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Book Recommendations

One More Chemistry Book

the-chemistry-bookAnd of course there’s one more book I’d like to plug: my own The Chemistry Book. I’m putting it in a separate post both for the personal glory and because I don’t think that Amazon likes it too much when you try to rake in affiliate fees from a book that you’re already getting royalties on. At any rate, I am not an unbiased observer, but I think it’s a worthwhile gift for anyone who might be broadly interested in this stuff. I’ve had a lot of feedback over the past few months since its publication, and have been glad to hear that all sorts of non-chemist readers seem to have enjoyed it. Buy several, just in case.

36 comments on “One More Chemistry Book”

  1. tnr says:


  2. SirWired says:

    Another vote for a Things I Won’t Work With Collection; You could totally put me down for at least four autographed copies. Every one of my science-literate friends (only one of which has any chemistry education beyond general high-school/college intro classes) that I have shown it to has doubled-over laughing at some of the articles.

    I’m sure Randall Munroe might even write a Forward and do some scattered illustrations; seems right up his alley.

    1. CatCube says:

      XKCD’s What-If has even referenced the FOOF “Things I Won’t Work With” post:

      1. Mark says:

        Derek – I note the link in Randal’s what-if is to your old blog site and has now rotted. Since you and Randal are occasional collaborators, perhaps you could persuade him to update the link to your article’s current hiding place.

    2. Vader says:

      That would be totally awesome, and I would certainly want a copy.

      It’s such an awesome idea, in fact, that I’m wondering if you’re being held back only by the niggling voice of conscience. You know: The fear that someone out there will see a book by a competent chemist titled “Things I Won’t Work With” and take it as a challenge.

      I say: Embrace natural selection.

      Oh, I know, most of these things will pose a hazard to bystanders. But, you know, they probably share the same genes …

      1. David says:

        Hey, I think *most* of us explored some inadvisable things when we were younger.

        *My* opinion/defense is that if we’re going to do fun things, we should at least understand and possibly mitigate some of the risks, right? 😉 Education over ignorance!

      2. Hap says:

        The problem is that not all the collateral damage will be less-than-smart people taking out other less-than-smart people – for example, when people drive badly, there isn’t likely to be any bias in the people they take out (unless there’s a general area bias).

        I don’t think that people being dumb is a good reason not to publish a TI3W book – people would have to have that oh-so-yummy combination of cunning and stupidity to get far enough along to kill themselves (doing what a professional chemist is smart enough to avoid), and that probably limits the potential damage. I just don’t think you can count unsmart people taking out unsmart people selectively.

    3. David says:

      I say let’s get them together and have them produce high school science textbooks, or a homeschool curriculum. I would certainly buy some.

    4. SirWired says:

      As a follow-on to my earlier comment: To enhance it’s gift-a-bility to non-chemists, it might do to have an intro chapter that explains why some chemical structures are inherently more dangerous than others. (i.e. lots of nitrogen, fluorine, potential as an oxidizer, etc.)

  3. CatCube says:

    I got a copy of the book when it first came out. I was really impressed by the breadth of subjects it covered. Well worth it.

    I’m actually surprised by how little you talk about it here.

  4. RAM says:

    where can we get a signed copy?

  5. anon says:

    Wait a minute something is wrong there are no widely incorrect watermark chemical structures in the background of the cover page. This book can’t be for lay people.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      I was quite worried about that myself. . .

      1. Dr CNS says:

        … just the “b” in book looks a bit funny 🙂

        Congrats, Derek!

        1. MTK says:

          I was wondering about the “b”. Or the Eszett as it resembles.

          It could be some sort of double entendre. First a homage to much of chemistry’s German roots and second, it could be a way of saying chemistry sucks.

          1. Ga says:

            It’s a beta. An eszett doesn’t connect at the bottom.

