The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements by Sam Kean, 391 pages
In this fascinating and wide-ranging book, Kean examines the periodic table of elements, telling the stories behind the discovery of, uses for, and odd effects of each element. While in another's hands, this would be a dry subject, Kean's bits of humor and odd anecdotes make it a lot of fun. I particularly liked the story about the high schooler who, in a misguided attempt to create clean energy, built a nuclear reactor in his backyard. Also, I loved the story of the scientist who accidentally discovered x-rays, and nearly drove himself crazy in his quest to prove himself wrong. The one complaint I have about this book is that while the stories are fascinating, I'll be damned if I can remember which elements they refer to. But really, that's a minor quibble. The book is great fun.