Todd Martin's Reviews > The Invention of Air

The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson
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's review
Feb 26, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: environment-science, history
Read from February 26 to March 01, 2011

I could write my own review, but there is really no reason to when the New York Times has so effectively captured my thoughts about The Invention of Air .
The review can be seen here.

Johnson uses the life story of Joseph Priestly (18th century scientist and one of the discoverers of oxygen) as a means to illustrate connections between the disparate fields of energy, religion, the French and American revolutions, the scientific method and the ways in which paradigm shifts occur (among a host of other diverse and unrelated topics). It’s a shame he didn’t stick to the history of Priestly, since this is by far the most interesting part of the story.

Instead, Johnson provides a snippet of Priestly’s life, then uses it as a launching pad to expound upon an unrelated (and more often than not, uninteresting) topic. In addition to being forced, these digressions are, as the Times points out …. “annoying”, and “a kind of book-length game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon in which everything that ever was and ever will be is linked to everything else.”

That about nails it.

Also, the book is rather boring.
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