Uncle Tungsten: Memories Of A Chemical Boyhood - Oliver Sacks I feel totally terrible on giving up on this book. It is a very good book, but I believe it will not be readable for many. Or maybe I should put it this way – it cannot be appreciated as it should be unless you either have a thorough knowledge of chemistry or are willing to read the book slowly and do the experiments, look at the pinecones and sunflowers and investigate alongside the author as he speaks of his childhood in London. His family is one of scholars. These people were those very few who can take book knowledge and in an instant give you an example in nature that demonstrates what is in the books. His parents, although certainly no gilded pair since they were absent for much of the time, infused in him the wonder of knowledge. Every paragraph in the book prompts one to go out and do an experiment, look at a pinecone or a sunflower. To appreciate this book as it should be you should do and see what he saw as his parents and aunts and uncles guided him through science, giving him a hands-on visual, auditory and olfactory knowledge of what happens when you mix this chemical with that or view and touch an object of nature. To understand and really remember each paragraph one should do the experiments he did and carefully observe what he looked at in nature. It was too much for me to read example after example of experiments, such as the formation of colorful crystals when you put a thread in a solution of x and add a pinch of this or that. There were so many examples that I drowned and lost count and felt bereaved by my lack of knowledge. Clearly there is nothing wrong with this book, but it is simply better appreciated by someone who is willing to read it slowly and investigate all the marvels it speaks of. For me it was too jam packed full of things that I had not seen.


This is why I am continuing no further. I am too lacking in knowledge. This book is too smart for me. If you are able to relax and not demand that you see what he saw through each of the experiments and tests he carried out, then maybe you will enjoy the book. It is perfect for those of you who already have the scientific knowledge he speaks of. It is an autobiography of his childhood in London starting with the events of the Blitz and his first stay in one of those horrible English boarding schools where the headmasters are despicable. You come to understand why he is who he is and how his youth shaped him. I highly recommend this book to those who are well educated in the sciences, particularly chemistry.