My brother just graduated from college and will be starting medical school in the fall. This summer he’s not doing much of anything and I thought a good, belated graduation gift idea might be some books about being a doctor. He’s a good reader, but it is his only free time of for the next like 20 years, so maybe nothing too hard.
Thanks!This was a little more difficult than we initially thought it would be; it seems like the medical profession hasn’t been as mined as some others, though that might be some sort of selection bias. Still here are a few ideas for a doctor-to-be, with the special twist that all of these were written by doctors themselves. Unfortunately, they cost ten times what they should (kidding).
The House of God by Samuel Shem is the story of six new doctors trying to survive a year-long internship. I’ve been told by MDs who’ve read it that it’s remarkably spot-on with medical details and the practice of medicine—a fact that non-doctors, (re: the Ape), will find vaguely terrifying. Throw in some sexual melodrama and the faintest whisp of existential dread, and you have a brisk and captivating read.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. There’s a lot going on in Cutting for Stone, including family melodrama, sibling weirdness, Ethiopian politics, and nuns, but the core of the novel is medicine. Set largely in a Catholic missionary hospital in Ethiopia, this is the story of Marion Stone, progeny of a nun and the missionary doctor who loved her. After his mother’s death in childbirth and his father’s subsequent flight to America, Marion, and his twin brother Shiva, is adopted by another of the hospital’s doctors. Together, the two boys grow up watching and learning what it means to commit one’s life to the betterment of others—and the costs of doing so. This is an epic book, and though it is a little overwrought in places, it somehow manages to be both moving and informative—a rare and welcome combination. (Also, your knowledge of prenatal care in sub-Saharan Africa will increase exponentially, and if you’re anything like me, you’re always thirsting for more knowledge of African prenatal care.)
Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam
The Novel-as-linked-stories is probably an especially useful technique in writing about medicine, since medicine itself seems quite episodic; each patient is a new story connected only by the physicians and nurses who tend to them. Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures uses the flexibility of short stories to great effect, moving from the trials of being accepted to medical school in China, to the sleep-deprivation and soul-searching of medical education, to the cultural and racial mélange of the modern health care system. Lam’s dialogue is a little tin-eared, but Bloodletting is generous and imaginative—a higher-rent version of something like Grey’s Anatomy.
So those are three picks from us, what would you, sage readers, suggest for books about the scions of Hippocrates? Let us know in the comments.