The 5 Best Immunology Textbooks of 2020

Whether you are a medical or PhD student, physician, scientist, or undergraduate, these immunology textbooks are likely to support your goals.

A pile of books resting on a table.

Whether you’re a PhD student, research scientist, medical student, or simply an avid learner, an effective textbook can contribute to advancing your knowledge of immunology, understanding of the field, and ability to achieve your goals. From our experience, these five immunology textbooks stand out as the best due to their quality of content, writing style, and utility for learning immunology, which is a challenging subject that presents extensive terminology and a level of complexity that exceeds that of many other biology disciplines. The five textbooks that we have selected range from concise to comprehensive and should satisfy basic or clinical immunologists at all levels of training. Our team may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases made through the below links at no additional cost to you.

Janeway’s Immunobiology, originally authored by the renowned late immunologist Charles Janeway, provides a detailed account of the field with easy-to-understand yet sufficiently comprehensive illustrations. Clear explanations, integration of core principles with real-world applications, and a high level of readability make this textbook ideal for students taking an immunology course at the undergraduate, graduate, or medical school levels or professionals whose career involves immunology.

Whether you are taking an immunology course or simply looking to keep your understanding of the field up-to-date, this classic textbook will provide you with both depth and breadth of knowledge in modern basic and clinical immunology. The textbook is currently in its 9th Edition and has been updated to cover the latest developments in the field, particularly those related to the innate immune system.

Kuby Immunology is considerably shorter and less comprehensive than Janeway’s Immunobiology but still provides a satisfactory account of the field, covering the key concepts of an introductory immunology course with a high level of readability and clarity. Kuby’s text may be more useful for students taking undergraduate immunology courses or professionals looking to review essential points without going too in-depth.

In addition, some medical students may find Kuby useful during preparation for the board exams due to the focus of the text on human immunology. The textbook is fully referenced and provides the reader with information on the literature articles that elucidated specific concepts. Kuby Immunology may be regarded as the textbook that best balances cost and detail, as all of the key concepts are covered in this more economical textbook.

The Immune System by Peter Parham is a shorter and more condensed textbook, similar to Kuby Immunology, but still a very useful resource for both students and professionals due to its clear writing style, attractive full-color illustrations, and relatively high level of detail. However, both Kuby Immunology and The Immune System do not have the level of comprehensiveness that distinguishes Janeway’s Immunobiology.

The focus of this textbook on human immunology and its use of clinical examples may render it especially useful to medical, veterinary, pharmacy, dental, and pre-medical undergraduate students learning about the human immune system. End-of-chapter summaries are helpful for reviewing core concepts prior to exams.

Fundamental Immunology, edited by William Paul, is a comprehensive, well-maintained, and thoughtfully-organized textbook suitable for professionals such as practicing physicians, basic and clinical immunologists, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows. More akin to an encyclopedia than a novel, Fundamental Immunology is a heavy 1300-page textbook that is intended for advanced learners. Over one thousand pages of content make this textbook a useful reference resource for individuals whose careers involve the active application of immunology. Keep in mind, however, that this is a basic science textbook and not a guide to patient care.

The seventh edition of the textbook has been updated to cover the latest developments in the field and includes numerous full-color illustrations and reference tables intended to provide efficient coverage of essential concepts. Details on relevant scientific literature are provided at the end of each chapter for basic immunologists and other individuals interested in exploring immunology research on PubMed.

Cellular and Molecular Immunology by Abul Abbas, Andrew Lichtman, and Shiv Pillai is a comprehensive and well-written textbook with similar content to Janeway’s Immunobiology. The textbook maintains a clinical emphasis that would be helpful to learners with a greater interest in clinical immunology, such as translational research scientists and healthcare professionals involved in the investigation or treatment of human disease. The 9th edition of the textbook has been updated to include increased coverage of tumor immunity, innate immune signaling pathways, and immunodeficiencies.

Similarly to Fundamental Immunology, this 600-page textbook could be more accurately regarded as a structured encyclopedia of immunology rather than an introductory text.

In addition to these textbooks, there are a number of others that may better suit your academic needs. It is important to recognize that the content of textbooks always lags behind that of the literature.

If you are looking to learn about the latest findings in a particular immunology sub-field, it may be better to consult a literature search engine such as PubMed.

Read about the latest research in the field of immunology.