Periodic Tales

  • by Hugh Aldersey-Williams
  • Narrated by Antony Ferguson
  • 12 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Like the alphabet, the calendar, or the zodiac, the periodic table of the chemical elements has a permanent place in our imagination. But aside from the handful of common ones (iron, carbon, copper, gold), the elements themselves remain wrapped in mystery. We do not know what most of them look like, how they exist in nature, how they got their names, or of what use they are to us. Unlocking their astonishing secrets and colorful pasts, Periodic Tales is a passionate journey through mines and artists' studios, to factories and cathedrals, into the woods and to the sea to discover the true stories of these fascinating but mysterious building blocks of the universe.


What the Critics Say

"[Hugh's] virtuoso tour of the periodic table reflects its full complement of the human condition." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Interesting but Rambling

I enjoyed this audiobook, for the most part. It had lots of good stories about discovering elements in particular, as well as a wide range of connections to real-life uses for elements that made them more real and accessible to a general reader. I am a science teacher and I still learned a few new things, which I appreciated.

That said, while I found the individual stories interesting, the book as a whole doesn't hang together well. It feels disjointed in general and at times seems to ramble on about a topic that is honestly not that interesting. There isn't enough of an effort to keep everything connected to the (honestly pretty flimsy) underlying story so it is hard to keep track of which element is being discussed if you stop and start, especially with the sometimes-arbitrary categorization method used (by author-determined category rather than something related to the periodic table). I can understand why it made no sense to do the elements in order but jumping all over the place was often hard to follow.

Overall, I would say this was worth the listen and definitely made the elements more concrete and relatable to the average person, but it wasn't cohesive or consistent enough for me to give it five stars. Even the narration was somewhat inconsistent.
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- Carolyn "I am a bilingual high school teacher. I mostly read non-fiction, especially history, but I am also a sucker for science-fiction and fantasy novels."

A tepid tale ruined by poor narration

The writing is unremarkable, rambling to and fro across the periodic table with little sense of coherence. This could have been a pleasant book with little merit beyond it's inoffensiveness. Sadly no, the narration is downright terrible. For a scientific text pronunciation of technical terms is important. "Nuclear" is frequently used by the author; not once does it go unscathed by the Narrator. I kept listening in vain hope that either the narration or text would improve to make the other palatable. Sadly no, this was a waste of my money and worse yet a waste of my time.
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- Philip Deckers

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-28-2015
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio