Most helpful positive review
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2004
I love this Biology book. I first studied biology nearly twenty-five years ago with a huge and lovely biology book written by an author whose name unfortunately escapes me. I loved that book, and have always judged future biology texts against that one; this one measures up well against my memory of that text.
The fourth edition of `Biology: Concepts & Connections' is an excellent, thorough introduction to the science of biology. It is used at the community college where I tutor (biology and other sciences) for general education and nursing students. The book is divided into seven major sections: The Life of a Cell; Cellular Reproduction and Genetics; Concepts of Evolution; Biological Diversity; Animals; Plants; and finally, general Ecology.
After an interesting introduction, which talks about discovery-based science in addition to theoretical/hypothesis science with interesting examples (the Australian Flying Fox, flies that mimic spiders), the first unit on the Life of the Cell looks at basic structure and chemistry of cells. Even though this text deals with chemistry, a chemistry background is not required. Care is taken from the outset to relate the biology tasks to `everyday life', things that people know and care about - there is a look at athletic performance with slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscles, light in the lives of plants, and even look at the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
The unit on Cellular Reproduction and Genetics introduces a hot topic in general conversation today, including discussions of medicine and law in addition to the basic theory, with some of the latest information included. The units on Concepts of Evolution and Biological Diversity include new features such as discussion on mitochondrial DNA comparison and the use of molecular clocks to date divergence in evolutionary paths. Topics such as increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics are discussed, and the interesting evolutionary situation of Australia, separated from the major landmasses of the rest of the world, shows an interesting side-show on biological diversity.
The unit on Animals will be the most interesting for many, and the diversity here includes discussions from geckos to bears to human traits shared with and different from other animals. Particularly for our nursing students, the sections on respiration (anaerobic and aerobic), broken bones, immune systems, blood-cell diseases and the like really drive home the need for a basic understanding of biology.
The units on Plants and Ecology draw in the larger mass of living things sharing our planet, work to show how the environment operates from the standpoint of individual plants to entire ecosystems. Interesting current topics such as organic farming, population ecology, endangered species and global warming drive home the importance of biology.
The book is very colourful, both in text copy and in pictures. Headers reinforce the broader topics while modules give key concepts within each broad topic. Diagrams are arranged with numbered steps to help understanding, and there are frequent references to website and CD-ROM additions. Key questions are asked at each conceptual point. The `behind the scenes' information helps reinforce the concepts both with the hot topics involved in biological issues today, as well as the personalities driving the science in key areas. Each chapter has a summary of key points, concept questions and multiple-choice questions for test preparation. There are well over 100 `Connection' Modules and `Talking about Science' Modules. Each of the 38 chapters has an interesting, inviting essay as introduction. There are probably 200 CD-ROM and website activities to engage the students, everything from the cloning of genes in bacteria to steroid hormone action to the Honeybee waggle dance.
This is a very good book, with lots of information - it is also a flexible book, and certain portions can be omitted in a syllabus without diminishing the overall text. I find myself constantly glancing through the chapters and reading the interesting essays and connection modules between my tutoring appointments. That's the mark of a good textbook.