Category Archives: A Professional’s Perspective

Kalanithi, Paul. When Breath becomes Air


At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.
When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?
Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

Publisher: Bodley Head;
Year: 2016
ISBN-10: 9781847923677

 (spoiler alert)

Osler, William. A Way of Life


Sir William Osler (1849 – 1919) was a Canadian physician and helped found Johns Hopkins Hospital. He has been called the “Father of Modern Medicine.” This book is his explanation of how he achieved so much in his life and his exhortation for everyone who reads it to do the same. A Way of Life has been introducing people to his philosophy of successful living by way of “day tight compartments” since he first delivered the talk at Yale that spring Sunday afternoon in 1913.

For an online version this >link< to a copy from the University of Toronto works very well (and I have some sympathy for the bit or marginalia that you’ll find on the last page!

Krishnan, Tinge (dir). Shadowscan

Two junior NHS workers are in the middle of a night shift and dealing with it in different ways. Satinda is tired and put upon while Amir is seemingly cheerful and helps pick her up. However Amir is also depressed and using drugs and self harm to help him get by. Eventually they both have to decide how to deal with their stressful lives and to live with the consequences.

The BAFTA award-winning Shadowscan (Channel 4, 18/12/2001) is director Tinge Krishnan‘s third short film. A surreal portrait of the Accident and Emergency department of a city hospital, Shadowscan is partly based on Tinge’s own experience as a junior doctor.

Director:    Tinge Krishnan
Production Company:    Disruptive
Producers:   Gary A. Holding,  Justine Leahy
Script:    Tinge Krishnan
Director of Photography:  Robbie Ryan
Year: 2001


Larkin, John. Cynical Acumen: The Anarchic Guide to Clinical Medicine

cynical cynical3d


Winner of the Medical Journalists’ Association Specialist Book of the Year Award 2006 Cynical Acumen approaches medicine in the real world, dealing with issues ignored by other books. It is a unique, ‘what you really need to know’ textbook designed to help medical students and senior house officers look slick and pass their exams against all odds. The book entertainingly considers the world outside medicine with anecdotes on the important things in life such as sport, literature, Thai cooking and the dissolution of the monasteries. It has been aptly described by the author as ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Medicine’.

Publisher: CRC Press
Year: 2005
ISBN-10: 1857757874

Francis, Gavin. Adventures in Human Being

being being3d

We have a lifetime’s association with our bodies, but for many of us they remain uncharted territory. In Adventures in Human Being, Gavin Francis leads the reader on a journey through health and illness, offering insights on everything from the ribbed surface of the brain to the secret workings of the heart and the womb; from the pulse of life at the wrist to the unique engineering of the foot.

Drawing on his own experiences as a doctor and GP, he blends first-hand case studies with reflections on the way the body has been imagined and portrayed over the millennia. If the body is a foreign country, then to practise medicine is to explore new territory: Francis leads the reader on an adventure through what it means to be human.

Both a user’s guide to the body and a celebration of its elegance, this book will transform the way you think about being alive, whether in sickness or in health.

Publisher: Profile Books
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 1781253412





Bennett, Alan. Smut – two unseemly stories


The Shielding of Mrs Forbes

Graham Forbes is a disappointment to his mother, who thinks that if he must have a wife, he should have done better. Though her own husband isn’t all that satisfactory either. Still, this is Alan Bennett, so what is happening in the bedroom (and in lots of other places too) is altogether more startling, perhaps shocking, and ultimately more true to people’s predilections.

The Greening of Mrs Donaldson

Mrs Donaldson is a conventional middle-class woman beached on the shores of widowhood after a marriage that had been much like many others: happy to begin with, then satisfactory and finally dull. But when she decides to take in two lodgers, her mundane life becomes much more stimulating…

Publisher: Profile Books
Year: 2012
ISBN-10: 1846685265

(spoiler alert)

Suri, Sandhya (dir). I for India


In 1965 Yash Pal Suri left India for the U.K. The first thing he does on his arrival in England is to buy two Super-8 cameras, two projectors and two reel to reel recorders. One set of equipment he sends to his family in India, the other he keeps for himself. For 40 years he uses it to share his new life abroad with those back home – images of snow, miniskirted ladies dancing bare-legged, the first trip to an English supermarket – his taped thoughts and observations providing a unique chronicle of the eccentricities of his new English hosts. Back in India, his relatives in turn, respond with their own ‘cine-letters’ telling tales of weddings, festivals and village life. As time passes and the planned return to India becomes an increasingly remote possibility, the joy and curiosity of the early exchanges give way to the darker reality of alienation, racism and a family falling apart. A bitter-sweet time capsule of alienation, discovery, racism and belonging, I for India is a chronicle of immigration in sixties Britain and beyond, seen through the eyes of one Asian family and their movie camera.

