I didn’t always write. As a child, I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist, a dream that hasn’t changed. In psychology, I could combine my love of medicine and people into fields like psychosocial oncology and perinatal psychology. I went to public health because I wanted to be able to do that. However, my not-so-secret desire to be a doctor hasn’t really gone away. Accepting that I have a lot of debt from graduate school, I no longer want to go to medical school. I also don’t like rote memorization in the biological sciences, which is a big problem for people who want to be biologists, so I can’t go to medical school. But I still like to read about medicine, doctoring, and other things in the medical field in medical books, and I still like to read them.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
One of my favorite things. A neurosurgeon named Paul Kalanithi had stage IV lung cancer when he was 36. He was about to finish a decade of training when he was told he had it. One day he was a doctor, and the next he was a patient who was having a hard time living. And just like that, the future he and his wife had dreamed of was gone.
House of God* by Samuel Shem
Grey’s Anatomy before Grey’s Anatomy was a classic book about doctors, like the book.
Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande
“Surgeon Atul Gawande looks at the power and the limits of medicine in gripping stories based on real cases. He gives an unflinching look from the scalpel’s edge.” Complications shows a science not in its idealized form, but as it really is: “uncertain, confusing, and deeply human,” it says.
The Intern Blues by Robert Marion
One of the best books I’ve ever read about medicine. It should be required reading for anyone who wants to be a doctor. Doctor Robert Marion asked three interns to keep a diary for a year while he was supervising them. They did, and it was very interesting to read. Andy, Mark, and Amy vividly describe their real-life experiences with very sick children, child abuse, the AIDS epidemic, the hospital bureaucracy, and their own fears, insecurities, and exhaustion. They also talk about how they overcame their own fears, insecurities, and exhaustion. Stories: “The personal triumph of these people is something that will stay with you for a long time.”
The Anatomy of Hope by Jerome Groopman
The first time I read this, I kept it in my bag for a long time, taking it with me everywhere I went. When Groopman was a medical student, he didn’t know how important hope was to people’s lives. It all comes to a head when he makes a remarkable effort to figure out the biology of hope. Human and scientific elements are both important in Groopman’s explanation of true hope and false hope. He also shows how to be honest about the limits and reach of this important emotion.
My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story by Abraham Verghese
When you live in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, you don’t have to worry about the stress of modern American life. But when the town’s first AIDS patient was treated by the local hospital, a crisis that had once seemed like a “urban problem” came to stay in the town for good.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Instead of seeing the movie, read the book. When scientists talk about her, they call her “HeLa.” She was a poor black tobacco farmer who had her cells taken without her permission in 1951. They became one of the most important tools in medicine, used to make the polio vaccine, clone people, map genes, and more. As a result of the sale of her cells, Henrietta is almost unknown, and her family doesn’t have health insurance. This New York Times bestseller is a gripping story about how ethics, race, and medicine come together in a way that’s both scientific and spiritual. It also tells the story of a daughter who has a lot of questions about the mother she never knew.
Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation by Sandeep Jauhar
“Residency, and especially its first year, the internship, are known for being rough. Jauhar’s experience was even more harrowing than most.” For some reason, he switched from physics to medicine in order to follow what he thought was a more humane path. He found that his new job didn’t always pay attention to what patients thought. A group of smug residents and doctors made it hard for him to find a place in the crowd. When he wrote about the internship in the New York Times, the medical bureaucracy became suspicious. Finally, after being struck down by an illness of his own, he found out that today’s high-tech, high-pressure medicine isn’t so bad after all.
White Coat: Becoming a Doctor at Harvard Medical School by Ellen Rothman
The best medical school in the country is where Ellen Rothman spent four years, and she tells a lot about her time there. She also opens the door between patient and doctor. Today’s most important medical issues, like HMOs, AIDS, and assisted suicide are all touched on in this book. The author navigates her way through despair, exhilaration, and a lot of exhaustion at Harvard and Boston’s hospitals to earn the title to which we entrust our lives.
This Side of Doctoring: Reflections from Women in Medicine by Eliza Lo Chin
This is one of my favorite things ever. I could read this again and again. More than a hundred female doctors have written personal stories, poems, essays, and quotations in this book over the last 150 years. It shows how they lived their lives in private. It’s heartwarming to hear stories like Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to graduate from medical school, and Harriet Hunt, who ran her own practice for women and children even though she had never been trained. These stories are both poignant and compelling. They show how women in medicine have both struggled and triumphed. This book is like an American quilt. It’s a unique and richly textured piece of each woman’s life and work. This grouping of so many different voices shows how many different paths women have taken in the medical field. When they are all together, they show that all women doctors are always there for their patients and families.
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
People who used to study oncology have read many books about cancer, so I’ve read a lot. This is still one of my favorite things, and in my opinion, one of the best. Siddhartha Mukherjee is a doctor, researcher, and award-winning science writer. He looks at cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion.” As a result, the book is an astonishingly well-written and poetic account of how humans have lived with and died from a disease for more than five thousand years.
A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student by Perri Klass
At the same time, Perri Klass is an award-winning pediatrician, a journalist, and a novelist. She talks about her journey through medical school, from her first exams to the day she became a doctor. Direct and candid, Klass talks about what it’s like to be a first-time mother while in medical school; how to deal with every bodily fluid imaginable; and how to have fun and be sad when you work with patients.
Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality by Pauline Chen
It was a dream of Pauline Chen’s when she started medical school that she would help people. That’s what she didn’t know. She didn’t know how much death would be in her work. Almost right away, she began to think about medicine’s most important paradox: that a profession based on caring for the sick also dehumanizes dying. Follows Chen through her education and practice as she struggles to find a way to combine what she has learned with her natural empathy and humanity.
Becoming a Doctor: A Journey of Initiation in Medical School by Melvin Konner
One of my favorite things. After working for a long time, Konner went back to school to become a doctor. His thoughts on the med school experience are insightful and important, and they’re still important today.
The Real Grey’s Anatomy: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Real Lives of Surgical Residents by Andrew Holz
“How much of the medical drama in Grey’s Anatomy is just for fun, and how much is based on real life both in and out of the OR?” Here are some answers from a well-known medical journalist. When he looks at new surgical residents at a major hospital in the Pacific Northwest, he sees how their lives are like a roller coaster. They work long hours, have interesting procedures, do boring office work, and have emotional highs and lows.
Something for the Pain: One Doctor’s Account of Life and Death in the ER by Paul Austin
ER nurse Paul Austin talks about how long shifts and a lot of sad patients led him down a dark path. His own life is Exhibit A, as he talks about how he is emotionally disconnected from himself and his family. Austin’s memoir is hard-hitting, powerful, and ultimately uplifting. It shows how fragile compassion and sanity can be in the industrial setting of today’s hospitals, where people work long hours and live in cramped rooms.
On Call: A Doctor’s Days and Nights in Residency by Emily Transue
In her first week on the medical wards, Dr. Transue saw someone come into the emergency room and die. It was a long way from books and labs. So she started writing down what happened to her as she became more comfortable putting her book knowledge to good use.