Derek Denby reviews the second edition of Chemistry in your life

Chemistry in your life (2nd edn)
Colin Baird
Basingstoke: W. H. Freeman 2006 | Pp656 | £39.99 | ISBN 0 716 77042 3

Chemistry in your life cover

This substantial paperback is designed for liberal arts students in the US who may not have a strong background in chemistry. Consequently, its approach is largely descriptive with great emphasis on the applications of chemistry which have an obvious impact on students' lives. This focus is illustrated by the chapter headings which include Chemicals in our bodies and our environment: vitamins, food additives, pesticides and more and A thin veil of protection: stratospheric chemistry and the ozone layer

The book is attractively laid out with colour photographs or drawings on almost every page. There is a range of features to motivate students and help them learn. These include 'Fact or Fiction?' boxes designed to stimulate discussion on topics such as dirty bombs and trans fats, and examples of simple experiments to do at home. 'Taking it Further' sections at the end of each chapter introduce mathematical and more advanced material.  

The book makes extensive links to its companion website which contains useful tools such as an interactive Periodic Table, molecular animations and video clips, and hyperlinks to websites through which students can explore the US and global relevance of the topics they have studied. The book and website are part of a wider package of media and print resources which include a lab manual, solutions to problems set in the book, a set of overhead transparencies and a teachers' CD-ROM. 

This book does not fit easily within the UK school/college chemistry system because it covers topics normally met at A-level but lacks the expected underpinning chemical theory and mathematical treatment required at this level. The text does, however, provide wide ranging and detailed descriptions of contexts in which chemistry is important in everyday life. Students will find these interesting and relevant, and they would enrich the teaching of chemistry at GCSE or A-level.  

Reasonably priced for such a sizeable tome, a copy of this new edition of Chemistry in your life would make an excellent addition to the school/college library so that teachers and their students could dip into it.