Director: Sandhya Suri
Year: 2007
Distributer: ICA Projects

Donaldson, Ross. The Lassa Ward

lassa lassa

In the summer of 2003, a perilous helicopter descent delivered Ross Donaldson, an American medical student in his twenties, into Sierra Leone. With abundant schooling but little practical experience, Ross wanted to save the world. Little did he know that by the end of his journey, it would be he who would need rescue.

With rebels fighting just across the border in Liberia, humanitarian need quickly swept Ross southward towards makeshift refugee camps and the heart of danger. There, he had his first terrifying encounter with the highly contagious Lassa Virus. Working on the Lassa Fever Ward, he was wholly unprepared for what he would find, and for twist of fate that saw him running the facility alone, with only a handful of untrained nurses to help him.

Based on his personal journal, this gripping memoir details the time Ross spent on the Lassa Ward, and his own battle with a potentially fatal illness. It is a real-life thriller that not only tells the adventure-packed tale of a modern-day hero, but also bears witness to a people in need, and the struggle of those who risk their daily comforts, and even their lives, to help them.

Publisher: Black Swan
Year: 2010
ISBN-10: 0552775665

Worth, Jennifer. Call the midwife: A True Story Of the East End in the 1950s

worth worth

Jennifer Worth came from a sheltered background when she became a midwife in the Docklands in the 1950s. The conditions in which many women gave birth just half a century ago were horrifying, not only because of their grimly impoverished surroundings, but also because of what they were expected to endure. But while Jennifer witnessed brutality and tragedy, she also met with amazing kindness and understanding, tempered by a great deal of Cockney humour. She also earned the confidences of some whose lives were truly stranger, more poignant and more terrifying than could ever be recounted in fiction.

Attached to an order of nuns who had been working in the slums since the 1870s, Jennifer tells the story not only of the women she treated, but also of the community of nuns (including one who was accused of stealing jewels from Hatton Garden) and the camaraderie of the midwives with whom she trained. Funny, disturbing and incredibly moving, Jennifer’s stories bring to life the colourful world of the East End in the 1950s.

Publisher: W&N
Year: 2012
ISBN-10: 0753827875

Powley, Elaine; Higson, Roger. The Arts in Medical Education: A Practical Guide

artmeded  artmeded3d

The first edition of The Arts in Medical Education outlined the principles and methods for using arts resources in teaching aspects of the medical curriculum. The second edition has been expanded with new chapters, which enliven and enhance the teaching of some of the more challenging areas of medical practice. The book includes many colour illustrations, photographs, poems and literary extracts. It is invaluable to healthcare educators and medical professionals with teaching responsibilities, offering information, structure and inspiration. ‘There is considerable art in the practice of medicine. This book represents a practical tool to stimulate educators and learners to consider new approaches to medical education that reflect changing societal needs and practice patterns by introducing the visual and literary arts to medical education; to embrace the art of medicine. Medical schools around the world are exploring the influence of the visual arts on physician practice and understanding the nature of healing as well as suffering. We hope you will find this book an important tool in your exploration of the power and influence of the arts in medicine.’ere is considerable art in the practice of medicine. This book represents a practical tool to stimulate educators and learners to consider new approaches to medical education that reflect changing societal needs and practice patterns by introducing the visual and literary arts to medical education; to embrace the art of medicine. Medical schools around the world are exploring the influence of the visual arts on physician practice and understanding the nature of healing as well as suffering. We hope you will find this book an important tool in your exploration of the power and influence of the arts in medicine.’

Publisher: CRC Press
Year: 2013
ISBN-10: 1846195659

(spoiler alert)

Posen, Solomon. The Doctor in Literature, Volume 2: Private Life

doclit2  doclit23d

Focusing on the personal lives of doctors, this annotated indexed anthology explores personality, behaviour and doctor-patient relationships as portrayed in novels, short stories and plays. “The Doctor in Literature, Volume 2” and its companion volume are unique among medical anthologies in that readers can look up medical topics as they appear in fiction. The choice of passages is based on clinical relevance, and the range of fully indexed subjects and quotations are generally not found in other texts. This work brings together an extraordinary array of passages from literature to provide a major reference source. It identifies and analyses recurring themes in the portrayal of medical doctors, and is sure to provide pleasure for readers who use it for browsing.

Publisher: CRC Press
Year: 2006
ISBN-10: 1857757793

Sacks, Oliver. A Leg to Stand On

leg leg3d

When Oliver Sacks, a physician by profession, injured his leg while climbing a mountain, he found himself in an unusual position – that of patient. The injury itself was severe, but straightforward to fix; the psychological effects, however, were far less easy to predict, explain, or resolve: Sacks experienced paralysis and an inability to perceive his leg as his own, instead seeing it as some kind of alien and inanimate object, over which he had no control. A Leg to Stand On is both an account of Sacks’ ordeal and subsequent recovery, and an exploration of the ways in which mind and body are inextricably linked.

