Review of Wiley’s Organic Chemistry (11th Edition)

This past school year my wife took a full-year Organic Chemistry class. For her textbook she used Organic Chemistry (11th edition) by T.W. Graham Solomons, Craig B. Fryhle, and Scott A. Snyder (Wiley, 2014). With gratitude to Wiley for the review copy, what follows is her assessment of the textbook.


The Approach of the Textbook


9781118133576.pdfOrganic Chemistry is divided into 25 chapters, covering the standard terrain like “Aldehydes and Ketones” (chapter 16), “Alcohols and Ethers” (chapter 11), and “Carboxylic Acids and Their Derivatives” (chapter 17).

It hits the core basics in the beginning and then goes through all the essential mechanisms. There’s even a chapter on NMR (chapter 9: “Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Mass Spectometry”), in which the reader learns, among other things, about the chemistry behind an MRI.

The book’s product page says:

A central theme of the authors’ approach to organic chemistry is to emphasize the relationship between structure and reactivity. To accomplish this, the text is organized in a way that combines the most useful features of a functional group approach with one largely based on reaction mechanisms. Emphasizing mechanisms and their common aspects as often as possible, this book shows students what organic chemistry is, how it works, and what it does in living systems and the physical world around us.




Each chapter has explanations of concepts with Practice Problems and Solved Problems scattered throughout the reading. (Solved Problems essentially model what you are supposed to be doing in the Practice Problems.) At the end of each chapter, there is a summary of the chapter and more Problems, the answers to which are in the accompanying solutions manual and study guide, sold separately. (The textbook includes just an eight-page “Answers to Selected Problems” appendix.) The full solutions manual is essential for making your way through this textbook.

Solved Problem
Example of a Solved Problem

“A Mechanism for the Reaction” boxes appear throughout the book (beginning in chapter 3). These show

step-by-step details about how reactions take place so that students have the tools to understand rather than memorize organic reactions.

These boxes helped me really understand the mechanisms and do a lot better at solving the problems. The Table of Contents includes a listing of all the places they appear.

There is also a “Concept Map” at the end of a number of chapters, which shows how the concepts are connected and relate to each other. I found this to be an excellent study tool and aid to solidifying what I had read in the chapter. This is part of the “Summary and Review Tools” that the authors include in an attempt to “accommodate diverse learning styles.”

Organic Chem_Summary and Review Tools
End-of-Chapter Summary Section, Chapter 6 (Ionic Reactions)


New in the 11th Edition


In this 11th edition there is the addition of a section called “Why Do These Topics Matter?” This feature seeks to “show the rich relevance of what students have learned to applications that have direct bearing on our lives and wellbeing.” For example, in chapter 10, the authors note:

[T]here is a natural molecule that combines radical chemistry and molecular shape in a way that can cause cell death. Chemists have used this knowledge to fashion a few anticancer drugs.

Personally, I was so focused on the class itself that I found myself skipping over a lot of these. They’re well-done, though, and others may appreciate their inclusion. Students can, after all, have a hard time connecting organic chemistry to the “real world,” and it’s easy to get stuck in the details (“Its melting point changed!”) with little awareness of the concepts’ larger import. So I see why they took this approach; I think it’s a smart one.


What I Found Helpful


In a nutshell, here is what I found most useful about the book:

  • The graphics and drawings of molecules are conceptually clear and a good aid to learning.
  • The chapter on infrared spectroscopy is a good one–this is potentially itself a whole additional course.
  • The writing is straightforward and clear. As I read the book, I could tell it is a revision of a revision of a revision….
  • Organic Chemistry prepared me very well for taking the American Chemical Society standard exam.
  • It helped reinforce the lectures in the class.


