This book is aimed at undergraduates embarking on medical, nutrition, physiology, sports and other health based careers. It provides a thorough, broad grounding in human biology.
It has a lot of competition, so seeks to differentiate itself by relating understanding of biological systems, subsystems and elements to human health. This is what drew me to the book. To a large extent, it achieved this aim, providing a real world (macroscopic) consequence to failings at lower levels. By doing this, understanding is deepened and learning is more secure.
But the book suffered from over-ambition in my view. The pace after the first 50 or so pages increased rapidly, with a much greater tendency to supply facts and terminology with decreasing room for explanations. This is a shame as the initial style adopted made for effortless reading. I was able to understand cellular biology, and the fundamentals of chemistry more clearly than ever before. The shape and nature of the periodic table is no longer a mystery to me. The genetic code is now crystal clear in my mind. Her explanations assumed no prior knowledge, and communicated ideas with great clarity, albeit with some occasional repetitions.
For example, soon after explaining molecular chemistry basis so lucidly, large molecular diagrams appear, starting on page 53 with ATP (Adenine Triphosphate). The transition was too large without intermediate explanations. So her writing style started to suffer as a result, I would guess, from the sheer scale of the undertaking. The pace she had adopted was not sustainable.
She reinstated this clarity and pace on occasion, especially with regard genetics, and I was again captivated. This read more like a story than a text book, with her writing always seeking to explain matters in terms of homoeostasis, and how that affects the overall health of a human, my learning was deep and I was fully engaged.
Alas, the book mostly reverted to standard reference book style for a large part, with sometime indigestible streams of Latin terms with scant explanations. As the book neared the end, she was able to revert to a more explanatory, deeper style. The penultimate chapter, on sleeping and healing, subjects rarely found in most biology reference books, allowed her to more closely link biology to health.
The book employs a double column format with many clear diagrams that benefit from the addition of a single gradated colour tone to enhance clarity. But even with relatively dense text, 358 pages was always going to make for condensed reading that covered homoeostasis, feedback systems, cells, body systems and structure, chemistry basics, energy, nutrients, genetics, reproduction, the nervous system, the brain, senses, the endocrine system, blood, the lymphatic system, heat regulation, skin, digestion, and so on …
The negative tone of the review is more of one of disappointment that the book could not sustain a certain style, and not that the book is poor. It is an excellent reference on human biology.
Neil Moffatt March 2013