5 Best Chemistry Books for Undergraduates and Beginners

a list of chemistry books for undergraduates and beginners 

From my high school days, I remember that Chemistry books tended to be extremely tedious and complicated — only true science geeks could enjoy this convoluted reading. The times have changed! Now the shelves are filled with fascinating Chemistry books that are excellent for self-study and suitable for total beginners! If you are looking for an easy-read Chemistry book before university, when all the comprehensive studies begin, there will be a treat for you as well! Here is a list of chemistry books that every undergrad student should be familiar with! 

Stuff Matters — Chemistry Book to Read before University

Mark Miodownik, Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World 

Stuff Matters — Chemistry Book to Read before University

Stuff Matters brings you on an exploration of 11 man-made materials that we take for granted — like paper, porcelain, plastic, steel, glass, and… chocolate. The emphasis is on the history of these materials as well as on their current-day application.

You will also learn a lot about why these materials have their properties and functions — durability, elasticity, stretchiness (that’s when a lot of Chemistry comes into the picture). None of the materials are demonized (what often happens with plastic), and all the “stuff” is given a deserved treatment.

Mark Miodownik, a Material Science professor at UCL, reveals the miracles and astonishing histories behind these mundane materials. This book will definitely convince you that Chemistry can be a thrilling story (and not a dull recital of formulas and functions). That’s why it is the best read before university to test your passion for Chemistry when crucial decisions upon study tracks and courses are ahead of you.

Napoleon’s Buttons — One of the Best Chemistry Books for Beginners

Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson, Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History 

Napoleon’s Buttons — One of the Best Chemistry Books for Beginners

This is a modern-day classic for the history of science and technology, initially published in 1991. Napoleon’s Buttons offers you a fascinating and educating read about 17 molecules, for example, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), artificial hormones, tin, glucose, and salt (who would think these subjects can be described as interesting at all?). 

It can be read like an exciting novel with elements of a detective story and a thriller, written by a duo of authors who nourish a passion for Chemistry with great gusto for details. Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson will share with you how these molecules altered our diets, defined the outcomes of wars, and influenced law-making. Adventurous narratives and easily understandable explanations make Napoleon’s Buttons one of the best Chemistry books for beginners. Chemistry makes the world go round! 

The Elements — A Must-Read for Chemistry Students

Theodore Gray, The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe

The Elements — A Must-Read for Chemistry Students

It is the most visually appealing Chemistry book you could ever find. Each page of The Elements features fantastic quality photographs depicting every element. Every chemistry student should have this editino as their coffee table book! 

Each entry is supplied with a brief history of an element and its extensive characteristics, which renders the book a helpful reference resource or an introductory Chemistry textbook for undergraduates. In any case, you will find The Elements a joyful and valuable addition to your library! If you have friends who are studying chemistry, I bet it would be a perfect gift for them.

The Disappearing Spoon — The Best Chemistry Book for Self-Study

Sam Kean, The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements 

The Disappearing Spoon — The Best Chemistry Book for Self-Study

There is no chemistry without the periodic table of elements. The Disappearing Spoon takes this statement even further: some famous scientists and even authors (like Mark Twain) wouldn’t have experienced passion, love, and madness had it not been for the periodic table. 

But the book is not only about a handful of fascinating stories. Behind them lies an array of widely appealing questions: why things appear as they are? How did people first encounter chemical elements? This second layer gives a lot of food for thought and makes The Disappearing Spoon a great Chemistry book for self-study.

You will learn how the periodic table works and why it is structured in this particular way. Sam Kean will also walk you through the history of some of the elements: from their discovery to current application, and in between lie desires, ruined careers, success, marriages, fame, and great parties.

Wondering why this book has such a weird title? Check this trick of the disappearing gallium spoon.

Timberlake’s Chemistry — Our Favorite Chemistry Textbook

Karen C. Timberlake, Chemistry: An Introduction to General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry

Timberlake’s Chemistry — Our Favorite Chemistry Textbook

Why does studying Chemistry at college matter, especially if it is not your major? If you’re still wondering, one of the best approachable Chemistry textbooks — Timberlake’s Chemistry — will give you an answer. 

Karen Timberlake is a renowned professor and chemistry textbook author, so her name on a cover is a sure sign of quality. In this textbook, she treats both organic and inorganic Chemistry, which makes it a great introductory read, able to supply you with foundational knowledge on the subject. Importantly, no prior knowledge is needed to study this textbook.

Importantly, Chemistry is not presented as an isolated field but linked to health and the environment. Therefore, the textbook is highly applicable for those considering careers in these spheres. It is also a must-read for medical students as Timberlake gives examples from real medical practice. 

Obviously, Chemistry: An Introduction is not fit for an entertaining pastime. It is not written to become your favorite nonfiction book as others on the list are. If you have already made up your mind to study Chemistry at college, buy this textbook without hesitation.


Chemistry books on the list will definitely confirm your opinion that this subject is entertaining to study and crucial for understanding our everyday lives and histories.