Minor Points of Critique


The pictures at the beginnings of the chapters feel a little out of place. For example, chapter 10 (“Radical Reactions”) begins with a picture of a bowl of blueberries. Granted, this is present because blueberries are an example of an antioxidant, to be covered in that chapter, but some of these images don’t feel aesthetically consistent with the rest of what’s in the book. The graphics and overall design and layout are consistent and well-executed; it’s just that the photos (including the cover photograph) feel a bit off, compared with the rest of the book’s design. All told, however, this is a minor critique.

The binding appears to be glued (not sewn), which is unfortunate for a book of this magnitude. I didn’t carry it around that much (at over 1,000 pages, it’s heavy–to be expected), but it’s still in good shape after a year of use at home. There is an e-book option for those who are willing to be at as screen more often.

Concluding Evaluation

Organic Chemistry is a very solid teaching of the core concepts and mechanisms of organic chemistry. To professors who are considering a course text, this one is a worthy choice. To students who are considering (or have been assigned) this text, a book like this requires diligence to get through, but it will serve you well!
Find Organic Chemistry at Amazon here (affiliate link) and at Wiley’s site here.

Even during Finals week, we must rest.

To all my teacher and student friends who are still going with school… the below is adapted from an e-devotional I wrote that went out over email to Gordon students in December 2011.

fallow field

It may seem strange to talk about Sabbath-keeping during end-of-the-semester crunch time. Who has any time to spare for rest, let alone a whole day?

Last week I was reading from Exodus during Morning Prayer, with the people with whom my family lives in intentional community. Exodus 34:21 jumped out at me, “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

Regardless of our familiarity with agrarian lifestyles and metaphors, this text speaks to us of a God who invites his people into rest. Sabbath-keeping, as with all of God’s commandments, brings life to those who keep it.  Even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.

You all are in the midst of final papers and exams—you likely can’t just up and take a day off, since that might mean missing an important exam. But you can seek pockets of rest, times to sit down in God’s presence and ask for him to guide you through all your comings and goings. If Israel must rest even during their plowing season and harvest, we ought to seriously consider following this timeless pattern, taking rest even during our busiest seasons.

So close your email. Go to bed (especially if you’re reading this at 3am). Go outside and walk around (even if it’s raining). Go eat a snack and talk to a friend. Some of you will need more encouragement to this than others, of course, but heed well God’s life-giving words. Even during Finals week, we must rest.

More than 125 youth workers at Open Boston

Open Boston Worship More than 125 youth workers gathered at Gordon College on Saturday, February 2 for Open Boston. An initiative of The Youth Cartel, Open Boston brought together more than 20 speakers to lead sessions on topics ranging from student leadership and youth ministry innovation, to soul care and strategic relationship building. Interactive sessions enabled mutual collaboration throughout the day, evident from the event’s Twitter hashtag. An opening and closing session of worship served as bookends to the day.

Open Boston was preceded by Open Seattle and will be followed by Open Paris. The Open events are about “celebrating fresh ideas in youth ministry.”

I spoke about developing student worship leaders. Here’s the handout (PDF) I used.

Derrida, Caputo, and David Walk Into a Psalm

Joel Robine/Agence France Presse-Getty Images, via NY Times
Joel Robine/Agence France Presse-Getty Images

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51:2

The heading of Psalm 51 gives its setting: “When the prophet Nathan came to [David] after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.” The Hebrew text is more explicit in its description of David’s adulterous act in the Psalm heading. David had had sex with another man’s wife—and then had him killed in battle.

The French philosopher Jacques Derrida could have found himself at home in this Psalm. Derrida might point out that for David to follow up his sins with a plea for God to “wash away all [his] iniquity” is to ask the impossible. (For Derrida, as John Caputo puts it, the impossible is “something that exceeds the horizon of foreseeability and expectation.”)

In this sense David asks for the impossible. The affair with Bathsheba was sordid enough, but he also called Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, back from battle to sleep with her in the hopes that no one would know David made her pregnant. When this plan failed, David oversaw military orders that sent Uriah to an unjust death. How audacious is David to ask for forgiveness from these sins that so “displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27)? Doesn’t David make an impossible request?

