The Best Microbiology Books For The Microbial Student

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With the risk of being wiped off your board and hitting submerged obstacles under the water, it is vital to protect yourself with the appropriate safety gear.

The Best Microbiology Books For The Microbial Student

Head-related injuries are unfortunately quite common in both amateur and professional surfing.

Such injuries can cause unconsciousness and drow  ning, which is why it is so important to wear a helmet.


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If you want a book that is popular, well reviewed, expansive, and often considered the number one holistic text on microbiology, then Brock might have you covered with his book.

One of the many reasons the book is popular is for its holistic approach, doing well to summarize both advanced and basic concepts to a good degree.

Many enjoy how it starts with descriptions of microbes in the earlier chapters before getting into the heavier medical microbiology parts, many enjoy learning about microbes for the sake of biology rather than for a practical application, but even the latter is covered by Brock.

The addition of many other authors, plus being in its 14th edition, means there is so much more information than you could expect from another book.

This 14th edition offers some great up to date research, case studies and also the Mastering Microbiology, a service that provides online and digital worksheets and homework to advance learning even further.


  • In its 14th edition, remains up to date and relevant
  • Has many different looks from different authors in addition to Brock
  • Uses a holistics approach across medical and theoretical applications as well as from basic to advanced understandings.
  • Includes digital learning app


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This book, of course, focuses on the clinical side of Microbiology.

You could generally consider this book a guide for medical students who find that they struggle with the clinical microbiology classes such as pre clinical Microbiology, the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 exams that are common for Medical students.

The idea is that the book covers all the pathogens and drugs most clinical microbiologists will need to know for their medical courses or even just in general medical application and clinical settings outside of the education sector.

If clinical microbiology isn’t what you are looking for, another choice on the list could be a better fit as this focuses heavily on the clinical side.

Generally, the strength of the book is its ‘dumbing down’ of general topics in microbiology that some can struggle with if they don;t have a natural knack for biology.

The use of silly drawings and memorable explanations have a habit of sticking in your mind when normal approaches fail.


  • ‘Dumbed down’ approach can be useful
  • Plenty of clear and accessible diagrams and drawings
  • Mnemonics to help with learning
  • Great focus on clinical and pre clinical microbiology, ideal for medical students


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This text from Bailey and Scott presents you with topical information and critical thinking you need to practice to become an effective lab technician.

The text is considered the number one bench reference for practicing lab microbiologists and is appreciated and recommended by students across the country.

This newer edition features lots of up to date procedures, case studies, trends, equipment, and more for all your diagnostic microbiology needs.

The thoroughly reviewed and updated chapters provide the most current and up to date information about diagnostics which is more important in this section of microbiology than any other.

The addition of a glossary as well as plenty of vivid diagrams provides you with the ideal bench reference for practicing microbiologists as well as those who want to start life in the lab.

This is the book that can provide you with the most holistic approach to the world of lab and diagnostic microbiology.


  • Updated case studies in a variety of diagnostic situations
  • Convenient and accessible tables allow key information to be summarized for your benefit
  • Takes an educational approach to diagnostics with questions, exercises and more for you to learn like a student.
  • ‘Evolve’ companion website provides a digital space where you can flex your newly learned skills.
  • Detailed and full color diagrams that are up to date with this edition.


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This text is a really great choice for the student of Microbiology, not only does it cover the more clinical applications of the study but also is good at covering the basics.

If you want a text that can provide both an advanced and basic approach to Microbiology so that you can bridge the gap between them, then this book from Cowan and SMith could be ideal for you.

This sixth edition includes some really great updated diagrams that can help those with a background in any other science learn the fundamentals of microbiology.

The addition of their sister website ‘Connect Microbiology’ can be a really helpful addition for those who enjoy practical exercises and interactive learning.

For those who want the same type of teaching and learning you would get in a school or university, this book can offer this room for advanced learning.


  • The kind of textbook you would get in an educative environment such as university
  • Provides learning from basic to advanced, allowing you to grow within this one book’s learning.
  • Exactly the type of textbook used in medical schools


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Not all of us want to study Microbiology at home for actual use in the world.

Sometimes we are just interested in Microbiology and want to better our understanding of life itself, down to the smallest particles.

