Leisure Reading for Medical Students

The words “leisure” and “medical student” may seem oxymoronic when used in the same sentence. However, this improbability has taken a back seat as current regulations require students to stay at home. So, what do you do with all this time? Does it feel like freedom or just an overwhelming sense of emptiness? Should you cook, sew, do yoga, attend three webinars a day, and end up just as occupied as you were before? Or should you give in to the waves of complacency because time is no longer relative?

Breathe – it shouldn’t have to be this complicated.

Now that you’ve spent two months catching up on sleep debt, here’s how you could further optimise your socially sanctioned free time, the old-fashioned way. Some people call it reading, but we call it mentally masticating the memoirs of medical professionals. Call it what you will, here are seven choice selections, mostly written by practicing medics, which will hopefully remind you why you decided to study medicine in the first place.

  1. This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctorby Adam Kay

Adam Kay, a British comedy writer, author, comedian, and former doctor, writes about his experiences working for the UK’s NHS in obstetrics and gynaecology with sheer transparency and wit.

Created from the pages of his own diaries after long, tiring shifts, Kay leaves out no detail of his life as a junior doctor, and the results are often shocking, hilarious, and heart-breaking. Medical students will enjoy this book’s ability to make you laugh out loud, while also appreciating its honest portrayal of the not-always-glamorous life of a junior doctor. This funny yet shocking book was a bestseller for over a year, won four National Book Awards and was the Sunday Times Number One Bestseller for over eight months.

  1. When Breath Becomes Airby Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi was an Indian-American neurosurgeon who got diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer at the age of 36, on the brink of completing his medical training. After many years being a doctor treating the dying, he became the patient.

What comes out of this is a touching exploration of life, death, and the relationship between a doctor and a patient.

This book is not only unforgettable, but undeniably inspiring despite its gloomy topic of a doctor battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer. It was posthumously published in 2016, and any existing or prospective medical student should read it.

  1. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hatby Oliver Sacks

A million-copy bestseller, this book is described as “a provocative exploration of the mysteries of the human mind” and is written by Oliver Sacks, who has spent 50 years working as a neurologist.

Sacks gives case studies of individuals who have lost their memories and are no longer able to recognise common objects or people, as well as stories of people with extraordinary artistic or mathematical talents.

These case studies are part of the reason this book became so popular. Medical students will enjoy this as it shows the strong, fascinating link between medicine and psychology.

  1. The Intern Bluesby Robert Marion

Three medical interns talk about their experiences throughout their year-long internships, where they had to deal with 100-hour weeks, survived on very little sleep and were given life or death responsibilities.

Before this puts you off medicine completely, you’ll be pleased to know that this book was written in 1985 and there have since been strict restrictions placed on the hours worked by residents.

However, many medical students remark that the feelings, emotions, and work described are still very relevant today and, hence, the book has been deemed a contemporary classic.

  1. Unnatural Causesby Dr. Richard Shepherd

Dr. Richard Shepherd is the leading forensic pathologist in the UK, meaning that he solves the mysteries of sudden, unexplained deaths. He has been involved in the investigation of many high-profile cases, including the Hungerford Massacre, 9/11 and the death of Princess Diana, and has performed over 23,000 autopsies in his working life.

The book gives a fascinating insight into his career, which is sometimes gruesome and chilling but always interesting. It also gives readers a glimpse into his personal life, and the toll the job takes on his relationships and his own emotions.

Those currently studying or looking to study medicine will enjoy reading this, as it sheds light on another side of medicine which isn’t talked about as frequently, and offers readers a truthful window into the joys and hardships of the career.

  1. In Stitchesby Anthony Youn

As if being Asian in a small, homogeneous American town isn’t enough, Dr. Youn wore thick glasses and had a massive protruding jaw. “I looked like an 11-year-old Hannibal Lecter,” said Youn, whose facial deformity led him to undergo corrective surgery and helped him to find his vocation.

Youn is now an extremely successful celebrity plastic surgeon, and explains in this book how he achieved this, not through the one-dimensional portrayal of the piety and prestige of the healing arts, but through the unbridled truth of the events and experiences that make up medical school, such as vomiting outside the anatomy labs and fainting in the operating rooms.

In Stitches lives up to its name, leaving you in stitches as you explode with laughter, while getting you to contemplate his insights on the business of “stitching” people up.

  1. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff is an exploration of post-mortem bodies and what happens when you donate your body to science.

Roach approaches this seemingly dreary topic in an extremely humorous (albeit occasionally stomach-churning) way, covering a wide range of topics from human decomposition and using corpses in car crashes, to crucifixion experiments and head transplants.

Not a book for the squeamish, but Stiff certainly gives a good insight into human bodies and what happens to them after death. It’s everything you never knew you wanted to know about dead bodies.

These books can be purchased in paperback or eBook format on MPH Online, Kinokuniya, The Book Depository, Book-a-licious, Popular Online, BookXcess, Shopee and in certain Facebook groups for half price! In fact, most off the books listed are available in our NUMed library for loaning should you wish to do so once the CMCO is lifted. Happy reading!

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

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