Ingredients: The Strange Chemistry of What We Put in Us and on Us

George Zaidan. Dutton, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4427-4
Chemist Zaidan debuts with an engaging and witty examination of the myriad things people ingest, place on their skin, and otherwise come into contact with. Throughout, Zaidan evinces a gift for making complicated scientific principles easy to understand. Anyone who has sweated through organic chemistry will be grateful for the explanation of how certain molecules are innocuous in some forms and deadly in others, while the nutritionally-minded will appreciate the persuasive arguments against ultra-processed foods. For those concerned about the safety of sunscreen, Zaidan gives a realistic and nonalarmist accounting of the risks, noting that “unless you’re allergic to any of” the product’s chemical ingredients, or use it over an extremely prolonged period, there’s little reason to worry. He also pokes fun at the questionable assumptions made in reporting on scientific studies, noting that while one headline might declare that coffee causes cancer, another refutes that conclusion. He amusingly uses potholes as a metaphor for how supposedly foolproof studies can go awry—whether by procedural mistakes, simple math errors, or outright fraud. While Zaidan lays on the humor, his conclusions are sound. Science lovers will enjoy Zaidan’s lighthearted approach. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/17/2020
Release date: 04/14/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-1-5247-4428-1
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-5247-4429-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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