Best Medical Nonfiction Books for Doctors

Stephanie Cajigal

January 26, 2015


Must-Read Medical Books

From a surgeon's unsolved murder to the chronicles of an overworked med student, learn about the books that Medscape's experts are telling colleagues to read.

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Slide 1.

Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues by Paul Farmer, MD

"It ties together concepts of anthropology, public health, and medicine to the very grim reality of Haitians with HIV and tuberculosis. The book is educational and inspiring without being overdramatic."
—Omar A. Khan, MD, MHS, Medscape Public Health & Prevention Advisor

Image courtesy of University of California Press

Slide 2.

Five Patients by Michael Crichton, MD

"Want to know where the inspiration for ER came? Read this book by Michael Crichton (written long before his hit series came to life), following his exploits as a medical student at Massachusetts General Hospital. It's dry and factual—not at all like the TV series! Yet interesting to see how far the author has come, and to reflect on how much we will continue to grow as physicians as we mature personally and professionally."
—Robert T. Grant, MD, Medscape Plastic Surgery Advisor

Image courtesy of Arrow

Slide 3.

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease by Robert H. Lustig, MD

"Provocative pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig looks at added sugars and other divergences from whole foods and how they have changed the health trajectory of a generation of American children. Upsetting, yes, but I felt inspired more than anything."
—Alan Greene, MD, Medscape Pediatrics Advisor

Image courtesy of Plume

Slide 4.

The Youngest Science: Notes of a Medicine-Watcher by Lewis Thomas, MD

"In the 1970s and '80s, Lewis Thomas wrote books about medicine that captured—better than anyone else seemed capable—what it means to be a physician. A number of his books were popular, but The Youngest Science has the best narrative arc, telling the story of medicine from the experience of Thomas' own career. You experience what it was like before the first antibiotics, when mere cellulitis could kill an otherwise healthy child. You see the miracles of science in an age that wasn't cynical about science, and you see the timeless truths about medical practice, including the reality that most symptoms aren't from illnesses, and require compassion, not treatment."
—Nassir Ghaemi, MD, MPH, Medscape Psychiatry Advisor

Image courtesy of Penguin Books

Slide 5.

The Making of a Surgeon by William A. Nolen, MD

"This book captures surgical training before the 80-hour work week. Still relevant in my opinion, because readers will see that although technology may have changed, the surgical personalities remain very constant across time."
—Robert T. Grant, MD, Medscape Plastic Surgery Advisor

Image courtesy of Mid List Press

Slide 6.

100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith by Sonia Arrison

"This is a tour-de-force exploration of bleeding-edge science and technology aimed at lengthening the human life span. What's already possible and what's on the near horizon are both eye-opening."
—Alan Greene, MD, Medscape Pediatrics Advisor

Image courtesy of Basic Books

Slide 7.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande, MD

"One of the great medical writers, Dr Atul Gawande describes the journey of the American aging experience with wonderful storytelling. A must-read for all physicians, and anyone who is aging or has loved ones who are aging."
—Jeffrey S. Dover, MD, Medscape Plastic Surgery Advisor

Image courtesy of Metropolitan Books

Slide 8.

Dr. Mary's Monkey by Edward T. Haslam

"This book is based on the true story of the unsolved murder in 1964 of Dr Mary Sherman, a nationally known surgeon at Tulane Medical School. It suggests that in a secret laboratory in New Orleans that was developing an anticancer vaccine, efforts were diverted to creating biological weapons. This was linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, the JFK assassination, and emerging global epidemics. It's interesting, well-written, and based on factual information. It also raises the issue of our going in the wrong direction with research."
—Russell W. Steele, MD, Medscape Pediatrics Advisor

Image courtesy of Trine Day

Slide 9.

Aequanimitas by William Osler, MD

"This should be required reading for all physicians at the date of their graduation from medical school. Osler, the first chairman of the Johns Hopkins department of internal medicine and the famed founder of the concept of teaching 'rounds,' is the father of modern scientific medicine. Many doctors think of his name as a symbol for 'old-fashioned' medicine: the doctor staring helplessly but compassionately at the dying patient in the days before antibiotics. In fact, Osler ushered in the scientific era by insisting on empirically sound diagnosis and conservatism about treatment in the absence of knowledge about disease."
—Nassir Ghaemi, MD, MPH, Medscape Psychiatry Advisor

Image courtesy of Forgotten Books

Slide 10.

Tell Us What You Think

What's your all-time favorite medical nonfiction book? Tell us here.

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Slide 11.

Contributor Information

Stephanie Cajigal
Medscape Women's Health