Most helpful critical review
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Possibly the worst textbook ever written on any subject
on January 3, 2013
If you have to use this book for a class, don't buy it. Rent it. It's garbage. If you actually care about developing a proper understanding of Anatomy and Physiology, or if you will be taking future courses that will require you to have a proper understanding of A&P, avoid this book like the plague. I've read a lot of college textbooks over the years, and this is by far the worst one I've ever seen. I don't understand why this book has received so many positive reviews, but I'm inclined to believe that they were written either by people involved with the book's production, by students who only cared about passing the course and who didn't mind that they were learning less than they were supposed to in an A&P course, or by learning-disabled students who like a watered-down textbook with pretty pictures. Ironically, in their attempt to water down the material, the authors have made this course a thousand times more difficult than it should be, and they've produced the most confusing textbook I've ever read (which is absurd because the concepts of A&P are pretty easy to understand when they're presented properly--the only thing that makes A&P challenging is the large volume of material that you have to learn in a short period of time).
I'm sure the people who wrote this book know their subject, but they don't have a clue how to communicate it to other people. No topic is too simple for them to bungle. If they tried to explain what a circle was, you'd probably come away from it thinking that a circle was a type of marsupial. This book is filled with awkwardly worded sentences, some of which appear to be saying something completely different than what they're attempting to say. Hell, there were even a few times that it sounded like they were saying the exact opposite of what they meant to say. Many sentences come right out of left field and seem like non sequiturs in relation to the sentences that precede them. On many occasions I found myself wondering, "Was there supposed to be a sentence between those two and it was accidentally deleted?"
The authors of this book did a terrible job of keeping track of what information they've given you. By that, I mean that they frequently make references to things that you haven't learned yet, but they write as if they've already explained these things to you. For example, when they discuss ependymal cells on page 386 of Chapter 11, they write, "Ependymal cells assist in producing, monitoring, and circulating CSF; some cells in the ventricles may be ciliated." Here's the problem with that sentence: that's the first time that the ventricles were mentioned in the book, but at that time the authors didn't explain what the ventricles were or where they were located--so unless you already knew that the brain had ventricles, then you're not going to find out what they meant by "the ventricles" until two chapters later (yes, you could just look up "ventricles" in the index, but you shouldn't have to. The authors are supposed to present you with the necessary information in the right order--you shouldn't have to seek out the information and piece it together yourself. Wasn't that the point of buying a textbook?). The authors do stuff like this constantly, and the example I gave wasn't even the most egregious one (it was the only one I remembered off the top of my head--it's been a while since I looked at the book, and I didn't feel like reading through it to find a better example). I didn't keep track, but I'm willing to bet that they made this specific mistake at least 100 times. And that's just one of the many types of mistakes they make. There are stupid mistakes on almost every page. It gets to the point where you start to ask yourself, "Are the authors doing this on purpose to screw with us? Do they hate people?"
Related to the problem I discussed in the previous paragraph is the fact that they explain so many things backwards. I'll clarify what I mean by that. Let's say that Topic A can be broken down into concepts X, Y, and Z. And let's say that you can't understand Z unless you understand Y, and you can't understand Y unless you understand X. So what is the proper way to teach a student about Topic A? First you explain X; then you explain Y since it builds on X; and finally you explain Z since it builds on X and Y. That is the way any proper textbook would do it, and they've been doing it that way for years (centuries?). This awful textbook does the exact opposite almost every single time. It will introduce a concept (Z) and explain it in terms of other concepts that you don't know yet (X and Y), making you panic as you think, "Holy crap! Am I supposed to know X and Y? I don't remember learning about X and Y! When did we cover that?" You didn't--but you won't realize that until after you've wasted a lot of time rereading the previous pages of the chapter, flipping back to earlier chapters, or referring to the index. In fact, the authors might not explain what X and Y are until a few lines, paragraphs, or pages later. Once you finally find out what X and Y are, you have to flip back and read about Z all over again, since you didn't understand it the first time--it's very irritating and it adds a lot of time to the learning process. The authors put you through this constantly, and after a few chapters, you will be so stressed out and angry that you will fantasize about tracking them down and doing them bodily harm. With most A&P textbooks, you understand what you read the first time, and then you read it again later to reinforce it. With this textbook, you often don't understand key concepts until the second or third time you've read the chapter.
