I have recently commenced a graduate education in mathematics. Since I am currently attending extra classes in programming, which are not included in my education, my institution will not let me attend further courses in biology. Hereby, my question is simple:

What are suitable writings for self-study in general biology/chemistry? By general, I mean somewhat of an university-level introduction of mentioned fields.

My level of knowledge is slightly above "advanced" high school chemistry/biology.

(I apologize for my bad english, I'm Norwegian.)


My personal favorite intro biology book is Campbell Biology. The new edition is a little pricy, but you can probably find one of the older editions for pretty cheap--my intro class used 9th edition, and I don't think much has changed other than some of the taxon names.

I'm not sure what branch of Bio you're interested in, but Campbell covers all of introductory cell biology, organismal/evolutionary and ecology. The "concept check" questions at the end of each chapter are fantastic open-ended responses, and I believe most (if not all) have answers in the back of the book

I'm not as solid in general chemistry, but some good ones I remember are Brown, Lemay, and Burston which got me through AP Chem, and Zumdhal which my university uses and I haven't heard any complaints. The Brown text is a pretty good intro though. It provides good information and I thought it was pretty enjoyable to read.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer! I have decided to go for Campbell Biology, regarding self-study in biology. In chemistry I have decided General Chemistry: The Essential Concepts by R.Chang. Perhaps you have heard of this title? $\endgroup$ – Carl Schmidt Nov 26 '17 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ That one is pretty decent--from what I remember it's a good bit shorter than most general chemistry texts. It has decent reviews though and is probably fine for self-studying. If you get stuck on any specific topics, the general chemistry Kahn Academy is outstanding. $\endgroup$ – wz-billings Nov 27 '17 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ Another suggestion for chemistry. If you ever feel the need to study organic chemistry go with 'Organic Chemistry by Clayden'. The solution manual + textbook should be ~200$ total and the book is a beast. Only two editions (1st and 2nd) have been published. For the general chemistry suggested if you get your hands on the Zhumdhal do not get anything above the 7th edition. The 7th edition is the last publication to have exercises on the book, the other editions give you a 1 year online access to them. $\endgroup$ – m4rio Apr 29 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ As a supplementary book to general chemistry I'd also recommend General Chemistry Linus Pauling but not as your main book. It's relatively cheap at ~30$. I think you might find it helpful as it takes a calculus based approach. $\endgroup$ – m4rio Apr 29 at 17:31

I recommend any Schaums Outline book on the matter. I've read several of them and, although there are books that are better and more specific in many instances, they follow a very easy to grasp format that is common to all other Schaums Outline books.

Therefore, they are a great start for self-studying any subject. The main good point is that, as they are not too dense, the chances you'll leave the book half-through, and stop studying in general, decrease a lot. They will increase your curiosity and understanding, so after reading them you should be ready to read more dense books later on.

I want to clarify that they are not equivalent to "for dummies" books at all. Although they are not dense, they are written assuming you are not dumb and under the principle of being able to make you pass your tests without attending classes. So they are serious books made for practical purposes; no pretence whatsoever.

Particularly on Biology, there are several books:

Schaum's Outline of Biochemistry

Schaum's Outline of Biology

Schaum's Outline of Microbiology

Schaums Outline Of Genetics

Etc. You can learn about any science with them, really.

I'll leave a link with more details on the one in Biology:


They have books on many other sciences. They are designed for self-study.

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    $\begingroup$ The post you are replying to is four years old. Furthermore this is a site about specific problems in biology that can be answered in an objective manner. Book recommendations are not that. $\endgroup$ – David Apr 29 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome and thanks for your answer. Can you add links to the resources you mention, and in specific those that deal with Biology? Can you also expand a bit on what Schaums Outline exactly is? It seems a book series of some sort? Happy to upvote when you've added these details. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Apr 29 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ @AliceD I think you are wrong to welcome a subjective answer to a book recommendation request which you yourself find lacking, and which is to a question that does not even explain the background knowledge of the poster. It seems to me that this sort of question — like many on Covid — would be better dealt with by a comprehensive answer on Meta, listing sources that are suitable for particular situations, their scope and required background. Allowing posts here encourages subjective material which isn’t of any use to anyone. $\endgroup$ – David Apr 29 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ Please read the Tour carefully to find out who this site is intended for and what sort of questions are suitable here. Also read the help on writing good answers. It is not our concern if people end up here for the wrong reasons. It is our concern if they then do not conform to the site’s guidelines. If they are not toId, they and others will continue to do so. I have voted to close this old question, but four more votes are needed. If you can answer one of the many scientific questions in your area of expertise, your contribution will be welcomed. $\endgroup$ – David Apr 29 at 22:41

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