Publisher: Picador
ISBN-10: 0330507621

(spoiler alert)

Chekhov, Anton. [Coulehan, Jack (ed).] Chekhov’s Doctors: A Collection of Chekhov’s Medical Tales

check check3d

In his brief life, Chekhov was a doctor, essayist, dramatist and a humanitarian. He saw no conflict between art and science or art and medicine. This collection of stories presents powerful portraits of doctors in their everyday lives, struggling with their own personal problems.

Publisher: Kent State University Press
Year: 2003
ISBN-10: 0873387805

(spoiler alert)

Enders, Giulia. Gut: the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ

gutinside gut3d

“The key to living a happier, healthier life is inside us. Our gut is almost as important to us as our brain or our heart, yet we know very little about how it works. In Gut, Giulia Enders shows that rather than the utilitarian and let s be honest somewhat embarrassing body part we imagine it to be, it is one of the most complex, important, and even miraculous parts of our anatomy. And scientists are only just discovering quite how much it has to offer; new research shows that gut bacteria can play a role in everything from obesity and allergies to Alzheimer’s. Beginning with the personal experience of illness that inspired her research, and going on to explain everything from the basics of nutrient absorption to the latest science linking bowel bacteria with depression, Enders has written an entertaining, informative health handbook. Gut definitely shows that we can all benefit from getting to know the wondrous world of our inner workings. In this charming book, young scientist Giulia Enders takes us on a fascinating tour of our insides. Her message is simple if we treat our gut well, it will treat us well in return. But how do we do that? And why do we need to? Find out in this surprising, and surprisingly funny, exploration of the least understood of our organs.”

Publisher: Greystone Books
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 1771641495


Granger, Kate. The Bright Side.


“The Bright Side tells the on-going story of a young doctor who is living with a rare and aggressive type of sarcoma that will end her life prematurely. It explores her return to work after a prolonged period of absence, her innermost thoughts and reflections about dying and her continuing interactions with health services. It also portrays her determined attitude to maintain positivity despite her tragic circumstances and her openness about dying.”

For more information and links >click here<

Granger, Kate. The Other Side

the_other_side theother3d

“A true story of one doctor’s journey as a patient coming to terms with a terminal cancer diagnosis. The hope is that by reading it healthcare professionals will be better able understand exactly what being the patient is really like and how their behaviours, no matter how small can impact massively on the people they look after. It is also a story of personal battles with control, learning how and when to relinquish this.”

For more information and links >click here<

Publisher: Kate Granger
ISBN-10: 1471625850

Gawande, Atul. Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End

mortal_gawande mortal

For most of human history, death was a common, ever-present possibility. It didn’t matter whether you were five or fifty – every day was a roll of the dice. But now, as medical advances push the boundaries of survival further each year, we have become increasingly detached from the reality of being mortal. So here is a book about the modern experience of mortality – about what it’s like to get old and die, how medicine has changed this and how it hasn’t, where our ideas about death have gone wrong. With his trademark mix of perceptiveness and sensitivity, Atul Gawande outlines a story that crosses the globe, as he examines his experiences as a surgeon and those of his patients and family, and learns to accept the limits of what he can do.

Never before has aging been such an important topic. The systems that we have put in place to manage our mortality are manifestly failing; but, as Gawande reveals, it doesn’t have to be this way. The ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death, but a good life – all the way to the very end.

Publisher: Profile Books
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 1846685826

Pinter, Harold. A Kind of Alaska

alaska alaska3d

A middle-aged woman named Deborah, who has been in a comatose state for thirty years as a result of contracting “sleepy sickness,” encephalitis lethargica, awakes with a mind still that of a sixteen-year-old. She must confront a body which seems to have aged without her prior knowledge or consent.

Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN-10: 0571288405

(spoiler alert)

Irving, John. A son of the circus

circus circus3d

‘The doctor was fated to go back to Bombay; he would keep returning again and again – if not forever, at least for as long as there were dwarves in the circus.’

Born a Parsi in Bombay, sent to university and medical school in Vienna, Dr Farrokh Daruwalla is a Canadian citizen – a 59-year-old orthopaedic surgeon, living in Toronto. Once, twenty years ago, Dr Daruwalla was the examining physician of two murder victims in Goa. Now, two decades later, the doctor will be reacquainted with the murderer…

Publisher: Black Swan
Year: 1995
ISBN-10: 055299605X

Holden J, Kieffer J, Newbigin J, Wright S. Where Does It Hurt? The New World of the Medical Humanities

 where hurt wherhurt4d

Where does it Hurt: The New World of Medical Humanities is a compilation of forty short essays edited by John Holden, John Kieffer, John Newbigin, and Shelagh Wright for the Wellcome Trust. It sets out to explore definitions of the medical humanities and allow people to visualise what it might entail by giving examples of practical applications of the arts and humanities to concepts of health and wellbeing.

