Top 3 Chemistry Books | Personal Statement Reading

In need of inspiration for 'extra reading' for your Chemistry personal statement? Look no further!

Chemistry experiment in progress

The so called ‘central science’, Chemistry is vital in connecting the physical sciences with Biology and Medicine and Engineering. Many of you Chemistry students will want to keep your mind fresh over summer and ready for university applications, and this list will allow you to do just that!

1) Periodic Tales: The curious lives of the elements - Hugh Aldersey-Williams

If you are not fascinated by the importance of the elements, the building blocks of life, then after reading this book you surely will be.

This work by Aldersey-Williams explores just how significant the elements are, illustrating their fantastic chemical properties and explaining not only how they are interesting from a research point of view, but also how critical they are in everyday life. Some elements will be completely familiar, but you will learn far more about the intricacies of these atoms and how they act than you do from a textbook.

The connection to many famous landmarks and historical figures in the book is a further interesting perspective offered by Aldersey-Williams. Indeed, the renowned physicist Richard Feynman once said should all scientific knowledge be lost and only one sentence passed on to the next generation, it should be ‘all things are made of atoms’, and this book goes a considerable way to explain the reasoning behind this statement - if you’re interested in chemistry and how atoms are so key to everything, then look no further than this book.

2) Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie - Barbara Goldsmith

The two-time Nobel prize winner Marie Curie is one of the most successful and influential scientists of all time, her discoveries of two heavy elements Radium and Polonium and huge contribution to the advancement of our understanding of radiation making her a figurehead of modern science.

This biography goes further, analysing the many struggles Curie faced both in her research and in her personal life, going through the overt sexism she faced that shadowed over her work, as well as the grief she endured as a widow. The book also delves into her emotion when her daughter and son-in-law won the Nobel prize for the discovery of artificial radiation. Goldsmith also goes into how Marie Curie’s own discovery led to her death, looking into her suffering in the later years of her life.

This is a very special story, and one of both jubilation and sadness at different stages of the book, which of course show the same emotions at different stages of Curie’s life - I’d highly recommend reading.

3) H2O: A biography of water - Phillip Ball

Perhaps surprisingly water is a molecule few know much about, Ball can change this and provides an eye-opening insight into why water is such a fascinating substance. If you have ever wondered about why ice has such irregular properties, or how snowflakes have six points then this book will take all your questions and answer them in a clear way that makes the science seem extremely simple.

The bonding of water in itself is key knowledge for A Level students, but the way this information is presented by Ball will explain how water provides its crucial life-giving properties. To give yourself a much more rounded appreciation of the topic that will undoubtedly help your study, or just to fuel your interest in Chemistry further, this book is one I’d highly recommend.

Bonus: Periodic Videos

This is a YouTube channel started by the Chemistry department of the University of Nottingham, the videos are fantastically interesting, with a series of videos analysing the properties of all the elements in the periodic table, with other videos exploring various molecules, reactions and fascinating scientific concepts. The videos are presented by Professor Martyn Poliakoff and include many different academics with specialities in many areas of Chemistry, I’d highly recommend watching some of their content if you are at all interested in Chemistry!

Blog Post Crafted by Joe

Joe is currently working towards his BSc in Biomedical Science at the University of Warwick.

When he’s not studying, Joe tutors GCSE and A Level Science subjects in his home city of Coventry.

Joe can often be found at ridiculous times in the morning, bird ringing and searching for interesting bird and butterfly species at his local nature reserve near Coventry, or venturing further afield to find rarities on the East Coast of Norfolk.