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Books about Health Careers

This list of books was compiled from contributions from Health Professions advisors from around the country.

  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (2011) combines history, cell biology and ethics in a compelling book.
  • Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown (2010) is the story of the challenges of an English professor turned nurse.
  • Treatment Kind and Fair: Letters to a Young Doctor by Perri Klass (Philadelphia; Basic Books, 2007) is an absolute must-read for all pre-health students and their parents. 
  • The Soul of a Doctor: Harvard Medical Students Face Life and Death (edited by: Pories, Jain, Harper. New York; Workman Publishing, 2006) provides enough interesting examples that I point students to regarding how vividly one should talk about issues with patients when it comes to personal statements, even if it isn't a book of personal statements.
  • Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation by Sandeep Jauhar (New York; Farrar, Straus and Girouz, 2008) was a really interesting read about a physics Ph.D. who decides to follow his younger brother through medical school and the internship year.
  • Mountains beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder (New York; Random House, Inc., 2003) is a journalist’s account of the inspiring work of Dr. Paul Farmer in Haiti, Russia and Peru.  A must-read about international health work.
  • How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman (New York; Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008).  Another book about doctors and their work, by a physician who practices at Harvard Medical School.
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (New York; Holt Paperbacks, 2001).  Although it is not medical in nature, there is some attention to the problem of the working poor who must choose between basic medical care and food, and it provides a glimpse of how people without access to healthcare continue to spiral down further into poverty when they are too sick to work.
  • Caring for the Country: Family Doctors in Small Rural Towns by Howard Rabinowitz, MD (New York; Springer-Verlag, 2004).
  • Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande (New York; Picador, 2002).
  • Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande (New York; Picador, 2007), a surgeon, comments on the nature of medical training and medical practice.  He is a regular contributor to the New Yorker magazine and to the New England Journal of Medicine.  He raises interesting and provocative questions.
  • Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan (Chapel Hill, NC; Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007) for students interested in rural primary care.  It is a memoir of Carolyn's experience returning back home to rural Tennessee to help out at her father's practice.
  • The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in Historyby John Barry (New York; Penguin Group, 2004) A great history of the 1918 flu in the US, and about the scientific and medical work of that time.
  • The House of God: The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital by Samuel Shem (New York; Bantam Dell, 1978) A 1970s look at the life of a first year resident. A little dated, by very funny and very true.
  • The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson (New York; Riverhead Books, 2006), about John Snow, the “father of epidemiology” and the mapping of London’s water supply to stop cholera in 1848.
  • The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance by Laurie Garrett (New York; Penguin Group, 1994) A life-changing book about the disease threats to us all!
  • Mama Might Be Better Off Dead: The Failure of Health Care in Urban America by Laurie Kaye Abraham (Chicago; University of Chicago Press) The story of a family in inner-city in Chicago struggling to get good health care. Sadly its 20 years old and still true.
  • Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World by Jessica Snyder Sachs (New York; Hill and Wang, 2007) a readable book of stories of interactions between humans and bacteria
  • Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health by Laurie Garrett (2000) Continuing Garrett’s fascination with disease and society. This book is more political than the coming plague, but just as gripping.

LOOKING FOR MORE TO READ:  Check out books by Oliver Sacks, Sherwin Nuland, Richard Selzer, and Perri Klass.  All are physicians who write eloquently about their experiences and the experiences of others.