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Sam Kean Books In Order

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Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements (2010)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code (2012)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery (2014)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Caesar's Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us (2017)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Renegade Scientists and Spies Who Sabotaged the Nazi Atomic Bomb (2019)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science (2021)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Anthologies

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2018(2018)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Sam Kean is the New York Times best-selling author of history, science and nonfiction novels. The author was brought up in South Dakota and thinks the world of the State. As a child, he loved reading and was a fast reader which meant he read a lot of books. As a teenager, she studied English and Physics at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She then went on to become a teacher at a St. Paul experimental charter school in which the lessons were given at night. Once he grew tired of that, he tried to move to Europe but ended up going to Washington to study. He would get his library science masters degree from the Catholic University of America and this has helped him in the research for his novel even though he probably will never use it professionally.

One of Sam Kean’s bestselling novels “The Bastard Brigade” was named Best Science Books of 2019 by NPR Science Friday. The Guardian named her novel “Caesar’s Last Breath” as 2017’s science book of the year even as it was a finalist for the National Academies of Medicine, Engineering and Sciences Best Book Award in 2018. He has also made the shortlist for the PEN/EO, and the Royal Society Winton Prize. Aside from his writing, he has also been the editor of the Best Nature and American Science Writing and his work has been featured in Slate, The New Yorker, Psychology Today, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine among many others. He has also appeared on programs such as Fresh Air, All Things Considered and NPR’s Radiolab. Sam’s novels have been translated into more than two dozen novels across the globe. He is also the host of “Disappearing Spoon,” a very popular podcast.

Sam Kean has always loved scientific things and throughout his life he has collected stories to do with science. He remembers loving it when his teachers told stories in class. He had a moment of epiphany when he realized that much of these stories had some sort of angel on the periodic table or involved an element in it. As a man with a curiosity about the elements and a passion for stories, he thought that she could find a story about all the elements in the table. He started Googling it and found that surprisingly no one had written about it and started thinking why not do it. It was difficult finding a publisher that would publish such a novel concept until he got Rick Broadhead the agent who loved his stories and promised to get them published. Kean believes the agent loved the lively and fun nature of the storytelling and the upbeat perspective he took with science. Moreover, it was not about mathematics and tough equations but rather a wide ranging and enthusiastic take on science, history, war, and poison among many other things.

“The Bastard Brigade” by Sam Kean starts by asserting that scientists have always been known to keep secrets. But during World War II nothing was more vital than keeping secrets. While they were working on building the first atomic bomb, the project leaders are alarmed to hear that Hitler’s scientists were outpacing them in the race for nuclear weapons. If the Nazis got the bomb first, they could reconquer Europe and undo all the tough work that was done on D-Day and thereafter. As such, the allies sent a motley and rough crew of geniuses to go spy and sabotage the German project named the “Uranium Club.”
Everything from laboratories to battlefields was on the table as the future of the world was dependent on stopping the development of nuclear weapons in Nazi Germany. The novel has incredible characters from the rogues to heroes alike. There is clandestine spy that used to be a Major League baseball catcher, Joe Kennedy Jr. of the famous Kennedy family, a Dutch physicist who needs to save his parents from the concentration camps even as he hunted down elite Nazi scientists. Other people include the daughter of Marie Curie Irene Joliot-Curie, Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg all of whom had won the Nobel Prize at some point. The scientists are thrust into the dangerous work of espionage and play a significant role in ensuring the victory of the allies.

Sam Kean’s “Caesar’s Last Breath” takes its readers on a journey across time, around the world and through the periodic table as it provides insights into the air we breathe. It happens that this is also a narrative of the planet and human existence. He asserts that every breath we take is like inhaling world history. Going back 2000 years, he tells the story of Caesar who gets assassinated on the floor of the Senate on the ides of March. But as the story of how he took his last breath is told, there is a feeling that you can inhale some of that very air. Of the billions of air molecules that you are inhaling, you could be taking in some traces of German mustard gas, Cleopatra’s perfume, the remnants of stardust from the creation of the universe, and particles from atomic bombs and those exhaled by the dinosaurs. Kean traces the ingredients and origins of our atmosphere to reveal how air alchemy powered revolutions, steered human progress, reshaped the continents and continues to have an impact on everything. Reading the story, we join the throngs at Moulin Rouge, witness critical chemical reactions in labs and swim with radioactive pigs. It is a witty and live novel that chronicles science astounding as it may be from ordinary lives.

“The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons” is about the simplicity of the early studies into the brain. Doctors would usually wait for horrendous accidents, strokes, lobotomies, seizures, and infectious diseases to strike and then study how the victim dealt with such. In many instances, the victim’s coming out of such misfortune was deemed something of a miracle. The people studying the phenomenon and the transformation usually marveled at how personality could be altered so much. A brain injury to one part of the brain could make one unable to recognize their family or sometimes make one a pathological liar, pedophile or gambler. But then some scientist thought that they could take advantage of the misfortune of their victims to study brain function when it was operating at the extremes. Writing with incisive wit and lucid explanations, the novel explains how the brain works and chronicles the stories of men whose resilience, deep humanity and struggles resulted in the development of neurosurgery as a specialized field.

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