10 Must-Read Books for Medical Students

Medical students

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 the doctors. Here we decided to select the books for medical students which are not assigned to the syllabus but at the same which will make you contemplate about 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: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families

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. This book is the 1970 ground-breaking classic which thanks to Kübler-Ross describes all the 5 stages of grief – denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. 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 this book the author touches on such complicated issues in medical professions as an undiagnosed or misdiagnosed ailment. Groopman discusses the situations how doctors do not hear their patients during the course of their treatment and why patients themselves have to advocate on their own behalf. He explains the importance of the patients’ active position in the treatment process because despite the absence of 11 years of medical training, they have lived in their bodies all their life and they know their bodies better than anyone else.

The Soul of Medicine: Tales from the Bedside

 By Sherwin B. Nuland

This book is the ode to the relationship between doctors and patients which is written in the fashion of the Canterbury tales. It is a must-read book for all the 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

In medical school, you learn how to manage, save and extend lives often without thinking how to maximize the minimum 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.

When Breath Becomes Air

By Paul Kalanithi

It is a book of Paul Kalanithi, trained as a neurosurgeon, who wrote an inspiring, nerve -wrecking and hopeful memoir at the times when he was dying from metastatic lung cancer.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

By Siddhartha Mukherjee

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

This book 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 the best friend, times of courting a new girlfriend together with his early days at New York Hospital. It is one of the best descriptions of what early days of doctors look like!

Every Patient Tells a Story

By Lisa Sanders

This book is 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

This 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.

The House of God

By Samuel Shem

It is the only novel in this list which will tell you hilarious and absurdist stories about six new interns at a Boston teaching hospital. What can count more in its favour than the fact that it served as an inspiration for such famous pop culture TV series as St Elsewhere and Scrubs? The book 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.


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