10 Books Every Premed Should Read (while not studying!)

Below is a subjective list of the 10 books every pre med student should read (or anybody for that matter) prior to going to medical school. The list covers everything from attendings, residents, interns and even medical student stories.

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New Additional List

We just released more books, and a great series on the Affordable Care Act (to help you prepare for your medical school interviews). You can read the new list here.

If you have a book that you read that you think should be added to the list, leave a comment below.

Oh – and if you are studying, especially for the 2015 MCAT – check out all the available books on Amazon, including our new Guide to the MCAT.


The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview, by Ryan Gray MD (that’s me!)

I snuck this one in at the top because it was released well after this post was initially published. It’s a compilation of years of information gathered from experts through interviews for The Premed Years podcast and my experience doing mock interviews for premeds. It has consistently been the best medical school interview book on Amazon.

Hot Lights, Cold Steel, by Michael J. Collins, M.D. [easyazon_cta align=”none” identifier=”0312352697″ key=”small-light” locale=”US” tag=”medicschooh0b-20″]

Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon’s First Years. The memoir of an Orthopedic surgeon’s four year residency at the Mayo Clinic, Hot Lights, Cold Steel is an excellent book that takes you inside the operating room. Dr. Collins tells an excellent story with his writing.

Emergency Doctor, by Edward Ziegler and Lewis R. Goldfrank, M.D. [easyazon_cta align=”none” identifier=”0060595027″ key=”small-light” locale=”US” tag=”medicschooh0b-20″]

Emergency Doctor is an exciting book in which an emergency physician, Dr. Edward Ziegler, takes you into the often crazy world of the emergency department of Bellevue Hospital.  In each chapter, Dr. Ziegler tells the story of a different encounter with a patient in the emergency department.  The encounters are exciting, shocking and entertaining.  Some stories are tragic while others are funny.  For a pre-medical student, the stories are thrilling and interesting – a great sneak peek into the frontlines of medicine.

Better, by Atul Gawande, M.D. [easyazon_cta align=”none” identifier=”0312427654″ key=”small-light” locale=”US” tag=”medicschooh0b-20″]

You can’t go wrong with any of Dr. Gawande’s books, including Better, Complications (see below) or The Checklist Manifesto (a look at how to reduce errors in medicine). Better contains several essays and is divided into three main sections. It takes a look at various issues with healthcare including insurance, lawsuits and more.

The Soul of a Doctor, by Susan Pories, M.D., Sachin H. Jain, and Gordon Harper, M.D. [easyazon_cta align=”none” identifier=”156512507X” key=”small-light” locale=”US” tag=”medicschooh0b-20″]

The Soul of a Doctor is a book containing several dozen accounts of medical students all collected and put together in this book. It takes you to a time before physicians are tired, jaded and upset with the system that created them and shows the growth of these physicians in training.


The Intern Blues, by Robert Marion, M.D. [easyazon_cta align=”none” identifier=”0060937092″ key=”small-light” locale=”US” tag=”medicschooh0b-20″]

One of the first books I read about medical school, this book takes an interesting look at what life is like as an intern. It’s an account of several pediatric interns that kept a diary about their trials and tribulations.

Med School Confidential, by Robert H. Miller and Daniel M. Bissell, M.D. [easyazon_cta align=”none” identifier=”0312330081″ key=”small-light” locale=”US” tag=”medicschooh0b-20″]

One of the go to books for premed students, Med School Confidential covers everything from A to Z. Another book with strong reviews on amazon.com. I’ve heard many good things from students about this book on how it helps make the path to becoming a physician a little clearer.

In Stitches, by Anthony Youn, M.D. [easyazon_cta align=”none” identifier=”1451649762″ key=”small-light” locale=”US” tag=”medicschooh0b-20″]

A memoir from Dr. Youn, a plastic surgeon, writer and television personality. This book takes you through his life on the way to becoming the physician he is today. This book recommended based on strong reviews from amazon.com.

The House of God, by Samuel Shem, M.D. [easyazon_cta align=”none” identifier=”0425238091″ key=”small-light” locale=”US” tag=”medicschooh0b-20″]

The House of God is a classic – a book published in 1978 but an important read for any pre-medical or medical student.  Dr. Samuel Shem takes us on a thrilling journey into his life as an intern at one of the premier teaching hospitals in Boston.  Through his vivid writing, you meet his fellow interns, the residents who supervise and teach him, and the nurses he works with and lusts after.  His daydreams sometimes appear to bleed into his reality with fantasy and sexual encounters.  He and his fellow doctors struggle with difficult cases and tragic circumstances which change their lives forever.  While this memoir does not give a realistic preview of what to expect on the wards nowadays in the 21st century, it is a very entertaining and moving read.


Complications, by Atul Gawande, M.D. [easyazon_cta align=”none” identifier=”0312421702″ key=”small-light” locale=”US” tag=”medicschooh0b-20″]

Complications is a great read and written by one of the hottest writers in medical memories today, Dr. Atul Gawande.  Dr. Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an advocate for improving the quality of patient care which doctors provide to their patients.  In Complications, he tells the story of challenging cases and problems he faces as a surgeon in training and in practice.  His honest writing is enlightening and moving and a good read for any physician and anyone going into medicine.

White Coat, by Ellen L. Rothman, M.D. [easyazon_cta align=”none” identifier=”0688175899″ key=”small-light” locale=”US” tag=”medicschooh0b-20″]

White Coat is the story of Dr. Ellen Lerner Rothman’s journey to becoming a physician at Harvard Medical School.  She takes us through each year of medical school – sharing her wonder in the beginning in Gross Anatomy lab, through her classes in her classroom years and then on into her clinical years in the hospital.  She shares her fears, her triumphs, her friendships and her excitement.  Through White Coat, you get a firsthand look into the journey of medical school itself.  It is a great ride and a wonderful read for any pre-medical student.




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