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In order to learn more about the periodic table and it’s many stories I read The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean. Sam Kean is a scientist and author who is well known for his other science novels such as The Violinist's Thumb and The Tale of Dueling Neurosurgeons. The Disappearing Spoon is a novel that focuses on the periodic table and many individual elements by telling fascinating stories about their findings or discoveries made about them.
The Disappearing Spoon focuses on many different scientists and the elements they founded or expanded knowledge on. Within each chapter, Sam Kean goes in depth on an element or a small group of them by either telling a story or interesting anecdote. These accounts give us more perspective on the uses of each element and its potential to be beneficial or negative towards our world. Some of the many topics he looks at are elements being used for war, money and production. Elements like uranium hold scary powers when enriched properly and pose a scary threat to the future of our society. He also talks about why some elements are more popular than others. For instance, aluminum, which at first was extremely valuable and expensive, is now used to create some of our cheapest and most recycled items like cans. This is because one scientist developed a way to mass produce pure aluminum extremely efficiently. Stories like this provide great insight on each element and why they or may not be so relevant in our society today.
While this book is very fun and interesting, it is still quite challenging and requires focus and attentiveness while reading. I found myself rereading certain sections of the book just because some of the concepts were so complex. I found that one of the issues with the book was that without previous knowledge of the periodic table, it wasn't as easy to follow as I would've liked. This however is only a minor problem to a very good book. The Disappearing Spoon is an amazing story teller. There was almost nothing in this book that had I ever read or heard of before. New names and ideas were proposed to me throughout the reading of this novel and it kept me captivated the entire way. Sam Kean takes a topic like the periodic table, which most people would find boring, and brings it to life. He is extremely thorough in his writing but not to the point of boredom. As a student taking his first year of chemistry, this book has truly increased my interest in the subject and made me think a lot about how our world works today.
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean is a very good summary on the origin of the periodic table and the discovery of it’s elements. This book serves its best purpose for students or anyone looking to expand their knowledge in this subject. The key things that this book does well is bring the elements to a place where everyone can relate to them. By showing their real life capabilities and how most of us are affected by them without even knowing it, Sam Kean draws the reader's interest in even more. In all, I highly recommend this book for it’s ability to teach the elements in an intriguing and relatable way.
-Nick Everest

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