What is a good book for learning organic chemistry?

This is my reply to the title question posted on Yahoo Answers …

I have "Organic Chemistry Demystified" but the topics seem out of order and all over the place and the explanations very elementary. I understand the subject but would prefer something that sums up major points.

  • My reply,
You could look at my book, "The Language of Organic Chemistry; A Guide to Organic Chemistry Mechanisms" at http://www.curvedarrowpress.com . I can't say it would be for you or not. When students turn to Made Easy, for Dummies, Demystified, that is not a good sign. I have looked at them. They seem to be like a Reader's Digest version of organic chemistry. I have not thought that any of them gave a more clear explanation than you would find anywhere else, just shorter or skipping a lot of details.

In my classes, I focussed far more on mechanisms than the introductory subjects that some students worry about. I learned most students would be able to name enough compounds if just given enough practice over the course. I did not pack it in early, but I just kept using examples throughout the course. Many terms and static things, I treated similarly, conformation and stereochemistry, for example.

However, reactions are the 900 lb gorilla that I concentrated on. Answering student questions, scanning different books, and reading professor's exams, tells me there is a good deal of variation in the importance of mechanisms. For anyone really wishing to learn organic chemistry, I would suggest they learn the mechanisms, even if your professor does not emphasize it. I learned more chemistry from mechanisms than any other way. In fact, a mechanism is just an proposed explanation of how a reaction takes place.

I tend to extend this in ways students may not. When an alkene reacts with an electrophile, I don't think the electrons of the alkene react any differently in one reaction than another. Therefore all of my mechanisms follow very similar motifs. Because learning is pattern matching (that is what out brains are good at), I am therefore making it easier for you to anticipate how a reaction will occur (because you are going to repeat a pattern that I am repeating).

I don't know the teaching philosophy of your professor. If he is dedicated to terms, form, and format, then I don't think I can help you. If you like things to make logical sense, then you may like my book.