Best Organic Chemistry Book

Best Organic Chemistry Book

Interested in Nucleophilic substitution? Mass spectrometry? Aldehydes and ketones?

Congrats! Organic chemistry is going to be your field of study.

A profound science branch like it is, it will take you from the subatomic level to the search for cures of fatal illnesses.

A fascinating journey is ahead of you. And while on it, you’ll need best organic chemistry books you can get your hands on.

Today we’ll dig deep into the topic and select the best literature you should be using in order to reach great heights in the field.




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What is Organic Chemistry?

If we would look for a definition of organic chemistry in a dictionary we would find out that this particular sub-discipline is the scientific study of structure, properties, and reactions of compounds based on carbon.

And, as every decent sci-fi fan knows, carbon makes a key component (45-50%) of all known life on this side of Milky Way.

The complex molecules where the carbon is bonded with other elements such as hydrogen and oxygen are so integral to us that scientists often like to call this powerhouse life-ingredient as “the king of the elements”, and the organic chemistry “the chemistry of life.”

Why is Organic Chemistry so Important?

The logic question would arise: All these organic chemistry abstract concepts – are they applicable to real life?

The truth is that organic chemistry has a footing in real life so strong that we couldn’t imagine the modern society without it. Here are some of the areas where chemists make the biggest difference.


Since we’re talking about “the chemistry of life” it is expected to find out that medicine is one of the prime fields where this discipline has an opportunity to shine. So much so, that we have to divide all the interconnections between medicine and organic chemistry in three large sections:


Petrochemicals are chemicals derived from petroleum and crude oil. Since both of them are remains of the huge life-forms that roamed the Earth before us humans, we can safely say that petrochemicals are subject of interest of organic chemistry.

This marriage is the reason we can count on a wide array of everyday products ranging from plastic and gasoline to food additives and dyes.


All the food materials we’re consuming are based on three organic compounds: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The job of organic chemistry is to discover ways to help food production, and research the effects of nutrition on our lives.

If you’ve ever read the articles about the effects of different nutrients on pregnancy, workout, diet and health, you were, in fact, scratching the surface of what organic chemistry is all about.

Cleansing agents and cosmetic products

Organic solvents play a major role in a couple of very important industry processes like extracting drugs from plants and removing fatty matter from the pulp.

If that sounds too abstract, organic chemists also have a chance to play with soaps, beauty products and even perfumes.

Yes, organic chemistry is the reason why people smelled so nice ever since the times of ancient Egypt.

How to become an organic chemist?

Believe it or not, all these things are accomplished from the comfort of an ordinary lab. The career path that will lead you there is not that complicated either.

Bachelor’s degree will open you doors to positions such as research assistant, while with Master’s Degree in the pocket you can already count on a better-paid positions in serious synthetic chemistry projects.

However, due to the very nature of the job you are going to do, there are some important skills you should develop during your education:

How to choose the best organic chemistry textbook

There’s another thing though – Your future as a chemist will largely depend on how well you’ve understood the basic concepts of the discipline. And in order to do this, you will have to find the best possible introductory textbook.

Here are a couple of things you should take into account:

Top 5 best organic chemistry textbooks currently on the market

Keeping all this in mind, here are the top five textbooks that should help you grasp the basic concepts of organic chemistry in the best and the most accessible manner.

Organic Chemistry, 2nd Edition Standalone Book – A textbook for problem-solvers

by David R. Klein

In regards to the topics it is covering, Organic Chemistry by David R. Klein is a pretty standard two-semester chemistry textbook. What makes this edition stand out so much is the way in which the author decided to explain these topics.

Namely, unlike some other prominent chemists, Klein decides to write in a manner that will encourage problem-solving and develop strong skills alongside theoretical knowledge.

Naturally, the lessons are accompanied by a lot of interesting and engaging examples, that further help the cause Klein has embraced through his writing.

It should also be mentioned that the textbook features a very rich graphic design, that does a great job bringing some of the more abstract concepts of Organic Chemistry closer to the students.

However, Klein’s writing approach definitely has some downsides. For instance, while problem-solving may be appealing learning method to some types of students, other would benefit as much from more detailed explanations.

So, the bottom line is that, if you are geared more towards practical solutions than theory, Klein’s textbook might just be for you. If you, on the other hand, have no past experience with this discipline, you may look for some other entry.




Organic Chemistry, 2nd Edition


Organic Chemistry 9th Edition – A very versatile textbook

by Leroy G. Wade and Jan W. Simek

This textbook is a brainchild of two authors with quite illustrious careers. What’s even more important, as academics, they have reasonably different approaches to chemistry.

Because of that, their take on Organic Chemistry successfully juggles different pedagogical approaches like frontal teaching and problem-solving. The book also makes a noticeable effort to encourage critical thinking which is always a plus.

One of the features that should definitely be pointed out are adaptive homeworks, the students can practice with using the offered hints and answer-specific feedback.

