Medical students have to read tons of professional literature over the long course of their studies. Most of the time, it is inseparably linked with anatomy, organic chemistry, and other subjects which formulate the core knowledge of all doctors.
Here we decided to select the must-read books for medical students which are not assigned to the syllabus but at the same which will make you contemplate important and interesting issues that doctors have to confront in their professional world. We are sure that reading a surgeon’s memoir of his own death or a Pulitzer-winning history of cancer will encourage you to question certain traditional beliefs in the medical industry. Below is our non-syllabus list of must-read books for medical students.
On Death and Dying
By Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Death is a disturbing topic that is often avoided in the media and by the doctors themselves. Very often, doctors are prepared professionally for these situations, but on the personal level (in particular, at the beginning of their career), they feel lost and do not know how to understand and relate to what dying patients are going through. On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families is the 1970 ground-breaking classic which, thanks to Kübler-Ross, describes all 5 stages of grief—denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. One of the best medical reads, her empathetic approach provides insights for future physicians into the patient’s and family’s Sturm und Drang.
How Doctors Think
By Jerome Groopman
In How Doctors Think, the author touches on such complicated issues in medical professions as undiagnosed or misdiagnosed ailments. Groopman discusses how doctors do not hear their patients during their treatment and why patients have to advocate on their own behalf. He explains the importance of the patients’ active position in the treatment process, as, despite the absence of 11-year medical training, they have lived in their bodies all their lives and know their bodies better than anyone else. This is one of the best medical books for aspiring doctors, one on the list of books every medical student should read.
The Soul of Medicine: Tales from the Bedside
By Sherwin B. Nuland
The Soul of Medicine: Tales from the Bedside is the ode to the relationship between doctors and patients, which is written in the fashion of the Canterbury Tales. It is one of the best books for medical students: there are memorable stories from anaesthesiologists, heart surgeons, and many others.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
By Atul Gawande
One of the best books to gift a medical student, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, is well worth the time you spend reading it. In medical school, you learn how to manage, save and extend lives. But you don’t think about maximizing the time left for a patient to live. After reading this book, you will start questioning what good intentions, well-being, and quality of life really mean. It’s one of the recommended medical books for students, for sure.
When Breath Becomes Air
By Paul Kalanithi
One of the motivational books for doctors, When Breath Becomes Air, is the work of Paul Kalanithi. Trained as a neurosurgeon, he wrote his inspiring, nerve-wracking, and hopeful memoir when he was dying from metastatic lung cancer. Highly recommended as one of the books doctors should read and one of the best medical books for students.
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
By Siddhartha Mukherjee
One of the best medical reads—The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer—this Pulitzer-winning book narrates the 5,000-year-old history of cancer. Despite all the advances that researchers have made to treat the illness that everyone is afraid of, the biggest issue remains the same. In this book, you will find interesting clinical case studies and patient accounts when struggling with this serious illness.
Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation
By Sandeep Jauhar
Definitely one of the most inspirational books for doctors, Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation is a frank memoir of the cardiologist intern who mixes facts about his difficult childhood and complicated relationship with his father, his suffering after the suicide of his best friend, and his relationship with a new girlfriend together with his early days at New York Hospital. It is one of the best descriptions of the early days of a doctor!
Every Patient Tells a Story
By Lisa Sanders
Another must-read among the books for medical students is Every Patient Tells a Story, written by the same author who inspired the TV show House, MD, with her New York Times Magazine “Diagnosis” column. In this work, Sanders looks at physical exams, tests, and training behind complex diagnoses. What does a doctor do when the profile of a patient says one thing, but the tests show a completely different story?
Med School Confidential
By Robert H. Miller and Dan Bissell
Med School Confidential is a how-to guide written by medical students for neophytes. It gives a thorough clarification of MCATs, applications to residencies and fellowships, as well as other useful tips related to getting into medical school and subsequent survival there. One of the must-read medicine books for medical students and books about medical issues.
The House of God
By Samuel Shem
It’s the only novel in this list that will tell you hilarious and absurdist stories about six new interns at a Boston teaching hospital. What can count more in its favor than the fact that it served as an inspiration for such famous pop culture TV series as St Elsewhere and Scrubs? The House of God pulls back the blue ER curtain to show how “the struggle is real” moments happen from the first-day medical students enter the professional hospital environment. Definitely the best book for a medical internship, so give it a try.