The Joy of Chemistry book review

I don’t know how I stumbled upon the book The Joy of Chemistry (received it as a Christmas gift) but I’m glad I did. It was just what I needed to reignite my interest in the entire field of chemistry. And it also helped clarify some of the things that I learned in college but forgot right after passing the exam.

The Joy of Chemistry is written by chemistry experts Cathy Cobb and Monty Fetterolf with the intention of inspiring a general audience to appreciate chemistry. To this end they cover each topic with in three distinct ways. First, they begin with a experiment which demonstrates the principle. These are easy experiments with materials that anyone can get. At the start of the book they give a checklist of materials you need to do all the experiments which is incredibly helpful.

The next way they cover each topic is to explain the scientific principles behind what is happening. This is the “hard science” but the authors write it in such a way that it is understandable by most people. In truth, I didn’t have a difficult time understanding the chemistry but I’m not completely sure someone without a science background would have such an easy time. Still, with some thought, anyone could get the basic ideas.

The final part of every topic covered is to discuss some real world application of the chemistry. For example, in the chapters on electrons and atoms they describe how these chemistry principles make photocopiers function. I found this part of each section most enlightening because when learning chemistry in college you rarely get exposed to real world applications.

The Joy of Chemistry is 393 pages long but only about 320 pages of actual reading as there are lists of elements and their properties, a long index and other appendix pages. It’s a very readable book and is organized in two parts. In the first part, 18 topics in chemistry are covered including things such as atoms & electrons, pH, colligative properties, electrochemistry, inorganic chemistry, and more. In the second part they cover 4 topics that demonstrate how each of the principles are applied in real life. This includes chapters on Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Analytical Chemistry. The last chapter shows how chemistry is used by forensic scientists to solve crimes.

Overall, I recommend the Joy of Chemistry for anyone who has an interest in chemistry and wants a simple explanation of the topics. Chemistry graduates might find it a little too simple, but anyone who has been away from school for long will be delighted to remember many of the principles that you might have forgotten. And if you didn’t get a degree in chemistry but want to get a good background (to help understand formulating) this will be an excellent book for you.

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The Joy of Chemistry

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