Latest book review, boom, done

I’ve been remiss in the book review department lately, where “lately” starts at roughly day one of this blog. This post changes all that in a hurry.

Recently I noticed the nearly 1400 page CRC Handbook of Aqueous Solubility Data (2010) sitting nearby, reminding me that in nearly nine years I’d not in fact read any of it. So I looked at the first couple of pages, and well, like old Mission Impossible episodes, once you engage, you’re in for the duration. Bottom line: this is a great read, and as a paperweight or ballast, even greater. This tome takes no prisoners: aqueous solubilities for 4661 organic chemicals, sans break. All organic chemistry, all the time; in it to win it.

Organizationally, the book is quite something else again. The first section is engagingly titled “Solubility Data”, comprised of 4661 entries arranged in–you guessed it–numerical order. Entry number one gets right after it, by way of bromodichloromethane (or alternatively, dichlorobromomethane–experts pressed for time just say “CHBrCl2”). Within it, as with each such entry, is found all kinds of useful data, including molecular weights, boiling and melting points, and of course, solubilities (both molar and by weight!). All necessary references are also included, for the skeptical–these authors aren’t hiding anything here. A “Comments” field contains useful ancillary information, such as “recrystallized”. There is also a complex “TPEAA” evaluation, avowedly for experts only.

The next entry, (chlorodibromomethane), is fairly similar to the first. In fact, all 4661 entries are markedly similar. Exactly the same actually, just slightly different. There is no guesswork as to just what the point of this book is. The Solubility Data section occupies fully the first 700 pages of the book…as well as the last 700 pages. If you want wild topical variations from one entry to the next, try an encyclopedia, newspaper or Science magazine: this book is for chemically focused readers.

One note is that the sheer volume of material can be an issue. But this is not unexpected–people do vary in the specific organic chemicals that will hold their attention indefinitely, after all. But then–just boom–you hit an entry that snaps you right out of it. For me entry 151 provides a good example: nitroglycerin (C3H5N3O9). Talk about boom! Is it really that hard to imagine the history involved in determining the boiling point of that sucker?! Research dollars available! And that could give you a heart attack just thinking about. However, to keep the book from exploding well beyond its 1400 pages (thus beyond a leisurely reading), the authors wisely leave such details to the reader.

Or take something like entry 4289, which most know simply as
(Metahanesulfonamide, N[1′-[2-(2,1,3-benzoxadiazol-5-yl)ethyl]-3,4-dihydro-4-oxospiro[2H-1-benzopyran-2,4′-piperidin]-6-yl]-). Catchy name, sure, but even the casual reader will note that chemical 4289 has a mysterious “intrinsic” solubility listed. What the hell’s that supposed to mean, one briefly wonders aloud, before moving on to entry 4290, which happens to be one colchicine. Now colchicine is, genetically speaking, a very important chemical, capable of instantly doubling an organism’s chromosome number. Talk about explosive, this is massive, all-at-once mutation, like something out of a B-grade 1950s-era film with giant ants that take over Guam or whatever–but without any H-bombs, atolls or any of that whole scene. Oh so you were thinking that everything was all “better living through chemistry” were you? Well think again hombre. Not for the squeamish.

I would be remiss (per request of the authors) if I did not note that this book has vey few weaknesses. The only one I could find was for entry #22, urea (CH4N2O), for which no boiling point is given. But think it through again: is ignorance of the boiling point of urea really a weakness…or rather an open research opportunity? I mean, who doesn’t have a stove after all? Speaking of urea and stoves, oh man, there was that time a buddy and I were climbing Mt. Rainier, and as usual it was damn cold, so we had a bottle to use to avoid those unwanted “wee-hour” excursions outside the tent…but it turns out that at breakfast we mixed it up with the water bottle…well let me tell you, that will impart flavor to the old oatmeal!

We can get into those details more later but we’re out of time for today. In summary, this book has been unduly neglected, given its importance to industrial society and the career advancement of the authors. Read it for Christ’s sake–it’s been nine years already and aqueous solubility issues really are out there.

Stay tuned for the next in the series, where we take a closer look at Dynamic elasticities and breaking points of commercial hardwoods, tentatively planned for the summer of 2024. This post is hereby concluded and the decision is final. Special mention to all those who participated with minimal regret.