Carbon: One Atom’s Odyssey by author and illustrator John Barnett
Thank you to No Starch Press for providing me with a copy of Carbon: One Atom’s Odyssey in exchange for this honest review.
Carbon: One Atom’s Odyssey is a nonfiction book that follows a single atom of carbon from the big bang to the author’s pencil. It could be described as an illustrated nonfiction or even as a coffee table book due to its large format and nice hard cover. Coffee table books are an underrated form of literature. I personally love flipping through an oversized book and looking at pretty pictures.
It is difficult to categorize this book either way though. It is creative nonfiction, the writing is actually quite lovely. So it is not a dense text book for sure. However, it is likely to be too advanced for a younger audience to read themselves. At the same time, it’s a bit too simple for adults so it falls somewhere in the middle.
The entire book is illustrated in carbon pencil with lovely artwork by the author. There is a lacking of text on the pages and some are even only filled with the pencil drawings. Carbon is a nice idea for a book but it doesn’t fill it out enough to really make it work more than a novelty. I barely felt like I had read a book, it’s more of an experience.
I read the whole book in probably ten minutes. I think it would really belong in the waiting room or lounge area of some kind of science based office building. It’s honestly the only place I could think of that this little book would really belong. But if I were waiting for a job interview it would be the perfect thing to casually flip through while waiting for my name to be called!
I can’t say I really learned anything from Carbon: One Atom’s Odyssey but I also don’t regret picking it up. The prose is surprisingly advanced with a lot of delightful alliteration and the pictures are soothing to look at. I just doubt I’ll be inclined to pick it up again.
3/5 diamonds in the rough 💎💎💎
For even more illustrated science nonfiction check out How To.
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Buy it here: Carbon: One Atom’s Odyssey