Textbook reviews

Faculty and staff at the Marriott Library want to assist U instructors and professors with their textbook choices. The library staff can help you find a textbook to assign and highlight what elements make a good textbook for use in certain courses.

If you need help finding a textbook to assign or review, stop by Textbook Advisor at Marriott Library on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Faculty Center.

Reviews done by Allyson Mower, Liz Gabbitas, Caryn Feeney, Brian Richey and Nicole Pankiewicz.

Organic Chemistry as a Second Language

By David Klein

Used by CHEM 2310

This book serves as an excellent companion to the main organic chemistry textbook. The explanations are clearly and concisely written. The style of writing made the concepts very accessible and easy to understand. We wish this book would have been available when we took organic chemistry.

95% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the book met course objectives, which is far above the university average of 80%. The text costs $57 on the publisher’s website (Wiley). This is not a bad price in light of the $90 University average, but if it’s only a companion text, the overall course material costs could well exceed the average.

  • Readable: 5
  • Engaging: 5
  • Informative: 5

The Gendered Society, 6th edition

By Michael S. Kimmel

Used by GNDR 3337

This book exhibits great writing, but the topic can get repetitive and mundane, at times. The author does his best to keep it engaging through the use of great cartoons. Some terms and concepts get oversimplified which negatively affected how engaging the book was. We appreciated learning about the new term ‘glass cellar.’

Only 80% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the book met course objectives. The book costs $85 on the publisher’s website (Oxford Univ Press). Both statistics are in line with the University average.

  • Readable: 4
  • Engaging: 3
  • Informative: 4

Mass Media Law

By Clay Calvert, et al.

Used by COMM 5300

This is an excellent and very comprehensive book. Every student agreed or strongly agreed that it met course objectives. But it is not at an affordable book. The print version costs $241 on the publisher’s website (McGraw Hill). There are short-term rental options that are much lower, providing some additional options.

  • Readable: 5
  • Engaging: 5
  • Informative: 5

Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology

By James R. Holton

Used by ATMOS 6010

The book’s introduction was well-written and helps set the stage for the remainder of the work. We appreciated how the text helped make sense of the calculations presented and used. The eBook version from EBSCO was very difficult to navigate, however. A student would need a print version for less aggravation and better comprehension.

60% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the book met course objectives. The book costs $95 from the publisher (Elsevier).

  • Readable: 4
  • Engaging: 4
  • Informative: 4

'Wardlaw’s Contemporary Nutrition,' 10th edition

By Anne M Smith and Angela L Collene

NUTR 1020

The stated goal of this text is to teach nutrition literacy. It includes not only food choices on a personal level, but also understanding the scientific method as well as social work principles for the purpose of helping others with food choices in a professional setting. It was, at times, too personalized in tone making the book seem more like advice than about teaching, learning and applying to others. It is visually well-organized, in-depth and provides basic building blocks. The book is missing the ways in which the role of the U.S. government determines the food we eat through tax subsidies, food programs and marketing.

Of the students who read the book, 92% agreed or strongly agreed that the book met course objectives, which is well above the university average. The book has a range of price options available from the publisher depending on the format and the rental/purchase option: $55 to $167. The university average is $90, making this an affordable textbook. It also includes LMS integration.

  • Readable: 4
  • Engaging: 3.5
  • Informative: 4.3

'On Epistemology,' 2009 student edition

By Linda Zagzebski

PHIL 3300

We would read this book for fun! It’s short and to the point. The writing is clear and engaging. The author puts important terms in bold and includes a “further reading” section at the end of each chapter. There’s also a lengthy bibliography. Philosophy texts can be really hard to understand, so we appreciated the effort the author took to make this book accessible to people who are interested in learning more about the topic.

Of the students who read the book, 91% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the text met course objectives. The cost is very reasonable at $19.95 new on Amazon.

  • Readable: 5
  • Engaging: 5
  • Informative: 5

'When Asia Was The World'

By Stewart Gordon
HIST 1210

This is a great book. We loved the concept of having a modern author narrate original diaries as a way to relay historical information. It made for both good reading and good information at the same time. Of the students who read the book, 93.5% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the book met course objectives. The book is $9.88 on Amazon.

  • Readable: 5
  • Engaging: 5
  • Informative: 5

'Numerical Methods for Engineers, 7th ed.'

By Chapra Canale

[Department: Mechanical Engineering]

This text provided a large amount of content on the topic, although at this price tag it seems it should come with an online component and greater opportunity for reader engagement. The book was scant on examples and work problems, and the lack of an answer guide makes it difficult for readers to determine their learning success. References were often incomplete or difficult to follow. According to reviews from other students, the “pseudocode” was a helpful introduction to the topic and a positive through line in the book. What this book lacks in narrative it makes up in concision, which could be positive or negative depending on the learning style of the reader.

This book is used for Mechanical Engineering (ME EN) 2450. At $150 new on Amazon, this book is more expensive than the average University of Utah text by $60. 53.2% of students agree or strongly agree that the material was helpful, which is lower than the university average.

We gave it:

  • Readable: 3 (out of 5)
  • Engaging: 1
  • Informative: 3

'Latinos in the United States: Diversity and Change'

By Rogelio Saenz and Maria Cristina Morales

[Department: Ethnic Studies]

This book provides an excellent overview of the history of Latinos in America and focuses on how they see themselves within the nation. The text is straightforward, in text citations are clear and unobtrusive, and issues are handled in increasing depth throughout the work. This is a well-organized and well-sourced book that presents both theories and facts in a logical way. The graphs were easy to read; some of the math was questionable, but presented accessibly and simply. Most of the arguments are exclusively based on facts and data. The chapter on demography has one unsupported claim. On page 54, the authors write, "For long, Latina women have had relatively high levels of fertility, much of this associated with their low level of education." The authors present no evidence to back up this statement. Overall, this text would provide good support to a classroom handling of the issues discussed or to independent study.

