Robert J Ouellette and J David Rawn


2014 | 1240pp | £155

ISBN 9780128007808

There is no getting away from it, Organic chemistry: structure, mechanism and synthesis is a hefty text (even in the context of organic chemistry textbooks, which are not famed for being slender). The wide coverage of the topics, however, certainly justifies the outsized proportions. 

So where to start? The book contains all the key concepts one would expect in a good core organic chemistry textbook (structure, functional group properties, reaction mechanisms, basic spectroscopy). The content also extends towards biochemistry and molecular biology. Here, the authors not only devote chapters to topics one might expect (peptides, carbohydrates) but made clear links between fundamental chemical principles and their biochemical contexts. A good example is the inclusion of thymine dimerisation in the pericyclic chemistry section. 

From the introductory pages onwards, the authors pose the question ‘how are you going to learn organic chemistry?’ Their answer throughout is ‘work through the problems’, rather than rely on last minute cramming. To this end, most sections contain problems and pleasingly, in contrast to some older textbooks, the appendices contain large parts devoted to concise, yet useful solutions to these problems. There is a good number of well-constructed ‘deduce the structure’ type questions, which integrate spectroscopic problems into chapters that are not focused on spectroscopy. 

The book is well illustrated, with particularly helpful use of line drawings alongside space-filling and ball-and-stick diagrams to clearly represent larger molecules. The appendices contain excellent glossaries, concise summaries of the synthetic methods discussed and useful brief overviews of thermodynamic and kinetic concepts to assist those not fully prepared in physical chemistry. 

In summary, this book should be a good investment for undergraduate students studying organic, medicinal or biological chemistry, despite the high price. The inclusion of a generous number of problems sets should also be appealing to those who teach organic chemistry at undergraduate level.

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