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 achieving a balanced grasp of important concepts is no simple task. 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, one of these five biochemistry textbooks will likely help you to achieve your goals. Our team may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases made through the below links at no additional cost to you.
We believe that the five best biochemistry textbooks of 2021 are:
- Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry
- Textbook of Biochemistry with Clinical Correlations
- Marks’ Basic Medical Biochemistry
- Color Atlas of Biochemistry
Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry by David Nelson and Michael Cox is the classic biochemistry textbook frequently used to teach introductory biochemistry by many undergraduate universities and graduate-level biochemistry by a number of professional schools and medical schools. Thoughtfully structured and accompanied by plenty of attractive full-color illustrations, the text is relatively easy-to-understand and provides a thorough account of the field without overwhelming the reader with superfluous discussion of core concepts or esoteric details that could lead to confusion. However, Lehninger’s is by no means concise, presenting over 1300 pages of rich content with a sufficient level of detail to also serve as a useful reference resource to professionals engaged in biochemistry research.
Students will find the end-of-chapter problem sets and review of key terminology to be helpful for learning biochemistry, and anyone involved in the healthcare field will appreciate the “Medicine” boxes interspersed throughout each chapter, which directly correlate biochemistry concepts to human health and disease. The 7th edition of Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry has been updated to include coverage of the latest laboratory techniques and research findings.
Tip: If you are preparing for the MCAT exam and have already taken a biochemistry course, consider using a shorter text to review the material instead of Lehninger’s. While some undergraduate students preparing for the MCAT exam may find sections of Lehninger’s, such as that on amino acids, helpful for learning and reviewing key exam material, others may prefer a more condensed text such as The Princeton Review’s MCAT Biochemistry Review, which is not only specifically dedicated to the exam’s content but also provides hundreds of MCAT-style review questions and three full-length practice tests, features that Lehninger’s lacks.
Textbook of Biochemistry with Clinical Correlations by Thomas Devlin is a useful study tool for students and professionals in the healthcare field. Thorough and featuring full-color illustrations, this textbook focuses on the biochemistry of mammalian cells and tissues and relates fundamental basic science concepts at the level of the cell to larger-scale human and animal physiology and diseases. Medical, nursing, dental, and veterinary students will find over 250 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 using Board Review Series: Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Genetics or Rapid Review Biochemistry, much more condensed texts whose succinct outline format and numerous USMLE-style questions are useful for the rapid review of clinical biochemistry. As many medical students can attest, it is faster to review key concepts using these shorter books than a lengthy textbook, and they are useful during preparation for the USMLE Step 1 exam.
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 clinically-focused textbook provides opportunities for the reader to diagnose and treat patients in hypothetical scenarios and features explanations of basic science relevant to patient symptoms, laboratory tests, treatments, and outcomes, which would prove helpful to individuals studying clinical biochemistry.
This comprehensive textbook includes over 1000 pages of content and 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.
Chapters are thoughtfully structured around hypothetical patient vignettes and include full-color illustrations and question banks with answers. Some students will find the detailed tables and diagrams, such as of key chemical reactions, useful for memorizing information. Additional practice problems, references to the primary literature, and review resources are available online.
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. Well-written, thoughtfully-structured, and featuring over 3000 figures, the textbook integrates extensive discussion of the historical experiments that elucidated modern biochemistry concepts and presents over 1400-pages of rich content. While some students taking a biochemistry course may prefer Lehninger’s for its relative straightforwardness, others may prefer the added detail and research focus provided by the Voet’s book.
Post-doctoral researchers or professionals looking to review fundamental concepts at a high level of detail and with a greater emphasis on research would find this book helpful. This thorough textbook could serve either as a reference resource for a biochemistry lab or an “encyclopedia-like” text for scientists looking to learn about biochemistry research from a textbook that is well-connected to 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 basic science 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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