Caputo, in a somewhat Christianizing read of Derrida, writes, “[H]ope is truly hope when it has been pushed up against the impossible and everything looks hopeless.” All must have looked hopeless to David, who wrote, “My sin is always before me” (51:3). Yet he held out hope in God, praying, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (51:12).

With God the impossible is possible. We can be forgiven for even the unspeakable sins of our past. Some Psalms later David writes, “Praise the Lord, my soul… who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (103:3).

Don’t we often feel “pushed up against the impossible”? Don’t we sometimes look at our sins, only to see that “everything looks hopeless”? And yet, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (103:12).

God exceeds the foreseeable. He transcends our expectations. He does not visit upon us the punishment that our sins deserve. David’s impossible request for forgiveness is possible, because God is the God of the impossible.

The above is a reflection I wrote for the Gordon College Lenten Devotional, “The Hope Before Us.” You can access a pdf of the whole devotional here.

A Prayer for Difference amidst Unity, and Unity amidst Difference

Gordon's Beyond Colorblind logo
Gordon’s Beyond Colorblind logo

Does race matter? Is ethnicity important? How do cultural backgrounds affect our everyday lives?

This week at Gordon College we have a special emphasis week, BEYOND COLORBLIND:

BEYOND COLORBLIND is a focus week to help start new conversations about race and culture on campus.  We hope the lectures and discussions help us consider how our racial and cultural identities and experiences shape our views of ourselves, others, and God.

You can watch the first large group session of the week (chapel) here. Richard Twiss was the main speaker. It’s well worth your time.

Two weeks ago I shared a prayer for the first day of school. Today I’m sharing the congregational prayer we prayed in unison this morning in chapel. This came after the passing of the peace.

God, lover of all people,
Creator of all nations,
We praise you for all that you have made.

Thank you for the rich mosaic that is the body of Christ.
Thank you for difference amidst unity,
for unity amidst difference.

Give us a spirit of understanding and appreciation of each other.
Help us to see your image clearly in those around us.

Bless us now as we gather,
and may we declare your praises with our whole lives,
through our risen Lord Jesus.

Find out more about the week here.

A prayer for the first day of school

2012 to 2013
This semester is the first day of classes at Gordon. This morning in chapel I led us in a responsive prayer, offering thanksgiving and petition to God at the start of a new semester. I offered the prayer in italics, then we all as one congregation read the bold responses.

For the start of a new semester and all the promise that it holds:

We give you thanks, our God.

For the joy we have in seeing friends for the first time in a month:

We give you thanks, our God.

For those with whom we live in dorms, apartments, and houses:

We give you thanks, our God.

For the chance to gather freely in worship:

We give you thanks, our God.

For all that we will learn: in the classroom, in this worship space, in Lane, in labs, in practice rooms, in the library, in relationships, on campus and off campus:

We give you thanks, our God.

For wisdom for all students, staff, and faculty, as we seek to offer God our very best in all that we do:

Lord, please be near us.

For family relationships that we’ve invested in over the last month but now step away from in some ways:

Lord, please be near us.

For perseverance and diligence in our studies:

Lord, please be near us.

For healthy sleep patterns, motivation to exercise, self-control in eating good, healthy foods:

Lord, please be near us.

For those areas of life in which we struggle, where we despair, and for those things of which we are ashamed:

Lord, please be near us.

I’m Speaking at Open Boston in February on Student Worship Leaders

open ymIn a couple of weeks I’ll be one of a group of speakers at a youth ministry event called Open Boston. It’s February 2 and takes place at Gordon College.

From Open’s What to Expect page:

The content of sessions is firmly focused on ideas, concepts, and best practices for developing a youth ministry for your context. Expect presentations that cover issues around working with high school students, middle school students, and every combination of adolescents in your community.

The general idea behind Open is that we believe that the best ideas in youth ministry are “out there” being tried–right now–by youth workers just like you. But most other events don’t give those voices an opportunity to share what they’re learning.

