Skip to main content

Advice for StudentsMedic Tips

Reading recommendations!

8 Ebrill 2020

I thought it would be good to have a collection of reading recommendations – tried and tested by current medics at Cardiff across a range of years! This is useful for prospective students looking for some inspiration about medicine and potentially use in a personal statement! It is also useful for offer holders + current medics wanting to do some fun summer reading!

I have to say I would definitely recommend Atul Gawande as an author to start with if you’ve never read medical books before! They are just so easy to read, but incredibly engaging and insightful. He has been recommended by a vast number of medics – here are two quotes below!

Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande

“My initial beliefs i.e. doctors ‘prolong death’ were eradicated when reading this book. It helped me delve deeper into autonomy in medicine and its complexity. I would definitely recommend to someone who, after deeply reflecting on medicine has encountered some of the negatives around the job and would like to see one doctor’s own mistakes and reflections on them. It clears up what the role of a doctor truly entails!”Vera

Another cliché read but one that touches on a subject every doctor must be familiar with. Understanding death is a necessity for becoming a doctor and Gawande explores what we get right and where we need to improve in how we cope with the limitations of medicine.”Faris (Year 5)

Alongside the classic “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”, When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanthi) is an incredibly popular book. It is “so touching and emotional because you see the profound effect being a doctor can have on your family.”

Unnatural Causes, by Dr Richard Shepherd

“Dr Shepherd is Britain’s leading Forensic Pathologist and he’s known for examining evidence from 9/11, the 7/7 terror attacks and the death of Princess Diana. It’s about how he found his love for pathology through medical school and his journey from a student to a pathologist and he recalls some of his biggest cases. I used to watch a Netflix program that had him in it called ‘Autopsy; How they died’ and that’s how I heard of him! I’m interested in that field so it’s why I like it so much!”Moli

There have been two recommended books by Professor Stephen Westaby – here are some quotes about these!

  • The Knife’s Edge was a really fascinating insight to what it was like being a heart surgeon in the 70s and there were some fantastic stories about pioneering procedures and differences between different countries’ healthcare systems.” – Emyr
  • Fragile lives is so interesting because it really opens up the process of getting a medical invention through trials and improvements which you never really hear about!”Joanna
    • This book was also recommended by Sarah (Year 3) who said it was her “favourite book because she loved the details of the surgeries!”

Direct Red, by Gabriel Weston

Another recommendation by Joanna: “Direct Red is so different to any medical book I’ve found! It’s about a female surgeon and how she grapples with a male dominant area and about how her patients expected more empathy from her than from her male counterparts.”

Another of my favourites – The Checklist Manifesto – recommended by many medics. Here are 2 quotes below about it!

  • “A brilliant exploration of how simple changes can have life saving impacts”Kane
  • “A great book all about the importance of communication between specialities and that move away from doctors being the top of the hierarchy”Kiran

The Lazarus Effect, by Bill Ransom

“The book is about how we are increasingly able to control when and whether people die in situations that previously would have been certain (e.g. cardiac arrest). It is so interesting reading accounts from people who have had ‘near death experiences’ – how it felt, what they actually experienced etc. So many accounts are so similar, and the applications for resuscitation were eye opening! I enjoyed that it was philosophical as well as medical, about a topic that I hadn’t explored much previously.”Lara

Dear Life, by Rachel Clarke

“This book about palliative medicine shows the harsh realities faced by many terminally ill patients, but is heartwarming and is ultimately about the value of life, no matter how long that may be.”Rosa


Rachel Clarke also has another great book called “Your Life In My Hands – A Junior Doctor’s Story – fantastic, gripping book. Check out the interview she had about it!

War Doctor, by David Nott

“It is a really harrowing at times but also very moving. Dr Nott is very honest about the scenes he has encountered in various war zones such as Syria, Sierra Leone, Yemen, Libya and more. The work that he and his colleagues have achieved in these countries is heroic. I think this is a really important read as these affairs certainly don’t get the media coverage they should and everyone should be aware of the true nature of war and the suffering it inflicts on innocent people. Overall, it’s a very eye-opening and compelling book.”Megan

Gifted Hands, by Ben Carson

“Ben Carson is the first neurosurgeon to successfully separate Siamese twins conjoined at the head. He is a black successful individual who describes his journey from having very little to where he is now.” – Alydia

Do No Harm, by Henry Marsh

“It was so eye-opening; it demonstrated the complex interaction between cold skill and compassion in neurosurgery – more broadly, in medicine”Rosa

I found a fantastic book review on this book, recommended by Christine (Year 3), which I have bought to read this summer! Race is often not spoken enough about and as a Afro-Caribbean student myself, I am aware of challenges, disparities and prejudices that I may encounter in my professional career. I encourage this read not only for BME students, but for all ethnicities to gain greater awareness!

Another great recommendation by Naa (Year 5) – very interesting book about “a black tobacco farmer whose cells were taken without her knowledge and became the first cell line (HeLa) to be successfully cultured and survive in vitro, so her cells were so vital in medicine in helping develop vaccines and various other things but she was never really recognised for it!”


Recommended by Faris (Year 5)

The Heartland

“An easy to read book summarising the many issues within psychiatry and mental health facing the world today. Supplemented with compelling patient stories, anyone interested in psychiatry should read this book. It provides a valuable insight into how psychiatry has and is continuing to change.”

The Myth of Mental Illness

“A quite challenging book to read but a seminal piece of work related to mental health. Though a little outdated in some of its explorations, its relevance is still pertinent now as we understand more about mental illness and understand how one can object to some of the practices of psychiatry.”

The Science of Evil

“Brilliant for those interested in psychiatry! It is a more science oriented book and quite dark in its nature. It explores the relation of empathy to cruelty and also in regards to psychiatric diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder and personality disorders. “

“I was really interested in ONCOLOGY before coming to uni so I found this book quite interesting – it goes through the history of cancer through the ages.” Naa (Year 5)

It wouldn’t be right not to mention Adam Kay – another very popular author. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as did many others who suggested this as well!

“A cliche memoir of life as a junior doctor but a must read for anyone who wants to know what life as a junior doctor is like. An emotional roller coaster of laughter and sadness. “

Finally, a great book by a Cardiff alumni – Dr Matt Morgan who is now a consultant based in UHW!

“An emotional exploration of the highs and lows in the life of an intensive care doctor. This memoir provides a snapshot of the brink of what medicine can achieve and where we still have much to learn.”

Note: Please do not go out your way to buy all these brand new! A lot of these can be bought second hand, may find in local libraries or even ask around friends to see if they have copies! Hope you enjoyed these recommendations – I am very thankful to the medics who helped me out with this! Feel free to leave comments!

Go back to my journey to find the links to all of my blogs!