Best biochemistry books for medical students

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I hated biochemistry. I thought it was boring and monotonous. It might have something to do with how it was thought, which in my case was a lot of memorization. Another reason I didn’t like it was because I struggled with it. Because of this, I tried many different books. 

Based on my individual research and student favorites. The best biochemistry books for medical students are:

  • Lippincott Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry (Textbook)
  • Harper’s Illustrated Biochemistry (Textbook)
  • Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry (Textbook)
  • BRS Biochemistry, Molecular biology, and Genetics (Review book)
  • High-yield Biochemistry (Review book)

My favorite is Lippincott’s biochemistry (link to amazon). This book carried me through the subject. The presentation is student-friendly and it costs less than its more complicated peers. 

Although I consider Lippincotts to be the best, it is not the only one available. Continue reading below to read why it beats the others. Also,  see the alternatives that might suit you better.

Remember that the subject is thought differently between universities. Thus, you should consult your university’s book recommendations. Even so, the books here should cover everything for the average medical physiology course. 

If you want to know more about the process I used to evaluate these books. You can read my article about evaluating medical textbooks.


1. Lippincott Biochemistry

This book is from the Lippincott illustrated review series. Although branded as a review book, I think it’s far from it. It spans over 500 pages, and I found it to go through all the material necessary for my course.

What I like most about this book is its ability to present the material in a student-friendly manner. The text is easy to read and the material is comprehensible. The text is supplied with nice and well-placed illustrations and tables.

In addition, each chapter ends with a high-yield, visual summary. Also, you are presented with a few multiple-choice questions to review your knowledge. 

While it’s not the most comprehensive book on the subject, it covers everything you need. It is highly recommended by medical students worldwide. Check it out yourself by clicking this link to Amazon. Here you can get a preview of the book and get its current price.


2. Harper’s Illustrated Biochemistry

Harper’s biochemistry is bigger and more detailed oriented. It is the better choice if you have an extensive biochemistry course. One that requires an in-depth textbook. It is more text-heavy, which makes it harder to read. That being said, I found biochemistry to be hard to read in general.

I don’t like the subject, which likely makes me biased. However, even I could find this book useful from time to time. I had a classmate that got it and he recommended I go through a few topics from it.

Although I found it frustrating in the beginning, I gradually became more fond of it. This is largely due to each chapter opening with the clinical significance of the biochemistry to be discussed.

Although text-heavy, it tries to make it digestible and student-friendly. Also, the accompanying illustrations give a good visual presentation of the material. Overall, this is the best in-depth book. Don’t take my word for it, head over to Amazon to check it out yourself. Here you can get a preview and the current price.


3. Lehninger principles of biochemistry

By many referred to as the authority and ultimate reference book for biochemistry. This stone brick of a book covers the subject thoroughly over more than 1300 pages.

I tried to get this book to help me with the subject. If you want to learn the subject you get the ultimate textbook on it right? Well, it did not work for me. I found it way too dense and gave up on it quite fast.

I have to mention that I had an older copy, which was even more text-heavy. To its credit, it has gotten somewhat more student-friendly in recent years. 

Overall it is a detailed and vast resource for the subject. I consider it to be a better fit for a bio-engineer, bio-scientist or biochemistry research student than for a medical student. Especially when considering that it’s rather expensive. 

That being said, some medical students endorse it and find it really helpful. This might be you, so check it out for yourself by following this link to head over to Amazon. 

Review books


4. BRS Biochemistry, Molecular biology, and Genetics 

Written in the popular Board Review Series outline format. This book will enable you to revise the detailed, but concise material. Despite being a review book it is quite extensive, being over 400 pages long. 

One of the reasons for this is that it includes quite a lot of helpful and illustrations and tables. Another is the collection of USMLE-style review questions at the end of each chapter.

This book will be a true companion for your biochemistry course. In addition, it also covers central elements for your genetics course. Also, it will serve you well in preparation for the USMLE Step 1. 

Check it out yourself by pressing this link to head over to amazon. Here you can check out the format as well as get the current price.


5. High yield Biochemistry

This is my kind of review book. The outline contains everything you will find in an in-depth textbook. But, this book has it boiled down to just over 120 pages. 

This is an impressive feat in itself. Yet, what is even more impressive is that this book can also help you in the course as a whole. 

It is written for those struggling to connect the various elements in the subject. This was one of the things that I struggled with when reading other textbooks. I felt as if the different topics were not connected. 

The subject becomes so much easier to understand once you are able to see the complete picture. This is where this book can help you. 

Read quickly through it a couple of times to grasp how the various components are related. Then you can expand on that knowledge with your textbook and lecture material. Then you can pick it back up and use it as a refresher when preparing for a test.

It is cheap and highly efficient. I recommend it to any med student, especially if you are struggling in the subject. Follow this link to amazon to check it out yourself and see the current price.

What are the differences?

Biochemistry is everywhere. It is used and applied in many fields, not just in medicine. Because of this, books on the subject are directed towards different students.

While the key concepts are the same, most medical students will benefit from a book that takes a clinical approach.

For example, both the Lippincotts and Harper’s books are for doctors. It is highlighted in the introduction, and several authors are medical doctors.  On the other hand, Lehninger is a pure biochemistry book written by biochemistry professors.

Many courses in medical school are taught by professors. Some are medical doctors, and some are not. Even if they are, most are not practicing clinical medicine. 

Their book recommendations can be very different from what a medical student needs. Only about 16% of graduating medical students will work in academia. 

While more should aspire to do so. Most should choose a book taking a clinical approach for their biochemistry course. 

How to proceed

You might be reading this before you know how comprehensive your class is going to be. If you do, I would advise you to wait with getting a book until the first couple of classes.

By doing this you get a feel for how extensive the course is. Also, you can get some recommendations from your teacher/professor and classmates. If you already know where your course stands, continue reading below.

Which one to choose?

For the average course, the combination of Lippincott’s and lecture material is enough. Also, you might want to consider the high yield review book for test and USMLE repetition.

For a more comprehensive course, I recommend you get Harpers. It is directed towards medical students and remains comprehensive enough for most courses.

Take home message

I believe the alternatives discussed above are the best options available. Yet when deciding which one to get, the most important is to find one that suits you and your style of learning.

The best way to do that is to get a sample view of a topic and go through it. Pay attention to the format, as well as how the information is structured and presented.

This will give you a feel for the book. If it was presented in a way that you understood it, or if you found it difficult to comprehend.

I hope this article helped you with your quest for finding the biochem book that is right for you. If you found this article helpful, please let me know in the comments. Also, if you have any other book suggestions or inquiries, be sure to contact me through the email on the about page.

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