Reading is one of my favourite things to do because it enables you to experience the lives of others. If you are applying to medicine or thinking about applying, one of the most important parts of the process is work experience. This year it will be much harder to find work experience, and although reading isn’t a complete substitute, I encourage you to read these books to gain a better understanding of what being a doctor entails.
Even if you’re not a prospective medical student, these books are still incredibly funny, thought-provoking and I’ve even called one of them life-changing. So make yourself a cup of tea, grab your kindle, and get stuck into these beauties.
Trust Me, I’m a (Junior) Doctor – Max Pemberton
Speciality: Different Rotations
This is the first ‘Doctor book’ I ever read, and I was about sixteen years old at the time. I knew by this point that I wanted to be a doctor, but I wasn’t completely sure about EXACTLY what a doctor does. This book completely opened my eyes to the realities of being a junior doctor, and I would really recommend it to anyone who is considering medicine as a career. I won’t lie, it did scare me a little bit (I love to sleep, and there are lots of sleepless nightshifts) but I think it’s really important to learn about the less glamorous side of medicine too.
It’s written in the style of a diary and covers the first year of being a ‘real doctor’ after finishing medical school. This style makes it really easy to read and you can just pick up where you left off really easily (although you might just not want to put it down). It’s one that I’ve re-read a few times when I want to get motivated about my journey to and through medical school. It has a really good mix of humour and the stark realities that come with being a doctor.
Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery – Henry Marsh
I read this book fairly recently, just before applying to medical school, and really enjoyed the vulnerability and honesty offered by Henry Marsh. A renowned brain surgeon reflecting on his career, Marsh describes key cases that were particularly impactful, whilst discussing the inner struggles facing surgeons (and probably most doctors). He is open about what he would see as errors in his career and showcases the psychological toll of this line of work.
This book had such an impact on me that I actually included a quote from it in my Personal Statement when applying to medicine, ‘Knowing when not to operate is just as important as knowing how to operate’. The book is full of thought-provoking statements such as this, but it is also not without humour. I would recommend this book not only to those thinking about medicine but to the general public. This book reminds us that doctors are just human, and when they make mistakes they carry them around with them.
This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay
Speciality: Gynaecology and Obstetrics
This book has been really popular, even amongst the general public, and is genuinely really funny. Also written in a diary-style this book covers Kay’s career in gynecology and obstetrics. It’s incredibly easy to read, and once you start you probably won’t be able to put it down. Despite being incredibly funny, it also has touches of sadness and raw emotion and also sheds light on the sacrifices that doctors make in terms of family and friends (and the sacrifices that they have to make as well).
I have two autographed versions of this book (one in hardback, one in paperback) and I even went to one of the shows on his book tour, so to say I enjoyed the book would be an understatement.
When Breathe Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
I’ll give you an advanced warning, this book did make me cry. Kalanithi covers the journey from doctor to patient in the most incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking way. The moment I finished it I started giving it to family members to read so they could experience what I had.
This insightful book discusses Kalanithi’s career in medicine, in which he dedicated around a decade of his life to treating the sick, but also the often undiscussed concept of death. Despite covering such a sad topic, this book still conveys messages of hope and teaches us all to consider what makes life meaningful. I can almost guarantee that you will learn something from this book, future doctor or not, it would not be an over-exaggeration to call this life-changing.
War Doctor: Surgery on the Front Line – David Nott
Speciality: General and Vascular Surgery
I actually purchased this book at a service station on the way to my third medical school interview, and I am honestly so thankful that I did. David Nott is one of the most inspirational men I have ever read about, a real superhero in the world of medicine. Throughout his career, he has travelled to some of the world’s most dangerous war zones to volunteer as a trauma surgeon on the frontline, alongside his career as a general and vascular surgeon in the NHS.
This book reflects on his experiences in a variety of environments including Afghanistan, Liberia, Syria, and Yemen, and documents his struggle to return to normality after each trip. This nail-biting memoir is both inspirational and educational and a must-read for literally anybody interested in medicine.
I hope you enjoy reading these and you gain as much from them as I did. If you do read any of them, let me know what you think!
If you enjoy reading, check out this post on my favourite books for visual inspiration.
If, after reading any of these books, you think you’re interested in medicine, check out this post on what factors to consider when choosing medical school.
*Some of the links I use are affiliate links that help me earn a small commission from your purchase, at no additional cost to you. This helps support me and enables me to continue working hard to provide content for you*
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