Clive Bullock reviews this useful resource for A-level students
General, organic, and biochemistry. Connecting chemistry to your life (2nd edn)
Ira Blei and George Odian
Basingstoke: W. H. Freeman 2006 | Pp800 | £40.99 | ISBN0 716 74375 2
As its name suggests, this is really three books in one and aims to provide a comprehensive, one-year course in general and organic chemistry and biochemistry for students of the biomedical and environmental sciences. The level is not specified but I would be happy if my first-year biomedical undergraduates were familiar with the topics covered in its 800 pages. The text is also accessible enough to make this a useful reference resource for A-level chemistry and biology students.
The danger for comprehensive tomes like this is that either there is insufficient space to do justice to all the essential topics and there are significant omissions and a certain amount of dumbing down, or they are so crammed full of information that they are off-putting to students. This book manages an impressively comprehensive coverage - try as I might, I was unable to find any significant gaps - while maintaining a reasonably readable and accessible style.
As you might expect from a book with the sub-title Connecting chemistry to your life there are the inevitable context-focused boxes designed to make the theory sections more relevant (ie less boring). So the 'Chemistry Within Us' boxes use diving and blood pressure measurement to illustrate the gas pressure theory, and acid mine drainage is an interesting illustration of acid-base chemistry. 'Chemistry Around Us' boxes liven up organic chemistry with examples of drugs, everyday materials and metabolic disorders such as diabetes, and there are 'Chemistry in Depth' sections which usefully extend basic topics.
The biochemistry section is rather uneven in level. Some sections, such as enzymes receive a fairly basic but clear introduction, but this is followed by a much more intense and detailed coverage of glycolysis and the Krebs cycle. Reference to vague concepts like 'high energy compounds' also seems out of place in a book which creditably emphasises the understanding of basic chemical principles throughout.
Aside from these minor irritants, this is an impressive textbook in many ways. The presentation is always interesting, there are well-pitched, self-test sections throughout (with answers provided) and some excellent summaries of specialist topics - Radioactivity and its applications is particularly good.