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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

All the Elements of a Good Book

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the ElementsI am a huge fan of the periodic table!  However lame that may sound, it's true.  The periodic table rocks (and it still would even if it wasn't made up mostly of rocks).  As soon as this book came out, I bought...on my nook and started reading it.  Then life showed up, and it was so much cheaper for me to buy books with my discount, I rarely used my nook and my memory of the book disappeared just like a spoon made of gallium.  Then I saw Sam Kean was coming for an author visit.  I reproached myself for not having read the book yet.  Some fan I was.

But, I did read it.  And, I did love it!  The book is full of stories about each of the elements.  You learn about the periodic table and the elements, but you learn about them from interesting anecdotes and stories.  The side notes are just as enjoyable as the main text.  This is now one of my most favorite books, perhaps even my most favorite non-fiction book.

Not only are the stories engaging, Sam Kean has a scholarly wit in his writing.  At least, that 's the best way I can think to describe it.  An example, though, comes to mind from his newest book, out yesterday, The Violinist's Thumb.  When Kean describes the copying of DNA in the cell, he introduces the image of tiny monks transcribing away within the cell.  It's those types of images and thoughts that takes The Disappearing Spoon from being good to being great.  I'm very excited to read his next book.  And it's not going to be in a year.  Now that I know how well he writes, his next book will be read as fast as my thumbs can turn the pages.


  1. Is the Disappearing Spoon one of the stories? I'm curious just to see how a hand-held ladel that slowly turns invisible relates to the elements of the periodic table.

  2. Got it and ready to read it! These are the kind of books that make science fun. Need more of them.

  3. Disappearing spoon is one of the stories. A practical joke in some labs was to form a spoon out of gallium, which looked like a regular metal spoon, but when the user put the spoon in their cup of hot tea, the spoon melted due to gallium's low melting point.