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Recommended Reading

The following is a list of books selected specifically for students going into health professions. It includes stories of the experiences of health practitioners from their years as students, interns, residents, and practicing doctors and nurses.

  • Patients speak out as well; please honor them by learning from their riveting tales.  
  • Don’t avoid a book just because it’s older -- not too long ago, doctors and nurses had to be able to diagnose without depending on instrumentation. Read about how they did that; this is a skill that you will need every day of your professional life.

The catalog links are accessible by anyone; the article links and links to Borrow Direct are for JHU affiliates only.

Have you read a book that made an impression on you, written by or about a medical practitioner or a patient? Please tell us about it!

(We thank Sue Vazakas, MA, MLS, PhD, from the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins, who consolidated and updated several universities’ lists of recommended readings to create this one.)


Becoming a Health Professional (Training)

Being a Health Professional

Business and More





Patients Who Are Medical Professionals

Writings about Medicine

Other related sites


Body of Work : Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab (2007)
Christine Montross

Do Internal Medicine Interns Practice Etiquette-based Communication? (November 2013)
(Here is the overview from the JHU website.) 

Human Side Of Medicine, The: Learning What It's Like To Be a Patient and What It's Like To Be a Physician (2002)
Laurence A. Savett
Borrow Direct or ILL (under "Request Materials")

Intern: a Doctor’s Initiation (2009)
Sandeep Jauhar

Pact, The: Three Young Men Make A Promise and Fulfill A Dream (2002)
Sampson Davis

Resident On Call: a Doctor's Reflections on His First Years at Mass General (2014)
Scott Rivkees


The anatomy of hope: how people prevail in the face of illness (2004)
Jerome Groopman

Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside (2006)
Katrina Firlik

Being mortal: medicine and what matters in the end (2014)
Atul Gawand

Better: a Surgeon’s Notes on Performance (2006)
Atul Gawande

Checklist Manifesto, The: How To Get Things Right (2010)
Atul Gawande

Complications : A Surgeon's Notes On An Imperfect Science (2002)
Atul Gawande

Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between (2011)
Theresa Brown
Borrow Direct or ILL (under "Request Materials")

Doctor's Stories: The Narrative Structure Of Medical Knowledge (1991)
Kathryn Hunter

Empathy and the Practice of Medicine: Beyond Pills and the Scalpel
Howard Spiro, et al.

Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis (2009)
Lisa Sanders (technical advisor for the TV show House)

Final Exam: a Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality (2007)
Pauline Chen

God's hotel: a doctor, a hospital, and a pilgrimage to the heart of medicine (2012)
Victoria Sweet
Borrow Direct or ILL (under "Request Materials")

Healing Hearts: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon (2010)
Kathy E. Magliato
Borrow Direct or ILL (under "Request Materials")

Health Professional and Patient Interaction (2014, 8th ed.)
Ruth B. Purtilo And Amy Haddad

How Doctors Think (2007)
Jerome Groopman

How We Die: Reflecting on Life’s Final Chapter (1994)
Sherwin Nuland 

In the kingdom of the sick: a social history of chronic illness in America (2013)
Laurie Edwards

Incidental Findings: lessons from my patients in the art of medicine (2005)
Danielle Ofri

Mysteries Within, The: A Surgeon Explores Myth, Medicine, and the Human Body (2001)
Sherwin B. Nuland

Nurse’s Story, A (2005)
Tilda Shalof
Borrow Direct or ILL (under "Request Materials")

On Call: a Doctor’s Days and Nights in Residency (2004)
Emily Transue

The poetry of healing: a doctor's education in empathy, identity, and desire (1997)
Rafael Campo (physician who is Hispanic and gay)

Scalpel and the Silver Bear (1999)
Lori Arviso Alvord (the first female Navajo surgeon)
Borrow Direct or ILL (under "Request Materials")

Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, The: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures (1997)
Anne Fadiman

What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine (2013)
Danielle Ofri


Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Healthcare (2012)
Eric Topol

The language of life: DNA and the revolution in personalized medicine (2010)
Dr. Francis Collins (director of the National Institutes of Health [NIH])

Here Is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics (2010)
Misha Angristt
Borrow Direct or ILL (under "Request Materials")

The tracks we leave: ethics & management dilemmas in healthcare (2014)
Frankie Perry

Unaccountable what hospitals won't tell you and how transparency can revolutionize health care (2012)
Marty Makary (co-developer of “checklist” in Gawunde’s 2010 book, under “Being a Health Professional”)


After Harm: Medical Error and the Ethics of Forgiveness (2005)
Nancy Berlinger

Contemporary Issues in Bioethics (2014)
Tom Beauchamp et al.

