UniServe Science News Volume 7 July 1997

Doug Chappell
Dept of Biochemistry, The University of Sydney

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Doug Chappell

I read this book while travelling to and from work in the train. That my attention was not drawn away by the passing scenery is a testament to its easy readable style and entertaining presentation.

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is divided into 29 chapters in 6 sections, in which metabolism (part 3) and molecular biology (part 4) constitute the bulk of the material. The text develops biochemistry through a careful layering of concepts, uncluttered by detail, beginning with a brief study of the essentials of chemical thermodynamics (part 1) and the necessary background on proteins and the cell membrane (part 2). Parts 5 and 6 are special topics dealing with oxygen transport and muscle contraction respectively. The topics move fluently from one to the next in a well-structured approach each moving from one or more overview chapters, defining the big picture, to the more detailed explanation.

There have been many biochemistry books over the years that claimed to fulfil the needs of students struggling with the ever increasing detail of biochemistry. Biochemistry has variously been taught by pictures, songs, made easy or simplified for medical students. In these the focus was on passing biochemistry. The Elliotts' book, however, focuses on understanding. The authors are not afraid of communicating with their readers and include more explanation of concepts than is conventionally found. They are explicit in their directions to the reader using forward references to additional material to avoid immediate distraction from the point being made. Furthermore, they clearly define what detail is required to understand the current topic and what will be dealt with later in the text. The adenosine nucleotides, for example, enter the scene in chapter 1, but details of the structures are deferred until chapter 18 on nucleotide metabolism. A diagrammatic representation suffices initially.

This book is not a doorstop. It weighs in at a mere 437 pages compared to the more typical 900 to 1200 pages - but this book is designed as a good textbook for students, not as a reference work for lecturers. I hope that coordinators of first year biochemistry courses, will not be frightened by the concise treatment of biochemistry that this book provides, and that they will use it as the textbook. If there is extra detail essential for a particular course, this can be sourced by the students themselves from multiple library copies of a favourite biochemical reference. Alternatively, students can be directed to use the selection of references for further reading, provided at the end of each chapter. They will find the greater detail much easier to absorb with the preparation endowed through studying the Elliotts' book.

W.H. Elliott and D.C. Elliott, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oxford University Press, ISBN: 0-19-857793-1, Recommended Retail Price: $55

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UniServe Science News Volume 7 July 1997

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