58.4% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the book met course objectives. This is lower than the University average of 80.3%. The paperback version costs $23 on Amazon making it much more affordable than the University average of $90.

We gave it:

  • Readable: 4.25 (out of 5)
  • Engaging: 4.25
  • Informative: 4.35

'Argumentation and Critical Decision Making, 8th ed.'

By Richard Reike, Malcolm Sillars and Tarla Peterson

[Department: Communication]

It’s unfortunate that this book is so expensive because it is a good book and enjoyable to read. Writing was thorough, simple, and smart, terms were clearly defined, and exercises were easy to follow. Despite the good writing and clear definitions, the book does not expand to argumentation in an online environment, although the tools of argumentation the book covers seem to apply to a wide number of situations. In terms of references to the online environment in general, the book could use some updating. And some additional attention to copyediting may be needed: a figure was missing on pg. 28 and there was an incomplete in-text citation on pg. 37.

80% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the book met course objectives right in line with the University average. The book costs $114 new on Amazon, which is higher than the average of $90.

We gave it:

  • Readable 4.25 (out of 5)
  • Engaging 3.75
  • Informative 4.75

'The Computing Universe'

By Tony Hey and Gyuri Papay

[Department: Sociology]

This book is a comprehensive introduction to the field of computer science, including the ideas and key players. The copious references provide the reader with excellent resources for further reading. The book does not consider gender or racial diversity in talking about programmers. We were also unsure of who the audience was, as some of it was very technical and some was more about the neurological aspects related to artificial intelligence. Sometimes the book was a little too technical for a non-computer science reader.

Only 68% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the book met course objectives. $40 new on Amazon, compared to the University average of $90.

We gave it:

  • Readable: 4 (out of 5)
  • Engaging: 4
  • Informative: 4.5

'Literature and the Child'

By Lee Galda, Lauren Liang, Bernice Cullinan

[Department: Educational Psychology]

This book approaches literature for youth as a guide for educators and in classroom settings. Although it lacks visual organization, it offers plenty of examples and suggestions, making it easy to read and informative. With clear definitions of terminology, a concise style, and an empathetic approach to all readers, it creates an instructional narrative with a deep exploration of the topic. Teaching tips include common core standards; booklists and guidelines for assessment are also excellent, empowering educators to feel confident in their selection decisions for their classrooms and students.

100% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the text helped met course objectives. (The first 100% we’ve ever seen in our reviews) The book costs $69 new on Amazon, which is below the University average.

We gave it:

  • Readable: 4.5 (out of 5)
  • Engaging: 4.5
  • Informative: 4.75

'Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections,' 9th edition

By Martha R. Taylor, Eric J. Simon, Jean L. Dickey, Kelly A. Hogan, Jane B. Reece

ISBN: 9780134296012
QH 308.2 T39 2018 – Open Reserve, non-circulating (3 copies)

Required by select sections of BIOL 1210

  • Informative: 4 out of 5
  • Engaging: 2 out of 5
  • Readable: 2.5 out of 5

"Campbell’s Biology: Concepts and Connections" provides a detailed overview of the subject for introductory biology students. However, the diagrams and graphics were not helpful on their own and would likely prove confusing for students reviewing chapter content, although they assisted with a deep reading of the text. A thorough glossary and real world examples help readers find connections beyond the classroom. As an introduction to biology, this book is informative but may not promote classroom success.

Only 62.75% of students agree or strongly agree that this material was helpful in meeting course objectives. This is lower than the university average of 80.3%. The material costs $120 through the campus store, $30 higher than the university average of $90


'American Government: Power and Purpose,' 15th edition

By Stephen Ansolabehere, Benjamin Ginsberg, et al. Dec 17, 2018

ISBN: 9780393655537
Available at the Marriott Library on Open Reserve: JZ275.L68 A64 2019

Required by POLS 1100

  • Informative: 5 out of 5
  • Engaging: 3 out of 5
  • Readable: 5 out of 5

This book is comprehensive, current, relevant and the suggested reading lists are excellent. The authors are well-respected in the field. We enjoyed the efficient writing and liked how the authors began with broad overviews before delving into details. The book provides a solid basis for student understanding making teaching and lecturing less time consuming. The book is ideal for readers at various levels of expertise and understanding.

80.86% of students agree or strongly agree that this material was helpful in meeting course objectives. This is in line with the university average of 80.3%. The material costs $122 through the campus store, $32 higher than the university average of $90.


'They Say / I Say' : The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, 4th edition

By Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, 2018

ISBN: 9780393631678
Available at the Marriott Library on Open Reserve: PE1431 .G73 2018

Required by WRTG 1010, WRTG 1210, and others

  • Informative: 4 out of 5
  • Engaging: 3 out of 5
  • Readable: 3 out of 5

"They Say/I Say" welcomes readers to the world of academic writing. Now in its fourth edition, the updates encourage students to productively engage in the world of online argument with the same tools used in academic writing, a timely and effective addition to the text. It includes basic teacher resources in the form of exercises, tutorials and online quizzes.

This book is assigned to U of U WRTG 1010 and WRTG 2010 courses. Based on course feedback, 87% of students agree or strongly agree that this material is helpful in meeting course objectives. The new edition costs $31; previous editions range from $15-$25.