Publisher: Wellcome Trust
Year: 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0-9570285-7-9

You can download a copy here

Czerwiec MK, Williams I, Squier SM, Green MJ, Myers KR, Smith ST. Graphic Medicine Manifesto

graphicmed graphicmed4d

This inaugural volume in the Graphic Medicine series establishes the principles of graphic medicine and begins to map the field. The volume combines scholarly essays written by the editorial team with previously unpublished visual narratives by Ian Williams and MK Czerwiec and includes comic avatars by a wide range of graphic medicine contributors—all in an arresting format. The first section comprises essays by Scott Smith and Susan Squier. It argues that as a new area of scholarship, research on graphic medicine has the potential to challenge the boundaries of conventional academic disciplines, to raise questions about their foundations, and to reinvigorate literary scholarship—and the notion of the literary text—for a broader audience. The second section, incorporating essays by Michael Green and Kimberly Myers, demonstrates that graphic medicine narratives have the potential to engage members of the health professions with literary and visual representation and symbolic practices, offering patients, family members, physicians, and other caregivers new ways to experience and work with the challenges and complexity of the medical experience. The final section, featuring essays by Ian Williams and MK Czerwiec, focuses on the practice of creating graphic narratives; iconography used in the graphic narrative; drawing as social practice; and the nature of comics as visual rhetoric. A conclusion (in comics form) testifies to the diverse and growing community that is graphic medicine. Finally, two bibliographies—one of comics and the other of scholarly references—provide a valuable resource for readers.

Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press,
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 0271066490

Emery, AEH, Emery MLH. Medicine and Art

med_art medart3d

Alan and Marcia Emery present a superb collection of over fifty pieces of art, reflecting the physician’s role in society and the relationship between doctor and patient.

Medicine and Art contains an international selection of artworks, tracing both the history of art and the development of medicine from the Ancient Greeks to the present day, illustrating changing perceptions and applications of medicine, through varied styles and artistic media.

Each work of art is accompanied by a short essay describing the history of the artist and the subject of the artwork. The full colour illustrations and detailed Appendix of further artworks depicting specific medical conditions make this book a unique treasure trove of information for all who share the authors’ love of art, history and medicine. This intriguing book evolved from a series of articles written and researched by Alan Emery about art and medicine in Clinical Medicine, the journal of the Royal College of Physicians of London

Publisher: Royal Society of Medicine Press
Year 2002
ISBN-10: 1853155012

Steven Oliver HYMS: This is a beautiful book, with some brilliant reproductions and a fascinating documentation and perspective on the way doctors and medicine have been represented in art over time. The image below is included in the book from the Wellcome Library collection >link<, it is called ‘Sentence of Death‘ painted in 1908 by John Collier and represents the moment a young man is told by his physician that he is going to die. We can only speculate which terminal illness it was that was being imagined, capable of killing a young Edwardian man: cancer, tuberculosis or perhaps syphilis?

V0016100 A physician telling a patient that he is going to die (?): t

Oz, Frank (dir). What about Bob?


A successful psychotherapist loses his mind after one of his most dependent patients, a manipulative, obsessively compulsive narcissist, tracks him down during his family vacation.

Producers: Laura Ziskin
Year: 1991
Director: Frank Oz
Writer: Tom Schulman

Chekhov, Anton P. A Boring Story


Nikolai Stepanovich, a famous professor of medicine, narrates his own story. An elderly man, he believes he will die in a few months, although he refuses to consult a doctor about his illness. He knows his wife to be a fat, old busybody, but he remembers her as a young beauty. His daughter Lisa is engaged to Gnekker, an ugly young man who seems to have neither talent nor employment. The professor’s only enjoyment is to spend hours talking with Katya, his young ward, who once ran off to join the theater in Moscow, but later returned to become an indolent do-nothing.

Haines, Randa (dir). The Doctor.


Jack McKee is a doctor with it all: he’s successful, he’s rich, and he has no problems…. until he is diagnosed with throat cancer. Now that he has seen medicine, hospitals, and doctors from a patient’s perspective, he realises that there is more to being a doctor than surgery and prescriptions.

