Chemistry reading list

This has to be one of the most practical books ever written to date. Like the title says, Advice To A Young Scientist is precisely about that: It’s a book made to be used as a guide, as an example for those who are pursuing a career revolving around science and research.

The book is a fresh breath of air into a very closed, very mythical community like the science one. Author Peter Medawar, a Nobel prize laureate, breaks down the idea scientists are these perfect, superior beings who know everything about the world and brings out a much humble, down to earth way to see them.

Peter Medawar helps young people pursuing a science career by giving them incredibly helpful advice about topics such as: How to write a proper research paper, how to find a good enough topic, how to treat your older colleagues and every practical thing about the science world nobody ever told you in college.

He manages to take down the mask of superiority the science community seems to have by merely stating it is all about having a curious mind and the will enough to look for the answers to your questions, and of course having a bit of common sense. Read more…

Tracing down the history of the world to understand how we became to be what we are right now; it isn’t an easy task. There are way too many elements, too many factors to keep in mind that make everything harder than it should be.

However, there’s one key element that connects everything and everyone, and it is ever-present in our lives, we fail to see it (literally) and to give it the appreciation we should always be giving it: The air.

Yes, that’s right. You know what particular thing we can’t see but know it is there? That thing that is always surrounding us, always with us, and that without we couldn’t merely exist anymore. Air is the answers to everything.

In Caesar’s Last Breath: The Epic Story of The Air Around Us, author Sam Kean makes a bold and surprisingly right statement: Air is the one element that connects us as a human race and makes our existence even remotely possible. And when you think about it, it’s true. Read more…

Have you ever thought about the science behind the chaos? You know all those disastrous things that happen all over the world that happen to us, but seem to have no logical explanation? Well, they might have one.

You see, even the most unexplainable things like chaos have a science behind it, reasoning that tries to explain why these things happen, and most importantly, how. But of course, studying chaos can be quite… Problematic.

In the book Chaos: Making a New Science, author James Gleick manages to write about one of the most problematic and chaotic (ha!) topics in the world, and it does so in a relatively easy way to read.

You would think nobody would want to study the reasoning behind all the bad things in life, but you were wrong. Author James Gleick was brave enough to take this job upon his shoulders and delivered a beautiful yet more intriguing answer in the form of a book. Read more…

Thirty-two years ago, the world witnessed the worst nuclear tragedy to date, and there was nothing nobody could do about it. The explosion of the nuclear reactor in the city of Chernobyl shocked the world back in April of 1986, and the effects are still present today.

In Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy, author Serhii Plokhy takes us on an emotional, yet incredibly enlighten trip down history to revive what it is, up until this day, the most horrible nuclear disaster that ever happened in the world—surpassing bit a lot to Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs.

The book is a retelling of what exactly happened back in the 26 of April in 1986. It takes us right back to that moment and place in life to understand on a deeper level what exactly happened that made a substantial nuclear reactor go off the way it did.

The book takes you back to Chernobyl right before the explosion happened, and it makes you see it through the eyes of everyone that was there to experience one of the world’s biggest tragedy to date.

We get to know everything about the fireman, the village people, the industry workers that were at the nuclear plant, the scientist, the soldiers and the engineers that were there that tragic night. It is almost as if you were right there, with them, about to experience such a tragedy on your own. Read more…

More often than not, we tend to hear about the beauty of science. But what does it mean? How does something so abstract and with so many different factors can be considered beautiful?

Well, author Philip Ball has taken this question upon himself and has come up with an answer. The beauty of science, in this case in specific, of chemistry, relies on the experiments.

Experiments are probably the most fun part of science. Sure, the research and investigation behind it might be exciting as well, but the entertaining part, the beauty of it all, resides on the experiments.

Through Elegant Solutions: Ten Beautiful Experiments in Chemistry, author Philip Ball manages to give an insight of what it’s like being a scientist, and how the perception of the world changes once you start to work on a scientific experiment. Read more…

If you are into the darker, more mysterious side of science, if you have particular interest for twisted experiments and their incredible results, then you should probably read Elephants on Acid by Alex Boese.

There have been incredibly bizarre, controversial experiments in the history of science, that isn’t a secret for anybody, the thing is, these experiments are kept away from the general public, to keep the “bad” image away… Or that was until this book came up.

