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Nature's Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  366 ratings  ·  31 reviews
What is the most common element in the universe? Can you name the noble gases? Everything we see around us is made of chemical elements, but most of us know little about them.
Penned by award-winning science writer John Emsley, Nature's Building Blocks explains the what, why and wherefore of the chemical elements. Arranged alphabetically, from Actinium to Zirconium, it is
Hardcover, 1536 pages
Published April 4th 2002 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published August 16th 2001)
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4.23  · 
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 ·  366 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Peter Mcloughlin
More of a reference book not meant to read straight through even though I did. At one point I had memorized the periodic table by the atomic number of the elements. I do weird things like that. I still remember a lot of it. Anyway, it is meant as a lookup reference book.
Sarah Sammis
Nature's Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements by John Emsley has a beautiful cover. It's a guide to the periodic table that's laid out like the London A to Z. It sounded like a nifty idea to me so I decided to give the book a try.

I have to say that after working my way through the the letter A entries, I decided that alphabetical just isn't the most logical way to read a casual book about the periodic table. The problem is that the table as it's currently laid out by atomic weight makes
Jun 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
When I read through this, I feel like it's a great companion book to The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean.
Both books show the elements in a way that is more readily digestible than any chemistry professor will in a lecture.
Well, more than any I've ever had, anyways.
This book also goes into a history of elements, much like The Disappearing Spoon, which I enjoyed immensely.
If you have a love of chemistry or would just like to understand the make up of the universe you live in a little more, this is
I got this book during my chemistry phase I had in elementary school. I carried this book around with me to random places, including the sandpit in our backyard. I didn't understand much of it but it gave me lots of fuel to daydream about (I remember coming to the conclusion a half-life meant how long you had after being exposed to whatever had the half-life). After taking a low-level chemistry course in college my curiosity was piqued again, and I decided I'd read through this over the months, ...more
Dennis Littrell
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating tour de force

This is an outstanding piece of work aimed at the intellectually and scientifically curious that also works as a nice reference book on the elements and the Periodic Table.

After a short introduction filled with some top ten tables (e.g., top ten elements in the earth's crust: "Oxygen 466,000" parts per million, "Silicon 277,000" p.p.m., etc.) Emsley spins out a chapter per element in alphabetical order beginning with Actinium and ending with Zirconium. Each chapter is
Any Length
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the book which made a potentially rather stuffy and boring subject rather interesting through the inclusion of interesting stories surrounding the individual elements.
The narrator Kevin Scollin on the other day was disappointing as he made no effort whatsoever to pronounce words in different languages the way they should be pronounced. Each element was named by it's English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese native name. But Kevin Scollin just read them out as if they were
Because 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry, I have been searching for a book about chemistry that I could recommend to the general public. After learning about or browsing through several such books, I chose what I thought would be the best amongst them. Written by award-winning science writer and former chemistry lecturer, John Emsley, I thought I had found a real winner in his completely revised and updated book, Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z guide to the elements (New Edition) [ ...more
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book goes through all of the chemical elements known as of the year 2001. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the history and facts and oddities presented about each element. I wish that the section about the superheavy elements was more up to date and accurate, but this is probably my favorite book!
Sara Fisher
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reading
If you want some interesting information about the elements you study in Chemistry, this book is a great resource.
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chemistry
I think this is one of the basics that must be read. Despite that it's not easy to "store".
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating! Lots of typos though....
Oct 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite book on the chemical elements. I think it's the most informative such book for the casual reader (obviously CRC Handbooks may have more information but those are massive). This is more of a reference work and not really a narrative, though, so don't get the wrong idea.

I think what I most like is that it explains the historical background/discovery, the industrial applications, and the biological relevance (if any). It's sort of like if you took all the Wikipedia pages for the
Robert Sparrenberger
As a guy having a chemistry degree I really enjoyed this one. I rather enjoyed the alphabetical listing of the elements. Grouping them as in the periodic table would have been another way but I enjoyed jumping around a bit.
The facts and strange things about some of the elements was interesting. One of the best things was how some of these elements were discovered. Some of these guys and gals were using some crude equipment and managed to put it together. Amazing to say the least. Good read for
Martin Witchard
Here's an interesting and entertaining book for anyone who would like to dip in and out of learning more about the elements that make up our day-to-day existence (and some that don't as well). The author knows his stuff and puts fascinating information about every element into this tome. From Actinium to Yttrium, its a browsers paradise. Learn about the weird, wonderful and mundane uses for all the known elements including the bizarre and often fleeting transuranic elements. Highly Recommended.
May 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is enjoyable to read because information on each element is narrated in sections: the human element, the food element, medical, war, history, economic... each category describes interesting trivia about the element as it exists in the human body, as it exists in food, medicinal use -both modern and ancient times, war, historical trivia, anecdotal records, etc... if you love knowing about the building blocks of life as I do, this book will be a staple and continual useful reference.
Theodosia of the Fathomless Hall
Meticulous written and therefor astonishingly informative the ceaseless knowledge of the Periodic Table nevertheless becomes a little straining - if rarely. Recommended instantly to anyone with interest in the elements.
Note: The afterword is even better!


In case anyone is wondering, yes, I know I do sound like Kirkus Reviews.
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book talks about every detail of all the elements and some of the undiscovered ones. It talks about the history, applications, medical uses, and other things of every element. This is one of my most favorite book on the elements.
Brad Belschner
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: natural-history
Buckets of fun! There's a chapter for each one of the elements, describing its history, its unique properties, its conventional use, and some random tid bits about it. This should be required reading for any chemistry class.
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Useful and engaging.
Thomas Müller
Valuable. Some surprising gems, like NIckelTItaniumNAvalOrdinanceLaboratory Nitinol which I now tortured all medical students rotating through our firm with...Genius !
Jun 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly readable. Interesting and a good way to explore the economic and historical impact of chemistry.
Aug 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic book detailing the everyday uses and history of each element of the periodic table. Mozart really died from antimony poisoning? Brilliant.
Aug 21, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-ish
I'm not even going to pretend that I read the whole thing (the library needs it back before 2009). Definitely one to purchase.
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
Browsed the A elements, and the B elements. Dry but interesting.
Great reading for the curious individual who has little time for extending periods of reading.
Sep 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
Fun as hell. Will make you wince with glee.
Oct 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
This book is so interesting that I would marry it. But I just got married so I guess I can't.
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Fabulous book that makes the elements come to life.
Feb 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Emsley in his element.
An absolute tour-de-force, full of interesting tidbits of information. One of those books I wish I'd written myself, if only to have had the fun of researching it. Of course it's a reference work, but I found it worked very well as a 'bathroom book', picking it up and reading sequentially a little at a time - informative and amusing enough for that purpose as long as you skim over the listings of isotopes.
My edition does suffer from a noticeable number of typos and other copy-editing glitches, b
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