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Recommended Reading

There's a wealth of written information on many aspects of being a health professional. This list is adapted from the Pre-Health Useful/Suggested Reading List by the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Pre-Med Reading List by Yale Undergraduate Career Services.

Online Articles


  • Becker, Howard S. et al., Boys in White: Student Culture in Medical School, 1991.
  • Duncan, David Ewing, Residents: The Perils and Promise of Educating Young Doctors.
  • Galanti, Geri-Ann, Caring for Patients from Different Cultures: Case Studies from American Hospitals.
  • Jones, Rosemary, Educational and Career Opportunities in Alternative Medicine, Pima Publishing, 1998.
  • Klass, Perri, A Not Entirely Benign Procedure, 1988.
  • Klass, Perri, Baby Doctor, 1993.
  • Konner, Melvin, M.D., Becoming a Doctor: A Journey of Initiation in Medical School.
  • Lassey, Marie L., William R. Lassey, and Martin Jinks. Health Care Systems Around the World: Characteristics, Issues, Reforms.
  • LeBaron, Charles, Gentle Vengeance.
  • Ludmerer, Kenneth, Time to Heal.
  • Lyons, Dianne Boulerice, Planning Your Career in Alternative Medicine: A Guide to Degree and Certificate Programs in Alternative Healthcare.
  • Magee, Mike, M.D., ed., The 50 Most Positive Doctors in America. An illustrated, coffee table size book published by Spencer Books, Ltd., Canada.
  • Marion, Robert, Learning to Play God; The Coming of Age of a Young Doctor, 1991.
  • Marion, Robert, The Intern Blues.
  • Purtilo, Ruth B. & Amy Haddad, Health Professional and Patient Interaction, 5th Edition.
  • Rothman, Ellen Lerner, White Coat: Becoming a Doctor at Harvard Medical, 1999.
  • Schweitzer, Albert, Out of My Life and Thought.
  • Svahn, David , MD, editor, Let Me Listen to Your Heart, 2001.
  • 270 Ways to Put Your Talent to Work in the Health Field: Extensive Guide to Health Careers. Includes career descriptions, plus information on work setting, education, and salary for more than 270 careers. Also lists contact information for more than 120 organizations offering additional information. October 1998.


  • Adams, Patch with Maureen Mylander, Gesundheit (out of print, check your libraries).
  • Adams, Patch and Pamela Jacobs, Housecalls. How We Can All Heal The World One Visit at a Time.
  • Bickel, Janet, Women in Medicine: Getting in, Growing, and Advancing.
  • Breedlove, Charlene, ed., Uncharted Lines: Poems from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
  • Carson, Ben, Gifted Hands, the Ben Carson Story, 1990.
  • Colgrove, Melba, Harold Bloomfield, & Peter McWilliams, How to Survive the Loss of a Love.
  • Dan, Bruce, A Piece of My Mind: A Collection of Essays from JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association),1998.
  • Gawande, Atul, Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, 2002 (Metropolitan Books).
  • Gerger, Lane, Married to their Careers: Career and Family Dilemmas in Doctors' Lives, 1983.
  • Hartman, David & B. Asbell, White Cane: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Blind Physician, 1978.
  • Hilfiker, David, Healing the Wounds: A Physician Looks at his Work, 1988.
  • Institute of Medicine, The Right Thing to Do, The Smart Thing to Do, 2001 (National Academy Press).
  • McPhee, John, Heirs of General Practice, 1988.
  • Lapierre, Dominique, Beyond Love.
  • Laster, Leonard, M.D., Life After Medical School. Thirty-two Doctors Describe How They Shaped Their Medical Careers.
  • Nuland, Sherwin B., The Biography of Medicine.
  • Nuland, Sherwin B., How We Die.
  • Nuland, Sherwin B. Doctors.
  • Oz, Mehmet, et al., Healing from the Heart, the Power of Complementary Medicine, 1998.
  • Pekkanen, Hohn. MD, Doctors Talk about Themselves, 1990.
  • Reynolds, Richard, M.D. & John Stone, M.D., eds., On Doctoring: Stories, Poems, Essays.
  • Savett, L. A., The Human Side of Medicine: What It's Like To Be A Patient; What It's Like To Be A Physician, 2002.
  • Selzer, Richard, Letters to a Young Doctor, 1982 (Harcourt, Brace & Co)
  • Spiro, Howard et al. (eds.), Empathy and the Practice of Medicine, Beyond the Pill and Scalpel, 1993.
  • Stone, John, In the Country of Hearts: Journeys in the Art of Medicine, 1992.
  • Williams, William Carlos, The Doctor Stories, 1984.
  • Zazove, Philip, When the Phone Rings, My Bed Shakes: Memoirs of a Deaf Doctor, 1993.