You see, author Alex Boese brings us these great compilations of what were some of the most strange scientific experiments ever made and shines a light on them, the people who did them and the results they obtained in the hopes everyone can know about it.

Reading the book itself is a whole different experience than anything you have ever read before, simply because Elephants on Acid manages to be fun yet slightly disturbing all at once, making it a bit of a bizarre experience to understand. Read more…

Back in 1856, a young man was doing some scientific experiment by himself, and suddenly, things went wrong. The operation failed, and he ended up with nothing but a tremendous brown sludge in his hands… Or so he thought it was nothing.

You see, the young and naive chemistry student soon realized what he had in his hands was something unique. Even tho his experiment failed miserably; he was left with a discoverement that changed the world, even if he didn’t know that himself at the moment.

William Perkins, the chemistry student whose experiment went terrible, unknowingly discovered Mauve, the purple-dyed that changed not only science but fashion itself, taking the world by storm in a matter of seconds.

Mauve: How one man invented a colour that changed the world, talks about how this young chemistry student, William Perkins, discovered the world’s first synthetic dye, and how his lucky discovering ultimately shape both science and fashion. Read more…

 

What would you say if somebody told you the curse of history could be dramatically changed just by removing one or two elements from a specific moment in time? You would think they were crazy, right? Well, not so much. At least not how you’d think.

The truth is, many of the most historically significant moments that shape the world and set it to be what it is today could be entirely and different if it weren’t for something as little as the molecules that were involved in the whole situation.

We don’t tend to overthink about it. Still, there are some chemical reactions, some elements reacting with one another that is responsible for the turnout of many of the most significant historical moments that ever happened.

In Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History, author Penny Le Couteur shows us this is hugely true by talking about one of the most critical moments in history ever to go wrong: Napoleon’s 1812 Russian campaign… That ended in a disaster. Read more…

Nobody overthinks about Oxygen. It’s just there, it’s a molecule that it’s responsible for the air we breathe, and that’s it. Nobody overthinks of it… Unless you are Nick Lane, of course.

You see, Nick Lane did something most of us never even thought of doing, he studied everything about that small molecule and wrote a book about it, a book that shows just how vital Oxygen is. And boy, is it more important than you think.

In Oxygen: The molecule that made the world, author Nick Lane talks about probably the most essential molecule in the entire history of everything… Yes, you guessed it, Oxygen. Believe it or not, this small thing is responsible for both life and death on earth.

Through the book, we explore the history behind this molecule from various points of views. From a more scientific point of view to a molecular medicine point of view, we see how Oxygen is responsible for many, many things in life, if not life itself. Read more…

The periodic table is one of the most significant achievements of science so far. It’s a little chart that tells us all the useful information we need to know about the various elements that surround us.

However, nobody sees to realize the historical, political, and just exciting background this science discovery carries. It isn’t just about the elements and their characteristic; sometimes, it is about the history behind them.

How the periodic table was made, the discovery of each element and how they are used is exciting, and the best part is, you don’t have to be a scientist or have any knowledge in chemistry to be able to enjoy these little tales.

Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements, is a unique world that shines a line on different elements of the periodic table, how they were discovered, what they are used for, and many random, yet fascinating, facts about each one. Read more…

When you think about the way the world works, it is inevitable to feel mindblown. There are so many elements, so many components co-existing and living together, but somehow they all manage to work, to survive together… And you know how this happens? Thanks to chemistry.

If it wasn’t for chemistry, we wouldn’t be able to know how many things work (like why waterfalls down the sky) and wouldn’t be able to have developed so many incredibly gadgets and devices. It all is thanks to chemistry.

In Reactions: The private life of atoms, author and worldwide famous Peter Atkins takes us on a trip to understand how atoms work and react depending on the substance and different circumstances. And it does so by showing us the most popular chemical formulas in the world. Read more…

The world we live in is simply amazing. I mean, stop and think about it for a second. We have big, flat boxes that display constant videos, we have tiny pieces of trees that we use to write, we have a device that allows connecting to something invisible and suddenly be able to watch the news, videos or read this article from anywhere in our house.

And just like those things, there are way too many other things that surround us, and we use daily, but genuinely don’t know how exactly do they work, or how are they made… We don’t know too much about them.

In Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World, author Mark Miodownik takes a look at the simple, almost mundane stuff that shapes our world and makes a great effort to explain them to the core.

