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Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines

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For centuries, people have been poisoning one another--changing personal lives and the course of empires alike. From spurned spouses and rivals, to condemned prisoners like Socrates, to endangered emperors like Alexander the Great, to modern-day leaders like Joseph Stalin and Yasser Arafat, poison has played a starring role in the demise of countless individuals. And thos For centuries, people have been poisoning one another--changing personal lives and the course of empires alike. From spurned spouses and rivals, to condemned prisoners like Socrates, to endangered emperors like Alexander the Great, to modern-day leaders like Joseph Stalin and Yasser Arafat, poison has played a starring role in the demise of countless individuals. And those are just the deliberate poisonings. Medical mishaps, greedy "snake oil" salesmen and food contaminants, poisonous Prohibition, and industrial toxins also impacted millions. Part history, part chemistry, part whodunit, Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines traces the role that poisons have played in history from antiquity to the present and shines a ghoulish light on the deadly intersection of human nature...and Mother Nature.


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For centuries, people have been poisoning one another--changing personal lives and the course of empires alike. From spurned spouses and rivals, to condemned prisoners like Socrates, to endangered emperors like Alexander the Great, to modern-day leaders like Joseph Stalin and Yasser Arafat, poison has played a starring role in the demise of countless individuals. And thos For centuries, people have been poisoning one another--changing personal lives and the course of empires alike. From spurned spouses and rivals, to condemned prisoners like Socrates, to endangered emperors like Alexander the Great, to modern-day leaders like Joseph Stalin and Yasser Arafat, poison has played a starring role in the demise of countless individuals. And those are just the deliberate poisonings. Medical mishaps, greedy "snake oil" salesmen and food contaminants, poisonous Prohibition, and industrial toxins also impacted millions. Part history, part chemistry, part whodunit, Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines traces the role that poisons have played in history from antiquity to the present and shines a ghoulish light on the deadly intersection of human nature...and Mother Nature.

30 review for Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines

  1. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Thompson

    Deliciously dark fun! Sarah Albee's POISON is the perfect mix of science, history, mystery, and entertainment, and readers of many different genres will be thoroughly engaged by this book. I know I was! From ancient times to today (and beyond!), Albee shows us how poisons--both natural and man-made--have affected humans lives and culture. The facts are shocking and fascinating, but broken down in a way that makes them accessible. There's also a ton of humor to balance the heavy subject matter, w Deliciously dark fun! Sarah Albee's POISON is the perfect mix of science, history, mystery, and entertainment, and readers of many different genres will be thoroughly engaged by this book. I know I was! From ancient times to today (and beyond!), Albee shows us how poisons--both natural and man-made--have affected humans lives and culture. The facts are shocking and fascinating, but broken down in a way that makes them accessible. There's also a ton of humor to balance the heavy subject matter, with puns and sarcasm galore, especially in the titles and captions. And all of it is tied together with a compelling design featuring sidebars, pullouts, photos, and illustrations. There are also some serious nonfiction features, including a table of contents, author's note, acknowledgements, notes, selected bibliography, research guide, index, and more. A highly recommended middle-grade nonfiction.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Snazzy Reads