If this sounds like you and you just want an accessible guide to the fundamentals and basics of Microbiology for no other reason than interest, then this book can be worthwhile.

It seeks to describe Microbiology at the most basic levels to those who want to learn from - to 100 rather than any other way around.

Written by three authors each with their own PhD in Microbiology you ca be sure that you are getting information that is being simplified by those who are already proficient in the subject, this means it's not just regurgitated information but an educative approach for home learners straight from those who know the subject at its most advanced levels.


  • Basic approach to microbiology
  • Teaches the fundamental and basic stuff to those who are open to learning
  • Takes a curiosity approach rather than constant application to practical uses of microbiology
  • Pricing is fairly normal in comparison to textbooks used for education.


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For those in education, this text can be the ideal accompaniment to your textbooks.

If you find you are studying for an exam and want to streamline your studying, then this super review of all the content you need is the ideal studying guide to summarize everything you need to know.

The coverage of the relevant topics are concise yet comprehensive, making sure to cover everything you need to know as a student.

Each topic is presented in a really accessible way that is one of the best approaches to retaining information, especially in Microbiology where there is so much information to retain.

The summaries are then compounded to the nth degree by questions and answers for each topic as well as end of chapter quizzes, refreshers and more.

All these features together make for the ideal study companion that can prepare you for any test, quiz, exam, or interview within the realms of Microbiology.

Moreover, this revised third edition guarantees that you are getting the information that is relevant to Microbiology today, so you don’t waste time learning about something which is no longer relevant.


  • Reviews all the relevant topics and papers
  • Easy to grasp reviews and summaries
  • End of chapter quizzes and other interactive exercises to compound your learning
  • Student friendly language that does away with unnecessary jargon, and explains it where necessary.


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For a historically reviewed and long term respected text on everything you could possibly imagine surrounding Microbiology, there’s nowhere else to look beyond Topley and WIlson’s 8 Volume set that is your encyclopedia for any kind of Microbial issue you may face in practice or in education.

First published in 1929, this text has grown to 8 volumes each covering its own specific microbial topic in comprehensive depth, the tenth edition of this set keeps its tradition going by remaining potentially the oldest yet most up to date microbiology textbook out there.

These 8 volumes provide extensive coverage of topics such as virology, bacteriology, medical mycology, parasitology and immunology.

Thanks to constant review, the volumes can also provide the most up to date information on epidemiology, identification, classification as well as being at the forefront of new and emerging infections the modern biologist must be aware of.

If you want a one stop purchase for anything within the realm of microbial research, these 8 volumes should be your sacred text for studying, learning and reference.

However, some may prefer a less comprehensive approach while others may enjoy it.


  • Potentially one of the most comprehensive and wide ranging texts on microbiology
  • For those who enjoy the academic approach, this can be worthwhile.
  • Remains standard reference that you would be using within industry anyway.
  • Unique resource for those who want to learn about everything within microbiology
  • Industry approach rather than focussing on students.


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Similar to the previous text, this is a classically appreciated text that has been so for over a quarter of a century.

While it remains extremely comprehensive with over 57 chapters that capture everything about Microbiology, the book is appreciated most for its student friendly approach making it potentially the most ideal textbook for a microbial student.

One of the best parts of the book is that it goes from 0 to 100 and provides you with everything you need for a basic understanding and can build you up to the more advanced theories and application of what you have learned.

From some of the best microbila minds in North America, you can be sure you are learning from the best in this comprehensive book.

Now in its eighth edition, this book remains one of the most up to date texts on the precipice of microbial study.

With this text you can rest assured that you are not missing out on any of the information required for an interview, exam or quiz that could happen today.


  • Split into parts, the text is easily followable from beginner to advanced
  • Numerous illustrations, tables, photographs and more, updated with each edition.
  • Quizzes at the end of each chapter as well as over 100 practice questions to keep you on your toes and compound your learning.
  • Covers basic and advanced subjects.
  • Ideal for a student in full time education
  • Constantly updated.


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This book provides students with a thorough understanding of microbial agents and their disease as well as the pathophysiology of the latter which they require in order to understand microbiology and its applications.

This text has been hailed for telling the ‘story of the pathogen’ in not only an accurate and educative way but ultimately in an engaging and interesting way that can keep students interested in microbiology rather than learning to hate it through the extensive studying required for its understanding.

