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text 2019-01-16 05:34
First Impression: The Disappearing Spoon
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements - Sam Kean

The Disappearing Spoon

by Sam Kean

Progress:  31 of 346 pages (9%)


Admittedly, Chemistry was probably my worst subject in school (both high school and college).  So why I decided that I'd just casually join in on this month's Flat Book Society read is beyond me.  Maybe I just thought that, not being a required read for some class, I'd be able to enjoy it more... or at least not fret as much about what I'm understanding.

And really, the only thing that I've gotten out of this book so far is that the outlining is atrocious.  Don't get me wrong, the writing isn't terrible, and the subject matter has lots of potential--some of the information is actually pretty interesting.  And when I actually understand one of the paragraphs after deciphering all the chemistry jargon, I think I might have learned something new.

Not that that's helpful, because I promptly turn around and forget what I've just learned.  It probably doesn't help that the organization of the telling feels pretty scattered.  The author jumps from one thing to another, and then back so quickly that I'm at a point where I just quietly move on because I'm embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what he was trying to present.

There is SO MUCH jargon.  This does not feel like a science book for casual readers who enjoy fun science.  This feels like a lot of chemical name-dropping.

Meanwhile, I had fallen asleep twice reading just the introduction.  And we hadn't gotten to the elements yet.  Not really.  And I'm not sure who's fault that is--mine or the book's.  Maybe I just don't have the capacity to follow the content?

I'm probably going to give this book a few more chapters to see how well I fare.  I mean, I took chemistry classes and I work in a hospital lab.  Some of this stuff HAS to make sense at some point, right?  No matter that I really wasn't all that great at chemistry, mind you.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/01/first-impression-disappearing-spoon.html
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review 2019-01-16 04:56
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean (abandoned after first chapter)
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements - Sam Kean

Finished the first chapter, and I take what I said back. Sam Kean isn't condescending; he's trying to imitate his earlier terrible teachers and mystify us.

 

I thought I understood the periodic table, but Kean's explanations were all over the place and diverged into so many tangents about Plato and various early chemists and atomic physicists that I'm not sure that he actually explained anything. He threw around some facts but that's about it.

 

The endnotes, such as they are, are useless since they don't appear to contain any actual references, just stuff that Kean decided he didn't want in the main text. And he throws around references to temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit, an entirely useless unit. If Kean isn't going to try to appeal to an international audience by including sensible units, I don't see why an international audience should bother to read him. I think I'm throwing in the towel. I don't see the point of this book.

 

Previous updates:

page 11 of 346 (update after introduction)

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review 2019-01-16 03:22
A little lost, a little choppy, but something catchy
Hard to Protect (Black Ops Heroes Book 3) - Incy Black

I should have started with the first in the series, I felt pretty lost with the secret OPs world building.

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text 2019-01-15 20:51
Just arrived via ILL
Sometimes I Lie - Alice Feeney

When we were asked to choose a possible next read for my IRL book club, this was the one I selected from the list. Although it wasn't chosen in the end, I decided I wanted to give it a shot anyway.

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text 2019-01-15 17:25
Reading progress update: I've read 31 out of 391 pages.
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements - Sam Kean

Well, let's just say Mr. Kean clearly isn't Helen Czerski (and that is not a good thing).

 

He either has no clear conception of who his target audience is, or he doesn't know how to talk to his audience.  Someone with an average to advanced training in science obviously wouldn't need any explanations as to the structure of the periodic table, to begin with.  The rest of us might need one -- but (and it speaks volumes that I even have to emphasize this) a clearly structured one, please, not an assortment of anectdotes that blows any explanatory structure clean out of the window.  Also, if you're writing a book subtitled (in part) "...Tales of ... the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements", wouldn't it be a good idea to give your readers an idea when and how the periodic table itself made its first appearance in the history of the world?  Just a paragraph or so, for reference in conjunction with its basic structure, so we know where we are, both in chemical terms and the history of science?  (Ms. Czerski did just that.  But as I said ... Mr. Kean clearly isn't Helen Czerski.) 

 

So far, he's managed the feat that only one of my school teachers ever managed, and that was my physics teacher, who, like Sam Kean, presented his material full of enthusiasm as to the magic of it all, or the big joke associated with a given scientific fact / discovery, or some other reaction clearly warranted in his eyes, while completely failing to transport to the rest of us -- and hence, leaving us entirely mystified -- what all all of this had to do with any of us and why it was actually important (other than in a way that only the initiated would be able to appreciate).  I used to actually like chemistry in school (unlike physics), and I believed I had a fairly good grip on the subject -- an impression my teachers seemed to share, judging by my grades.   A major reason for this was the fact that (unlike in physics class) I never had a moment's doubt as to why what I was learning mattered, and how it all fitted together in the grand scheme of things.  But if I didn't at least have this distant reservoir to rely on, I'm pretty sure I'd be entirely baffled already.  And I can only hope that this state of affairs is going to improve, because otherwise I'm either going to throw in the towel or it's going to take me eons to finish this book (and it won't earn a particularly high rating, either).

 

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