Author: Daniel C. Harris
Edition: Eighth revised
Publisher: W.H. Freeman
For freshers, the university lab can be an intimidating place. Faced with an abundance of toxic chemicals clustered on shelves and glassware with unpronounceable names, it is easy to forget what was learned in the lecture theatre. However, a good theoretical grasp of the subject is essential, not only to understand how the experiment works, but also to interpret any data gleaned from it.
Daniel Harris seeks to address the rift between students' practical and theoretical knowledge by thoroughly explaining the theory behind a wealth of common undergraduate experiments and practical techniques. He maintains a friendly, engaging tone throughout and avoids unnecessarily overcomplicating topics in the way that many textbooks are prone to. A diverse range of subjects are covered, all in impressive depth, making it an invaluable general text for any lab course. From titrations to mass spectrometry, the same careful attention to detail and clarity of explanation is attained.
Great care has obviously been taken in the compilation of the index and contents, making even the most obscure topics delightfully easy to find. Another useful feature is the inclusion of "spreadsheet topics" - guides on how to use Microsoft Excel to support and aid your lab work. These guides are embedded in the chapters but also have their own separate contents for ease of use - another indication of how this book strives to give relevant and useful practical guidance.
Unfortunately, the book's greatest failing is a rather glaring issue - the layout. The colour scheme of drab turquoise, grey and black begins to grate after a while, and this is not helped by the text often looking cluttered and busy. Data tables in particular suffer and although the diagrams are often of high quality, they could be much clearer with the use of a wider range of colours.
If the layout does not offend you entirely, then this book does a truly fantastic job as a general text. It is designed for ease of use and understanding, and has many useful features that make it a brilliant study aid, including a highly detailed glossary and a plethora of problems and exercises. This, combined with how the author successfully moves from assuming only A-level knowledge to providing information that is beyond undergraduate level, makes it easy to recommend to anyone who has any interest in furthering an understanding of lab work or experimental design.
Who is it for? Inquisitive undergraduates.
Presentation: Dreary layout, but it doesn't hinder the text greatly.
Would you recommend it? An ideal accompaniment for any undergraduate lab course.
Chemical Thermodynamics: With Examples for Nonequilibrium Processes
Authors: Byung Chan Eu and Mazen Al-Ghoul
Publisher: Imperial College Press/World Scientific Press
This is a highly mathematical approach to thermodynamics and requires some familiarity with the topics included, which may be intimidating for some. The layout is bland but very practical, with high-quality diagrams. It is an interesting viewpoint on the subject and a highly rewarding read for those with the patience for the maths.