Another good element of the book is that the general contents are organized by microbial class and by organ system, making it ideal for those looking to learn traditional and systems based approaches to microbiology.

This is compounded with case studies into problem solving solutions that provides insight into clinical settings where microbiology is applied.


  • Ideal for those who want an insight into clinical settings
  • Actually remains a quite interesting book
  • Useful E-book and interactive questions
  • Super accessible and practical reference summary tables.


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This particular text is really enjoyed by many students and general learners for its hallmark illustrations, hence ‘illustrated review’, they take potentially boring concepts in microbiology and bring them to life through illustration in a review style that is actually more educative and informative than it sounds.

With more than 400 color illustrations and color coded summaries provide the ideal accompaniment to general textbook learning with key information accessible at a mere glance.

The illustrated case studies are great for most medical education exams, many students of which sing the praises of this unique book.

This book meets the needs of the market through its review chapters, disease summaries as well as photographs - many love how accessible and easy to use this text is as well as how effective it actually is for learning in general.


  • Interactive questions and work provided
  • 100s of illustrations that break down complex ideas very easily.
  • E book can be really great for quick searches
  • Easy to understand and digest for students


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This is a highly appreciated and praised book that is potentially the most concise and up to date review of medical microbiology and immunology being in its 15th edition.

The book remains one of the most reviewed reviews out there.

This text from Levinson reviews some of the most medically important aspects of microbiology and immunology, not only covering this but also the basic and clinical aspects of other practices including bacteriology, virology, mycology, parasitology and immunology, all of which are now more important than ever.

Those who want to learn the practical implications of the study of microbiology could be interested in this book and the real world clinical application of microbiology that it covers.

Including not only educational explanations but narrative text with color images, table figures, questions and answers as well as clinical case studies.

For the microbiologist looking to learn about real world application of their study, they should look no further than this review.


  • 654 USMLE style practice questions test your knowledge and understanding
  • 50 clinical cases illustrate the importance of clinical diagnosis and its real life application
  • Concise summaries of medically important microbiology
  • Nine new chapters in this updated and most recent edition
  • Color images and gram stains
  • Self Assessment questions


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If you are particularly interested in lab work within the world of microbiology and want to streamline your learning for this specific application of microbiology.

This is your manual for anything related to microbiology in the lab.

Whether you consider yourself a pre-health professional student, microbiology major, pre-med student, or hopeful lab technician this is your bible for the lab and how it operates in the world of microbiology.

If you need a thorough introduction to the world of microbiology in the lab, you need look no further.

Yet, ideal for those who learn with this approach, this newer edition includes a total of 24 new exercises mainly to do with applied microbiology, super helpful when in the lab.

The manual is streamlined to adhere to specifically what is advised by the American Society for Microbiology in their Laboratory Core Curriculum.

The lab experiments included in this text have been chosen to expose lab experience to students who have an interest in learning about the lab experience allowing students to develop insight into the process of science itself.


  • Exercises included are specifically streamlined towards lab experiences and are written by those with lab experience
  • New edition includes many new exercises not included in other editions
  • Over 500 full color and high quality color accurate photographs.
  • Focus on lab work for those who want it.


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This text from Koneman has long been considered the definitive text within its field, Diagnostic Microbiology.

This text in its 7th edition has been extensively revised to remain modern.

Yet, this text has been around for quite a while within the world of microbiology, and the fact it has stuck around is a testament to its merit

The text includes practical guidelines for cost effective but clinically relevant diagnostic tools.

Newer chapters cover areas that are more and more important in the modern world such as molecular diagnosis and trending topics such as immunology.

Over 600 color diagrams help Koneman make his points within modern circles.

In addition, extensive bibliographic documentation allows students to explore the primary sources of information which can really help their studying in the long run.

Tests in the text are expressed according to the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute so students can gauge the correct practice in the lab.


  • A canonical text in DIagnostic Microbiology
  • Charts, line drawing, diagrams, and more to enhance student’s understanding of the complex topics.
  • Text is organized by microorganism in a push to omit duplicate information
  • Index is incredibly detailed which is ideal for a student
  • Text remains very up to date with the current Diagnostic changes in modern Microbiology.


