Trying to study from organic chemistry textbook can induce anxiety and overload. One should focus on things he enjoys rather than trying to memorize everything or he will end up fogged out and worried about being inadequate for the job. Chemistry is supposed to be a fun thing to do, not a drudgery – when reading the organic chemistry textbook for your own curiosity (rather than for the exam) it is best to flip through the chapters while trying to find the interesting bits. It helps to have your mind focused on a particular problem – for example, “what would be the best set of reactions that one can use to synthesize Ecstasy from safrol or piperonal?” or “Can I put together a short retro-synthetic analysis of morphine?”
I would encourage any organic chemistry student to get a manual for organic synthesis labs- something that has procedures much like OrgSyn – and after reading those experimental procedures to close the eyes and dream about doing the experiments. I had a translation of an old German book “Organikum”. It was a very dated book even 25 years ago – but for me it was more helpful than the regular introductory textbook. It had chapters named “Friedel-Crafts”, “Diels-Alder” etc. Each chapter started with mechanism and general description intro that was followed by the experimental procedure (usually in two or three versions, to be used depending on reactivity and sensitivity of the starting material) and tables and tables of molecules that were actually made with these procedures, the yields, the melting and boiling points. It was great fun to learn not only about reaction mechanisms – but also about how the stuff is done and what practical complications can happen during the synthesis
Any book or journal or chemical catalog that produces interest is helpful. It is possible to cram lots of information from a textbook to pass the exam. But if the information is not anchored in true interest, about something dear to you – if it remains isolated or does not get used for anything that you enjoy – then you will forget it all rather quickly.
Also, one should not get too religious about what he is learning in chemistry even if the reactions in the book can look arcane or threateningly complicated. It takes no genius to do chemistry – it was put together by regular blokes. Sure, some of them were very smart but many of them were quite normal types that were sufficiently organized and persistant and eventually got good results – but all of them were doing chemistry for years, so gradually they got good at it.
About not studying from textbooks: A friend of mine (a tiny quiet and unassuming type) was taking engineering classes. She was born into a family of engineers – her dad was designing engines for military planes and her mom was also a technical type. At the end of the second semester they had a big oral exam that everybody was very afraid of. My friend was worried about it too – but luckily for her the exam question she got was about turbines. Turbines were a friendly territory to her and she did not hesitate – she outlined the turbine general principles and progressed naturally into their application in turboprop engines and from turboprops she went onto the jet engines. With the ease of someone describing her CD collection she was explaining the merits and problems of various designs and then went also into the choice of alloys, methods used for machining and finishing the engine parts and the problems related to maintenance and repair. The professor’s jaw was slowly dropping lower and lower as his eyes were bugging out (the aircraft turbine lecture went on for quite some time). At the end of it the professor said: “Uh, I must ask you – because we have some faculty members here that should, uh, like to use your sources in their classes – please where did you get this all from??” She replied shyly: “When I was a little girl, my dad used to tell me bedside stories, about aircraft engines…”