This book is a wild ride from start to finish. You start reading about something so mundane as a pencil, how it was done and the materials behind it. Then you end up reading about a massive planet in a galaxy far away that is entirely made of diamonds. Read more…

We always take for granted most of the scientific discoveries that are already made. They are already there, so we just don’t overthink about it. But the truth is, the history behind a lot of scientific breakthroughs and discoveries is just as exciting as the discovery itself.

Just like it happens with the periodic table. You would be surprised to know the many amazing stories there are behind one of the most famous scientific discoveries of all times.

The drama, the excitement, the secrets, everything that lies behind the discovery of every element in the periodic table. It is so amazing how something we have been studying since middle school has so many interesting stories behind it. 

The disappearing spoon and other true tales from the periodic table is just that, a book full of interesting facts and tales related to the discovery of many of the elements that are part of the periodic table we all love and know. Read more…

Understanding all the biochemical processes that go on within our bodies isn’t easy. There are way too many elements, factors and compounds to learn in such a short time; it’s a tough topic to handle.

However, what would you say if I told you there’s a fun, easy way to learn about biochemistry without feeling like your brain is getting on fire, and that you are actually learning something new, and even useful?

Well, that’s precisely the case when it comes to this book. The Manga Guide to Biochemistry is perhaps the most original way there is to explain such a complex topic in an easy-going manner that everyone can understand.

The book manages to take a topic so deep and complex like biochemistry and turning it around into a cartoon-like version, creating storylines and dialogues that successfully explain everything you need to know about this field and manages to get the point across. Read more…

Have you ever thought about how easy poison kills people? How anyone can poison someone else and it would considerably harder to catch that person than finding someone who shoots somebody? 

Well, the thing is, poison and death by poisons were something extremely common back in the day, in the old New York City. People were mostly killed by poison, and it was almost impossible to track down who did it… And soon enough, America had a problem, a poison problem.

This book centres around that premise, the fact that back in the day, this particular situation was happening over and over, and how that set the beginning of forensic medicine.

In The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, we are introduced to what it might seem like a fiction book, and it might be at quite some times. Still, it is one of the most exciting and well-put-together books about this particular part of science. Read more…

Imagine you are starting at your new job. You are required to paint some watches using a particular type of paint which you were explicitly told it was safe. Imagine having a nice, well paid easy to do job that allows you, a young woman, to care for her family.

Now imagine you suddenly begin to lose your teeth, and your jawbone was starting to hurt as well. Soon enough, you are going through an unavailable pain due to cancer invading your body, and no one is sure why this is happening to you and all of your female coworkers… Or that was until it is discovered the painting substance you were using is nothing less than radium.

It might sound like a horrible tale of fiction, and in many ways, we all wish it was fiction, but it isn’t. It is real, it happened, and great, wonderful young women died because of it. Read more…

Life itself is full of mysteries and wonders science is trying to uncover and understand. Sure, there are many things we already know, but some that science is working hard to discover as well.

However, not everything science does or explores to be incredibly challenging to understand! We live surrounded by science, day after day; we don’t realize it.

There’s science behind every little thing we do. Everything. And I don’t mean just watching TV or being in the computer (both which involve two of the most significant creations of the modern world), but I’m talking about much simpler mundane things.

In The Science of Everyday Life: Why Teapots Dribble, Toast Burns and Light Bulbs Shine, author Marty Jopson takes us through the amazing, yet so simple, science that surrounds us every day of our lives. Read more…

There have been many different scient/medical creations that have changed and shaped the world from the discovery of anaesthesia, to the development of the DNA, to the X-RAYS. Every single one of them has changed the world forever.

But when we take a look into the modern-day science, there’s one particular creation that changed the world in ways no other one has ever done it, drastically changing women’s life in specific.

Yes, we are talking about the pill. About these famous, little pills that were, for many, many years, women’s favourite contraception system by choice. This little pill gave the women the power to take over their lives in ways they couldn’t have done it before.

In the book, This Man’s Phil: Reflections on the 50th Birthday of the Pill, author Carl Djerassi takes a look into one of the most famous, yet incredible controversial discoveries of all time.

The book itself focuses more on the social and moral impact the creation of this little pill had, instead of on the process of the creation itself. Although, the book does mention what the creation of this breakthrough was like. Read more…