Medical Ethics: Accounts Of Ground-breaking Cases (2015, 3rd ed.)
Gregory E. Pence

New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) – Medical Ethics columns

Tough Decisions: Cases in Medical Ethics, 2nd ed. (2001)
John M. Freeman


Chiropractic In America: The History of a Medical Alternative (1993)
Stuart Moore

Doctors: the Biography of Medicine (1988)
Sherwin B. Nuland

Doctors in the Movies: Boil the Water and Just Say Aah (2000)
Peter Dans (doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital)

Emperor of All Maladies: a biography of cancer (2010)
Siddhartha Mukherjee

Flexible Bodies: Tracking Immunity in American Culture from the Days of Polio to the Age of AIDS (1994)
Emily Martin

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (1990)
Ben Carson (former JHU pediatric neurosurgeon)

Goldberger’s War: the Life and Work of a Public Health Crusader (2003)
Alan Kraut

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010)
Rebecca Skloot

Joycelyn Elders, M.D., From Sharecropper's Daughter to Surgeon General of the USA (1996)
Joycelyn Elders

Living In The Shadow Of Death: Tuberculosis and the Social Experience of Illness in American History (1994)
Sheila Rothman

Medical Apartheid: the Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonia. Times to the Present (2006)
Harriet Washington

Medical Messiahs, A Social History Of Health Quackery In Twentieth-Century America (1992; expanded from 1967)
Harvey Young

The Morehouse mystique: becoming a doctor at the nation's newest African American medical school (2012)
Marybeth Gasman

Mountains Beyond Mountains (A Biographical Look at Dr. Paul Farmer, 2003)
Tracy Kidder

Time To Heal: American medical education from the turn of the century to the era of managed care (1999)
Kenneth Ludmerer


County: Life, Death and Politics at Chicago's Public Hospital (2012)
David Ansell

First, Do No Harm: the Dramatic Story of Real Doctors and Patients Making Impossible Choices at a Big-City Hospital (1993)
Lisa Belkin

Something for the Pain: Compassion and Burnout in the ER (2009)
Paul Austin
Borrow Direct or ILL (under "Request Materials")

Taking Care Of Our Own: A Year In The Life Of A Small Hospital (1994)
Susan Garrett


Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient; Reflections on Healing and Regeneration (2005)
Norman Cousins

Autobiography of a Face (2003)
Lucy Grealy

Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir (2005)
Richard Cohen (the husband of TV news correspondent Meredith Viera)

Darkness Visible: A Memoir Of Madness (1992)
William Stryon (author of Sophie’s Choice)

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death (1997)
Jean-Dominique Bauby

Drinking, A Love Story (1996)
Caroline Knapp

Girl Interrupted (1993) [made into a film in 1999]
Susanna Kaysen
(Here is the movie)

Inspired to Change: Improving Patient Care One Story at a Time (2014)
Linda R. Larin, ed.

Intoxicated By My Illness: and Other Writings on Life and Death (1992)
Anatole Broyard

Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985)
Oliver Sacks (neurologist)
Here are more books by Oliver Sacks: SACKS

My Year Off, Recovering Life After A Stroke (1998)
Robert McCrum
Borrow Direct or ILL (under "Request Materials")

Not All Of Us Are Saints: a Doctor’s Journey with the Poor (1994) [inner-city Washington, D.C.]
David Hilfiker

On Being a Doctor (1995)
Edited By Michael A. Lacombe

On Being A Doctor 2: Voices of Physicians and Patients (1999)
Edited By Michael A. Lacombe

The Noonday Demon: an Atlas of Depression (2001)
Andrew Solomon

Tuesdays with Morrie (1997)
Mitch Albom

Unintended Journey, An: A Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia (2013)
Janet Shagam
Borrow Direct or ILL (under "Request Materials")

Whole New Life (1994)
Reynolds Price (Duke University English professor; novelist and poet)


Death of the Good Doctor: Lessons from the Heart of the AIDS Epidemic (1999)
Kate Scannell

“How Long Have I Got Left?” (2014, January 24)
Paul Kalinithi; New York Times

Taste Of My Own Medicine, A: When The Doctor Is The Patient (1988)
Edward Rosenbaum
(The movie entitled The Doctor was based on this book.)

Unquiet Mind, An (1995)
Kay Redfield Jamison (JHU psychiatrist)


Cancer Journals,1980)
Audre Lorde (Caribbean-American lesbian writer)

Illness As Metaphor; and AIDS and Its Metaphors (essays) (1979 and 1990)
Susan Sontag

Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)’s “A Piece of My Mind” Columns

Landscape With Human Figure (2002)
Rafael Campo (Hispanic-American gay physician)

Let Me Listen To Your Heart: Writings by Medical Students (2002)
Edited By David S. Svahn
Borrow Direct or ILL (under "Request Materials")

Life in Medicine, A: a Literary Anthology (2011)
Robert Coles et al.

On Wings Of Spirit (2002) [selection of poems from JAMA. The poets are physicians, nurses, patients, technicians, lay caregivers, and family members.]
John Graham-Pole & Chuck Joy, eds. 
[last revised January 2015] Borrow Direct or ILL (under "Request Materials")