With all the cancellations in classes, volunteer programs, research labs, and social events, all of you are bound to have a lot more time on your hands. To help you guys out, we decided to make the ultimate pre-med reading list! Bonus: if you’re not much of a reader, we also linked relevant tedtalks by some of these amazing authors.
Gawande is a surgeon, author, and public health researcher. His books explore a wide variety of health topics: from learning to provide good care and accurate patient diagnoses to larger scale economics and policy of healthcare in America. You can read his shorter pieces here and watch his tedtalk here.
“We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being.”
This is a memoir about a young neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Kalanithi discusses his experiences going from physician to patient and shares his ideas about death in his posthumously published book — this one will make you cry!
One of the earliest meanings of the word “patient” is “one who endures hardship without complaint.”
The story of two doctors, a father and son, who practiced in very different times and the evolution of the ethics that profoundly influence health care. Lerner’s is an important book for those who treat illness—and those who struggle to overcome it.
“My dad suspected that his medical expertise had prolonged her life but was even surer that he had helped her mental suffering by letting her know that he was always available, even for the most trivial of problems or questions.”
A “medical mystery:” twenty-four-year-old Cahalan wakes up alone in a hospital room and tells the story of her descent into madness and the lifesaving diagnosis that almost didn’t happen.
“The brain is a monstrous, beautiful mess.”
Groopman writes about how doctors make decisions for their patients and how to avoid erroneous medical thinking.
On average, a physician will interrupt a patient describing her symptoms within eighteen seconds. In that short time, many doctors decide on the likely diagnosis and best treatment. Often, decisions made this way are correct, but at crucial moments they can also be wrong — with catastrophic consequences.
Mukherjee examines the complete history of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.
“Cancer’s life is a recapitulation of the body’s life, its existence a pathological mirror of our own.”
Noah tells the stories of his childhood—the hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting moments that created his path from a secret child in apartheid South Africa to the famous American night show host. This book made me cry and laugh out loud!
“Whilst my mother couldn’t give me access to the world, she at least made sure to let me know it existed. A kid cannot dream of being an astronaut if he does not know about space.”
Verghese writes a memoir about his relocation for work and new expanding relationship with his medical intern and tennis partner while they both go through difficult personal experiences. You can watch a tedtalk by African-born Indian author here.
Every year, it takes two full classes of medical schools to replace all the physicians who commit suicide. He described a doctor who filled her car’s wiper fluid receptacle with alcohol so she could drink between errands, and another who injected his bladder with a third person’s urine so he could pass a drug test.
A collection of short stories that demolish the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.
“I have heard all of the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them.”
A collection of perspectives on a wide array of issues, from food allergies, cancer, and neurology to mental health, autoimmune disorders, and therapeutic music. These experiences are recounted by patients, nurses, doctors, parents, children, caregivers, and others who attempt to articulate the intangible human and emotional factors that surround life when it intersects with the medical field.
“Medicine still contains an oral tradition, passed down in stories: the stories patients tell us, the ones we tell them, and the ones we tell ourselves.”
Written by historian Fitzharris to reveal the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery and shows how it was transformed by advances made in germ theory and antiseptics between 1860 and 1875. Warning: she spares no detail!
“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is almost certainly wrong.”
In this memoir, Norman describes her sudden and serious decline in health and her experience seeking healthcare, having her pain dismissed, to be told it was all in her head, only to be taken seriously when she was accompanied by a boyfriend who confirmed that her sexual performance was, indeed, compromised.
Women’s bodies have long been the battleground of a never-ending war for power, control, medical knowledge, and truth. It’s time to refute the belief that being a woman is a preexisting condition.
Pioneering psychologist Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.” You can watch her tedtalk here.
“Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. They’d rather show the highlight of what they’ve become.”
A bestseller at the moment! In this memoir, a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University. She was seventeen years old when she first stepped foot in a classroom. The story, based on a true story, is a coming-of-age story full of self-intervention and family ties.
“The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand.”
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years.
“What do you know about African-Americans and science?”
A self-help book is always a good type of read. This one is about atomic habits which teaches us how to change our habits and get 1% better every day. Getting 1% better everyday will show tremendous results a lot faster than you think.
“You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than your current results.”
A book recommended by Bill Gates! This book explains why we sleep in an interesting way and explains to us how sleep can make us healthier, safer, smarter, and more productive. There are several theories presented in this book.
“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.”
This Russian novel focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in Saint Petersburg who formulates a plan to kill a pawnbroker for her money. With many psychological themes, it deeply explores alienation, consequences for our actions, and guilt.
“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”
This novel explores moral philosophy from a contractualist perspective as Scanlon analyzes how we define whether something is right or wrong. According to his view, thinking about right and wrong is thinking about what we do in terms that could be justified to others and that they could not reasonably reject. He shows how the special authority of conclusions about right and wrong arises from the value of how we relate to other people. A bit of a dense read, ideal for people interested in morality and how these principles can be applied.
“The reasons we have to treat others only in ways that could be justified to them underlie the central core of morality, and are presupposed by all the most important forms of human relationship.”
Adapted as a film by the same name, this book follows the lives of three female African American mathematicians working for NASA in the 1960s. The novel explores themes of discrimination and racial segregation as the three protagonists are overlooked on account of their gender and race but are later shown to be pioneers in math and engineering. One of these women, Katherine Johnson, just recently passed at age 101.
“Their path to advancement might look less like a straight line and more like some of the pressure distributions and orbits they plotted, but they were determined to take a seat at the table.”