A highly enjoyable introduction to materials science. Miodownik is an academic at the University College London. He is also a fantastic popular-level writer. The ten chapters each cover a different type of solid material, from steel to glass ceramics to concrete to diamonds and carbon fiber. To explain why these solids are interesting and important, Miodownik incorporates the history of invention, how they have affected industry and architecture. He gives comprehensible explanations of how different molecular shapes can make a substance brittle or malleable, or can affect its friction coefficient, as with Teflon or graphene, and more.
As a layman reader with no expertise in materials science and limited understanding of molecular chemistry, I learned more per page of this book than from anything else I’ve read in years, and sparked my interest in an entirely new discipline. This is just about the highest praise I can give a book, and I could not recommend it more highly. Miodownik’s just-released sequel on liquids, Liquid Rules, deserves similar praise.