Science Nonfiction: The Disappearing Spoon

August 16, 2022 Uncategorized 5 ★★★

Science Nonfiction: The Disappearing SpoonTitle: 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
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: I expected to love this, but it was disjointed and short on exciting, new-to-me anecdotes.

This collection of fun facts and historical anecdotes about the elements of the periodic table is, in theory, precisely my sort of book. I loved the author’s similar book on genetics, The Violinist’s Thumb. I might just not have been in the right mood for this one though, because it didn’t wow me in the same way.

It’s been more than 6 years since I read The Violinist’s Thumb, so I’m not sure how cohesive it felt. The disjointedness of the anecdotes in this book was definitely my main complaint. The author went on some long digressions and the overall organization was lacking. Despite a description of the sections at the beginning of the book, I didn’t see a clear progression among topics.

Another weakness of this book for me was that I already knew a lot of the information in the first three-quarters of the book. At that point, I also had few anecdotes or fun facts that were interesting enough I wanted to share them. The last few sections in the book, where we finally got to discoveries in chemistry post the 1940s, were much more interesting to me.

I can’t help but suspect I simply woke up on the wrong side of the bed when I was reading this. I found the author’s book on genetics so much more engaging and other people seem to like this book equally well. At least right now though, it just wasn’t for me. But I’d recommend checking out some other reviews if it sounds interesting to you, just in case!

5 Responses to “Science Nonfiction: The Disappearing Spoon”

  1. Rennie

    I’ve had this one on my list, along with The Violinist’s Thumb (which was a Nonfiction November from you, I think!) and I really liked the dueling neurosurgeons one. I did kind of hesitate on this one because chemistry isn’t my strongest area of interest. I think even though you suspect you just might not have been in the mood for it this one may not be for me after all. It sounds kind of weak in comparison to some of the other topics he’s covered!
    Rennie recently posted…Storytelling Cookbooks: The Queens Night Market and Miracles After GriefMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I think you’re right that this was actually a weaker topic. I’m not sure there were quite as many interesting stories or as cohesive of a story in some of his other books. I also already knew a lot about the WWII related science he discussed from other pop science books and I suspect that would be true for you as well.

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