I love the Biology book by Campbell and Reece subtitled 'Concepts & Connections', so I thought I would check out this edition also. I first studied biology nearly twenty-five years ago with a huge and lovely biology book written by an author whose name unfortunately escapes me. I loved that book, and have always judged future biology texts against that one; this one measures up well against my memory of that text.
After an interesting introduction, which talks about discovery-based science in addition to theoretical/hypothesis science with interesting examples. The introduction, 'Exploring Life', leads right into the first unit, which deals with the basic chemistry needed to understand the processes of life. Water, Carbon and molecular chemistry at a basic level are explained, as these are the building-blocks of life on earth from a chemical standpoint.
The book continues on an upward progression from here. The next unit is on the cell, introducing both single-celled organisms as well as how cells work in both plants and animals. Photosynthesis is explained in good detail. The unit following deals with genetics, a very 'in the news' area of biology today. This looks at genetics in plants (the early experiments of Mendel are explained here), animals, bacteria and viruses, as well as the more complex structures of DNA.
The unit on evolution looks both at plant and animal evolution, as well as the way evolutionary ideas can influence the way species develop in the modern, changing world. The subsequent units look at biological diversity, the plant kingdom, and the animal kingdom. The final unit on ecology brings all things together in one eco-system in which plants, animals and environment influence each other and co-exist.
In this book, each chapter focuses on only a few key concepts. There are features such as Concept Head and Concept Check to keep the student focused upon real-life examples. Headers reinforce the broader topics while modules give key concepts within each broad topic. Diagrams are arranged with numbered steps to help understanding, and there are frequent references to website additions. Key questions are asked at each conceptual point. Exploring Figures bring things back to the big-picture view. There are a number of supplements designed to help the student and instructor engage the material more fully. I particularly liked the interviews with scientists and researchers, which puts a more human face to the elements of the book. The book is very colourful, both in text copy and in pictures.
This is a very good book, with lots of information - it is also a flexible book, and certain portions can be omitted in a syllabus without diminishing the overall text. Like the other book by Campbell and Reece, with this book I also find myself constantly glancing through the chapters and reading the interesting essays and connection modules between my tutoring appointments. That's the mark of a good textbook.