      2. tangent says:

        I’ve been told that book covers are completely out of the author’s control. Did you get backchannel pleas for accuracy through to the cover artist, or did you open the first copy and flinchingly scan the cover? Congratulations at no errors I saw!

        1. Derek Lowe says:

          I had a chance to look it over before publication – I mentioned the possible problems and how desperate I was to avoid them!

        2. Kaleberg says:

          That’s interesting. Back when music was published on records and CDs, musicians almost always got cover approval. I remember one documentary where they had to get the cover approved by Stevie Wonder, the blind musician.

  6. Home says:

    Recently purchased, only a few pages in. My own, and I assure you unpaid for opinion, is; great book Derek!

  7. c says:

    I bought and read thru it last spring.

    The images were fantastic! I would recommend it to a non-chemist for that reason alone.

    That said, I don’t think you’re voice/enthusiasm came thru as much as I had hoped. Most entries seemed to be the usual examples (dyes, sulfa drugs, graphene, etc) covered at the surface level you expect from the opening five minutes of a lecture given to first-year chemistry majors. Your voice can be heard in a few parenthetical snippets, and that adds some entertainment value, but otherwise it seemed pretty rote to me.

    Combine the striking images with your actual writing voice in the style of TIWWW and I think you would have a really useful book.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      400 pages of Things I Won’t Work With (or its style) would, I fear, be something like a four-foot-thick chocolate cake – I don’t think things could be sustained at that length.

      1. Shazbot says:

        So do 150. That’s plenty enough.

      2. Nick K says:

        What’s wrong with a four-foot thick chocolate cake?!

        1. anon says:

          That it doesn’t exist.

          Just like the TIWWW book!

  8. J. Peterson says:

    Any hope for a Kindle edition?

  9. TX raven says:

    As an expert communicator at all levels of scientific understanding, I wonder if you could put together a book for scientists on how to best present to non-scientist and influence senior management…. please?
    I promise to buy one copy.

    Thank you!

  10. Nick K says:

    Is it available in UK bookshops yet? If so, I’ll buy my copy as soon as I’m back.

  11. Dogbert Dilbert says:

    I was in the Science Museum in London and saw it on display there, so I got a copy and it’s a really terrific book, witty, intelligent and some fine photos, too. I’m looking forward to the next one!

  12. Scott says:

    I would buy a 400-page coffee-table book of Things I Won’t Work With. Especially if it’s got several sets of illustrations in it: some comical, some serious, and some technical.

    Even if it ended up being $200.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      You’re my kind of customer, that’s for sure (!)

  13. OmegaPaladin says:

    Put me down for a hardcover Things I Won’t Work With. I work in laboratory safety, and all the people I’ve shared this with have loved it – including non-science experts. If you had a kickstarter etc, I would happily promote it. I would buy multiple copies and lobby for my library to obtain a copy / make a donation. I’d also recommend a few of the Things I’m Glad I Don’t Do and other tales.

    From the safety side of things, I’d say that the knowledge of how to do bad things with chemistry is easily accessible for the clever yet immoral. I’ll admit I was that type of person once, and the info was easy enough to find on the net. The info in TIWW is more likely convince people to do a reaction safely or be cautious.

    The only thing I’d add is that it would be amazing to see if you could get the reprint rights to Ignition! and do a double feature.

    1. Becky Holdford says:

      That would be awesome! I’d but two copies at least

  14. Bethany Halford says:

    Derek, I bought a copy of this and it arrived today. It is beautiful. When the weather warms, would you consider doing an informal book signing in Cambridge? Sort of like that get together you did a couple years ago? Or maybe at the Boston ACS meeting in 2018?

  15. Chris Dockendorff says:

    Derek, your Chemistry Book is the nicest coffee table book I have seen– it should be fascinating even for non-scientists. I’ll be gifting it to my graduating students.

  16. Steve Hardie says:

    Well, I’m currently working through this book in my spare time, and I’d have to say that it’s what we in the trade (what trade? any trade) call a good book

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