Book: Chemistry by Whitten, Davis, Peck & Stanley (9th Edition)

Chemistry by Whitten, Davis, Peck & Stanlet (9th Edition)

The Most Perfect Chemistry Textbook in Existence.
1168 pages, ★★★★★

Here’s an early Christmas present for any Chemistry learners reading this post.

In the last few days, I’ve scoured dozens of Chemistry textbooks in search of “the perfect one”. My search came to an end this morning when I finally discovered Chemistry by Whitten, Davis, Peck & Stanlet (9th Edition)—commonly known as “Whitten”.

It’s visual. It’s perfect. It’s layout is clean and simple to understand. Everything’s colour-coded consistently across all 1000+ pages, and all in the right colours, too! Title fonts are humanist (similar to Myriad Pro, which is also used by Myer and Apple), instead of geometric (like Helvetica, which looks too harsh in comparison). Body text is set in a traditional, serif font (like Adobe Garamond), which is easy on the eyes during extended reading. Best of all, white space is left white, and not filled with distracting nonsense like cogs, cork boards and screws. Enjoy the sheer beauty of one of its pages here:

Whitten beautiful Chemistry textbook
A typical page from this gorgeously-curated Chemistry textbook

I was hooked already by page xxxvii.

The book looks wonderful on an iPad. It doesn’t come with all the digital bells and whistles that some textbooks have (such as 3D models) but to be honest, the static, 2D graphics in this book are of more educational value than all the graphics in interactive textbooks I’ve ever seen.

Hinze et al (2013) image
Click to read Hinze et al’s 2013 paper on the importance of ECPMs in Chemistry education

For example, electrostatic charge potential maps (ECPMs) of which I’m a huge fan, are used extensively in this book. I strongly believe in their educational value (read this paper on electrostatic charge potential maps by Hinze et al., 2013). ECPMs explain melting points, boiling points, covalent and ionic bonding, van der Waals’ forces and dipole-dipole interactions, hydrogen bonding, pH, K-values of acids and bases (Ka and Kb) and solubility, and then even help us to understanding reaction mechanisms. I believe that ECPMs are a golden bullet for learners of Chemistry, especially for visual learners, and Whitten’s Chemistry textbook uses ECPMs repeatedly throughout the whole book. Most textbooks don’t use them nearly enough.

Here’s an example of how Whitten uses ECPMs to explain trends in acidity:

Chemistry by Whitten page 358
Electrostatic charge potential maps are shown in colour. Perfect, right?

I’m reading this book on the new iPad Air. The back-lit white space that surrounds the body text clears your mind, soothes your eyes and makes the vivid diagrams stand out much more than they otherwise would. This is a no-nonsense textbook—every pixel is serves an educational purpose. And holding over 1000 of its beautiful pages in a device only 7.5 mm thin is a powerful feeling in itself! It’s like having an entire art gallery in your hand.

At over 1000 pages, it’s a very long textbook but the authors state explicitly in the foreword that nobody’s expected to read it from cover to cover. Instead, read its chapters as a supplement to your existing textbook while your Chemistry course progresses. Suitable for high school to undergraduate levels. Available easily online. Recommended for anyone who learns Chemistry visually—which is everyone ;) ★★★★★

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