5 Books Every Medical Student Should Read

5 Books Every Medical Student Should Read


Medical Students & Books. Yes. This age-old cliche of a relationship is pretty much comparable to the likes of the revered Romeo & Juliet --inseparable. But it is not always academic textbooks that medicos should be around with. Ofcourse, Anatomy and physiology textbooks will likely be at your side during your medical studies, and you’ll be zipping through numerous scientific papers. But if you’re already studying medicine/about to start/still deciding about it, you might want to read something that gives you insight into the world of medicine in practice – whether research, clinic or the operating room.


We’ve compiled a list of books (not textbooks!) for medicos who are slumbering through the infinite pages of academic textbooks & papers.


  1. Bad Science - Ben Goldacre

Bad Science tops our list in the must-read category if you’re interested in research. This gem combines humour with facts, to shed light on what goes on behind every discovery, as well as what happens when things are going slow in the lab. In this book by the British physician and researcher Ben Goldacre, basic principles of the scientific method in research are explained in a satirical, eye-opening way. He discusses the malpractice used by some researchers, universities and scientific journals, and the problems caused by – well, as he puts it, bad science. This ranges from calling out the dodgy claims made by scaremongering journalists going after an easy news story, to researchers themselves hiding important results simply because they wouldn’t give them a publication. This book is especially recommended to give you an idea on the realities of research, while still being light-hearted and fun to read. Ideal for a summer holiday reading list!

  1. Emperor of all Maladies – Siddhartha Mukherjee

This book can be intimidating at first. It is thick. It is about history. It is about cancer. Emperor of all Maladies may appear at first glance as a laborious biography of cancer, but in reality, the book is much more. Mukherjee starts from the first documentations of cancer thousands of years ago and guides the reader on a journey to the cutting-edge research that is being conducted currently. He frames the major events in cancer’s history to literally keep you on the edge of your seats. He so eloquently describes the vast history of the disease that still is one of the major health problems in our world. There is no other book like this one out there, and it is a must-read for medical students, as they will definitely encounter cancer at some point in their medical training or practice.

  1. When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

Stanford University neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at the age of 30. He uses this book to tell his story and tackle the issue of approaching death with grace; what is the meaning of life? What makes a life worth living? These are just some questions he discusses in this thought-provoking piece. There is a near 100% chance that either in medical school (or when speaking to a non-medical person about medical school), this book will be mentioned. Kalanithi died in March 2015 and his memoir was published posthumously. This novel has impacted readers everywhere, even those not in the medical field. It is a heartbreaking, raw, and powerful novel.

  1. The House of God - Samuel Shem

As a medical student, one day, you’d be an intern. And if you’d wanna see the funny side of what a group of medical interns at a hospital went through, make sure to read this book. Based on the author’s actual experiences, it tells of Roy, the new intern at the department, and his encounters with the people he meets there; for example, Fat Man, a second-year resident who believes old people never die. It’s a satirical, comical read, giving an idea of what life after graduation can be like for a medical student. The hospital even has its own list of rules, including this: Rule 12: if the radiology resident and the medical student both see a lesion on the chest x-ray, there can be no lesion there. If you’re looking for a humorous novel that’ll also give you an idea of the hectic life of an intern, this is the one.

  1. Life In Medicine by Bliss - William Osler

If you’re in to become a doctor, you probably already know William Osler, the founder of internal medicine. While you may be turned off by reading a nonfiction piece in addition to all of your other textbooks, this truly is one to make time for! As a doctor-to-be, learning more about the life Osler lived will give new meaning to the job you are taking on. Learning how he helped evolve how medicine is today will shed new light on why patients treasure physicians who know what it means to have pleasant bedside manner.


These books aren’t just for entertainment but you’ll also be able to slice out valuable lessons going into the world of medicine; from some of these books.