Natural product chemistry at a glance

Natural product chemistry at a glance 

Stephen Stanforth 

Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing  | 2006 | 152pp | ?17.99 (SB) | ISBN 1405145625

Reviewed by Russell Cox

This is the latest volume in a growing series of ’at a glance’ titles published by Blackwell. It is aimed at the undergraduate chemist (most likely in the final year of study), and is therefore faced with the difficult task of providing sufficient material in chemical depth across the breadth of the subject area, without becoming overwhelmed with the detail of current knowledge. 

The author has successfully steered a course that charts the main chemical aspects of natural products and their biosynthesis, without becoming unduly enmeshed in biological aspects of the subject, and this is a strategy that will very well suit the target audience.  

The biosynthetic reactions are linked and compared with their chemical counterparts with which undergraduates will be familiar. Standard organic chemistry mechanisms are used to highlight key steps, and this again provides an aid to understanding. 

The book is well balanced in its coverage, sensibly treating the fuzzy boundary between primary and secondary metabolism, and going on to discuss fatty acids, polyketides, shikimates, terpenes, peptides and alkaloids. Each class is discussed with useful examples of the key structural types. Links to further reading are limited, and for more advanced readers this section could have been more extensive. 

Overall, however, this is a valuable addition to the ’at a glance’ stable, and will find a welcome home in undergraduate chemistry curricula in the UK and abroad.