  • Belli, Angela and Jack Coulehan, eds., Blood and Bone.
  • Biro, David, One Hundred Days: My Unexpected Journey from Doctor to Patient, 2000 (Vintage Books)
  • Broyard, Anatole, Intoxicated by My Illness.
  • Burztajn, Harold, Medical Choices, Medical Chances. How Patients, Families and Physicians Can Cope with Uncertainty (out of print, check your library).
  • Eliot, George, Middlemarch.
  • Fadiman, Anne, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.
  • Fox, Simon and Karen Fox. What Can I Say?
  • Frank, Arthur, At the Will of the Body: Reflections on Illness, 1992.
  • Heymann, Jody, Equal Partners, 1995.
  • Hilfiker, David, Not All Of Us Are Saints. Hill and Wang, 1994.
  • Iserson, Kenneth, Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies?, 1994
  • Kaysen, Susanna, Girl Interrupted, 1993.
  • Kleinman, Arthur, The Illness Narratives.
  • Lacombe, Michael A., ed., On Being a Doctor (poems and essays).
  • Lightman, Alan, The Diagnosis, 2000.
  • Lorde, Audre, The Cancer Journals, 1980.
  • McCrum, Robert, My Year Off, Recovering Life After A Stroke, 1998.
  • Mukan, Jon, ed., Articulations.
  • Price, Reynolds, A Whole New Year, 1994.
  • Radner, Gilda, It's Always Something, 1990.
  • Remen, Rachel Naomi, Kitchen Table Wisdom.
  • Rosenbaum, Edward, A Taste of My Own Medicine (=The Doctor), 1988.
  • Sacks, Oliver, A Leg to Stand On, 1984.
  • Styron, William, Darkenss Visible: A Memoir of Madness, 1990.
  • Verghese, Abraham, My Own Country.


  • Brody, Howard, Stories of Sickness.
  • Chekhov, Anton, Ward Six and Other Stories.
  • Crichton, Michael, Five Patients: The Hospital Explained, 1989.
  • Dans, Peter E., M.D., Doctors in the Movies: Boil the Water and Just Say Aah.
  • Garrett, Susan, Taking Care of Our Own: A Year in the Life of a Small Hospital, 1995.
  • Gibbs, Harlan, M.D. and Alan Duncan Ross, The Medicine of ER, or How We Almost Die, Basic Books, 1996.
  • Grim, Pamela, Just Trying to Save a Few Lives; Tales of Life and Death from the ER, 2002.
  • Sawicki, Stephen, Animal Hospital, 1997.


  • Malcom, Andrew, Someday: The Story of a Mother and Her Son, 1992.
  • Roth, Phillip, Patrimony: A True Story, 1991.

Other perspectives

  • Brody, Howard, Stories of Sickness, 1988.
  • Coles, Robert, The Call of Stories, Teaching and the Moral Imagination, 1990.
  • Coles, Robert, The Call of Service: A Witness to Idealism, Reprint, 1994.
  • Coles, Robert, A Robert Coles Omnibus, 1993.
  • Hawkins, Anne, Reconstructing Illness: Studies in Pathography, 1993.
  • Hunter, Kathryn, Doctor as Stories: The Narrative Structure of Medical Knowledge, 1991.
  • Illich, Ivan, Limits to Medicine; Medical Nemesis, the Expropriation fo Health,1999.
  • Lamm, Richard D., The Brave New World of Health Care, 2003.
  • Martin, Emily. Flexible Bodies: Tracking Immunity in American Culture from the Days of Polio to the Age of AIDS, 1994.
  • Martin, Emily, The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction, 1992.
  • Nesse, Randollph M. & George C. Williams, Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine, 1996.
  • Sontage, Susan, Illness As Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors, 1991.
  • Weil, Andrew, Health and Healing, 1988.

Medical ethics

  • Bosk, Charles L., Forgive and Remember: Managing Medical Failure
  • Gorovitz, Samuel, Doctor's Dilemmas.
  • Gorovitz, Samuel, Drawing the Line, Life, Death, and Ethical Choices in an American Hospital,1991.
  • Nechas, Eileen and Denise Foley, Unequal Treatment, What You Don't Know About How Women are Treated by the Medical Community.
  • Pence, Gregory E., Classic Cases in Medical Ethics: Accounts of Cases that Have Shaped Medical Ethics with Philosophical, Legal, and historical Background.
  • Salmon, J. Warren, editor, The Corporate Transformation of Health Care: Perspectives and Implications.
  • Starr, Paul, The Social Transformation of American Medicine.

Medical science

  • Thomas, Lewis, The Youngest Science: Notes of a Medicine-Watcher
  • Other science books authored by Lewis Thomas are:
  • The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher
  • The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher
  • Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony
  • The Fragile Species


  • Alvord, Lori and Elizabeth Van Pelt, The Scalpel and the Silver Bear: the first Navajo woman surgeon, 1999 (Bantam Books).
  • Fister, Jeffrey, The Plaque Makers, 1994
  • Gevitz, Norman, The D.O. as Osteopathic Medicine in America, 1982.
  • Gevitz, Norman, Other Healers: Unorthodox Medicine in America, 1988.
  • Gevitz, Norman, The D.O.s: Osteopathic Medicine in America, 1982.
  • Harvey, James, Young American Health Quackery: Collected Essays.
  • Loudon, Irvine, Ed., Western Medicine, An Illustrated History, 1997.
  • Moore, Stuart, Chiropractic in America: The History of a Medical Alternative, 1993.
  • Northup, George, Osteopathic Medicine - an American Reformation, 1979
  • Rothman, Sheil, Living in the Shadow of Death: Tuberculosis and the Social Experience of Illness in American History, 1994.
  • Starr, Paul, The Social Transformation of American Medicine.
  • Young, Harvey, The Medical Messiahs, A Social History of Health Quackery in Twentieth-Century America, 1967.

