The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin Wiker
Books like these are some of what make me excited about homeschooling and about educating classically. We can assign books like these. At least in the early years, our kids' assigned reading will be all up to us, leaving us time to read a fantastic book like this.
I certainly want our kids to someday take classes that teach them the nuts and bolts of chemistry, such as working in a lab and how to balance chemical equations. But if I had my druthers, I would be perfectly happy for some of that time to be replaced (if they couldn't do it all) with reading this book and others like it.
By recounting the history of chemistry, the book shows what it takes--the trial, the error, the perseverance, the outside-the-box thinking, and especially the building on others' ideas--to be a scientist who discovers anything new.
It explains how oxygen was discovered. Do you have any idea how oxygen was discovered? Neither did I.
And it is very engagingly written.
My favorite paragraphs (they introduce a new chapter):
Perhaps you feel that you will never get anywhere in life because you are not rich. Or you are tall and lanky like a walking vine. Or you have a very gruff voice, and even worse, people start yawning and leaving the room when you speak. Or maybe your chin and nose are both so long and pointed that they almost touch each other. Perhaps you are colorblind. And maybe you are so busy that you cannot get your work done properly.
If you had one or two of these problems, you might consider yourself quite unfortunate. But if you had all of these problems, you would be John Dalton, one of the most famous chemists of all time, and the founder of the modern atomic theory in chemistry. So keep that in mind. (pp. 81-82)