    Fun to read!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    What a page-turner! I was lucky enough to get to read an advance copy of POISON, and I couldn't put it down. I imagine that young readers will have the same experience--even if they grab this title just hoping to look up a quick fact about a historical poisoning, they'll find themselves sucked in quickly by the numerous compelling true stories and fascinating scientific facts about how poisons work. This would be a wonderful book to read aloud as a family, too. I read parts aloud to my husband, a What a page-turner! I was lucky enough to get to read an advance copy of POISON, and I couldn't put it down. I imagine that young readers will have the same experience--even if they grab this title just hoping to look up a quick fact about a historical poisoning, they'll find themselves sucked in quickly by the numerous compelling true stories and fascinating scientific facts about how poisons work. This would be a wonderful book to read aloud as a family, too. I read parts aloud to my husband, and we both marveled at how much we learned from each "tox box" and "medical moment." Highly recommended!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Better for browsing than reading cover to cover, but if you want to know anything about poison, this is the book for you. OK - the author won't tell you HOW to poison someone or anything like that, but other than that, everything you want to know is here. The entire book is in black, white, and noxious green, appropriate for content matter. There are lots of lots of photographs and charts as well as informational text boxes. Text will often refer you to information on other pages - which is why Better for browsing than reading cover to cover, but if you want to know anything about poison, this is the book for you. OK - the author won't tell you HOW to poison someone or anything like that, but other than that, everything you want to know is here. The entire book is in black, white, and noxious green, appropriate for content matter. There are lots of lots of photographs and charts as well as informational text boxes. Text will often refer you to information on other pages - which is why it's better for browsing. Glossary, timeline, index, and extensive resource guide, source notes, and sites for further research in the back.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    Poisons have been around as long as the earth has been. Unfortunately, human knowledge and use of such poisons has steadily grown in both good ways and bad ways. In this fascinating look at some of the best known poisons, the ways they have been used (for better or worse), and historical figures who may or may not have been poisoned, Albee has created a compelling account. Starting with a brief introduction to poisons, what they are and where they come from, Albee moves on to discussing their us Poisons have been around as long as the earth has been. Unfortunately, human knowledge and use of such poisons has steadily grown in both good ways and bad ways. In this fascinating look at some of the best known poisons, the ways they have been used (for better or worse), and historical figures who may or may not have been poisoned, Albee has created a compelling account. Starting with a brief introduction to poisons, what they are and where they come from, Albee moves on to discussing their use and misuse starting with the Ancient Roman and Egyptian societies. Along the way she points out various famous individuals that may or may not have been poisoned. She shares the rumors that existed and what little is known about each individual and the possibilities for his/her death occurring by way of poison (purposefully or accidentally). Additionally, Tox Box features highlight specific poisons, their sources, how they poison, and the symptoms they cause. Some side boxes talked about jobs that involved people working with poisons (often unknowingly in many cases) and the often horrible results. The book continues through each century after the Ancient World, including the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, all the way up to the modern day. I found much of the book appalling, considering how often we human beings have poisoned ourselves unknowingly. What was even worse were the occasions when people knew what was happening and did nothing to stop it. The sad thing is that we are still poisoning ourselves all to often, whether it's through environmental pollution, or using materials without fully understanding their effects. And then of course there are the businesses that move factories to countries where restrictions on the use of such things are less regulated if at all. Albee has created a thoroughly intriguing, if rather sickening, book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    Reviewed for professional publication.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lucy M.

    It was a pretty good book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Poison might seem to be an odd topic for a book for young readers, but this one is so well-written, well-researched, and highly entertaining that teens and adults will be riveted by its pages. Not only does the author provide an interesting history of poison, keeping in mind that certain substances may help or harm, depending on how they are used and in what amount, but she does so with plenty of flair. The book's design is fetching too with a Tox Box that gives details about each poison, and a Poison might seem to be an odd topic for a book for young readers, but this one is so well-written, well-researched, and highly entertaining that teens and adults will be riveted by its pages. Not only does the author provide an interesting history of poison, keeping in mind that certain substances may help or harm, depending on how they are used and in what amount, but she does so with plenty of flair. The book's design is fetching too with a Tox Box that gives details about each poison, and a Drop-Dead Gorgeous feature describing the lengths that humans have gone to enhance their looks, often killing themselves slowly in the process. In the main part of the narrative, though, the author covers plenty of territory, including possible assassinations through poisons, early medical practices, and the slow pace that most countries took toward regulating the contents of medicines. Although I knew much of this already, I still learned some new and interesting facts about toxicology and even common beverages such as Coke and 7up whose contents have changed over the years. The book's jacket invites readers in this fashion--"Welcome to the sinister side of human history," and it certainly delivers on that promise. It's been a while since I've been so informed and entertained by a book. The author warns that anyone reading it in public is sure to get a lot of strange looks, and it's true, very true.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    From ancient times to current day people have been poisoned, both accidentally and intentionally. Some of these poisons occur naturally, other are mixtures, and now there are even manufactured and synthetic poisons. Albee chronicles the use and discovery of poisons through the ages, the famous poisoners, the infamous products containing hazardous materials, and the people who invented new uses as well as discovered ways to detect poisons. From Socrates to Cleopatra, the Medici family to Jonestow From ancient times to current day people have been poisoned, both accidentally and intentionally. Some of these poisons occur naturally, other are mixtures, and now there are even manufactured and synthetic poisons. Albee chronicles the use and discovery of poisons through the ages, the famous poisoners, the infamous products containing hazardous materials, and the people who invented new uses as well as discovered ways to detect poisons. From Socrates to Cleopatra, the Medici family to Jonestown, the mad scientists, painters, factory workers, children and political enemies so many poisons, so many stories! An easy read, this book goes into just enough detail and the format makes it a perfect informational text for the upper elementary or middle school reader, but the content and depth also made for a gripping read for the older reader and even adults. I was engrossed by every subject. Albee includes a “Tox Box” when certain poisons are introduced which include the name, source, how it’s delivered and the effects. No need to use the index in the back as you read - if she mentions something she’s already talked about, she cites the page and section title. A thorough book, includes source material, a resource guide, timeline, glossary, bibliography and index. I can’t wait to recommend this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Fascinating history of poisons and poisoning written with a darkly hilarious tone that couldn't be better for the middle-school reader! Albee manages to work in a LOT of history here while following the trail of what human kind has done to each other and to themselves, both purposefully and inadvertantly. Poisons like arsenic and hemlock from the ancient worlds are discussed but also work place toxins, environmental poisons, and the various awful things people used as make-up, medicines, remedie Fascinating history of poisons and poisoning written with a darkly hilarious tone that couldn't be better for the middle-school reader! Albee manages to work in a LOT of history here while following the trail of what human kind has done to each other and to themselves, both purposefully and inadvertantly. Poisons like arsenic and hemlock from the ancient worlds are discussed but also work place toxins, environmental poisons, and the various awful things people used as make-up, medicines, remedies and elixirs. Nefarious poisoners make appearances but Albee also follows the history of forensic science, food and drug regulations and work place safety laws. Interspersed in the text are informational inserts such as Tox Box, Poisoned Or Not and Drop-Dead Gorgeous along with other fascinating poison-related items. Groan-worthy word play and a light tone make this perfect for middle school readers but there is a lot of great information and history provided along the way. Pretty grisly in places as befitting the subject. A Timeline, Glossary, Source Notes and extensive Bibliography round out this well-researched and written history.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This book had a good review in Booklist so as I looked for a nonfiction book to buy for my 8 year old granddaughter's birthday I thought this would be fun. It might be a little too hard and too long for many 8 year olds but excellent elementary readers won't have a problem (it's really more of a middle school book) and I also have a 10 year old grandson who will probably pick it up as well. The chapters go somewhat chronologically, detailing poisons from ancient days until the present. There ar This book had a good review in Booklist so as I looked for a nonfiction book to buy for my 8 year old granddaughter's birthday I thought this would be fun. It might be a little too hard and too long for many 8 year olds but excellent elementary readers won't have a problem (it's really more of a middle school book) and I also have a 10 year old grandson who will probably pick it up as well. The chapters go somewhat chronologically, detailing poisons from ancient days until the present. There are numerous sidebars and boxes that give detail on various poisons and personalities. Illustrated with black and white photographs and drawings, it's a perfect book for kids who are interested in how people died (which seemed to be the first question when, as a school librarian, I would mention that an author was deceased!).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rabbit

