Title: Wonderful Life with the Elements
By: Bunpei Yorifuji
Published by: No Starch Press
Release Date: Out Now
Pages: 208 Pages
Cost: $17.95 with E-Book or $14.95 for E-Book Alone
Special Thanks: No Starch Press for providing me with a copy of the book for review.
From the brilliant mind of Japanese artist Bunpei Yorifuji comes Wonderful Life with the Elements, an illustrated guide to the periodic table that gives chemistry a friendly face.
In this super periodic table, every element is a unique character whose properties are represented visually: heavy elements are fat, man-made elements are robots, and noble gases sport impressive afros. Every detail is significant, from the length of an element’s beard to the clothes on its back. You’ll also learn about each element’s discovery, its common uses, and other vital stats like whether it floats—or explodes—in water.
Why bother trudging through a traditional periodic table? In this periodic paradise, the elements are people too. And once you’ve met them, you’ll never forget them.
- Official Blurb
Tired of reading the Periodic Table? This book may be just what you are looking for!
Usually from the very first Chemistry class any High School student takes, they are introduced to the Periodic Table… a listing of every element by its atomic number and provides relevant information needed to perform much of the basic Chemistry education and onwards. Different fields in science have different ways to remember all the required information. If you were studying anatomy there are numerous mnemonics to work your way through the bones, muscles and nerves. In other subjects there is nothing like the use of diagrams or pictures.
The Periodic Table however… requires cramming and dedication in my opinion and a highlight of graduation was taking down my Periodic Table poster and replacing it with my testamur. This is where Bunpei Yorifuji and No Starch Press enter the picture with their recent release of ‘Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified”, a small 208 page guide to easily one of the most enjoyable ways to learn the elements without staring at a printed sheet of paper. This is a book I would have loved to have had during my High School days, as while it may not fully replace the table itself or the massive textbook… it makes learning from them a lot more enjoyable and interesting.
Unlike other releases by No Starch Press I have reviewed which try to incorporate storyline and education together, this book is all about delivering the information but in an informative and graphically appealing manner. Each of the elements are represented by humanoidish figures, each of which have been designed based on their properties. Using the example above, Hydrogen at room temperature is:
a) A gas so it has a ghostly bottom-half.
b) Is light, so it has a thin composure.
c) Is a multipurpose element so it wears a general singlet (Each type has a respective outfit).
d) Was originally discovered in the 18th Century, thus the beard.
e) A ‘special element’ therefore wears the crown.
Also taking into account other factors, these result in the production of a individual characterizations for each of the elements. It is a creative system that while might not be practical in every learning environment, I think could help with memorization or at the very least be useful in keeping ones attention to the content. In addition, rather than leave it at that Bunpei Yorifuji kept the boring content at the bottom of each page (Basic Blurb, Boiling/Melting Points and almost everything else you would need for basic chemistry) and dedicated a majority of the pages to highlighting the elements and their practical uses/trivia. It is creative and evidently much work went into the research and production of this book.
While students don’t seem to deal with them much, as you progress through the phases of the table information becomes progressively less informative and by Phase 7 is generally the basic personification and a few details for each element. These are generally newer and less well studied but I would have liked to see at least a small blurb on their discovery. But to their credit, they do name what each element has been named after (Eg. Lawrencium is named after the physicist Ernest Lawrence). Minor issues however and did not detract from the overall learning experience.
While a greater portion of the book is dedicated to describing each of the elements, this is not the only content the book has. Wonderful Life with the Elements contains a total of five chapters, the first entitled ‘Elements in the Living Room’ provides us with a tour of the elements that make up the earth, sun and the universe and a look at elements through the ages from primitive times to our current day living room. It is a short but sweet chapter that while only really worth a quick glance over is interesting to read and view. The second chapter entitled ‘The Super Periodic Table of the Elements’ brings justification to the element character designs and takes you through the different factors of the element which are equally important to know as the elements themselves and presented in a slightly text-heavy but still visually creative manner.
The final two chapters ‘How to Eat the Elements’ and ‘The Elements Crisis” look at our own personal requirements of the elements in order to survive, as well as the crisis we are facing where some elements that are not necessarily renewable are becoming so in demand it is problematic. Both chapters serve as more side-reading than anything else, but is once again well researched and provides interesting tidbits of information. Oh… and they throw in a periodic table if you really want to hang it up or use it somewhere…. mine will be staying in the book personally.
While the book comes as both a physical hardcover release and an e-book format, I would recommend paying the couple of extra bucks for a hardcover copy as it is well sized, has great print quality and makes great use of three primary colours which you would have seen in the preview images above – white, black and yellow. A lot of work has gone into it and kudos goes to Bunpei Yorifuji for its design and the team at No Starch Press for its English translation/release.
If I were to be studying Chemistry all over again, this is the book I would want on my desk in-front of me. Unfortunately, it would not be possible to cram a whole subject into a 200 page book so outside of perhaps the first few weeks of classes it will serve as a guide to the periodic table more-so than a Chemistry textbook. But ‘Wonderful Life with the Elements’ promotes itself as a personification of the Periodic Table and does it well. A great companion to your journey through the complexities of Chemistry and one I could happily recommend.