Veterinary medicine

  • Drum, Sue and H. E. Whiteley, Women in Veterinary Practice: Profiles of Success
  • Ford, C. M. Aleen Cust, Veterinary Surgeon. Britain's First Woman Vet
  • Frey, Frederic, Phyllis, Phallus, Genghis Cohen, and Other Creatures I Have Known
  • Gage, Loretta and Nancy Gage, If Wishes Were Horses. 1995
  • Gasofer, Seymour, In Sickness and In Love
  • Haddock, Sally, The Making of a Woman Vet
  • Hasselbush, Willard C., Mack Morris: Veterinarian
  • Henderson, W. M., A Man of the Country
  • Herriot, James, All Things Bright and Beautiful, 1973
  • Herriot, James, All Creatures Great and Small, 1972
  • Herriot, James, All Things Wise and Wonderful, 1977
  • Herriot, James. The Lord God Made Them All
  • Karesh, William, Appointment at the Ends of the World: memoirs of a wildlife veterinarian, 1999
  • Manley, Frank, A Veterinary Odyssey
  • Miller, Robert M., Most of my Patients Are Animals
  • Porter, James A. Doctor, Matilda's in Labor
  • Stirling, J., On Four Legs and Two
  • Stobo, T. W., A Vet's Tale - the Passing Years
  • Taylor, David, Vet On the Wild Side
  • Taylor, David, Is There A Doctor in the Zoo?, 1978
  • Taylor, David, Zoo Vet: Adventure of a Wild Animal Doctor
  • Taylor, David. Next Panda, Please
  • Ware, Jean and Hugh Hunt, The Several Lives of a Victorian Vet

Current affairs

  • The New York Times, particularly the Tuesday and Sunday Edition
  • Science
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Discover
  • The American Medical News
  • The New Physician (published by medical students)
  • Scientific American
  • Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
  • The New England Journal of Medicine (weekly journal)
  • Journal of the American Academic of Optometry
  • Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA)

Being a doctor

  • Complications, Atul Gawande
  • Arrowsmith, Sinclair Lewis
  • On Doctoring: Stories, Poems, Essays, Richard Reynolds ed.
  • House of God, Samuel Shem
  • Doctor Stories, William Carlos Williams


  • Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder (biography of Paul Farmer)

Healthcare policy and economics

  • Understanding Health Policy: A Clinical Approach, Bodenheimer and Grumbach
  • Your Money or Your Life, David Cutler
  • Who Shall Live?, Victor Fuchs

History of medicine

  • Napoleon’s Glands and Other Adventures in Biohistory, Arno Karlen
  • American Medicine Comes of Age, 1840-1920, Lester King
  • A History of Public Health, George Rosen
  • The Social Transformation of American Medicine, Paul Starr
  • The Youngest Science: Notes of a Medicine Watcher, Lewis Thomas
  • My Own Country, Abraham Verghese (AIDS epidemic)

Medical education

  • A Not Entirely Benign Procedure, Perri Klass
  • Learning to Play God, Robert Marion
  • Singular Intimacies, Danielle Ofri

Medical ethics

  • Principles of Biomedical Ethics, Beauchamp and Childress
  • First, Do No Harm, Lisa Belkin
  • Classic Cases in Medical Ethics, Gregory Pence
  • Classic Works in Medical Ethics, Gregory Pence

Tough decisions

  • Arviso Alvord, Dr. Lori, The Scalpel and the Silver Bear.
  • Belkin, Lisa, First Do No Harm, 1993.
  • Brody, Howard, Stories of Sickness.
  • Dans, Peter E., MD, Doctors in the Movies: Boil the Water and Just Say Aah.
  • Elders, Joycelyn, Joycelyn Elders, M.D.: From Sharecropoper's Daughter to Surgeon General of the USA.
  • Garrett, Susan, Taking Care of Our Own: A Year in the Life of a Small Hospital, 1995.
  • Sawicki, Stephen, Animal Hospital, 1997.
  • Wilhelm, Kate, Where Late the Sweet Bird Sings, 1998 (Tor Books).

Patient’s' perspective

  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman
  • A Whole New Life, Reynolds Price

Science and medicine

  • A PhD is Not Enough, Peter Feibelman
  • The Eighth Day of Creation, Horace Judson
  • Microbe Hunters, Paul de Kruif


  • The Making of a Surgeon, William Nolen
  • Letters to a Young Doctor, Richard Selzer
  • Confessions of a Knife, Richard Selzer
  • When the Air Hits Your Brain, Frank Vertosick (neurosurgery)