I’m always wondering what things are made of, so this is exactly my kind of book. It’s guaranteed to make you look at everything in a new way.
Materials scientist Mark Miodownik begins the book by talking about when he got stabbed with a razor on the tube. This was the unlikely catalyst for his interest in how materials work. Every chapter begins with the same photo of him on his roof, in view of the Shard in London, enjoying refreshments while he appears to be puzzling out a problem. In interesting ways, he explains the manufacture and properties of the man-made materials that can be seen in the photo, such as chocolate, paper, carbon, foam, concrete and glass.
I can’t pretend to have fully understood the bits about the atoms (unfortunately I don’t have the right kind of brain for this) but I liked his hand-sketched diagrams. I learnt a lot of fascinating things about the stuff we all take for granted. It was also quite amusing and somewhat eccentric. The content is slightly out of date already (inevitable, considering the pace of technological development), most obviously in the discussion of paper banknotes.
First published in 2013 by Penguin.