Producers: Laura Ziskin
Year: 1991
Director: Randa Haines
Writer: Robert Caswell

Joffé, Roland (dir). City of Joy


Hasari Pal (Om Puri) is a rural farmer who moves to Calcutta with his wife (Shabana Azmi) and three children in search of a better life. They are cheated out of their rent money and thrown out on the streets, and it’s difficult for Hasari to find a job to support them.
Meanwhile, on the other end of Calcutta, Max Lowe (Patrick Swayze), a doctor disillusioned by an easy job in a Houston hospital, has arrived in search of spiritual enlightenment after the loss of a patient there. However, he encounters misfortune as soon as he arrives.
Hasari comes to Max’s aid and takes the injured doctor to the “City of Joy,” a slum area populated with lepers and poor people that becomes the Pals’ new home and the American’s home away from home.

Producers:Jake Eberts, Roland Joffé
Year: 1992
Director: Roland Joffé
Writer: Mark Medoff

Brooks, Richard (dir). Crisis


Dr Ferguson is a brain surgeon, on vacation with his wife in a small Spanish-speaking country. This is actually a dictatorship ruled by tyrant Raoul Farrago. As they leave the country, Dr and Madam are arrested and lead to Farrago. He has a tumor that has to be removed quickly. Ferguson’s duty is to cure sick people, but letting Farrago die would be a relief for the people…

Producers: Arthur Freed
Year: 1950
Director: Richard Brooks
Writer: Richard Brooks

Frears, Stephen (dir). Dirty pretty things


Okwe is an illegal Nigerian immigrant leading a hard life and struggling to survive in London’s underground. He works as a hotel receptionist in the night time and as he has a doctor degree he practices some medicine, during the day, in a very odd way. Besides that he must constantly escape from Immigration officers. One day Okwe discovers by chance an illegal scheme of surgeries is being lead by Juan, his boss in the hotel. Juan quickly comes up with a tempting proposal: if Okwe accepts to perform the illegal surgeries he makes a lot of money and gets legalized situation in the U.K. Can Okwe keep his moral values intact?

Producers: Robert Jones, Tracey Seaward
Year: 2002
Director: Stephen Frears
Writer: Steven Knight

(spoiler alert)

Koster, Henry (dir). Harvey


Due to his insistence that he has an invisible six-foot rabbit for a best friend, a whimsical middle-aged man is thought by his family to be insane – but he may be wiser than anyone knows.

Producers: John Beck
Year: 1950
Director: Henry Koster
Writer: Mary Chase, Oscar Brodney, Myles Connolly

(spoiler alert)

Neame, Ronald (dir) Windom’s way


A doctor’s sophisticated wife joins him at his remote Asian practice to try and patch up their marriage. Increasingly violent friction between local rubber plantation workers and the authorities force both parties to make decisions.

Producers: John Bryan, John Hawkesworth, Earl St. John
Year: 1957
Director: Ronald Neame
Writer: Jill Craigie

Colquhoun, Glenn. Playing God: poems about medicine

god god3d

This collection of poems by doctor and acclaimed poet, Glenn Colquhoun, is based on his experiences in medical practice, where doctors are often described – or accused of – ‘playing God’ but where outward confidence hides a constant battle with uncertainty.

Publisher: Hammersmith Press Limited
Year: 2007
ISBN-10: 1905140169



Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures.

falldown  falldown3d

When three-month-old Lia Lee Arrived at the county hospital emergency room in Merced, California, a chain of events was set in motion from which neither she nor her parents nor her doctors would ever recover. Lia’s parents, Foua and Nao Kao, were part of a large Hmong community in Merced, refugees from the CIA-run “Quiet War” in Laos. The Hmong, traditionally a close-knit and fiercely independent people, have been less amenable to assimilation than most immigrants, adhering steadfastly to the rituals and beliefs of their ancestors. Lia’s pediatricians, Neil Ernst and his wife, Peggy Philip, cleaved just as strongly to another tradition: that of Western medicine. When Lia Lee Entered the American medical system, diagnosed as an epileptic, her story became a tragic case history of cultural miscommunication.

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Year: 1997
ISBN-10: 0374525641

(spoiler alert)

Almodóvar, Pedro. The skin I live in.

Quad_Skin I Live In_AW.indd

A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.

Producers: Agustín Almodóvar, Pedro Almodóvar
Year: 2011
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Writer: Pedro Almodóvar

Macdonald, Kevin (dir). The last king of Scotland.


The Last King of Scotland tells the fictional story of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), a young Scottish doctor who travels to Uganda and becomes the personal physician to the dictator Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). The film is based on factual events of Amin’s rule and the title comes from a reporter in a press conference who wishes to verify whether Amin declared himself the King of Scotland.

Producers: Charles Steel, Lisa Bryer, Andrea Calderwood
Year: 2007
Director: Kevin MacDonald
Writer: Peter Morgan, Jeremy Brock

Morahan, Christopher (dir). Paper Mask


Londoner Matthew Harris (Paul McGann) feels he’s destined for more in life than being a hospital porter. After a doctor who resembles him dies in a car accident, Harris takes it as an opportunity to improve his lot. Assuming the man’s identity, Harris nabs a position in a Bristol emergency room. There, he embarks on a romance with nurse Christine Taylor (Amanda Donohoe). But before long his past — and his lack of medical experience — come back to haunt him.

