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Review: The Disappearing Spoon

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I read The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements on vacation. I usually pack several books with me when I have time off. Still, sometimes that isn’t enough. This particular vacation, it quickly became clear that I wouldn’t have enough books to get me through the week, so I turned to my boyfriend’s book selection and found this one.


In The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean takes readers through the Periodic Table of Elements, sharing stories on the discovery and naming of the elements. The stories range from the humorous to the fascinating, and they shed light on the many people behind the science. This includes highlighting those who have often been glossed over in the history books.

Let’s get into it

I expected this book to be interesting, but not something that would actually keep me engaged like the fiction does. While it wasn’t what I’d consider un-put-down-able, it was quite entertaining.

From the laboratory pranksters who use gallium to startle tea-drinkers, to Marie Curie’s life and death, the stories in The Disappearing Spoon make learning about science accessible. While I can’t say that they’re super memorable or life-changing to me, I did enjoy reading them. I imagine that someone more interested in science (chemistry in particular) would find the book even more enjoyable.

Kean’s writing is easy to follow and he clearly has a deep appreciating for story-telling. I wish some of the teacher’s I had in high school would have taken a more story-based approach to teaching me chemistry. I might have embraced it a bit more. Another thing I appreciated about Kean was that he acknowledged that women have contributed to the periodic table and their contributions have often gone unappreciated and uncelebrated. Props to Kean for that.

Final verdict: A good read for those both casually and seriously into science. Full of stories, The Disappearing Spoon makes chemistry a lot less dry to learn about.

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