There are plenty of chemistry books on the market, but the best ones can be hard to find. Unfortunately, many school board-approved textbooks often lack inspiration and, to put it bluntly, are about as bland as it gets!
To help separate the good from the, well, not-so-good, we’ve compiled a list of the top 13 must-read chemistry books. Whether you’re studying chemistry A-level or simply want to further your knowledge on the subject, continue reading for our pick of the best chemistry books.
In this post:
Best books for learning chemistry
Any good chemistry book must have at least two important characteristics. Firstly, it should be relatively easy to understand or digest. Secondly, it must be interesting to read and have at least some degree of entertainment value. Both can be achieved with step-by-step explanations and concrete examples with practical applications. A good example of this is popular science books that explain the chemistry behind magical performances.
It’s important to note that the best books for learning chemistry might not be included on the approved list of academic reference materials. That’s because many of them are non-standard books that don’t contain systematic presentations of chemistry topics based on the school curriculum. That said, some of the approved textbooks are still an excellent source of information for learning chemistry.
Before you can actually appreciate a good chemistry book, you’ll need a basic understanding of chemistry. Central to this understanding is an awareness of the elements and the historical background of chemistry. If you want to read about more advanced chemistry concepts, you’ll also need to have technical knowledge of topics such as balancing chemical equations and molecular structures.
If you’re a secondary school student without a prior background in chemistry, it might be best to start reading popular books for beginners, such as the “For Dummies” collection. If you’re at college or university, you could level up by reading more specialised chemistry books rather than relying on general introductory textbooks.
Organic chemistry books
Organic chemistry primarily focuses on hydrocarbons and their derivative chemicals with specific functional groups. If you’re studying organic chemistry as part of an academic syllabus or simply want to learn more about it, here are five of the best organic chemistry books to consider.
- Clayden’s Organic Chemistry
This is our top recommendation if you’re looking for a mechanistic and progressive learning approach. Written by Jonathan Clayden, Nick Greeves, and Stuart Warren, Clayden’s Organic Chemistry is a great read if you want to catch up quickly or gain a more in-depth understanding of organic chemistry. Aside from being packed with all the relevant information as a stand-alone textbook, it’s also one of the most affordable textbooks in organic chemistry.
- Klein Organic Chemistry
If you want a strong introductory-level organic chemistry textbook, this is one of the best ones available. Written by David R. Klein, it’s designed to build on your existing knowledge of introductory concepts. Plus, it’s also within the affordable price range for most students.
- Organic Chemistry as a Second Language
This is a 400-page condensed version of the longer Klein Organic Chemistry Standalone textbook, which has a whopping 1,300 pages. Distilled into the fundamental concepts and problems, Organic Chemistry as a Second Language omits many of the backstories, examples and case studies from the longer version.
- Advanced Organic Chemistry
As the name suggests, this book is intended for more advanced organic chemistry studies. A two-volume textbook authored by Carey and Sundberg, it thoroughly and brilliantly explains the various concepts in organic chemistry. It has the feel and style of a scientific review article in an academic journal. Part A is about Structure and Synthesis, while part B focuses on Structure and Mechanisms.
- An Introduction to General, Organic and Biological Chemistry
This is a general textbook that introduces organic and biological chemistry. Although it makes for lighter reading than some other books, it contains many exercises that will enhance your organic chemistry skills.
Best chemistry ebooks
Most of the modern heavy textbooks are also available in an ebook version. While they tend to be cheaper and can be more easily copied than their printed equivalents, ebooks can be difficult to read on mobile devices, especially if you want to make marginal notes.
Here are some of the best chemistry ebooks that can be downloaded and read in various formats and on multiple devices.
- Introduction to Quantum Mechanics in Chemistry, Materials Science, and Biology (Kindle Edition)
Written for undergraduate science students, this ebook demonstrates the concepts of quantum mechanics based on experiments in chemistry and physics. It explains the fundamental quantum mechanics principles used in modern chemical analytical techniques such as molecular spectroscopy.
- Introduction to Polymer Science and Chemistry
This is a good reference both for industrial and academic purposes. Chemistry students will learn how chemistry is applied to the manufacture of polymer materials.
- Introduction to Polymer Chemistry
With an emphasis on green chemistry, this ebook is intended for undergraduate students who require well-rounded expositions on the fundamental principles and practical applications of polymer chemistry.
- Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything (Kindle Edition)
Molecules is a highly comprehensive and interesting book about how chemical elements form a virtually infinite variety of molecules that comprise our world. It’s a good read for anyone who simply wants to enhance their science literacy.
- Everything You Need to Ace Chemistry in One Big Fat Notebook (Kindle Edition)
A useful revision guide for secondary school chemistry students, focusing on the important concepts commonly covered in GCSE exams.
Other interesting chemistry books
Even if you’re not studying for a chemistry qualification, there are some great chemistry books intended for the general public. Some of these books can also be used as reference books.
- Chemistry for Dummies
As you would expect, this is a concise and comprehensive introduction to chemistry. You can either read it for pleasure or as a revision guide.
- The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Rivalry, Adventure, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
A popular book for younger readers, The Disappearing Spoon is designed to stimulate curiosity and scientific interest by connecting various scientific concepts and discoveries in a grand scheme. It emphasises the importance of the periodic table.
- Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvellous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World
Another popular and more general science book, Stuff Matters explores the fascinating chemistry and other science concepts behind ordinary everyday materials.
You can find interesting and highly informative chemistry books in both printed and digital formats. Many are intended as reference materials or textbooks for those studying for a chemistry qualification, while others are popular science books aimed at young readers and the general public.
Whether you’re studying for your chemistry GCSE, A-level or a degree in chemistry, or you’ll find a great selection of chemistry education resources on our website.
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