Interesting, obscure, & entertaining
Did a good job. One of the things I like best about a narrator, is that when it is over, I don't feel that they "took over" the book. Sean did exactly right. He read the book as it was meant to be read.
The book was a series of unique characteristics about different elements and their interaction in our daily world. A fun read.
This is a good book if you have an interest in chemistry, the history of scientific discovery, the history of chemical warfare, or genius and how it affects people. The author made the book a good listen by including some of the more amusing aspects of the history of the periodic table and of the people who helped to make the table what it is today.
It would have received a perfect score from me had it not been for some of the lewd examples included in the book and the lack of more concentration on the elements, themselves. I thought too much attention was given to too many characters to give the book a cohesive focus on the periodic table. Oddly, it was the characters that made the story interesting, but, as they say, too many cooks spoil the soup.
However, I would consider listening to this again because of the better parts of the book that honed in on some of the lesser known qualities of the elements and on how genius affected the lives of the people who dealt with being smarter than others. I found the genius aspect to be particularly interesting. Some people competed with others to be a "supergenius", some people hid away from other people to focus their attention on thier work, some used their intelligence to enrich themselves at others' expense (the ones that sold out to the Nazi's), and some allowed their failures to override every other aspect of their lives because of their perfectionism.
Sean Runette's narration was excellent. I listened to the book at 2x and found that to be a perfect speed. He kept the tone light and interesting, which is quite an accomplishment for a book about chemistry.
Overall, this is a really interesting read whether you are scientifically minded or not. I think most listeners would enjoy the personal aspect of the history of the periodic table - the people who shaped it and the people who were shaped by it.
Yes... Who would have thought a history of chemistry and the elements could be a....
Lewis or Seaborg ( I dated Seaborg's Daughter ) He was an incredible man... And I did not know the story re his marriage.. until this book... I read ~30 books by the Atomic Energy Commission (Seaborg) at ~10 (my dad sold stainless steel) so we visited places like Hanford... and these were free and good... In Glen's later years he would go to Berkeley everyday and coach chem students all day... And he is probably why Tilden (park/GC) has perhaps the best driving range in the country!. As well as: Responsible for the wonderful trails and open spaces near Berkeley and in Md. (which he loved so much). Having spent time at his house... these people are very down home and delightful.. (perhaps not what you would think).
I've never written a review -- but really wanted to for this book. I loved it!!! Stuffed with facts, ideas, stories, anecdotes -- fantastic. I look forward to listening to it again.
Husband, father, building contractor, inventor and audio book lover.
Sam Kean does an excellent job of making a mountain of information interesting and engaging. I think I will listen to this book three times and still not get everything in it. If you want to stretch your brain, this is the gym you need to go to.
Strong characters in all genres. and narrators who don't ham it up.
The combination of great science and the personal stories was top notch and well beyond my expectations. I know a lot of the science, but that is not a requirement to listen to this book, and learned a lot more details that were absolutely fascinating. I've got a PhD in Materials Science and learned many new things, but it was in reach of high school students. What really made the book was the human interest stories of both the people who discovered the elements and how the elements and their properties have direct impact our society. I expected it to be dry, but it was absolutely great history and great literature. I recommend this book to everyone. Just drop science, history and english from the junior year of high school and study and discuss this book instead. The students would thank you and be better educated in all the subjects. But no matter what stage of life you are in, or what interests you have, I think you will find many of the stories both interesting and informative. Come for either and you will be rewarded with both!
Sean does a great job. I had to find out if this was the author reading this or not, because Sean did such a convincing and natural job of telling the stories, i thought he had researched the subject for years. Bravo!
The trials and tribulations of the scientists was moving, but the understanding of how mud (or the elements to be extracted from the mud) in Africa, finances war and strife, was a revelation to me. The book follows the money trail and is a real eye-opener.
Say something about yourself!
Actually yes!!! It is so fascinating and interesting. You are learning tons but the easy story line makes you captivated.
The author's away of navigating the history of the universe through the lens of the periodic table is beautiful. I have no scientific background, besides school but i had no trouble following along. The stories are usually short and focus on one element. His teaching style is so easy that you finish listening and are amazing at the information you have retained. If he would just write several books about all topics, i feel like i could know everything.
Nope, this was my first. His voice is so mellow, you find yourself exhaling a sigh once he starts speaking. It's wonderful. Though if you are very tired, his voice reciting fascinating things about sub atomic particles may put you to sleep.
No, it is an intense listen. You need to be paying attention. And I felt the need to read another book in between listening, that was an "easy" read.
Providing an interesting journey through the periodic table, the stories will amaze and often supply amble head shaking around the politics of Science. It was a nice balance between fun facts and history - well worth the read.
I can only anticipate what elements will be in our future - and the possibility behind quantum dots.
Interests in Design/Engineering, Architecture, & History
I wish my chemistry teachers would have made me read this book. I would have had more interest in chemistry instead of regarding it as a hard and dry science with no humanity.
I would love to find another book that will do what this did - take a scientific, informative subject, cover its history and developments and just make something that I struggled to understand in high school very interesting indeed. You won't learn about Avogadro (or whatever his name was) , or many other significant numbers that your teacher tried to beat into your head, but instead you'll learn about things like King Midas and spoons that melt in your tea, and fool's gold and isn't that already better than knowing how to identify chemical reactions? High school did a great job in making chemistry SUCK. This book, while it won't make you a chemist, might instead make you respect, admire, and appreciate it.
I'm waiting for the sequel, "the Disappearing SPORK!"
I enjoyed this book and found myself sharing information from it on a daily basis with my friends. The narrator had a droning voice which I found to be a bit flat, however with all of the really long scientific words that he had to say they were probably lucky to find him. I was horrible at chemistry in high school (much more of a biology person) so I liked learning a little more about the elements.