Jack Challoner

Andre Deutsch

2014 | 160pp | £14.99

ISBN 9780233004365

Any chemist worth their salt must have a firm grasp of the periodic table. In this colourful and visually appealing book, Jack Challoner takes the reader on a journey through the elements, bringing the periodic table to life.

The book starts by explaining the fundamental concepts of particle physics, making it accessible to readers without a chemistry background. Group by group, Challoner documents each element in a logical order, explaining its history, appearance and applications. Pages of text are broken up by data files and pictures. This stops the book from feeling like a boring list of facts and figures.

The elements is exactly what it sets out to be – a concise guide to the periodic table. Challoner manages to find a balance between keeping the facts to the point and telling a story that engages the reader.

I don’t think many people would read this book from cover to cover, but The elements is a good reference text to have on the shelf. Colour-coded margins and a sensible layout make the book easy to navigate, allowing the reader to find information about a specific element. In particular, this book would be useful for school students who want an overview of the elements beyond the curriculum’s content. 

With its logical structure and beautiful pictures, I would also recommend the book as a good introductory guide for anyone who wants to learn more about chemistry. Though the book does touch on a couple of complicated theories, the main focus is on applications and history, so it is not too daunting for a chemistry novice.

Overall, Challoner has produced a clear, well-balanced guide to the elements. Every so often the book reveals a nugget of information that, even to a trained chemist, helps to demonstrate the incredible power of the elements.

Purchase The elements: the new guide to the building blocks of our universe from Amazon.co.uk