Prolific writer Atkins (Univ. of Oxford, UK) has authored numerous science-related works, including textbooks and books aimed at the lay public and lower-level students (e.g., Reactions: The Private Life of Atoms, CH, Apr’12, 49-4464). Continuing the tradition, this book is an excellent primer on chemistry. The reader will not receive a degree in chemistry but should gain a fairly comprehensive background on the subject. To many people, chemistry has an “unhappy reputation,” and Atkins aims to dispel the concept. He illuminates the good points and covers the downsides, largely due to misapplications of chemistry and technology. Chapter 1 acts as a preface and covers the history of chemistry, beginning with alchemy. Chapter 2 covers atomic theory and the periodic table; a discussion of energy and thermodynamics follows in chapter 3. Reactions, techniques, and achievements are addressed in subsequent chapters. The final chapter covers the future, including nanotechnology, computers in chemistry, and various materials. The book suffers from a lack of illustrations; the lone example is a periodic table that appears, unreferenced, at the end. Nevertheless, this is an excellent presentation, especially for laypeople and high school students or for a “chemistry for poets” course.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates, secondary school students, and general readers. Reviewer: R. E. Buntrock, University of Maine Recommendation: Highly recommended Subject: Science & Technology – Chemistry Choice Issue: May 2014