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New Contributor II

Re: Any recommendations on books to read about chemistry to fill knowledge gaps?

I thoroughly enjoyed "Napoleon's Buttons:  How 17 Molecules Changed History."

The book covers 17 classes of molecules and their impact on the history of the world.  Some are easy, like gold and silver.  We've all learned how the allure of riches formed much of the current world.  But most of the chapters cite some surprisingly interesting facts about both common (table salt) and less well-known compounds (oleic acid, dyes, molecules of witchcraft, cellulose,etc.) and how they impacted human culture.  If you are wondering "But why a title with 'Napoleons Buttons'"?, I won't give it away, but the authors postulate a possible scenario where one element may have led to Napoleon's eventual defeat.  A bit of  a stretch, but very memorable and I retell it often.  There is just enough real chemistry in several chapters to make it both appealing and readable for anyone with even a minimum of chemical understanding.  The chapter on chocolate is a great example.  You also might wonder "Why are table salt and dyes on this list?"  Read the book - it is enlightening and enjoyable.

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New Contributor

Re: Any recommendations on books to read about chemistry to fill knowledge gaps?

If you enjoy the magic of chemistry you should read "The Periodic Table" by Primo Levi.  The original is in Italian, if you read that language.  It is not yet available on the web, but it is not expensive.  You may wish to read the well-written summary of the book at The Periodic Table: Primo Levi's elementals of life, suffering and death | Science | The Guardian

While the book probably means more to experienced chemists, the chapters are stories that any college student should understand, and there are many admonitions and "trade secrets" that are intended for tender young ears.  The chapters related to chemistry performed while enduring the more cruel realities of life are sober reminders of the role of chance favoring the prepared mind and the bold soul. 

On the whole it is a refreshing and liberating book.  Read it and leap ! 

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