Generally speaking, this versatile approach, coupled by an abundance of examples has found a very good reception on various universities across the country, so the chances are you will face this textbook sometimes over your education.

As for the downsides, numerous edits and efforts to keep the book relevant have caused some confusion in the later editions. For instance, the topic of radicals is dealt with before the alkene reactions, which doesn’t make too much sense.

Also, since the book features so many editions with USA and international iterations, scouring for the one you want and coupling it with the proper online resources can be a very tiresome process.

Overall, a great entry that just needs to be a bit more polished.





Organic Chemistry 9th Edition


Organic Chemistry 8th Edition – A breath of fresh air

by Paula Yurkanis Bruice

Here is yet another textbook that puts a very strong accent on problem solving, which is, by all modern educational standards, a very positive thing. But, how does it compare to the effort by David R. Klein that sets out on a similar mission?

Well, it should be mentioned that this take on Organic Chemistry makes much stronger effort in dealing with the issues of reactivity. As a matter of fact, P.Y. Bruice makes reactions as, the fundamental process behind all chemical processes, a central theme of all topics that are covered over two semesters.

This approach is certainly refreshing and gives the book a much needed unique aura.

Also, we see a very welcome use of different educational tools ranging from pictures, diagrams, and records scores to adaptive homework and traditional after-lesson problems.

All this makes working with the textbook very interesting, challenging and, what’s most impressive, surprisingly personalized.

The misfires made by the author and the editors are rare, but, unfortunately, they are not completely absent.

For example, the solutions to intertextual problems presented throughout the lessons are oddly absent from the printed iteration and can be found only in the e-book edition.

Also, Bruice’s unique approach to Organic Chemistry may not find approval of some of the professors that are used to tackle their curriculums in a more traditional manner.

Still, this textbook makes an incredibly solid entry and shouldn’t be looked over by the chemistry newcomers that want to master their classes in an interesting and approachable manner.





Organic Chemistry 8th Edition


Organic Chemistry 9th edition – Solid entry with a couple of minor issues

by John E. McMurry

Comprising any list of organic chemistry textbooks without mentioning the effort of John E. McMurry is virtually impossible, if just for the fact that on a lot of colleges across the country regard this book required rather than recommended. However, that’s not the only reason why this book has such a strong presence amongst the students.

McMurry is a talented writer and enjoys tackling “how’s” and, even more important “why’s” of various subjects. His language is easy to understand, down to earth and engaging, and his statements are accompanied by visual examples of abstract concepts.

At the end of each chapter you will find a lot of useful problems and exercises that will help you reach a better understanding of material. All this makes Organic Chemistry a very engaging read.

However, the book is not without its problems. Talented as he is, McMurry sometimes struggles to find a new angle in which he’ll present the subject so some of the chapters are burdened with excessive details and sometimes plain confusing.

Also, some of the problems in the book are not written by the author but his wife, which leads to some discrepancies (especially in the chapter regarding substitution patterns and benzene rings).





Organic Chemistry 9th Edition


Organic Chemistry 10th edition – A couple of edits from perfection

by Francis A. Carey and Robert M. Giuliano

Finally, here’s another book that has spent a lot of time on the various campuses around the globe, which shouldn’t come off as a too big of a surprise.

Through its various revisions, this version of Organic Chemistry was forged in a companion book which fits two-semester undergraduate programs like a well-tailored glove.

Other welcome changes brought on the table by the latter iterations include cutting edge-illustrations, expanded coverage of the topics like spectroscopy, well-designed molecular diagrams, color coded chapters, a pretty seamless integration of modelling exercises and everything else you’d expect from a modern 21st century publication.

The fact that the very subject the book deals with is well-written and easy to understand can only help it find an easier way in “the top 5.”

However, like some other publications on this list, Organic Chemistry by Carey and Giuliano is a material that’s brought to this state by numerous facelifts, but still shows its dated DNA in more than one place.

Some long-winded paragraphs are begging for a logical breaking point, other sections like “Structure” are in need of expansion, while in some places, various edits made the text pretty messy.

Still, such examples are sparse, and this publication remains one of the essential textbooks on the topic of organic chemistry.





Organic Chemistry 10th edition


Which textbook is the best?

Although all of these entries are great publications, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Organic Chemistry by Klein simply stands out as the best organic chemistry book on the list.

It’s affordable, interesting, has a great flow and knows how to capture the younger readers’ attention.

This, with the addition of a lot of interesting examples and illustrations, produces a package that manages to bring even the most abstract concepts of organic chemistry into real life and make them simple and understandable.

What do you think about my choice? Would you go with a different book for your upcoming college organic chemistry course? Let me know in the comments below!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Great review! One question: why did you leave out Jonathan Clayden’s “Organic Chemistry” our of the discussion? I believe Clayden is at the same level as Klein, albeit maybe a little more expensive. Thoughts?

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