Life: The Science of Biology
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74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2004
First, just to let you know what perspective I am reviewing this from, I am a college student, and this text was used in my 200-level introductory biology course. Since I am a student, and not a professor or expert of any sort, I am evaluating the book based on how helpful it was to me in learning the material. For input from biology professors, you'll have to take a look at some of the other reviews here.

"Life: The Science of Biology" has definitely been one of the better biology textbooks I've used. The text is well written, with clear explanations and plenty of real-life examples to help you tie small details into the bigger picture. But beware: The information here is incredibly in-depth, so if you're only looking for a basic overview of biology, you may actually want a slightly simpler book, otherwise you may get lost in all the details. It was perfect for my 200-level class, and gave me all the information I needed, but I don't think it would be the ideal text for an introductory biology course. One other reviewer here mentioned that she used this text to teach her AP biology students. I took AP biology in high school (and got a 5 on the exam) and can guarantee you that this text contains far, far more than you would ever need to know to get a perfect score. It's definitely a college level text.

The book has numerous detailed, well-labeled diagrams that are helpful in understanding different processes. In fact, being a rather visual, hands-on learner, I sometimes found the step-by-step diagrams easier to follow than the text itself. There are also plenty of great photographs and other helpful images. At the end of each chapter there is a bare-bones overview of key points you should know, and a self-quiz to help you evaluate your grasp of the material. At the end of the book there is an extensive glossary with definitions of key terms.

Unfortunately, there is one mistake in this book, to be found in chapter 34, "Deuterostomate Animals." On page 674, some text from the previous page is repeated, and this in turn means that part of the section entitled "Primates and the Origin of Humans" is cut off, even ending in mid-sentence. The following page is filled entirely with pictures and diagrams, no text, and then on page 676 where the text starts up again, it skips to the beginning of the next section, entirely leaving out a chunk of information. This is the only place in the book where I found such a problem.

There is a website to accompany this text ([...] I never found it necessary to use the site for my studies, but it may be helpful for some. It contains chapter summaries, animated tutorials, text-related activities, self quizzes, suggestions for further reading, and a glossary of key terms (same as the one found at the back of the book). The book is also supposed to come with a CD-ROM. My school's bookstore was selling the books and CDs separately, and I did not purchase the CD and so cannot evaluate its usefulness. I know I learned everything I needed without it, and I suspect the book and website alone would be sufficient for most students' needs.

Aside from the glitch in chapter 34, mentioned above, I have found nothing to complain about with this book. I will definitely be hanging on to it for future reference, and highly recommend it to anyone needing a detailed, comprehensive biology text. NOTE: This review refers to the 7th edition of this book.
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 1999
I have reviewed Campbell, Curtis& Barnes, and other fine textbooks in biology, as a teacher and a scientist, I find Purves, etal; Life , A Science of Biology as the best textbook on the market. His clear explanation of the concepts with bright, colorful pictures have helped my students to understand biological concepts for the AP Bio exam as well as preparing them for college. The questions after each and every chapter plainly incorporate the chapter's lessons as well as inclusion of the continuity of life that is important in all biology teaching. His book had already included the new domain designations and included the reasons as why they were being changed. ( As this was the infamous #3 question on the AP Bio exam.) As a trained molecular biologist, I am finally satisfied in the explanation of the molecular process of life. Again his use of good solid pictures help to re-enforce a difficult concept. I also know that MIT uses this book as well as Harvard, I urge every biology teacher professor to at least have this in their personal library.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2005
Ah, the holy grail of textbooks: To find a textbook that is completely clear, explains all aspects of the subject, lets you understand rather than just memorize so you can think independently on the subject and actually enjoyable to read. Textbooks like those are incredibly rare and they are worth their weight in gold once you find them. Looks like we found one for biology.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2010
Sadava and its competitors have all significantly changed since 1999. I think that reviews of earlier editions should be removed, because this and the other books have changed a lot over the years.

This 9th edition was the required book for the two-semester bio sequence at the east campus Valencia Community College. The other campuses use Campbell, and to compare the two books side by side for any topic is enough to make you cry at spending so much for this one.

I bought a used copy of Campbell (one edition prior to current) because I looked at a copy and it was SO much easier to understand. It's better organized, more clearly written, uses helpful transitions to tie topics together and to review earlier topics before going on, and the pictures are SO much clearer in Campbell!

Every time I read the Sadava material, I felt confused. Then I'd read the same section in Campbell and would totally understand! I feel that using Campbell is the single reason that I have scored far above anyone else in my class on every assignment and test the entire semester.

