As a conventionally sized black-and-white text, Environmental Chemistry: A Modular Approach is in the more familiar format. Where it differs from most other similar texts is that it includes a significant emphasis on laboratory work. In view of the title, it is surprising to find that the environment is not introduced until chapter four, the first three chapters being devoted to laboratory skills and reporting. Subsequent chapters cover the structure and composition of the earth, the earth's resources (minerals, metals and fossil fuels), natural cycles and water. Each of these chapters includes detailed introductions to the underlying chemistry and is accompanied by references to alternative sources of information, a significant number of laboratory experiments, self-study exercises and what are described as "challenging exercises". The experiments can be achieved without major instrumentation and include detailed instructions on solution preparation and equipment requirements.
The Essential Guide to Environmental Chemistry is an A5-sized text with alternating pages of text and colour illustrations. The style and originality are of the kind that I liked in the same author's Essential Guide to Analytical Chemistry . Most readers will pick up this book to find out about an individual topic rather than to read it from cover to cover. As a source book for students in a wide range of disciplines it will be accessible to any adventurous reader, even those having little training in the chemical sciences. For readers with some chemical background, its depth and coverage are well chosen. Unlike the first book under review, however, it does not set out to provide training in basic chemistry. The chapters are on material cycles, the atmosphere, water, soil, the environmental chemistry of selected xenobiotics and heavy metals, and problem and activity-oriented environmental analysis. While I may not always agree with the book, and some of its sentences are rather convoluted (it is a translation from the German), in general the coverage is good. But those who do not read German should not approach the bibliography with much expectation.
Which of the two would I buy? Both have their place, but for very different reasons. As a textbook for a laboratory-based course at the lower undergraduate level I would consider the first book. For clarity of information on unfamiliar environmental topics, I would go to The Essential Guide .
Alan G. Howard is senior lecturer in analytical and environmental chemistry, University of Southampton.
The Essential Guide to Environmental Chemistry
Author - Georg Schwedt
ISBN - 0 471 89954 2
Publisher - Wiley
Price - £29.95
Pages - 256