Best Books for Medical Students

Are you a current or prospective med school student looking for the best books for medical students? Believe it or not, it will be tremendously helpful if you can find some extra time to read one or more of the following books that fall exactly in that category. The best books for medical students will shed light on the medical profession, motivate you to diligently pursue your studies, and quite simply deepen your understanding and passion for the medical profession.

The Best Book for Medical Students: Med School Confidential

Best Books for Medical Students

The title of the first part of Med School Confidential (subtitle: A Complete Guide to the Medical School Experience: By Students, for Students) perfectly encapsulates the merits of this book.

This is one of the best books for medical students who are ready to face a realistic description of the (long) and often arduous path to becoming a doctor.  It examines reasons for pursuing (or not pursuing) a career as a doctor by examining pro and con arguments, with a novel argument about why money and prestige should not be driving factors.  It then moves to illustrate a road map of a medical school education, including the processes that follow med school such as fellowships, residency and even board certification.  It also charts and provides tips on premed studies and how to beat the MCAT.

Part Two of this book breaks down the application to medical school process and provides advice on how to choose schools as well as “ace” interviews while Parts Three and Four chart the preclinical and clinical years, respectively. The book then proceeds to detail the process of applying for residency before illustrating the transition from residency to life as a physician.  This book even contains a section on advice for family members of med students.

While the book is a bit dated, and therefore not fully up to date with all the latest med school application standards/processes, its value lies not in the details but in the picture it can paint of your life before, during, and after medical school.  For those deciding whether to attend medical school and those having already made the decision to do so, the clear and concise writing of this book and its plethora of behind-the-scenes observations makes this a tremendous resource for all wanna-be doctors.

On Becoming a Doctor

Best Books for Medical Students Becoming Doctor

As the title of this book notes, On Becoming a Doctor: Everything You Need to Know about Medical School, Residency, Specialization, and Practice takes its reader on a journey through medical school, residency, specialization and practice.  Written mainly from the perspective of the author, this book also weaves in anecdotes and quotes from other doctors, offering a myriad of perspectives on a single issue.  It is conversational in its approach and easy to read.

The book is divided into two parts.  In the first part, the author charts the medical school, residency and practice part.  It begins with stories of why certain people, including the author, went into medicine and continues with medical school requirements and application information before charting the path of a medical student.  In part two, it interviews various specialists – ranging from anesthesiology to radiology – and offers unique perspectives about what it is like to specialize in these areas.

Because this book spends at least half of its pages discussing specialties and only a small segment on the application to medical school process, it is better suited to those who have already entered medical school or who have other sources on the application process.  However, for those who have decided to enter medical school, the voices of the specialists offers a unique opportunity to learn more about a specific medical practice path, which made it easy for us to include this resource in our list of the best books for medical students.

Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science

Best Books for Medical Students Complications

Complications is an extraordinary book that intersects at the corner of medical science and ethics.  Author Atul Gawande, both a surgeon and a staff writer at the New Yorker, combines vibrant medical details with a philosophical perspective on the ethical issues he comes face to face with in his work as a surgeon.

The book presents a series of essays from Gawande’s days as a surgical resident and offers a fresh and critical perspective on medical practices and the ensuing ethical issues.  Divided into three parts – Fallibility, Mystery, and Uncertainty – Gawande embraces the practices of a surgeon with an uncompromising eye.  In ‘Fallibility’, he explores when doctors made mistakes or when they go bad, while in ‘Mystery’ he discusses unexplained medical phenomenon and ‘Uncertainty’ confronts the limited power of science.

Gawande writes with both an attention to detail and with an acceptance of the limits of medicine and science.  This allows him to paint an accurate, and unflinching honest portrayal of medicine.  For a true account of what life is like as a surgeon, Gawande’s book is as real as it gets. Highly recommended.

The Mindful Medical Student

Best Books for Medical Students Mindful

Medical school can unleash a host of challenges onto students that are not only academic. Sleep deprivation, perfectionism, and anxiety are but only three examples of the potential non-academic challenges that students face.

Psychiatrist Jeremy Siegel’s The Mindful Medical Student: A Psychiatrist’s Guide to Staying Who You Are While Becoming Who You Want to Be is probably the best book for medical students who wish to explore different techniques to not only be able to cope with the challenges of medical school but also ensure that they remain true to their self.

Siegel offers a three-part journey to locating one’s true self.  He begins by offering strategies for students to discover who they are, by most importantly, helping them find their true self.  This means being real, allowing oneself to feel genuine emotions, and acting according to one’s fundamental character and principles.  He then moves to how one’s self might be reinvented as well how one’s knowledge of one’s true self can be deepened.

