The layout of these well-established standard tomes is remarkably similar, with many short and focused chapters - each with an introduction to the concepts under consideration, concise and well-illustrated content and a reprise that includes key terms, review questions and a self-assessment quiz.
Both provide comprehensive coverage of most aspects of plant and animal biology; either would address well the needs of A-level students through to first-year undergraduates as reference sources for traditional aspects of biological sciences considered in a wider and contemporary context. Very effective extensive use is made of multimedia support, with each book being supplemented by a CD-Rom and access to a dedicated website.
Biology by Sylvia S. Mader is the more established tome, in which descriptive biology is minimised and emphasis is placed on functional processes presented comparatively, wherever possible. As in previous editions, each chapter contains a wealth of information that is illustrated most effectively by very clear artwork and photographs.
Initial chapters consider molecular/biochemical topics not only as a prelude to effective coverage of genetics and evolution but also for aspects of ecology. The plant biology chapters are now more extensive, and animal physiology is considered more, with humans as the example.
The inclusion of "focus" pages allows topics to be considered effectively in a broader, and in some cases controversial, context, in particular in the case of social and medical aspects of scientific concepts.
The maintenance of contextual continuity is facilitated also by the inclusion at the end of each specific chapter of a section devoted to "Connecting the concepts", and a non-specific reference to the dedicated website on which can be found an extensive array of revision and learning tools.
This edition of Discover Biology is an exciting tome packed with sharp and to-the-point information that lives up to the authors' description of being a book written for students.
The initial conventional survey of living organisms and biodiversity has been condensed, with more emphasis placed on contextual molecular/biochemical and functional aspects resulting in a very much up-to-date and impactive tome. Equally, the authors have maintained their emphasis on producing, as far as feasible, an integrated consideration of biological issues.
Initially, the chapter format may appear complex, but the comprehensive "route map" explains the progression and relationships between the components effectively.
Within each chapter readers are immersed in extensive factual information laid out clearly in such a way as to encourage them to delve deeply into each major topic. The learning process is enhanced further by having specific reference markers for the website adjacent to the topics to which they relate.
While both of these books are intended for a subject-oriented audience, their bright and approachable nature commends them also to general readers who may wish to maintain an awareness of contemporary issues in biology.
Alan Pearson is principal, College of St Hild and St Bede, Durham University.
Biology. Ninth Edition
Author - Sylvia S. Mader
Publisher - McGraw-Hill
Pages - 954
Price - £39.99
ISBN - 0 07 1106952