    This book goes through the history of poison, from the Ancient world to Modern 21st Century. It has stories of poisoned people, poisonous jobs, and poisonous medicine. You will enjoy the interesting history stories, poisonous jobs, and medicines. There have been many poisonings throughout history, and it's a thrill to get to read about them. You also learn about poisons, like how they can poison someone, how long it takes for them to die, how much is needed to poison them, the symptoms of the po This book goes through the history of poison, from the Ancient world to Modern 21st Century. It has stories of poisoned people, poisonous jobs, and poisonous medicine. You will enjoy the interesting history stories, poisonous jobs, and medicines. There have been many poisonings throughout history, and it's a thrill to get to read about them. You also learn about poisons, like how they can poison someone, how long it takes for them to die, how much is needed to poison them, the symptoms of the poison, it's multiple names, and what product they were used in back then. I definitely recommend this book if you like history, juicy stories, and learning about the bad deeds people did.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is middle grade nonfiction at its finest. It is a well-researched historical look at everything one could ever wonder about poisons- with the perfect amount of details and "snippets" to keep readers entertained. It is a great fit for our unit about the human body that addresses how the medical field has changed over time. This is middle grade nonfiction at its finest. It is a well-researched historical look at everything one could ever wonder about poisons- with the perfect amount of details and "snippets" to keep readers entertained. It is a great fit for our unit about the human body that addresses how the medical field has changed over time.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Annette Whipple