Production: British Screen Productions, Channel Four Films, Granada Television, Paper Mask
Year: 1990
Director: Christopher Morahan

Lewis, Sinclair. Arrowsmith.

arrowsmith arrowsmith3d

Arrowsmith, the most widely read of Sinclair Lewis’s novels, is the dramatic portrayal of a man passionately devoted to science. As a bright, lonely boy in a small Midwestern town, Martin Arrowsmith spends his free time in old Doc Vickerson’s office avidly devouring medical texts. Destined to become a physician and a researcher, he discovers that societal forces of ignorance, corruption, and greed can be life-threatening obstacles. But he perseveres in his pursuit of scientific truth-even in the face of personal tragedy.Based on a spiritual ideal, Arrowsmith is the story of a visionary, a man of great energy and purpose, courage, dedication, who never loses hope. Lewis’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel illuminates the mystery and power of the medical profession while giving enduring dramatic life to a singular American hero’s impassioned struggle for integrity and intellectual freedom.

Publisher: Signet Classics
ISBN-10: 0451530861

(spoiler alert)

Dunmore, Helen. The Betrayal

betray betrayal3d

Leningrad, 1952. Andrei, a young hospital doctor and Anna, a nursery school teacher, are forging a life together in the post-war, post-siege wreckage. But their happiness is precarious, like that of millions of Russians who must avoid the claws of Stalin’s merciless Ministry for State security. So when Andrei is asked to treat the seriously ill child of a senior secret police officer, he and Anna are fearful. Trapped in an impossible, maybe unwinnable game, can they avoid the whispers and watchful eyes of those who will say or do anything to save themselves?

Publisher: Penguin
Year: 2011
ISBN-10: 014104683X

Steven Oliver HYMS: I’d recommend this book which is a fictionalised account of the ‘Doctor’s plot’ in Stalin’s Russia – who would like to treat the son of the local secret police chief for osteosarcoma? I think it’s a good read, with some challenging ethical choices to explore about what it may mean to be a ‘good doctor’ in ‘bad times’.

Weston, Gabriel. Direct Red: A Surgeon’s Story

direct red dir_red

How does it feel to hold someone’s life in your hands? What is it like to cut into someone else’s body? What is it like to stand by, powerless, while someone dies because of the incompetence of your seniors? How do you tell a beautiful young man who seems perfectly fit that he has only a few days left to live?

Gabriel Weston worked as a surgeon in the big-city hospitals of the twenty-first century; a woman in a world dominated by Alpha males. Her world was one of disease, suffering and extraordinary pressure where a certain moral ambiguity and clinical detachment were necessary tools for survival. Startling and honest, her account combines a fierce sense of human dignity with compassion and insight, illuminating scenes of life and death the rest of us rarely glimpse.

Publisher: Vintage
Year: 2010
ISBN-10: 0099520699

Williams, I. The Bad Doctor



“Cartoonist and doctor Ian Williams takes his stethoscope to Dr Iwan James, a rural GP in need of more than a little care himself. Incontinent old ladies, men with eagle tattoos, traumatised widowers, Iwan’s patients cause him both empathy and dismay, further complicated by his feelings for his practise partners: unrequited longing for Dr Lois Pritchard and frustration at the antics of Dr Robert Smith, who will use any means to make Iwan look bad in his presence. Iwan’s cycling trips with his friend and mentor, Arthur, provide some welcome relief for him.”

Year: 2014
ISBN-10: 1908434287

(spoiler alert)

For a review of the book on the Forbidden Planet blog click here

Marsh, H. Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery


What is it like to be a brain surgeon?
How does it feel to hold someone’s life in your hands, to cut into the stuff that creates thought, feeling and reason?
How do you live with the consequences of performing a potentially life-saving operation when it all goes wrong?
DO NO HARM is an unforgettable insight into the countless human dramas that take place in a busy modern hospital. Above all, it is a lesson in the need for hope when faced with life’s most difficult decisions.

Publisher: W&N
Year 2014
ISBN-10: 0297869876

(spoiler alert)

Gawande, A. Complications: a Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science

Gently dismantling the myth of medical infallibility, Dr Atul Gawande’s Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science is essential reading for anyone involved in medicine–on either end of the stethoscope. Medical professionals make mistakes, learn on the job and improvise much of their technique and self-confidence. Gawande’s tales are humane and passionate reminders that doctors are people, too.

Title: Complications:a Surgeon’s notes on an imperfect science.

