As a result of the large size of the chemistry textbook market in North America, there are dozens of bestselling titles similar to this one. But Chemistry by Thomas Gilbert et al is certainly one of the best, with imaginative use of full colour, a CD-Rom, e-learning resource library, solutions manual and website.
Every chapter has a subtitle that sets the material in a real-world context, and good connections are made between subjects. Although pairing electrochemistry with fuel-cell powered cars is easy, it takes some careful writing to connect more fundamental aspects of chemistry such as molecular shape (the greenhouse effect) and the ideal-gas law (the air that we breathe).
In the UK educational system, this text spans A level and the first year of a degree, and - despite its strengths - is probably unsuitable for teaching either.
Connecting academic chemistry to real-life applications shows chemistry as a science for good, not just a source of pollution. Schools should have Chemistry in their libraries, and parents should buy a copy for that bright, inquisitive 16-year-old because it shows that chemistry is the exciting science at the heart of modern technology, and will encourage him or her to find out more.
As the polymer coatings advert would say, the book does exactly what it says on the tin.
Andrew Hughes is lecturer in chemistry, Durham University.
Chemistry: The Science in Context. First edition
Author - Thomas R. Gilbert, Rein V. Kirss and Geoffrey Davies
Publisher - Norton
Pages - 947
Price - £35.00
ISBN - 0 393 97531 2