Open is exactly the opposite. We exist to celebrate innovation, discover new ministry ideas, and hopefully inspire the collective us, the tribe of youth ministry, to dream about reaching students in new ways.

The session I’m leading is called “Raising Up Shouts of Praise: Developing Student Worship Leaders.” Here’s the writeup:

Worship through song is key to a community’s sense of connection to God and each other. God deserves our praise, and God delights in the praise of his people. What role can and should your young people have in leading worship? How can you recruit youth to lead worship, and train them to do it faithfully and effectively?

In “Raising Up Shouts of Praise,” Abram Kielsmeier-Jones will share some lessons he’s learned in developing student worship leaders: from big picture methodology concerns (like how to select a team; Biblical principles in which to train them) to nuts and bolts (like how to coach worship leaders in what to say between songs, how to help them find and teach new music). Abram especially looks forward to hearing others’ lessons learned that he might take back with him to his own worship leading context.

I’m really looking forward to being a part of this, both as speaker and attendee. Click here to read more about The Youth Cartel (not an actual cartel), who is helping to organize the event. Open Seattle happened in October; Open Paris is coming up in the spring. You can go to the Open Boston site to find out more.

Day of Prayer

Here’s part of a writeup I did on our Day of Prayer that took place last week:

In the evening we worshiped again as one in the chapel with a congregational expression of the Psalms through song. From a lone voice in the darkness expressing the cries of the Psalmist in Psalm 130, to voices in unison reading the Psalms of Ascent; from hymns to contemporary music to bluegrass; from a Taizé chorus to Gospel music led by the Gospel Choir, we raised our voices in prayer and praise together, using the words of the Psalms.

The whole post is here, at Notes Along the Way, the blog of Gordon College.

Rocks cry out on the Day of Prayer

What a great way spend a day this Tuesday! We had our annual Day of Prayer at Gordon College. (Here is the schedule of events for the day.)

As I wrote before, I’m struck by how the Day of Prayer is a microcosm of an important aspect the school’s life together: we are one and we are many. There are more than 40 denominations and Christian traditions represented at Gordon. On the Day of Prayer we prayed as one body—lived out in the morning and evening services in the chapel—and we prayed in diverse ways (for example, in the Orthodox tradition, through hymns, in the Catholic tradition, by reading Psalms together around a fire pit, in the dark, with artistic expressions, through dancers leading worship, a Gospel Choir, and more).

The picture above (via a Gordon student) is of a rock cairn that the students added to throughout the day. Students, faculty, and staff wrote prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving on a rock, which they then placed next to the entrance of the chapel. Watching the rocks pile up throughout the day, as praises going up to God, was a highlight for me. These rocks cry out!

See student response to Day of Prayer (with pictures) via the Twitter hashtag #GCDayofPrayer.

SEEK: Day of Prayer

Tomorrow (Tuesday) at Gordon College is the Day of Prayer. Here is the schedule for the day. We’ve been working hard in preparation for this day, and I’m excited now that it’s here at last.

Day of Prayer at Gordon is a dedicated day–no classes or regularly scheduled events–where we remind ourselves of who we are in Christ: a body of believers that can join together in prayer to give God praise and request his continued provision in our lives and in the world.

I’m struck by how the Day of Prayer is a microcosm of an important aspect the school’s life together: we are one and we are many. There are more than 40 denominations and Christian traditions represented at Gordon. On the Day of Prayer we pray as one body—lived out in the morning and evening services in the chapel—and we pray in diverse ways (for example, in the Orthodox tradition, through hymns, in the Catholic tradition, by reading Psalms together around a fire pit, in the dark, with artistic expressions, and so on).

Philosophers talk about the problem of “the one and the many.”  At Gordon, we get to experience the blessing in Christ of being one and many.

You can follow Day of Prayer via the Twitter hashtag #GCDayofPrayer. (Gordon College on Twitter is @GordonCollege.) Read the Day of Prayer press release here.