Siegel writes in a highly accessible style and draws from mediation and similar techniques.  In effect, he suggests that medical students take time to examine themselves in the midst of an increasingly hectic and stressful career, which may be the true key to this book.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat

Best Books for Medical Students Mistook Wife Hat

What to do when a patient describes a red rose as a convoluted red form with a linear green attachment?  This and 23 other neurological conundrums are the basis for The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales, a charming compendium of 24 clinical cases written by author and neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks.

This book delves into the fascinating world of neurology and depicts the often astounding clinical cases Dr. Sacks has consulted upon.  Written in an anecdotal style, with a hefty dose of technical jargon thrown in for good measure, this title presents fascinating tales of aberration.  The best book for medical students interested in neurology or those that are simply interested in reading about real live instances of medical puzzles, this resource represents a wealth of well-written tales about the person behind the disease.

Miracles & Mayhem in the ER

Best Books for Medical Students Miracles Mayhem

Is Emergency medicine stranger than fiction?  So says author Dr. Brent Russell as he details his experiences as an ER resident in Miracles & Mayhem in the ER: Unbelievable True Stories from an Emergency Room Doctor.

A must read for all aspiring doctors for its realistic portrayal of the issues that arise in the emergency room, Dr. Russell’s enigmatic writing styles captures the dramas and suspense of life in the ER.  The book details the curious and often hilarious escapades that can happen in this high pressure environment, but the title is more than simply a compilation of silly and strange stories.  Dr. Russell examines the complexities of the devotion required to be an ER physician from sleep deprivation to making decisions in the blink of an eye that is surely designed to elicit admiration from even a hardened skeptic.

For aspiring doctors and pre-residency med students, this book paints a realistic portrayal of the highs and lows of life in the ER.

The Soul of a Doctor: Harvard Medical Students Face Life and Death

Best Book for Med Students Soul Doctor Harvard

One of the toughest aspects of medical school is the transition from studying how to be a doctor to actually becoming a doctor and becoming responsible for the lives of others. In The Soul of a Doctor, third year medical students from Harvard Law student explore, in a series of essays, their transition from student to doctor life as they undergo the beginning of their clinical responsibilities.

This book follows the experience of students – in 44 essays – as they begin the path to becoming a doctor.  It offers a candidly honest and often heartbreaking portrayal of the challenges faced by young doctors as they learn the importance of communication, empathy, easing suffering and loss, and finding a better way.  While not all of the essays are of equal quality, each essay does portray the unique situations of individuals in limbo – no longer a lay person but not quite a doctor – and paints a vivid picture of the self-doubt, deep fears and emerging ego of the doctors-in-waiting.  For those entering medical school, this book offers an honest look at the challenges and experiences that await you and a chance to emerge yourself in a process which will soon be a vital part of your life.

Kill as Few Patients as Possible

Best Book for Medical student kill few patients

Is the experience of being a doctor funny? Kills as Few Patients as Possible: And Fifty-Six Other Essays on How to Be the World’s Best Doctor suggests that the practice of medicine is downright hilarious.

Written by Dr. Oscar London – a pseudonym for an internist that practiced in Berkeley, California for 30 years – this book examines the hilarities and hijinks that ensue from a medical practice.  Written as a set of 57 Rules, this book offers snippets of essays – sometimes only two pages in length – and provides essential advice, such as, “Feed a cold, starve a lawyer”, “Take up a hobby and be a multifaceted bore instead of a simple one”, and “Call in death as a consultant” (all actual essay titles).

For a lighthearted look at the practice of medicine (more heavy on anecdote than on medical practice) this book provides an entertaining way for prospective doctors – and the families that love them – as what waits for them beyond medical school.

What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine

Best Book for Medical students Doctors Feel

While objective and rational decision-making is likely the most common view of doctors, they are also essentially human beings complete with a plethora of emotions.  What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine peels back the lab coat of doctors and delves into what lies beneath.

From stress to shame, author Dr. Danielle Ofri, explores the range of human emotions that doctors experience.  Interwoven with her own experiences and that of a particular patient, Julia, Dr. Ofri takes a refreshingly honest look at the personal tolls of practicing medicine. She disregards TV notions of detached doctors – a la Dr. House – and details for those of us outside the profession the emotional landscape of medical work.  For wannabe doctors and medical students on the cusp of their new career, What Doctors Feel provides a unique look at a topic not well represented in the literature.

Trauma Room Two

Best Books Medical Students Trauma Room 2

There is perhaps no other place where one will experience the degree of intensity as in an Emergency Room.  In what we think deserves a place among the best books for medical students, author Philip Allen Green, an ER physician, takes the reader into the ER with him as he paints a vivid and detailed portrait of life in the ER.

Composed of 16 short stories, this book weaves tales from the ER in an emotional roller coaster.  Written in a detailed and highly descriptive manner, born-storyteller Green rides the waves of emotions as he explores hope and loss, devastation and sorrow and the agony and rewards of being an ER physician.  For aspiring medical school students and soon-to-become doctors this book illustrates life in an ER and portrays a realistic picture of how this profession operates.