Chemistry has always been my bane in school. But –this may sound arrogant– I blame my teachers for why I suck at the subject. I’m the kind of student who listens attentively in class, but won’t study or do any school work at home. So, if my teacher can’t teach, I end up failing the class.
When I was in high school, for example. My chemistry teacher hated my guts. I don’t know why, honestly. But she’ll do things to embarrass me. One time, when I bought my guitar to school, she forced me to play it in front of the class. Since I wasn’t that good yet, I just strummed my guitar like an idiot. So, after that spectacle, I started skipping her class.
College was the same thing, my teacher was really bad at teaching chemistry. Don’t get me wrong, he was a brillant man. But he’d stuff his mouth full with muffins (or other pastries) while lecturing, and you can’t take notes because all you’ll hear is him mumbling through his full mouth.
Luckily, I passed that class and got to the next level: Nuclear Pharmacy and Radiochemistry. It was serious stuff. White hair started sprouting from my head after I took this class. But my teacher was actually kind of decent. Except that, sometimes, she’ll be all over the map and I get lost because my basics aren’t fine tuned.
Through my superhuman efforts and a lot of sleepless nights, I passed that class too. Then, I started to question myself: Is it really my teachers’ fault, or am I really that bad at chemistry? Of course, I didn’t want to take another chemistry class to answer that question. I was done with chemistry.
A couple of weeks ago, however, I found another dying bookstore that’s getting rid of its books. Almost all of the shelves were empty. The self-help section is the only one still brimming with items. After rummaging for an hour, I found Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon (hardcover, for only $12!). It’s a book about the periodic table, about chemistry.
I was reluctant to buy it, at first, because I was afraid to find out that I am bad at chemistry. But I bought it, read it, learned from it and enjoyed it!
Though, I admit, some parts weren’t easy to read at all. But the rest of the book, however, is just fun. Kean will pull out one element from the table and give you a lot of interesting odd facts and historical anecdotes about it. Like the plot to poison Fidel Castro with thallium or how people were using mercury as laxative back in the days.
I have to say that this book is awesome, and my teachers did suck at teaching chemistry. I wish Kean was my teacher in high school and college. He makes learning chemistry fun. In just two weeks, I’ve learned plenty from this book compared to months of sitting in the classroom. If you like chemistry and history, do yourself a favor and read this book.