Author: Gawande, Atul

Publisher: Profile books

Year: 2008

ISBN: 1846681324

Guterson, D. East of the mountains

When he discovers that he has terminal cancer, retired heart surgeon Ben Givens refuses to simply sit back and wait. Instead he takes his two beloved dogs and goes on a last hunt, determined to end his life on his own terms.
But as the people he meets and the memories over which he lingers remind him of the mystery of life’s endurance, his trek into the American West becomes much more than a final journey.

Author: Guterson, David
Title: East of the mountains
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Year: 2000
ISBN: 0747545081

 (spoiler alert)

Hammond, P. Trust Me, I’m (still) a Doctor

Why is healthcare (still) no safer than bungee jumping?
Dr Phil Hammond has spent 20 years as a health service whistleblower, exposing the dark side of medicine on stage and in the pages of Private Eye. Trust Me, I’m (Still) a Doctor is his story of the NHS and how we can all help to make it better. Dr Phil has done the rounds in hospital medicine, exposed the Bristol Heart Scandal, dabbled in sexual health and been threatened at a Public Inquiry for not revealing his sources.
He still works as a GP, and tries to do more good than harm in under ten minutes.
Dr Phil urges us all to help fix the NHS, stop mindless reform and start asking terribly
un-British questions like: ‘Have you done one like me before?’, ‘When did you last
wash your hands?’ and ‘Where’s all the money gone?’ Only then will healthcare stop
being dangerous and unaccountable. Trust me…

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Not to
be confused with the junior doctor book, this is
a compilation of the medical related columns from private eye. Much sharper reporting
than the mainstream press, amongst the stories he broke was the bristol baby scandal.
The main theme is his assertion that patient choice has been a misguided and expensive
agenda (since they don’t care) whilst patient safety is an issue nhs staff could unite

Publisher: Black and White Publishing
Year: 2009
ISBN-10: 1845022610


Helman, C. Suburban Shaman: Tales from Medicine’s Frontline

‘To be a good doctor you have to be a compassionate chameleon, a shape shifter – a shaman. Even if your adaptation to your patients’ world happens at an unconscious level you should always work within their system of ideas, never against it…’ So writes Cecil Helman after 27 years as a family practitioner in the suburbs of North London interlaced with training and research as a medical anthropologist, comparing a wide variety of health systems.

Publisher: Hammersmith Press Limited
Year: 2006
ISBN: 1905140088

Anonymous. The four forms of the doctor

These four images show an interesting progression in the perception of a doctor – from saint to satan.

  • In the first picture the doctor is heaven sent – there are broken bones to mend, patients in extremis
  • In the second he is hard at work – seen as a ministering angel
  • By picture number three his work is done, his patients restored to health
  • But in picture four we discover how he is seen when the bills are due – the devil incarnate

These pictures, painted in the early 1600’s, are part of the collection of the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden in the Netherlands (the Dutch National Museum of Science and Medicine) – you can visit the website here  (or click on any of the pictures.)

Viewer Comments:

These pictures form the frontispiece of Kenneth Calman’s book ‘Medical Education Past Present and Future’, I thought they were fabulous and a great reminder that the image of ‘the doctor’ is never fixed and not always positive!

Goldacre, B. Bad Science

How do we know if a treatment works, or if something causes cancer? Can the claims of homeopaths ever be as true – or as interesting as the improbable research into the placebo effect? Who created the MMR hoax? Do journalists understand science? Ben Goldacre masterfully dismantles the dodgy science behind some of the great drug trials, court cases and missed opportunities of our time, but he also goes further: out of the bulls***, he shows us the fascinating story of how we know what we know, and gives us the tools to uncover bad science for ourselves.

Emma Mironska (HYMS): I’d like to recommend ‘Bad Science’ By Dr Ben Goldacre. I reread it over the Summer and it is both hilarious and shocking at the same time. It goes through why it is essential that medicine has a reliable evidence base. Should be standard reading for any doctor. He also has a website which is definately worth a look He puts into words everything i’ve ever wanted to say to a homeopathist…

Publisher: Fourth Estate
Year: 2008
ISBN: 0007240198

Viewer Comments:


Agree with that; this is TCC material which makes you laugh aloud; can’t be bad

Faulks, S. Birdsong

Set before and during the great war, Birdsong captures the drama of that era on both a national and a personal scale. It is the story of Stephen, a young Englishman, who arrives in Amiens in 1910. His life goes through a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives, to the unprecedented experiences of the war itself.

Dr Jonathan Lloyd HYMS: themes loss, grief, bereavement , one of the most moving accounts of love and war.

Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 0099387913

Berger, J. A fortunate man: the story of a country doctor

In 1966 John Berger spent three months in the Forest of Dean shadowing an English country GP, John Sassall.

Sassall is a fortunate man – his work occupies and fulfils him, he lives amongst the patients he treats, the line between his life and his work is happily blurred.

