7 Best Chemistry Textbooks | March 2017

We spent 33 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Besides being the gateway to understanding the building blocks of life, chemistry is a prerequisite for all kinds of jobs, including analytical chemist, pharmacist, chemical engineer, healthcare scientist, clinical biochemist, forensic scientist, research scientist and toxicologist, to name a few. These chemistry textbooks will set anyone on the road to a rewarding career. Skip to the best chemistry textbook on Amazon.
7 Best Chemistry Textbooks | March 2017

Overall Rank: 3
Best Mid-Range
Overall Rank: 1
Best High-End
Overall Rank: 4
Best Inexpensive
The textbook Chemistry: The Science in Context by professors Gilbert, Kirss, Foster, and Davies is written well enough that its chapters can be read straight through and the writing enjoyed, or it can be used more as a reference guide thanks to its many charts and graphs.
Prentice Hall's "Chemistry" textbook is affordable enough for people on a student budget or even for someone not taking the class but merely interested in this all-important field of science. It is mid-range in terms of length at 862 pages.
Houk and Post's Chemistry: Concepts and Problems is "A Self-Teaching Guide," not a true textbook, but as a supplemental volume read in concert with your regular chemistry books and classroom work, it will help broaden and deepen your mastery of the topic.
While reading it won't have you ready to start a graduate level chemistry program, John T. Moore's Chemistry for Dummies will give you a decent grounding in the basic concepts, such as the nature of atoms, acids, and molecular structure.
  • helps make periodic table approachable
  • teaches basics of thermochemistry
  • amusing and lighthearted prose
Brand Moore, John T.
Model pending
Weight 1.2 pounds
Chemistry: A Molecular Approach was written by Professor Nivaldo Tro, who received his PhD. in chemistry from Stanford University. His textbook's quality matches the pedigree of Tro's educational background, though it should be noted this is not a beginner's best choice.
  • layout is easy to navigate
  • massive volume at 1,272 pages
  • very expensive book
Brand Tro, Nivaldo J.
Model pending
Weight 6.1 pounds
Karen C. Timberlake's "Chemistry: An Introduction to General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry" is a must-read, must-understand volume for anyone interested in studying or practicing in the areas of healthcare, disease prevention, and other related fields.
  • pairs with multimedia materials
  • author has four decades of experience
  • great reviews from readers
Brand Timberlake, Karen C.
Model pending
Weight 3.7 pounds
Woodward, Murphy, and Stoltzfus' textbook Chemistry: The Central Science is considered by many professors and students alike to be the best choice available thanks to its ability to make chemistry not just understandable, but practical and applicable to everyday life.
  • currently enjoying 13th edition
  • detailed charts and graphics
  • self-paced tutorials
Brand Chemistry: The Central
Model pending
Weight 4.4 pounds

Understanding The Basic Unit Of Chemistry

Like in many other sciences, atoms are important in chemistry. Atoms are the basic units of matter, and they themselves consist of three things: protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons carry a positive charge, electrons carry a negative charge, and neutrons have no charge. In the center of an atom lies a collection of protons and neutrons.

Orbiting this nucleus you will find the electron cloud. This is the interesting field where the electrons of an atom exist. New discoveries about the electron cloud are still being made in the modern era. For example, CERN, which is the European Organization for Nuclear Research, recently studied the electron cloud for its implications in experiments using proton colliders. The electron cloud itself is composed of a number of orbits. The electrons in orbit around the atom are what allow atoms to interact with each other; linking up to create new bonds. A well known example is H2O, which is one oxygen atom linked to two hydrogen atoms. When these atoms connect, water is created. The interaction between atoms is called a bond.

There are a few types of bonds atoms can make, and these have a large effect on the type of compound created. The bonds are either covalent, ionic, or hydrogen bonds. Covalent bonds are very strong and created when two atoms share electrons. Ionic bonds occur when two oppositely charged ions attract one another, such as the bond between sodium and chloride to make salt. Hydrogen bonds are weak and created by oppositely charged portions of covalent atoms. The classic example is bonds between water molecules.

During these interactions, atoms sometimes gain or lose an electron. This causes the atom to then gain or lose its negative charge. The resulting atom is called an ion. Positive ions occur when an atom loses an electron. This means more protons than electrons exist, and the resulting charge will be positive. When an atom gains an electron, the balance will shift towards having a negative charge. As an interesting note, negative ions have been studied for years for their benefits to the human body. Introducing negative ions into the environment is even associated with lower depression ratings in some people.

The foundation of chemistry, and much of the known universe, is the interplay between these particles and bonds. Atoms form every element on the periodic table, and collections of these atoms create the world around us. As such, understanding the basic unit of chemistry leads to understanding the basic unit of life itself.

Are Chemistry Textbooks Only For The Classroom?

While most textbooks will most likely find their use on a classroom desk in a lecture hall, this is not the only use for them. As humankind's thirst for knowledge grows, more people turn towards textbooks to acquire a thorough understanding of interesting fields.

The most notable area of expansion is in the realm of self-taught individuals. Due in part to the openness of the internet, more knowledge is available now than ever before. This has sparked a generation of educated individuals who seek to educate themselves outside of the university setting. This may also be influenced by the rising opinion that student debt is seen as a major barrier to knowledge by a large number of the student body.

For these self-taught individuals, clarity of information is key. In the student-teacher setting in most lecture halls, the lesson covering each section of the textbook usually helps to clarify any especially confusing aspects of the text, and helps to break down larger concepts. This leads to higher marks and a better understanding of the material. As this option is not available to people who are studying independently, having easily understood text is a high priority.

Luckily, many publishers understand the connotation that reading from textbooks may induce drowsiness, and actively seek to change that with their work. Many modern textbooks are actually written to be enjoyed by both the casual reader and student alike.

What Will A Chemistry Textbook Cover?

Chemistry can be complicated, and any chemistry textbook of note will need to cover the basics in an easily understood format. Introductory chapters will usually help familiarize readers with the full metric system. This enables a universal understanding of measurements of various solids, liquids, and gasses.

After that, the subject of chemistry is often studied using a logical approach. The most basic concepts need to be covered before moving into complex subjects. Atoms, molecules, and bonds are studied first, usually followed by the study of the pH scale. This forms a basis of information that is vitally important to understanding any other concept in a chemistry textbook.

From there, the difference between organic and inorganic compounds will be studied, along with their various components. It is here that readers begin to learn about DNA, the familiar helix which makes up our genes. Genetic study allows us to understand more about humans and has even led to the human genome project. This was a complete mapping of all the genes in a human being. When the research was completed it revealed that there are probably about 20,500 different human genes, though a chemistry textbook will not cover them all.

The periodic table of elements will also be discussed. While it may not seem like much, the periodic table of elements represents every element known to man. As new elements are discovered with time, the periodic table is itself changeable; which is why it is good to keep your chemistry textbook up to date.

It is important to understand that chemistry textbooks will usually not discuss concepts of chemical engineering. In general, chemistry is concerned with small scale organic and inorganic compounds, and physical versus bio-chemistry. The study of chemical engineering will take you into many other disciplines. For instance, chemical engineers need to also understand concepts of physics and math. Chemistry will focus on developing new materials, testing theories, and analyzing processes. Chemical engineering focuses on taking these discoveries and observations and turning them into useful products. Understanding the difference between the two topics can help ensure you are purchasing the correct textbook.

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Last updated: 03/25/2017 | Authorship Information