The 10 Best Biochemistry Textbooks
This wiki has been updated 17 times since it was first published in July of 2018. Complex and fascinating, biochemistry is a prerequisite for a myriad of rewarding careers. Whether you’re a student in the field or are simply interested in supplementing your knowledge with a challenging new subject, one of the authoritative textbooks on our list is sure to illuminate and enlighten. Our selections include those suitable for beginners to more advanced learners. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 30, 2020:
Our latest update saw a few tweaks to the lineup, which included bringing Lippincott Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry and Biochemistry: Ninth Edition up to their most current iterations. We also said goodbye to Medical Biochemistry in favor of Marks' Basic Medical Biochemistry, a more recent text that has nearly twice the material and a much more budget-friendly price to boot. Outside of that, Marks' packs in a ton of features to help students grasp the material without feeling overwhelmed, like patient vignettes, helpful icons for smooth navigation, illustrations that make chemical structures and biochemical pathways easy to visualize, and clinical and method notes for further clarification.
We also removed Pearson's Biochemistry, another title that had gotten to be more than a few years old without an update, with Biochemistry: First Edition. This one uses the graphics as the foundation for each chapter, forming the text around them so that the material is cohesive and speaks to visual learners just as much as others. The authors put a lot of thought into how they presented their information, prioritizing reader comprehension rather than overstuffing pages with filler.
Choosing a biochemistry textbook can be tricky if you don't quite know what career path you're looking to take, which is why we made sure to keep a healthy selection of broad and introductory tomes like Biochemistry: Ninth Edition, Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry, Fundamentals of Biochemistry, and others around. Then we ensured a few were geared toward the medical field and finally capped off our list with affordable reference and study guides like BRS Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Genetics and Lippincott Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry. The Manga Guide to Biochemistry is ideal if you're a true newbie who wants to see if this might be the discipline for you, as it assumes no prior knowledge. That being said, you'll still need to know a fair bit about chemistry and physics if you want to pursue a career in this field.
December 13, 2019:
Biochemistry is a complicated subject, so a textbook that covers critical concepts, explains ideas in-depth, and is abundant with visuals is a must. These were among our priorities while updating this list, as well as selecting instructor-recommended volumes lauded by students that are written by accomplished experts. While many texts do their best to assume no prior knowledge and will explain as much as possible so as not to confuse, if you're an autodidact who has never cracked open a biology or chemistry textbook, you may find yourself struggling.
Today we let go of A Short Course, as it is not as reader-friendly as some students would like, and can be too heady for its intended audience. Since we noticed there were not any texts oriented to the clinical perspective for medical students, we took the opportunity to add Harper's Illustrated Biochemistry, an invaluable selection if you plan on practicing medicine someday.
Biochemistry: Fourth Edition and Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry are two of the most used and respected texts in the field. The former will serve as a great reference once you've completed your classes, while Lehninger's Principles is especially good at breaking down complicated concepts, a must if you find the subject matter overwhelming.
If you're just dipping a toe in the discipline, whether as a student or layperson, The Manga Guide to Biochemistry serves as a great introduction. It's especially effective for people who don't respond well to traditional textbooks. It explains concepts so clearly that it could even be given as a primer to an ambitious high schooler.
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology For access to journals, papers, and news, job support, networking, professional development, and more, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology can connect up and comers in the field with various resources and over 11,000 like-minded scientists. There are several membership tiers for every stage of your career, from undergraduate to early career to industry level. asbmb.org
edX Biochemistry If you're fresh out of high school and toying with the idea of going into biochemistry in college, edX can help with free online courses into the foundations of the subject as well as advanced lessons from top universities. Anyone just dipping a toe in the field can get acquainted with it via a program from Harvard specially designed for beginners that takes a few hours per week to complete. edx.org
Life Is What You Make It
If you’re looking to learn about biochemistry, you’ll find a rich and awe-inspiring world waiting for you.
Biochemistry is a branch of science that explores the chemistry of living organisms. It combines chemistry, molecular biology, immunology, and physics to investigate the complex molecules that interact to form cells, tissues, and entire organisms. In a nutshell, it deals with the very foundations of life.
It didn’t emerge as a distinct discipline until the beginning of the 20th century, but nevertheless, it has increased our understanding of everything from genetics and disease to evolution and DNA. The progress we’ve made has allowed us to create safe synthetic drugs, solve crimes using forensics, develop efficient agricultural practices, and much more. If you’re looking to learn about biochemistry, you’ll find a rich and awe-inspiring world waiting for you.
