The 5 Best Biochemistry Textbooks of 2020

An overview of five biochemistry textbooks that may be helpful to undergraduate, graduate, and medical students and professionals.

Textbooks resting on a shelf.

Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student taking a biochemistry course, a medical student preparing for the USMLE exam, or a professional looking to maintain your knowledge of the field, a good textbook can help you to master the complexities of biochemistry and achieve your goals. Since the establishment of biochemistry as a scientific discipline in the 19th century, the field has grown to encompass an immense amount of scientific and clinical information, and understanding the details and relevance of complicated metabolic pathways and other facets of the field is no simple task. In this article we cover five biochemistry textbooks that we believe will serve as effective study aids and reference resources based on their style and content. Our team may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases made through the below links at no additional cost to you.

Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry by David Nelson and Michael Cox is ideal for students taking a biochemistry course either at the undergraduate or graduate school level. The textbook provides a thorough account of the field without overwhelming the reader with fine details from historical experiments or superfluous discussion of core concepts. The text is relatively easy-to-understand and is accompanied by problem sets with explanations.

This is the classic textbook used to teach introductory biochemistry by many undergraduate universities and graduate-level biochemistry by many professional schools. The 7th edition has been updated to include coverage of contemporary techniques and the latest research findings. Students preparing for the MCAT exam may find sections of this textbook, such as that on amino acids, helpful for learning and reviewing key exam material.

Textbook of Biochemistry with Clinical Correlations by Thomas Devlin is an excellent study tool for students and professionals in the healthcare field. The textbook focuses on the biochemistry of mammalian cells and tissues and relates fundamental basic science concepts to human and animal physiology and diseases. Medical, nursing, dental, and veterinary students will find the clinical correlations outlined in this textbook helpful for learning medical biochemistry and mastering course material.

This heavy 1240-page textbook is comprehensive and well-written but perhaps not so concise as some medical students or residents would prefer. Individuals strapped for time and looking for a less-detailed alternative should consider learning from internet resources or other texts.

Marks’ Basic Medical Biochemistry by Michael Lieberman and Alisa Peet relates fundamental biochemistry concepts to the physiology of the human body and pathophysiology of diseases. This textbook is particularly clinically-focused, providing opportunities for the reader to diagnose and treat patients in hypothetical scenarios. Explanations of basic science relevant to patient symptoms, laboratory tests, treatments, and outcomes would prove helpful to individuals studying clinical biochemistry. Question banks are provided at the end of each chapter to support learning, and detailed tables and diagrams, such as of key chemical reactions, may aid memorization.

This textbook would be useful for physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals looking to review concepts important to their clinical practice, or students pursuing healthcare careers and taking relevant coursework or preparing for licensing examinations.

Biochemistry by Don and Judy Voet, currently in its 4th edition, is a classic general biochemistry textbook with relatively greater depth of content than Lehninger’s. Thus, while students taking an introductory biochemistry class may prefer Lehninger’s for its relative simplicity, graduate students or professionals looking to review fundamental concepts at a high level of detail would find this book helpful.

This comprehensive, clearly-written, and thoughtfully-structured textbook contains over 1400 pages of content and could serve either as a reference resource for a biochemistry lab or an “encyclopedia-like” text for scientists looking to learn about contemporary biochemistry research without navigating the primary literature.

Color Atlas of Biochemistry by Jan Koolman and Karl-Heinz Roehm provides a visual overview of human biochemistry with detailed full-color images that demonstrate key concepts from the field. The textbook is intended to serve as a high-yield study guide for both students of general biochemistry and those in the healthcare space. The book permits readers to quickly review key concepts and also details clinical correlations that may be useful to medical and other healthcare students.

While not a stand-alone tool for learning biochemistry, the Color Atlas of Biochemistry is helpful for studying and reviewing key concepts. This book has been described as “affordable”, “efficient”, and “useful,” covering a considerable amount of information while also retaining brevity. The 3rd edition is easy to navigate and has been updated with increased coverage of nervous system, blood, immune system, and digestive system biochemistry.

It is important to keep in mind that the knowledge available in a textbook always lags behind that of the scientific literature. If you are looking to learn about the latest developments in the field of biochemistry, we recommend that you search the literature using Google Scholar or Pubmed.

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