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This is another text that focuses on the clinical approach and application of microbiology, so is ideal for medical students especially those who want help to practice critical thinking as well as understanding the application of microbiology in real world clinical problems.

One way Bauman implements his clinical approach to microbiology is through the modern use of QR codes and relevant videos, these well thought out clips can really help foster an understanding of microbiology that encourages interest as well as learning.

In addition to these videos the online homework programme MasteringMicrobiology is also compatible with Baumann’s text.

This helps provide tutorials, assessments and case studies designed to improve results.

Students benefit more from these quick results and feedback you don’t get from a book. It also leaves more room in the book for explanation and research.

Beyond this the newest edition of this text ensures it remains up to date with the new curriculum as well as the newer topics within microbiology itself.

Moreover, this new edition is the collaborative effort of educators and students to provide a textbook that presents the most modern research and education in Microbiology.


  • Features online homework app MasteringMicrobiology
  • New edition is very up to date and works with students
  • Book focuses on practical applications of Microbiology
  • Ideal for medical and pre med students.


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For those who are new to microbiology, perhaps in their first semester of a course related to microbiology, may want a textbook that can provide them with the best start to their microbiology education.

Drowning you in the hard stuff right now just wouldn't be proactive for your education.

In comes Tortora's ideal text for beginners, Microbiology, An Introduction.

This text makes sure to give any starter in Microbiology the start they need to reach the heights of educative proficiency within this realm of science.

For these reasons this textbook remains one of the best selling Microbiology textbooks for beginners out there.

With this 13th edition, showing the text’s longevity, they have included ‘Exploring The Microbiome’ textboxes that explore the updated research on the microbiome and how this interacts with microbes.

Moreover, four new spreads in the book explore the modern topics of vaccines, vaccine preventable disease, the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, vertical transmission, and bioterrorism.

Even though this text is meant for beginners it can still be very in depth, up to date, and wide ranging.


  • Ideal for a newcomer to microbiology or a first year student
  • Provides the concepts you need to know to thrive
  • The new edition covers some very relevant topics with the same successful approach
  • Can be used with MasteringMicrobiology online app


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This text provides comprehensive coverage of every area of microbiology, how it can be applied in the laboratory including with biological sciences, allied health sciences, agriculture, environmental science, nutrition, pharmacy and various pre-professional programs.

This lab manual is the perfect companion text to any microbiology textbook for those scientists who want to know the laboratory applications of what you are learning.

The text features 57 thoroughly class tested and customizable exercise that teach the basic application of these tenants in the lab

This 12th Edition of Laboratory Experiment in Microbiology is the most accessible yet, with new designs that make it even easier to read and navigate through the text.

The newly included ASM Thinking Skills outline the steps that prepare us for life in the lab and help develop these critical thinking skills that breed good lba technicians.


  • Great companion text to other introductory books
  • Ideal for those who want to get into the lab
  • Updated edition is ideal for staying relevant in the lab
  • Practical help and promotion of the critical thinking required for the lab.


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From the authors of Microbiology Laboratory Theory and Application, Leboffe has released a photographic atlas text which can act as the ideal accompaniment to any introductory laboratory textbook.

With more 700 different color accurate photographs serve as a visual reference for students in the lab.

These sort of visual aides are ideal for diagnostic microbiology and really fine tune a diagnostic skill for interpreting results in the lab.

Each technique is well explained, especially with these practical drawings, diagrams, and even captions.

For the full experience, consider investing in Leboffe’s other book Exercises for the Microbiology Laboratory as this atlas is designed to be used in conjunction with the latter, both of which have cross referential exercises and diagrams that work together well.

However, this can be used on its own purley as an atlas for laboratory experiments; it can work as a standalone text.


  • Amazing color accurate and in depth diagrams ideal for laboratory
  • Not just a pretty picture, the diagrams are very beneficial to learn how to interpret lab data
  • Leboffe’s other texts are the ideal accompaniment to this atlas, they often cross reference each other
  • While this is a great accompaniment, it works well on its own as well.


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This is another canonical text worth considering if you want to embrace the diagnostic and medical application of Microbiology and its practices.

The text embraces a building block approach for you to sharpen critical thinking which is important in medical settings.

