Brian G Cox
Oxford University Press
2013 | 143pp | £24.95
Reviewed by Richard Henderson
Although acid–base reactions pervade chemistry, books devoted to this topic are relatively few and far between, probably because the topic is so vast it is difficult to cover everything in a single text.
Undoubtedly, R P Bell’s The proton in chemistry (first published in 1959) remains the classic book in this area, and Acids and bases: solvent effects on acid–base strength by Brian Cox makes an excellent companion and complement to Bell’s text.
Cox’s book focuses on the solution chemistry of acids and bases in non-aqueous solvents. Chapters 1–4 introduce the importance of acid–base reactions in non-aqueous solvents, the influence of solvation on acid strength and how acid dissociation constants are determined. This will be particularly useful to postgraduate and senior researchers who use non-aqueous solvents in their work and want to understand how and why acid and base strengths are affected by the solvent. In this context, Cox’s book is especially useful when read in conjunction with the various tables that are available of pKa values in solvents where the book helps the reader understand the trends in these values and brings the lists up to date.
The book is well presented with very few typographical errors. Some readers might find the presentation a little too analytical and I think some more qualitative explanations (for example, the difficulty of aprotic solvents solvating anions and the effects on acid strength) would help lighten the presentation in places. Also, in some parts I thought the discussion could have been expanded. For example, in chapter 8, the discussion about salt formation is presented in a refreshing way and I would like to have seen it developed further to discuss rates of proton transfer. However, these are really very minor criticisms about a book which I liked a lot, found stimulating to read and will undoubtedly continue to use on a regular basis. I highly recommend this text.