This is my 800th published review on Amazon so I thought I'd try to do something a little special. I review a lot of non-fiction and science books in various areas, and when I saw Pauling's classic text recently, I knew it fit the bill.
This is the unabridged Dover 1988 republication of the original 3rd edition published by W.H. Freeman and Co. in 1970 (the 1st ed. was 1947, if I remember right). At 972 pages, 26 long chapters, 16 appendices, and 283 figures and illustrations, it's a monster of a book even for a chemistry text.
When the text first appeared, it marked a major landmark and innovation in the teaching of chemistry in the extent to which Pauling was able to present the entire subject of chemistry in terms of its underlying unifying principles rather than as a collection of unrelated chemical facts. Pauling closely ties in the observable phenomena of chemistry with the most powerful theories, which he says include modern atomic and molecular theories, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and thermodynamics.
Not the least of its virtues is that it is, despite the high-level treatment, surprisingly easy and enjoyable to read. The occasional mathematical treatments aren't easy for the beginner, certainly, but overall the book is quite approachable in terms of the style.
Pauling presents statistical mechanics first since he believes it's easier to grasp for the beginning student than chemical thermodynamics. Although there is some advanced math and calculus, as I said, most of that is located in the many appendices. Here you'll find many topics discussed in much more mathmatical rigor and detail, such as Fourier analysis applied to crystal structures, the wave functions for hydrogenlike orbitals and bond orbitals, an alternative derivation of the Boltzmann Distrubition Law, the entropy of a perfect gas, electric polarizabilities and electric dipoles, moments, and other topics.
All of these noteworthy points aside, though, perhaps the greatest strength of the book is Pauling's ability to explain in clear and concise prose even the most difficult concepts, without getting lost in a morass of extraneous details. He also often gives practical examples to illustrate how seemingly esoteric chemical principles can be applied to very ordinary everyday phenomena. For example, the usual definition of an acid or base is that of a proton donor or acceptor. However, the Lewis theory of acids and bases proposes that a base is anything that has available an unshared pair of electrons, and an acid is anything that could attach itself to such a pair. This theory has the advantage of being able to explain the ability of substances other than hydrogen to change the color of indicators. Another application is the explanation of salt formation by the reactions of acidic oxides and basic oxides.
I just had one final comment. At this point much of my general chemistry is pretty rusty and I'm more up on specific topics such as metallurgy. But Pauling does a fine job of explaining important applied topics like this as well, and there are many very readable and clear explanations of important practical metallurgical applications and how they work, including basic metals and their properties and that of their most important alloys, and how basic operations work such as that of a blast furnace, reverberation furnace, Bessemer furnace, and so on. Pauling is equally at home dealing with the advanced physics of the Schrodinger wave equation or the more mundane aspects of industrial metallurgical operations.
Altogether, this is a great text by a great scientist which has yet to be surpassed in its powerful, unified, theoretical approach, its clear and concise style, and its completeness of coverage.