From the Archives Friday: The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus

I’ve been reading up a storm this summer, but it hasn’t really translated over to reviews, unfortunately. I’m about seven or eight reviews behind at this point and I’m not sure I’ll get them all written unless I have a sudden stroke of inspiration (not out of the question).



Title: The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus
Author: John Emsley
Genre: Nonfiction / science


Original rating: 4 / 5

Another book I checked out of the Santa Cruz library because I thought it looked interesting. I remember it as a fairly quick read with some good information.

What I remember about the book: Nothing stands out in terms of facts I learned at this distant remove (I read it about 10 years ago). I do remember taking notes from it at the time, which means I thought it was pretty interesting and had information worth remembering.

How I felt about it at the time: I liked it but it didn’t make that big of an impression, apparently.

How I feel about it now: I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about phosphorus. Beyond that, the writing and information don’t stand out to me enough for me to recommend it in a general sense.

Verdict: I’m going to lower my rating a bit. These days, a 4 star book is one that I really liked; often a 4 star book will be the best one I have read for a while. At the time, I said that this was an interesting book but I did have some criticisms for it, making me think it’s more likely a 3 star rather than a 4 star book.

Original rating: 4 / 5
Updated rating: 3 / 5

My original review under the cut.

I learned so much about phosphorus and phosphorus-related things in this book. I think the coolest thing I learned was that phosphorus is not actually phosphorescent (it’s luminescent!). My only complaint is that sometimes the author falls into what I feel is too much detail for a general audience. He starts talking about how the oxygen groups on phosphate attach to the whatever complex of thingy and how it blah blah blah…and my eyes go fuzzy for the rest of the page. However, those spells don’t last long and pretty soon he’s back into the interesting history and uses of phosphorus.


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