As you're reading a paragraph, you often come across words in bold print. As everyone knows, this is a standard practice in textbooks that indicates important terms you need to know. The problem with this book is that bold-print terms often are undefined or poorly defined. By "poorly defined," I don't mean that the definitions are inaccurate; I mean they're so vague that they're practically useless. They'll describe something (let's call it "A") in such a vague way ("A's are special cells that line certain passageways") that the same description could also apply to B, C, and D, even though they're very different things. Another annoying habit the authors have is that they will introduce a term and define it; then, at some arbitrary point, they will start to use another term interchangeably with that term, although they will neglect to tell you that it means the same thing. It creates a lot of unnecessary confusion.
Another reviewer said that this book feels "a little too third-grade formatted." I couldn't agree more. Pictures are great when they are supplemental to the text. The problem with this book is that instead of supplementing the text with images, it replaces large amounts of text with pictures, and it often is unclear what they are trying to communicate with the pictures. The labels or descriptions accompanying diagrams often are insufficient, and the authors frequently forget to give you indicators of perspective (e.g., posterior view) that help you to make sense of ambiguous images. There is important information essential to understanding the concepts of A&P that never appears in sentence form--and that's just ridiculous. So pay close attention to the pictures (and then refer to the internet to clear up the confusion about those pictures).
Spurgirl's review describes my experience. Don't get me wrong--even though I struggled with this course like she did, I aced almost every test and quiz, and I got a near-perfect grade on everything else. The problem is that, because of this awful textbook, I had to work much harder to earn those grades than I should have. However, things got much easier when I made the wise decision to buy a different textbook. I was consistently earning the highest grades in my class, and I believe it was because I was the only student who bought a second textbook.
Abby, another reviewer, was right about the organization of the pages. It's an absolute mess! With a proper book, you just turn the page and start reading, but with this book, you have to take a minute to look over each page in order to "crack the code" of its counterintuitive layout. Ignore the person who replied to Abby's review--even with the red-block numbers, it's often hard to make sense of the organization. For example, sometimes there's a lone paragraph in the middle of the page or in a corner, and it's hard to tell which red-block number it corresponds with. Other times, you'll be reading a section that doesn't seem to make much sense, but it's not until you get to the bottom of the page and see the small "start" icon (which doesn't always catch your eye at first) that you realize you should've been reading the page from bottom to top instead of from top to bottom. On most of these occasions, there didn't appear to be any logistical reason for doing it backwards. So why not just put "start" at the top of the page and present the information in a descending fashion--you know, like every other English-language textbook on Earth does?
While I agree with most of Abby's review, I feel that she was too generous about the review questions at the end of each module. Even those are awful! They often ask questions that they haven't prepared you to answer. When you read the answers to these particular questions in the back of the book, you'll say, "You've got to be kidding me! They expected me to be able to produce that detailed answer based on the single, skimpy sentence they devoted to that topic in the chapter?" And don't misunderstand me: it's not that these were critical-thinking questions and I wasn't up to the challenge. For critical-thinking questions, the reader has to be given a certain amount of information that he can use to produce an answer, but this book simply has not equipped the reader to answer many of its questions. When you see these questions, you're going to panic and think that you're missing something. You're going to feel stupid, but you shouldn't--it's not you, it's them. They really phoned it in when they made this book, and I'm inclined to believe that they were just trying to cash in on the textbook racket. No person who cared would produce such a shoddy textbook. The head of the biology department at my school mandated the switch to this textbook, and all of the A&P professors hate it, as do all of the students I've talked to. Almost half of my class dropped the course, and my professor said it's the most he's ever had in a semester.
In conclusion, this book is going to make your semester miserable. I devoted an absurd amount of time to this class, and the majority of it was not time well spent. I spent more time dealing with the book's shortcomings than I spent on actual reading. Sometimes I'd struggle to make sense of a paragraph for an hour. Eventually I'd give up on the textbook and I'd refer to another textbook or the internet. These other resources would explain the same exact concept in a way that I could understand immediately, and they did it without dumbing it down or sacrificing any details--in fact, sometimes their explanations were more detailed than the ones in my book, and yet they were easier to understand. I'd estimate that this book will add 20 hours of study time to your week (that's 20 hours in addition to the amount of time you should expect spend on an A&P course each week, not 20 hours of total study time per week), and that's a lowball estimate. You'll find that the authors, in their attempt to water down the material, have sacrificed a lot of details that would help you to better understand the material--so you're probably going to spend a lot of time on the internet seeking out the info that will help you to connect the dots. You're also going to spend a lot of time sorting through the mess of poorly-worded sentences, confusing page layouts, poorly defined terms, sentences that appear to contradict other sentences, and pictures that lack sufficient explanations.