Book Review: The Disappearing Spoon – Sam Kean [TSS]

Title: The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
Author: Sam Kean
ISBN: 9780316051644
Pages: 400
Release Date: July 12, 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.
Genre: Non-Fiction, Science, History
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

In The Disappearing Spoon, author Sam Kean takes the reader on a journey through the Periodic Table of the elements.  He discusses the evolution of the Periodic Table and how it came to be in its current form, as well as the discovery of elements.  Kean discusses each element with the reader, delivering interesting information, anecdotes, and a human face and story to each of these elements.

Review:

I’ve really been enjoying my science reading lately, so when I saw The Disappearing Spoon, I was immediately intrigued.  I enjoyed chemistry when I was younger, and though physics wasn’t my best subject, it really intrigues me as an adult, so this book sounded right up my alley.  I was definitely right; The Disappearing Spoon is a fun read that will teach the reader a lot about the elements that make up our world.

Kean is an engaging writer, which matters a lot when it comes to science writing for the lay person.  Even if the information within a book is excellent, it won’t matter if it’s delivered in an uninteresting or dry manner.  It’s especially difficult with science, because it’s so easy to get too technical, or to talk down to the reader while explaining concepts.  Kean never fails to be interesting and charming, and his enthusiasm for the subject matter is really infectious.  Additionally, he explains concepts with clarity and ease, ensuring the reader understands while never assuming they have less intelligence than him.  As a result, The Disappearing Spoon is a pleasure to read from beginning to end.

The elements might not sound like the most interesting subject, but Kean really delivers when it comes to entertainment.  He has interesting stories about even the most seemingly boring of elements – amusing anecdotes, intriguing concepts.  As a result, the reader learns a surprising amount of information, but also has a great time doing it. 

Some of the most interesting parts of The Disappearing Spoon involve the discovery of new elements.  After the Periodic Table took the form that it has today (a process which was much more interesting than it seems like it would have been, according to Kean), there was a race by scientists around the world to find the newest element.  I also enjoyed the little random tidbits he delivered about each element – for example, the disappearing gallium spoon that gave the book its name.  Little details such as this make this book so much fun to read.

The Disappearing Spoon did not disappoint, and I’m so glad I read it.  Even if you’re not the biggest science buff, if you enjoy non-fiction and history, you should consider this book.  Kean’s writing is perfect for this genre and he makes the material accessible while keeping the entire book engaging.  I really hope Kean is working on his second book, as I can’t wait to read it.

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Comments

  1. Oh boy, this sounds great. I haven’t heard of it before, but I bet I’d really enjoy it — I always liked chemistry and physics and I think a book about the elements and the Periodic Table would be fascinating.

  2. Oh boy, this sounds great. I haven’t heard of it before, but I bet I’d really enjoy it — I always liked chemistry and physics and I think a book about the elements and the Periodic Table would be fascinating.

  3. This is right up my alley. I love everything I’ve heard about it already 🙂

  4. This is right up my alley. I love everything I’ve heard about it already 🙂

  5. Every review I read of this one just pushes me closer and closer to buying it! Great review.

  6. Every review I read of this one just pushes me closer and closer to buying it! Great review.

  7. This one has been on my radar for a while. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it and I am adding it to my library hold list!

  8. This one has been on my radar for a while. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it and I am adding it to my library hold list!

  9. I am so not a science person, but you have done the almost impossible and made me really excited about this book! I really like funky and well written non fiction and would love the chance to try this one sometime. It sounds great!

  10. I am so not a science person, but you have done the almost impossible and made me really excited about this book! I really like funky and well written non fiction and would love the chance to try this one sometime. It sounds great!

  11. I love a good science book that’s comprehensible to the non-scientifically minded. This sounds like it.

  12. I love a good science book that’s comprehensible to the non-scientifically minded. This sounds like it.

  13. I think my husband would love this book.

  14. I think my husband would love this book.

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