This varied discipline deals with the mechanisms of brain function; how organs and cells communicate; and how proteins, lipids, acids, vitamins, and hormones function. Such wide-ranging emphases leave room for biochemists to explain and cure various diseases in plants, animals, and humans. With this knowledge, everything from veterinary medicine and biotechnology to food science and molecular genetics is fair game.
Studying biochemistry will give you invaluable skills, such as strong data analysis, attention to detail, problem-solving, and decision-making. If you pursue it for your degree, it will require you to work within a lab and with a team, so you’ll get plenty of experience collaborating and communicating with other people, as well as creating presentations and doing in-depth research.
If you choose to pursue a career in biochemistry, you can expect to work in a lab or the field examining biochemical systems in organisms. You'll model with computers, conduct research, and maybe even teach. Having a degree will make you well suited to roles in biological, clinical, and environmental industries, which opens doors to toxicology, pathology, drug development, and many other fulfilling callings.
What Topics Does A Biochemistry Textbook Cover?
The ultimate goal of biochemistry is to understand the fundamentals of life as we know it, so to say there’s a lot of ground to cover would be an understatement. It’s impressive that textbook authors can fit as much as they do into a single volume. To help with this Herculean task, many choose to focus on giving students a broad understanding of the field, so no matter what text you choose, you can always expect to come across certain ideas.
It’s impressive that textbook authors can fit as much as they do into a single volume.
One of the most important things you'll learn about is the cell, which is the basic building block of all living things. Cells provide the structure for our bodies, take in nutrients from food, and convert those nutrients into energy so they can carry out important functions. You’ll go much further than simply learning about the structure and types of cells out there, though, which in itself is an intimidating task. You’ll also cover the types of molecules that modern cells contain and how they developed metabolic pathways to create the energy they need to thrive.
Energy is big in the biochemistry world, and this is an area where the discipline overlaps with information you'll find in a physics textbook. The normal activities of living organisms, like growing, moving, and reproducing, demand a constant input of energy. The study of how energy behaves and the way different forms of it relate to each other falls under a branch of physics known as thermodynamics. Life obeys the laws of thermodynamics, so a firm grounding in them will help you understand how biochemical reactions occur.
You’ll also look into how organisms evolve and change over time and how genetic information is stored and transmitted. Thanks to small mutations in genetic material that occur at random due to chemical damage or an issue with DNA, an individual can develop a beneficial or detrimental new feature. If the addition helps that individual survive, it will be more likely to breed and pass the mutation on. This process of natural selection allows for variation among populations and can help different species adapt to unexpected changes and difficult environments. Knowing the ins and outs of this procedure helps biochemists make discoveries that influence everything from conservation to medicine.
Training Your Brain
If everything you've read so far seems intimidating, don't worry. Taking on biochemistry is no small feat, but there are ways you can approach how you study to maximize your understanding.
Try not to overanalyze little factoids. You're about to have a huge amount of information thrown at you, and the sheer volume of it will make it almost impossible to recall every little thing you've learned. Instead of putting your efforts into rote memorization, focus on understanding the concepts to which you're being exposed. You'll still have to memorize some things, obviously, but when you have the fundamentals down, it's much easier to translate what you've learned across different systems and processes.
If everything you've read so far seems intimidating, don't worry.
Because biochemistry pulls heavily from chemistry and biology, you'll have to have plenty of prior knowledge to keep up with the subject. One of the best ways to stay on top of things is to spend a short amount of time every day reviewing the ideas you already know. This will put you in a better position to learn brand new concepts and will keep you from becoming confused when you touch on a topic you haven't revisited in a while.
You might be tempted to cram for hours on end, but that's not a good idea — cramming is one of the least effective ways of retaining information. Instead, break study sessions down into manageable chunks, and quiz yourself often to see how you're getting along. Pay special attention to graphs, illustrations, and charts, and take notes and recreate structures by hand. This will help you reinforce what you've come across, and give you material to review later.
It also helps to study in a group. Oftentimes, when you encounter a topic that you can't wrap your mind around, another student will have a firmer grasp on it and can explain it to you. This goes both ways. You'll notice that teaching an idea that has clicked with you to someone else will help you understand it better, too.