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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Marion C. Cohen, PhD (SUNY Downstate Medical Center)
Description: This is the fourth edition of a book first published in 1999 that has become a must have for students who are confused by the details they find in assigned immunology textbooks. Dr. Sompayrac cuts through the details to describe the big picture concepts. This is not meant to be a review book to prepare for exams, but rather a description of how the immune system is put together. The previous edition was published in 2008.
Purpose: The author makes it clear from the beginning that this is not a traditional textbook crammed with facts. Its purpose is to present concepts that show how the parts of the immune system work together and how they protect us. The author considers this to be a concept-driven analysis presented in an easy-to-read style. Judging by the rapid acceptance of this book and the number of students who have purchased it, there is a definite need for this book. It most assuredly meets the author's objectives.
Audience: It is written for students who are about to take a course in immunology and who have a negligible amount of experience with the subject. Many of these students are overwhelmed by the standard (well-written) textbooks. It also would be suitable for residents, physicians who have not updated their knowledge of the immune system from their student days, and other health professionals, as the book is very readable. The author is an authority in the subject matter as well as in teaching it and has succeeded in these goals.
Features: The book uses the same chapter headings that one would find in any basic textbook of immunology. The author suggests that students read lectures 1-10 quickly, without paying attention to the thought questions at the end of each chapter. These chapters describe the normal functions of the immune system. Then he suggests starting all over again to gain a better understanding of the system. From there, students should go on to the remaining chapters in which specific diseases are discussed. No doubt every instructor will find something that he or she feels has been given little or no attention. Nonetheless, the book is not meant to replace traditional textbooks nor instructors' lectures and, therefore, details are unnecessary (although a bit more on the importance of GALT would have been nice). Of special interest is the writing style. This book is a pleasure to read. Particularly important concepts are in blue print. At the beginning of some of the chapters there are helpful summaries. Thought questions help readers focus on important review points.
Assessment: Surprisingly, there are no other books quite like this one. There are fact-based review books, there are large detailed textbooks, and there are small textbooks. While these all have their uses, none of them is likely to inspire students to simply read it from cover to cover. Dr. Sompayrac has written an accessible description of the immune system that provides the basis for more detailed learning. This edition is well justified since immunology is a constantly evolving field. As it evolves, the details increase, but they are not necessary for beginning students to gain a general idea of how the immune system works.