Each chapter begins with a different case study, sharpening these critical skills further, but also allows you to form your own questions through discussion topics for you to think about or discuss with fellow students.

Moreover, hands-on procedure descriptions are ideal to learn about the lab experience and what happens in the lab, making the learning you get from the book practical and actionable in the real world.

Making this text a really useful tool in your belt when it comes to the professional world.

The updated version of this text involves discussions of newer content such as Zika, Ebola, and it's now even more relevant role within a pre-pandemic world.

More so, the updated edition features a wider chapter on molecular microbiology as well as the most up to date information about prevention, vaccination and treatment.


  • Building block approach so you can sharpen your skills for success in the lab
  • Hands on procedures describe takes place in the lab settings
  • Editable and printable lab manual can be very helpful
  • Expanded chapters on molecular diagnostics
  • Helpful end of chapter round ups and questions


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For those who struggle with general science terms and phrases and want a microbiologist's point of view, but from a human perspective, this book coil;d be ideal.

While this book contains all you need to know about microbiology, it presents the information in a concise and readable style by clearly and carefully explaining the fundamental concepts.

Even if you are struggling with the smaller concepts that are what you might consider the ‘basic and fundamental concepts’ then this can be a good book to reference so that you can re-learn the topics you struggle with in this more readable and accessible style.

Using a body systems approach in coverage of disease you can rest assured that the authors have made sure you get the information you need, it's just packed a little differently for different learning styles.

Due to the human approach, accessible coverage, vivid drawings and accurate diagrams, the book remains a favorite among students who keep coming back to this textbook over others for its accessible style.

If you struggle with thearder and more complex descriptions of concepts, this loose leaf is ideal for those who want a ‘dummies’ accompaniment to help them breakdown the harder ideas, but still return to the more complex descriptions simply armed with the knowledge required to break it down.


  • Really accessible approach for students seeking simple explanations
  • Still covers everything you need to know, simply in a more concise way
  • Perfect for non major or allied health students, although still appropriate for mixed major courses.
  • Full of informational and instructional art, disagrams, and drawings that are super helpful for understanding concepts
  • Ideal accompaniment to the more detailed and complex textbooks

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Find Out Which Textbooks I Need For My Course?

Within the online resources at your university there is likely a list of recommended reading within the course description.

Yet, for a more specific answer you should consult your course organizer or instructor and they can recommend which books to get and which not to get.

You should always be prepared with your textbooks before the first day of class, a failure to do so can make you look bad in front of your instructor.

Where Can I Buy Cheap Textbooks?

Textbooks are often expensive as there can often be a high demand, if you are struggling for money there are places to look.

For instance, amazon now has a ‘Rent’ option where you can purchase the book for almost half the price so long as you can return it.

Consider consulting older students who have finished to see if they will sell you their textbooks for cheap, but they may be looking to get their money back for them.

Other websites such as eCampus are ideal for this.

Some students may sell their books for cheaper if they have some mild damage such as rips in certain pages, you can still use these and find the missing pages.

What Is The Difference Between a Text Book and A Book?

Textbooks are often reserved for educational purposes, you won’t find a textbook that is fictional and is used in the education system.

There are, of course, books, which aren’t textbooks, on the subject of Microbiology that are really interesting.

However these books aren’t necessarily used for educational purposes and will be known more as ‘secondary resources’.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use normal ‘books’ though. These non-textbooks can be really helpful and supplement your learning in different ways.

One of these books could develop interest in the subject while the textbook teaches you.

Final Thoughts

As you can see there are many different Microbiology books out there for you to learn from.

While some of these will be recommended by different educational institutions, if you are a clandestine learner then these books can still be accessible to those who want to learn from home.

Some of these books work great in conjunction with each other, such as the more picture based diagrams with the more informational texts.

This is a particularly good approach to the practices of Microbiology in the laboratory.

In this situation you may be better off purchasing two, one of the textbooks as well as a text which features diagrams, this can be pivotal to being able to interpret data when in the lab.

Reviews are also really helpful and important when studying, often summarizing information into memorable bullet points.

With this in mind there are also lots of textbooks which can suit not only different levels of proficiency but different areas.

Whether you are into lab work, diagnostic microbiology, or anything else, there will be a text book for you.

We hope this list helps you find the right one.

Jennifer Dawkins

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