Good Premed/med student guidebooks

I was hoping to get some good recommendations for books about life as a med student, and/or doctor. I’ve heard some really good recommendations in the past(if I could only recall the names… hehe) which is why I’m here of course.

So what would you, the informed recommend for good reading on the experience? Also as for the doctor experience, I’ve heard some good ones dropped, but again I’m vague because I only remember bits and pieces of titles, and would undoubtedly confuse the authors. I could do a google search, but I’m looking for the best, and most accurate representations. I recall this one “med school hell” or something like that. had hell in the title.

Let me know

no recommendations?

on the one hand, there are MANY books about the pre-med process, medical school, etc. On the other hand, they are generally written from the perspective of the traditional student who has gone from high school to four-year college to med school without a break. So it’s hard to know where to start.
Sanford Brown, M.D. has a book on getting into med school (the title is eluding me at this hour) that is a good basic guide in my opinion; one chapter is devoted to the non-trad student. If you search for that on it will then pop up a gazillion other related titles.
Plug: go to Amazon through the portal on our home page; if you buy something, your purchase helps support the OPM website!

There is a great book by Melvin Konner, who was already a faculty member somewhere when he applied to med school, so he was decidedly non-traditional. It’s been out long enough that you should be able to find it in your local library.
I just go to the library and get whatever looks good out of the real-life medical stories section. I’ve read some great stuff by nurses too.


There is a great book by Melvin Konner, who was already a faculty member somewhere when he applied to med school, so he was decidedly non-traditional. It’s been out long enough that you should be able to find it in your local library.

Yes, it’s called Becoming a Doctor. It’s worth reading, but even though Konner was a career changer, it’s not as helpful as one would hope for the following reasons:
1) Konner was a Harvard-educated Harvard professor. When he decided to apply to medical school, he received interviews at all of the nation’s most prestigious institutions: Stanford, Hopkins, Columbia, Cornell, you name it. The school he eventually decided on was… you guessed it, Harvard. Most of us aren’t going to be in that position.
2) It’s entirely about the 3rd year of medical school, with a few glimpses of the 4th. Also, Konner didn’t have to take the pre-reqs since he had already taken them as an undergrad. After graduation, he didn’t do a residency. So it doesn’t speak to the entire process in a way that we non-trads would probably like.
3) Though Konner was a husband and father by the time he entered medical school, he has NOTHING to say about how it affected his personal life, another thing most non-trads would probably like to know. The book consists entirely of vignettes from the hospital, interspersed with philosophical musings on what medical education does right or wrong. I would really have liked to know how med school affected his marriage, or how he and his wife coped with the financial burdens.
Like I said, it’s worth reading, but I was a little disappointed. There’s hardly anything in it that’s unique to a non-trad perspective, unless you count the fact that he analyzes medical school like the anthropologist he is, which a high-school-to-college-to-med-school straight shooter wouldn’t be able to do.

I have enjoyed reading Konner’s book.
Here are some other ones I have read in preparation for med school:

Hi there,
One of the best books that I have read was “First Cut: A Season in The Gross Anatomy Lab” By Howard Carter, III. This book is available from Amazon and follows a group of first year students at Emory Medical school through their Gross Anatomy course. It is pretty realistic when it comes to describing how to perform in this course. The descriptions of the students are pretty good too.
This is not a guidebood for Pre-Meds but it is a well-written piece of fiction that is worth reading before you begin medical school. I read this book after I had completed Gross Anatomy and found it to be great reading.

Grrr…I already asked for a bunch of medical books (more on the memoir side than simply “advice” books) for Christmas before this thread was started! Oh well. I also asked for several books about osteopathic medicine since I’m interested in the D.O. philosophy and practice.
I only have 3 medical books at home so far: “Becoming a Doctor” by the Daneks, another premed book that Rich was kind enough to give me at the convention last year, and the memoir “Complications” about being a surgical resident. The book by the Daneks had good, straight-forward advice but it was geared towards traditional students. I think they had a chapter on non-trads if I remember correctly. I loved “Complications,” which was fascinating. It was an easy read. My favorite chapter was the case about the red leg. I forget the name of the disease, but someone had a rare disease and it was really interested how they diagnosed/treated it.

I read a book this fall called “Singular Intimacies” by Danielle Ofri (I hope I got that name right). It was a beautifully written book of essays on her journey to become a doctor. I loved this book because of it’s honesty. She really delved into her heart and soul and it was just really inspiring. I wrote (emailed!) to her after I read it and she wrote back a lovely and encouraging note. She also is an editor of the Bellevue Literary Review which has some great essays in it.
It’s not the most hard-core “this is what medical training will be like” book, but it’s one of my all time favorites and I’m sure I’ll read it again and again.

I actually enjoyed “Becoming a Doctor” for exactly the reasons other people disliked it. I don’t really want to know how people balance family life - that seems so personal that how can a memoir really give you that support? On the other hand, I liked how it explored the US Medical practice, which, let’s face it, leaves a little to be desired. I thought that coming from his anthropological background made his observations unique. The Social Sciences are often disregarded since they aren’t “hard” sciences, but his cross-cultural perpective brings a lot to the table.
I agree, his experience and path are not at all what most of us are going through, but his thoughts and observations are good, and I think it gives a prespective med student a lot to think about before doing it.
Anyway, the other books I have run across have been pretty useless, to be honest. They really focus on the traditional student. This website offers far more good advice and support!