    In true Sarah Albee style, she takes an interesting topic and makes it fascinating for the reader! As an adult, I couldn't put this down. I learned so much. It's not just about intentional poisons, but even poisons like nicotine and lead. The listed resources will delight those who want to know more. I highly recommend this and would especially consider gifting it to a chemistry teacher! In true Sarah Albee style, she takes an interesting topic and makes it fascinating for the reader! As an adult, I couldn't put this down. I learned so much. It's not just about intentional poisons, but even poisons like nicotine and lead. The listed resources will delight those who want to know more. I highly recommend this and would especially consider gifting it to a chemistry teacher!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    I loved this. So much great history with a large dose of humor and fun facts that were not distracting like a lot of sidebars in kids' nonfiction. I'll admit, though, I was hoping for a little more "how-to", but the author made it clear in the beginning that she wouldn't tell us how to kill someone, but she certainly showed it with MANY examples throughout history. A fun, fun book! I loved this. So much great history with a large dose of humor and fun facts that were not distracting like a lot of sidebars in kids' nonfiction. I'll admit, though, I was hoping for a little more "how-to", but the author made it clear in the beginning that she wouldn't tell us how to kill someone, but she certainly showed it with MANY examples throughout history. A fun, fun book!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    While I'm not a huge fan of prescriptive nonfiction, this was a really interesting book! I think the subject matter and the layout will appeal to middle grade readers. I'm not sure if they'll want to read it cover to cover, but I'm sure a lot of them will flip through it to pick up some interesting trivia about poison. While I'm not a huge fan of prescriptive nonfiction, this was a really interesting book! I think the subject matter and the layout will appeal to middle grade readers. I'm not sure if they'll want to read it cover to cover, but I'm sure a lot of them will flip through it to pick up some interesting trivia about poison.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    A history of poisons, deliberate and accidental and dancing in-between, from earliest times forward, told for the sheer voyeuristic fun, with special attention to poisons for beauty ("Drop Dead Gorgeous" boxes) and work ("Nice Work If You Can Survive it") and a few other specialties. It's in a large book with comfortable print and many illustrations, good for reading or for browsing. A history of poisons, deliberate and accidental and dancing in-between, from earliest times forward, told for the sheer voyeuristic fun, with special attention to poisons for beauty ("Drop Dead Gorgeous" boxes) and work ("Nice Work If You Can Survive it") and a few other specialties. It's in a large book with comfortable print and many illustrations, good for reading or for browsing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michele Knott

    Although readers will not get any "how to" information (phew), they will gain copious info about poisons, the history of them, what they may have been used for, and plenty of poisonous blunders made throughout time! Fantastic nonfiction read for middle grade readers. Although readers will not get any "how to" information (phew), they will gain copious info about poisons, the history of them, what they may have been used for, and plenty of poisonous blunders made throughout time! Fantastic nonfiction read for middle grade readers.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leonard Kim

    Should be very effective for the right reader. Personally I would have liked more rigor, thoughtfulness in tone and selection, and perhaps more of a point. It felt a little grab-baggy to me despite the overarching topic.

  20. 4 out of 5

    The Brothers

    Asher (11yo) read. "One of my favorite stories in this book was 'An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away and So Does a Good Lock!'. I didn't know that there were so many poisons and so many different ways to poison people!" Asher (11yo) read. "One of my favorite stories in this book was 'An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away and So Does a Good Lock!'. I didn't know that there were so many poisons and so many different ways to poison people!"

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bkrieth

    Fascinating study of human and scientific history-Albee pairs deep research with enjoyable narrative. Excellent back matter. (Index and picture credits still to come in the ARC I read.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Fascinating. Sarah Albee is one of my favorites.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sesana

    An interesting read, but the graphic design seemed a bit busy to me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

    My personal favorites were the "Drop-dead gorgeous" and "Nice work if you can survive it" sections. I'm shocked the human race hasn't wiped itself out yet. My personal favorites were the "Drop-dead gorgeous" and "Nice work if you can survive it" sections. I'm shocked the human race hasn't wiped itself out yet.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Quintina

    A fascinating history of poisons, medicines and the medical profession through the ages.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Katie Hutchison Irion

    Fascinating. Truly. I really enjoyed reading this.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Turley McKell

    fascinating and disgusting facts. very well written and well researched. would be great for reluctant readers who want to impress their friends with weird facts.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amy Guertin

    Reading this as part of our non-fiction unit at school. Super interesting!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Schnu

    Good book

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mrs.Melaugh Melaugh

    Once again, Sarah Albee (Why’d They Wear That?, Bugged, Poop Happened!) delves into a fascinating topic that combines both science and history. Her focus this time is on poison. From ancient times to the present, Albee explains how changes in poisonings (both on purpose and accidental) often ran in tandem with advances in medicine and chemistry. Her light tone helps dilute the sometimes unsettling stories. Recurring text boxes break up the pages: “Tox Box” deals with particular poisons, “Nice Wo Once again, Sarah Albee (Why’d They Wear That?, Bugged, Poop Happened!) delves into a fascinating topic that combines both science and history. Her focus this time is on poison. From ancient times to the present, Albee explains how changes in poisonings (both on purpose and accidental) often ran in tandem with advances in medicine and chemistry. Her light tone helps dilute the sometimes unsettling stories. Recurring text boxes break up the pages: “Tox Box” deals with particular poisons, “Nice Work If You Can Survive It” explains the poison dangers of certain jobs, and “Drop Dead Gorgeous” gives horrifying insight into the dangerous ways people throughout history have poisoned themselves with questionable cosmetics. As always, Albee provides thorough documentation in multi-page footnotes and bibliography.

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