Regardless of what you are studying, there are a few books that can be useful for just about any pre-med and may help along the arduous journey of not only getting into medical school, but succeeding as a doctor.

How Doctor’s Think  by Jerome Groopman, MD

In a book that delves into the process by which doctors synthesize medical information and understand illnesses, Jerome Groopman,MD, the chair of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief of Experimental Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, lets readers in on how these doctors make decisions and why they sometimes get things wrong. Groopman explores why doctors make the errors they do and shows when and how they can avoid quick judgments, embrace uncertainty, communicate effectively, and utilize other skills that can have a profound impact on the health of the patients they treat. This book not only gives readers a good idea of the practice of medicine in general, but it also shares some interesting medical facts and tells some intriguing stories.

Why you should read this book?

This book provides insight into the thought processes that drive clinical problem-solving, a skill that students will undoubtedly need in medical school and throughout their career as a doctor.

Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande, MD

While he was a general surgery resident Atul Gawande, MD wrote this collection of essays that explore a range of topics. Seen through his insider eyes, medicine is revealed as an imperfect science, full of “constantly changing knowledge, uncertain information, fallible individuals, and at the same time, lives on the line”. The “moments where medicine actually happens” are a fusion of science and intuition, knowledge and guesswork. Gawande believes that everyone in medicine always needs to face questions of judgment, competence, and decision-making.

Why you should read this book?

This book provides a very candid and delicate look inside the world of surgeons. Complications gives readers an empathetic glimpse into the operating room, behind the scrubs, through the eyes of a contemporary surgeon. Gawande’s accounts will leave readers wiser about science and about health care issues.

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story by Ben Carson, MD

Dr. Ben Carson’s story will inspire any pre-med student to hold on to their dreams of becoming a doctor in the face of any adversity. Carson’s  moving story tells of a frustrated inner-city kid whose faith in God helped him become director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Growing up in a single-parent home in Detroit, Carson’s beginnings were certainly not easy. Signs of Carson’s determination showed as young as the age of 10. While he started out as the “class dummy” in school, Carson’s motivation and dream to become a doctor ultimately won him a full scholarship to the renowned Yale University. Carson is now one of the best neurosurgeons in the nation.

Why you should read this book?

This quick and easy ready is great for anyone who is looking for a little motivation. Through his inspiring story, Carson will move readers to believe in themsleves more than they ever have. Carson’s prescription of faith, prayer, and hard work are certainly applicable to any student pursuing admission to medical school.

The House of God: The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital by Samuel Shem, M.D.

This book offers a view as to how people were treated when they went through Med school and residency in the 60’s and 70’s. It’s a slightly over the top journey through what was then a very tough medical apprenticeship. The “dark humor” and “satire” is only that on the surface — the thing is, most of the situations described are actually true. The book is funny and a great ice breaker when you talk to doctors, since most have read it.

Why you should read this book?

This remains an extremely funny, cruel and slightly surrealistic look at medical training which has a lot of lessons for students now. This book provides good humor, lots of basic knowledge on the ways of medical education, as well as gives readers an understanding on the pitfalls of the US medical system.

Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher by Lewis Thomas

This is a book of 29 essays originally written for the New England Journal of Medicine. The essays offer the creative and whimsical perspectives of a scientist. Thomas’ description of our bodies as a system of mitochondria pursuing their own interests with total disinterest of our consciousness as an entity is startling while, at the same time, it becomes immediately obvious. In short, this book is like an intellectual stroll through the park, something you might have a professor mention in passing, but elaborated.

Why you should read this book?

Well, since pre-med students should be getting their dose of journal reading anyway, the fact that this book is a collection of articles published in The New England Journal of Medicine is one reason why its a great read for students. Throughout the book, Thomas reveals extraordinary facts about biology and microbiology that tend to leave the reader in awe. The book is an incredibly interesting read and fast education about cellular biology. A short, refreshing break from  a textbook, readers will come out a better student and more educated.

First Do No Harm by Lisa Belkin

This is a book about asking important questions about medical ethics. Belkin examines the cases of several patients in a Houston hospital and the ethical considerations of their doctors. But this book is more than just our empathizing with these patients and learning about their treatments, it’s also about finding out how the medical staff deals with all this on a regular basis. In addition, there are fascinating chapters that take us inside the ethics committees that determine the future course of action for these patients, and let us know how the doctors determine when to proceed with procedures that may or may not help, and when the very real problems of hospital finances becomes intertwined with these complicated decisions.

Why you should read this book?

This book is an eye-opening account on how some of the ethical choices in medicine must be made, including the all-too necessary financial considerations. Reading this book will give an insider look into the inner workings of a hospital ethics committee.

The Human Side of Medicine: Learning What It’s Like to Be a Patient and What It’s Like to Be a Physician by Laurence Savett, MD

Based on more than 30 years of medical practice, teaching, advising, and mentoring medical students and undergraduates, Savett describes the elements of the human side of medicine, the non-technical part. This book is not only for those who are firmly committed to a career in medicine but also for those who are interested but unsure about medicine. In this book Savett shares his experiences in medicine. In this book, as he defines the responsibilities of physicians and their care for patients, Savett provides case histories, posing questions, and provides opinions and answers.

Why you should read this book?

For all you future doctors out there, this book will speak to the topic of being able to communicate well with your patients. So hey, why not get a headstart on being the best doctor that you could possibly be.