I've been trying to learn chemistry and synthesis as a hobby for quite some time now because, let's face it, it's probably the coolest thing there is!
I think the fact that chemistry allows us to reach down and transform the structure of matter itself is mind boggling!
But being an amateur who hasn't had to the opportunity to learn chemistry in a lab, most of what I know comes from books. As fascinating as these books are, there's been one thing that has always irked me about most organic chemistry (and even syntheses) books.
Namely: They usually leave out all the practical aspects of reactions and syntheses. For instance, they'll write something like: reacting methylethylketone with LAH will produce butan-2-ol. Or they'll say treating butan-2-ol with chromic acid will convert it to methylethylketone.
Ok... that's surely true, what of all the other things to take into account?: What solvent is it done in? Is it done under an innert atmosphere? How do you get rid of the byproducts that are formed afterwards? What temperature is it done at? What things can go wrong and how do you prevent it? Does the reaction need to equilibrium? Can we shift the equilibrium somehow, etc... etc...
While I wholeheartedly agree that one must understand the theory first, at some point chemistry is also a physical science!
But I have to believe that not all textbooks are like that and that some really do go into all the practical aspects of how to actually do
a reaction. If anyone knows of some textbooks where the all of this is discussed, especially for very simple reactions like like the ones you'd find in an undergrad organic chemistry textbook, I would love to hear about it!
After all, the beauty of chemistry is that it is not just some abstract thing in a book, but is actually real and alive!