The 15 Most Fascinating Chemistry Books and Textbooks Ever Written

Looking for the best chemistry books? I’ve got you covered.

The list below contains riveting books for chemistry lovers and textbooks for students looking to expand their knowledge.

Interesting Chemistry Books—

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean book cover | Chemistry books

In The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean follows the incredible tales of every element on the periodic table, narrating extraordinary stories of betrayal, adventure, and obsession.

The tales often follow the lives of the mad scientists who discovered the elements.

What’s in it for youThrilling stories of science, arts, finance, mythology, and more, told through the Periodic Table

2. Elements by Theodore Gray

Elements book cover

Elements is a chemistry book that contains an original collection of exquisite photographs of the periodic table’s 118 elements. 

These never-before-seen photos present a rare opportunity to see the elements in their purest, uncombined forms.  

The book also includes stories, interesting facts, and scientific data about each element, presenting the most comprehensive information on all the elements.  

What’s in it for youA unique combination of stunning images and solid science based on seven years of photography and research

3. Napoleon’s Buttons by Penny LeCouteur and Jay Burreson

Napoleon's Buttons by Penny LeCouteur and Jay Burreson

Napoleon’s Buttons narrates the tales of 17 molecules that greatly changed the course of history.  

These molecules, such as the tin of the greatcoat buttons of Napoleon’s army, fueled early exploration and enabled several voyages of discovery, resulting in extraordinary feats of engineering and advances in fields such as medicine. 

They are the foundation behind the changes in law, gender roles, and the environment, determining what we drink, eat, and wear today.  

What’s in it for you: A new way of understanding how our world works and how civilization has changed over the centuries

4. The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum

The Poisoner's Handbook

In The Poisoner’s Handbook, Deborah Blum follows the first forensic scientists as she unearths a thrilling chemistry Jazz Age story full of poison, murder, and mystery.

Blum narrates the perilous days when two forensic scientists fought to end the era of untraceable poisons, which enabled the orchestration of the perfect crime.

What’s in it for you: An exhilarating narrative following the lives of two scientists who overcome seemingly impossible odds to become the trailblazers of forensic chemistry 

5. The Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager

The Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager

As the world faced mass starvation at the dawn of the twentieth century, leading scientists were called upon to engineer a solution.

The Alchemy of Air is a fascinating chemistry book that follows the lives of two immensely talented, tragically flawed individuals who discovered the solution: Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch.

Although their discovery helped save billions of people, it came at a costly price, wreaking havoc on the lives of the two scientists and the world.  

What’s in it for you: A moving narrative of fatal genius, pioneering science, and the discovery that touched billions of human lives 

6. Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik

Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik

In Stuff MattersMark Miodownik analyzes the materials he comes across in everyday life, such as foam and steel. 

Mark narrates captivating tales of the material engineering miracles that are all around us, making you see stuff in an exciting, new way.

What’s in it for you: A book about the secret wonders and surprising characteristics of materials we find ordinary and boring

7. Molecules by Theodore Gray

Molecules by Theodore Gray

In Molecules, Theodore Gray shows how elements come together to create molecules. 

Using compelling stories and exquisite photos, Theodore explores the most fascinating, fundamental, and beautiful molecules that constitute our world.

What’s in it for you: A stunning look at molecules as you’ve never seen them before 

Nature's Building Blocks by John Emsley

Arranging elements alphabetically from Actinium to Zirconium, Nature’s Building Blocks explores the history of chemical elements. It covers the 115 known elements, focusing on the ones we encounter the most in daily life.

What’s in it for you: An extensive, reliable source covering the elements that make up the very essence of our material planet 

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

It is the summer of 1950. Young Flavia de Luce is an aspiring chemist passionate about poisons. Then she chances on a puzzling event: a dead bird on the doorstep of the Buckshaw mansion with a stamp on its beak.

Appalled and intrigued, life begins for Flavia when death finds its way to Buckshaw.

What’s in it for you: An enthralling novel for chemistry aficionados

10. Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

Periodic Tales narrates the lives of elements. Like you, they have personalities and attitudes, strengths and weaknesses, colorful, rich stories. 

Told in a compelling voice, this book will take you on a dazzling tour through science, art, history, and literature, introducing you to all kinds of fascinating elements, like iron that rains from the sky and lead that can predict your future.

What’s in it for you: The astonishing secrets and intriguing pasts of elements 

Chemistry Textbooks—

11. Chemistry: The Central Science by Theodore Brown et al.

Chemistry: The Central Science by Theodore Brown et al.

This chemistry textbook aims to help you succeed in general chemistry and think about its real-world applications. By doing so, you can gain conceptual understanding and leverage it as a tool for applying everyday chemistry.

What’s in it for you:

  • Comprehensive, data-driven problem sets to enable you to grasp key concepts
  • Educational data and research from several thousands of users

12. General Chemistry by Linus Pauling

General Chemistry by Linus Pauling

 This textbook presents chemistry topics as unifying principles rather than unrelated facts.

What’s in it for you:

  • An excellent textbook for first-year college students planning to major in chemistry or related fields
  • A clear, coherent introduction to chemistry

13. Organic Chemistry by Jonathan Clayden et al.

Organic Chemistry by Jonathan Clayden et al.

This chemistry textbook presents organic chemistry as a coherent whole, helping students understand the subject on a deeper level.

What’s in it for you:

  • An exhaustive organic chemistry guide for students
  • Easy-to-read, accessible writing plus real-world examples

14. Elements of Physical Chemistry by Peter Atkins and Julio de Paula

Elements of Physical Chemistry by Peter Atkins and Julio de Paula

This textbook has been designed to help students confidently apply physics and mathematics to solve chemistry-related problems.

What’s in it for youAn accessible, concise guide providing in-depth pedagogical and mathematical support

15. Chemistry by Karen Timberlake

Chemistry: An Introduction to General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry by Karen Timberlake

Written for both beginners and experts, this textbook combines chemistry, health, and environmental applications to help you develop problem-solving skills and understand concepts.   

What’s in it for you

  • Engaging text that builds links between chemistry, health, and the environment
  • An excellent resource for anyone interested in allied health
  • Real-world examples to highlight chemistry’s relevance

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