Chemistry sketched for the masses
The cartoon guide to chemistry
Larry Gonick and Craig Criddle
New York, US: Harper Collins | 2005 | 250pp | £9.99 (SB) | ISBN 0060936770
Reviewed by John Uttin
This book is the latest in a series of comic strip guide books illustrated by Larry Gonick who has been a Knight Science Journalism fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, and is currently staff cartoonist for Muse - a magazine for young teenagers about science, history and the arts.
Gonick wrote his first cartoon guide on tax reform in 1971 and has since shed light on such topics as computers, genetics, physics, and the universe. Gonick has collaborated with Craig Criddle, professor of environmental engineering and science at Stanford University, US, to ensure the chemical accuracy of the text.
The style of The cartoon guide to chemistry is reminiscent of the Life, universe and almost everything series illustrated by Kate Charlesworth in the New Scientist, which was popular with its readers many years ago.
The book is described as 'a light hearted romp through chemistry' and that is what it is. It does not attempt to be comprehensive in scope or detail, but rather gets basic concepts over to the reader in a way that makes many of them quite memorable.
I found the pages on thermodynamics particularly useful, never having understood the basic concepts very well. Entropy and enthalpy, the most abstract of all concepts, now have a more human face for me. I also found Gonick's 3D representations of the periodic table helpful.
This book is intended to give a visual learning experience and is aimed at those who are learning chemistry at secondary school, as well as those at university who just want a quick and entertaining pre-examination brushup on a few basics.