really, it was worth it.  Bring on the pop quiz!

Content Analysis:  

There is some talk of violence (mostly warfare)—but the talk isn’t about the fighting, it’s about how things were made and what was used during different wars and battles (i.e. how bombs were made and how the idea behind them came about).  

There are a handful of sexual innuendoes and ideas which are used to ‘paint a picture’ when describing various chemical reactions, genetics, etc, but it’s very tame with no descriptions.  

There is a bit of profanity, but probably less than 10 words and mild ones at that.  It is at times a very technical book which is why the age recommendation is at 18+, but if a younger person were very interested in the subject I wouldn’t have a problem giving it to them.

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Reviewed By Emily
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