Stacking up the very building blocks of life

Molecular Cell Biology. Author Harvey Lodish, Arnold Berk, Chris A. Kaiser, Monty Krieger, Matthew P. Scott, Anthony Bretscher, Hidde Ploegh and Paul Matsudaira. Edition Sixth. Publisher Palgrave Macmillan. Pages 1,296. Price £48.99. ISBN 9781429203142.

May 22, 2008

Molecular Cell Biology literally does what it says on the tin: it provides a fantastic overview of much of the material studied in any molecular biology-based degree, and is thoroughly recommended.

Alongside Lubert Stryer's Biochemistry this text should serve as a New Testament for biology and biochemistry undergraduates. It covers all aspects of cell biology in substantial detail to provide an informative overview of whatever topic is needed.

This edition is organised into four parts - "Chemical and molecular foundations", "Genetics and molecular biology", "Cell structure and function" and "Cell growth and development" - focusing for the most part on the function and role of proteins and genetic materials.

The strongest commendations for this text are the admirable volume of information contained and also the concise and clear delivery of this information via the usage of superb visual aids, particularly those used to illustrate the more complex processes involving genetic material.

Molecular Cell Biology links bioenergetics, basic electrochemistry and cell signalling very effectively. Most processes are explained diagrammatically and successfully, albeit in a very generic fashion, and information has a natural flow across its impressive breadth.

Each chapter ends with a "test yourself" section that despite being a more mature version than that found in a GCSE revision guide is no more stimulating or inviting. Communication with the reader is generally of a mature nature, and information is delivered effectively (although apoptosis is described as "messy"!), enabling an appreciation for the scientific detail.

Although this text serves as an excellent foundation for the study of cell biology, reading it feels somewhat like eating an ice cream without a Flake. It does the job but I can't help feeling that something is missing.

The extra detail that really engages you and makes you want to read on and learn is absent here. The breadth of information given is very impressive but the depth is not.

Alternatives such as Stryer's Biochemistry deliver a more specific molecular report in many cases and wouldn't leave you with the need to raid the fridge for that something extra.

The purpose of a generic textbook such as this one should be to provide all of the right information in one place so that it can be your first port of call. Although this text will fill your notebook, it will not satisfy your appetite.

Who is it for? A range of undergraduates.

Changes since last edition? Few. It has a similar approach and delivery with a slightly more wholesome presentation of protein structure and function.

Presentation - Effective but generic.

Would you recommend it? For the first two years of study, yes, thoroughly. Then I might be tempted to come up with a competitor myself.

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