It’s Elemental: The Hidden Chemistry in Everything

Kate Biberdorf. Park Row, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4882-1081-5

Biberdorf (Kate the Chemist), a chemistry professor at the University of Texas, takes readers on a zippy tour of a typical day in her life, conclusively demonstrating that science is “so freaking awesome.” She sets the stage with a synopsis of basic chemistry, offering an accessible look at the structure of atoms, the periodic table, states of matter, and chemical bonding. Then Biberdorf’s day begins. First, there’s breakfast, for which she explains what happens when trimethylxanthine (also known as caffeine) enters the body; in the bathroom, she describes the chemicals in lotions and makeup, as well as the cystine molecules in one’s hair (which are changed by shampoo). At the beach, she lays out how her cooler keeps her beverages cool and the phenomenon of crepuscular rays, which happen when light reflects off dirt particles at sunset. Her day-in-the-life provides entertaining examples without getting too far into the weeds on any given concept, while personal anecdotes keep things fun: in college, for example, a roommate used liquid dish soap in place of dishwasher detergent (which are made of different types of molecules), necessitating the intervention of a repairman. Readers will come away with an appreciation of how crucial—and how cool—chemistry actually is. Agent: Brandi Bowles, United Talent. (July)
PW EDITORS’ PICKS FOR
THE BEST NEW BOOKS
PW EDITORS’ PICKS FOR THE BEST NEW BOOKS