If I were selecting a biology book to be used in a class I was teaching, I literally cannot imagine looking at both Campbell and Sadava and choosing Sadava.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2012
This is an excellent biology textbook. The writing is clear, well-organized, and not overly difficult to follow. The use of diagrams and images is very helpful. In particular, references to previous definitions of ideas and terms throughout the book help you make connections as you read, in case you forget what something means or how it works. BioPortal is also very good. Two things about BioPortal stand out. In the book, the text often references diagrams or figures on a different page, and it is harder to make the connections when you keep flipping back and forth through the book. With BioPortal (which has the full text in electronic form), you can open figures in new windows and quickly refer to them as you read. I found this helpful. 2nd, most terms can be clicked on for a quick definition which is even more helpful in making sure you understand some of the very complex processes detailed than the descriptions given just in the text. The Prep-U quizzing activity is also helpful, though the Self-Test's are fairly vague and not too helpful. I haven't used much of the resources outside these quizzes, the e-book, and flashcards (also helpful) so can't comment too much on that. But as a textbook, this is excellent. It is very well designed for use in an introductory biology course. I imagine if you are a student you would only buy this if it is required for your class, so this may not make any difference for you anyway. Hopefully it is required though.

NOW, in regards to buying the book. This is a rare occasion in which the Amazon price is much higher than what you can find in a campus bookstore. I bought the textbook and BioPortal for $110 from my university, which usually gouges you as much as they can. Not sure why it's almost $200 here. Check your bookstores first before buying from here. You can also buy just BioPortal (which remember has the full text. In fact, I've used that more than the actual book) for $88 from the publisher's site. Look at both of those options before buying from here.

This is not one of those textbooks that is blandly written and boring to read. Instead, it is fascinating, compelling, clear, and very well organized, and I really enjoy learning from this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2007
I graduated from college in the early 70's with a B.S. major in Physics. Having retired from the business world, I recently discovered the absolutely wonderous advances in what I believed to be the "non-physical" sciences. Hooray for E.O.Wilson's concept of concilience!

I'm studying Biology using "Life" and its associated website. What amazing fun! I love this book and it is the best textbook I've ever studied. This book is not a good "read" - it's a great book to study!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2010
WARNING: this is not the whole textbook! This textbook is sold both as one book and also as THREE volumes. No course requires only one volume, so be absolutely certain it won't be advantageous to simply buy the whole text as one book.

My apologies if the above is obvious to you. Somehow, it wasn't obvious to me and I ended up having to buy all three volumes separately.

This textbook was used for 7.013 (first semester biology) at MIT when I took it Spring '08. Therefore, you may have to purchase this or a similar text regardless of what I say. If you have a choice, however, I'd say try another text and tell me how that goes. This one is at best mediocre. I thought the author took too long to get to the point in each topic, which made it a laborious read. Because of this, I think the length of this text could be reduced by a quarter of its current length and still successfully cover the same topics.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 1999
As part of the AP Bio program, I feel that a lot of information must be crammed into a student's head. Purves et al meticulously explain each process, allowing for easier memorization and, more importantly, understanding of the complex processes. Some chapters, however, are still extraordinarily difficult to master. For example, chapters 14 and 15 were practically impossible (snrps anyone?) Other than that, this book is flawless. The pictures and the explanations that accompany them are very useful. I would recommend this book to those that are considering an AP biology course or even a college course (Did you know Harvard uses this book? That made us high school students feel smart!) Enjoy everybody!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 1999
As an 11th grade victim of AP Biology, I have found some solace in this textbook. It is well-written and illustrated, and it is usually clear and informative. Aside from the occasional chapters that threw me for a loop (For example: Chapter 14 - The Eukaryotic Genome and its Expression. Huh?) the book is very good and I would recommend it to future AP Bio students.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2004
Like many of the other reviewers have already stated, this is a great book for intro biology. If you pick it up be certain that it is not missing pages though. I read through it into Chapter 34 before finding some info missing! While reading Chp 34 pp. 673 I see that the intro to "Primates and the Origin of Humans" is repeated again on the following page. Also, on pp. 674 where this info is repeated, the info suddenly stops, and is not continued on pp 675 (which is understandable since it is all photographs), nor on pp. 676. Instead, pp. 676 begins with "Human ancestors

evolved bipedal locomotion", therefore, leaving out the connection between anthropoids and hominids. This is crucial info because it is the info that tells us where humans came from! It is some of the most critical info in all of the textbook! If you pick this book up check these pages. If it is missing this info return it immediately for a corrected copy.
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