Hello everyone,
I have two books to throw into the mix: “A Piece of My Mind” and “The Hospital”.
“A Piece of My Mind” is a collection of essays written by physicians for physicians. The essays are a compilation of submitted essays into the “A Piece of My Mind” column that appears in JAMA. A lot of these essays are about the heart wrenching emotions the physicians face when dealing with patients of all types.
“The Hospital” is another novel written by Jan De Hartog. The novel is a non-fiction account of Jan De Hartog’s experience as a nursing assistant (nowadays- patient care technician) in a very busy county public hospital in Houston during the early 1960’s. The description of Mr. De Hartog’s experiences in that Houston hospital is like a movie reel in your brain that you won’t forget! Unfortunately, the book is no longer in print; so, you will have to peruse your local used book store to find a copy.
Gerald Jimmy Jr.
(a.k.a- eagleeye)

Hi there,
As Natalie said “First Cut…” was a great book. I have read that one as well as “Complications” and found both interesting. There are more on my bookshelf such as “Intern Blues” but I haven’t gotten to them yet. I’m a book-a-holic - I walk into a Border’s and get the shakes if I try to leave without buying something (lol).
A note to StartingOver - if I remember the “red leg” in “Complications” was about a young girl who was suffering from ‘Necrotizing Fasciitis’ (the dreaded skin eating disease) very interesting case as it was described.
ZanMD - I’ll try to go through my books and come up with some more recommendations as I unpack (recently moved).
Till then good wishes to all - Seth

Okay, I have read a lot of medical books but here are just a few I liked:
Life After Medical School, Leonard Laster, MD
Becoming a Doctor, Melvin Konner, MD
Becoming a Physician, Jennifer Danek and Marita Danek
Baby ER, Edward Humes
The Medical Detectives (There are 2 of them, Volume 1 and Volume 2), Berton Roueche
Applying to Medical School for the Non-Traditional Student, Bryan Goss
Doctors, Erich Segal
A Not Entirely Benign Procedure, Perri Klass
White Coat, Ellen Lerner Rothman, MD
Walking Out on the Boys, Frances K. Conley, MD
Patient Beware - Doctor Take Care, Edward Zebrowski, MD
Coyote Medicine, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD
Osler’s Web, Hillary Johnson
The Making of a Psychiatrist, David S. Viscott, MD
Blind Eye, James B. Stewart
The Yale Guide to Careers in Medicine and the Health Professions, Robert M. Donaldson, Jr, MD, Kathleen S. Lundrgren, MDiv, Howard M. Spiro, MD
Awakening Intuition, Mona Lisa Schulz, MD, PhD
The Yale guide is a new one that just came out and is good if you are unsure about medicine versus nursing, etc. It is filled with interesting essays describing the paths others have chosen. Blind Eye is an interesting book about Dr. Swango, the physician who killed a bunch of his patients on purpose. Osler’s Web is not really about medical school but I am really into public health issues and this one is very enlightening. Also, The Medical Detectives Vol 1 and 2 contain public health cases from several years ago. Life After Medical School has essays from physicians describing why they chose their career. Awakening Intuition is not about medical school but she is a neuropsychiatrist and the book is extremely interesting.
I have so many books that I have collected over the years that I might start a library! Hope this info helps.

Thanks everyone for all the extremly helpful suggestions. I know what to put on my Xmas list now s
Incidentally pam, are you going into psychiatry, or did you just do it as an undergrad? That’s my major
The one thing I hate about that though, is that everyone labels it a “bird” major or “cop out”. I have a genuine interest in psychology, and have even considered psychiatry or even neurology.

There is a good publisher/seller of medical books, covering all aspects of the journey (school, residency, humor, ethics, etc) The link is below,
Galen Press/Physicians Page
I have two favorites. First is “The House of God” by Samuel Shem, M.D. which is about PGY1 (aka intership or first year of residency). It is a bitterly funny book and I have often refered to the “rules” listed in this such as “there is no body cavity that can’t be reached with a #14 needle and a good strong right arm.” This book also has my favorite passage about mazto balls on page 38.
The second is by Charles LeBaron called “Gentle Vengeance: An Account of the First Year at Harvard Medical School.” I find this one appropriate as he was a 34 year old non- science major who went thru the Columbia Post-Bacc and on to Harvard. Some have called his account too bitter and it can be. However, this can give you the insight of what the worst can be. It appears to be long out of print. However, I’ve seen it for $10 or $15 at this store Gentle Vengeance Link
Don’t forget to look over the books on the OPM web site

I was a psychology major in undergrad and am seriously considering pursuing psychiatry in medical school. I like a lot of different specialties so I could end up in anything, internal medicine, obgyn, etc. Anyway, I am interested in mental health issues in chronically ill patients and have even considered pursuing a combined internal medicine and psychiatry residency. Now, I just need to finish up my prerequisites so I can get to medical school!!

I didn’t see this one yet, but I highly recommend it:
The_Youngest_Science by Lewis Thomas.
It is autobiographical by a physician whose knowledge of the profession spans accompanying his father to homes in a horse carriage, through wars, antibiotics, and his own late in life health issues.
A good read from a great writer - it might not give you an idea of what to expect tomorrow in medical school or practice, but it will remind you of what a physican IS.

Just wanted to add one of my favorites: The Lost Art of Healing by Dr. Bernard Lown. Great book