In A Fortunate Man, Berger’s text and the photography of Jean Mohr reveal with extraordinary intensity the life of a remarkable man. It is a portrait of one selfless individual and the rural community for which he became the hub. Drawing on psychology, biography and medicine A Fortunate Man is a portrait of sacrifice. It is also a profound exploration of what it means to be a doctor, to serve a community and to heal.

Author: Berger, John
Title: A fortunate man: the story of a country doctor
Publisher: Random House USA Inc
Year: 1997
ISBN: 067973726X

Viewer Comments:

Comment (Prof John Cookson – HYMS)

Set in the Forest of Dean and a world away from General Practice now.  Some wonderful photographs.  Sadly, the protagonist committed suicide

Barry, Sebastian. The Secret Scripture.

Roseanne McNulty may (or may not) be on the point of nearing her 100th birthday — but there is little certainty about this fact. In her twilight years, her destiny is uncertain, as the Roscommon Mental Hospital — her home for so many years of her life — is on the point of closing. As the fateful hour approaches, Roseanne spends her time of talking to her psychiatrist of many years, Dr  Grene. The relationship between the two is strangely interdependent, and the doctor is also attempting to come to terms with the death of his wife. As we learn more about the two principal protagonists, we are presented with a rich and subtle picture of human relationships — and the (often unintentional) damages that we all do to each other

Prof Una Macleod HYMS: Don’t be put off by the accolades for this book. It is worthy of them. A beautifully written, moving story about an old lady, a psychiatrist, the Catholic church in Ireland. Useful to reflect on the power of religion in the lives of doctors and the role of doctors on bearing witness when that power is misused. Reflect on Dr Grene’s analysis: ‘As I do not seem able much to heal, then maybe I can simply be the responsible witness to the miracle of the ordinary soul’.

Publisher: Faber and Faber
Year: 2009
ISBN-10: 0571215297

Bulgakov, M. A country doctor’s notebook (The notes of a young doctor)

With the ink still wet on his diploma, the twenty-five-year-old Dr Mikhail Bulgakov was flung into the depths of rural Russia which, in 1916-17, was still largely unaffected by such novelties as the motor car, the telephone or electric light. How his alter-ego copes (or fails to cope) with the new and often appalling responsibilities of a lone doctor in a vast country practice – on the eve of Revolution – is described in Bulgakov’s delightful blend of candid realism and imaginative exuberance.

Publisher: Vintage Classics
Year: 2010
ISBN: 0099529564

Cassidy, S. The Loneliest Journey

Sheila Cassidy is a British doctor and is known for her work in the hospice movement, as a writer and as someone who, by publicising her own history as a torture survivor, drew attention to human rights abuse in Chile in the 1970s.

Author: Cassidy, Sheila
Title: The Loneliest Journey
Publisher: Athena Press Ltd
Year: 2008
ISBN: 1847482309

Kaplan J. The Dressing Station: A Surgeon’s Odyssey

Surgeon Jonathan Kaplan has flown around the world on medical assignments, but as his debut book suggests, he never feels more engaged with life than when among the dying.

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Experiences of a surgeon who worked in various conflicts and disasters including amongst the kurds during the first gulf war

Publisher: Picador
Year: 2002
ISBN-10: 0330480790

(spoiler alert)

Crane, Tim. Elements of Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind

Demian Whiting HYMS: An accessible introduction to philosophy of mind by a leading contemporary theorist

This accessible and lively introduction considers the main problems and debates in contemporary philosophy of mind. The central theme of the book is that intentionality, or the mind’s direction upon its objects – sometimes described as the mind’s power to represent or be ‘about’ things – is the essential feature of all mental phenomena. Crane engages in a subsidiary theme, the mind-body problem, asking to what extent a physicalist reductive account of mental phenomena is possible, or even necessary. Proposing an original and unified theory of all the phenomena of mind, Crane opposes those currently popular conceptions of the mind which divide mental phenomena into two very different kinds, the intentional and the qualitative. In the light of his theory, Crane gives an account of the main problems of the philosophy of mind: the mind-body problem, the problem of intentionality (or mental representation), the problem of consciousness, and the problem of perception. He also attempts to give solutions to these problems. This book provides an fresh and engaging exploration of those questions at the centre of the philosophy of mind in an accessible and lucid style which will appeal to all students, including those new to the subject.

Publisher: OUP Oxford
Year: 2001
ISBN-10: 0192892975

Stroud, M. Survival of the Fittest

Paul Scott (HYMS): Mike Stroud, polar explorer and practising doctor recounts his inspirational feats of endurance and explores the extremes the human body can operate at. An excellent and informative read.

Title: Survival of the Fittest

Author: Stroud, Mike

Publisher: Vintage

Year: 1999

ISBN: 0099272598

Wooton, D. Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Not to be confused with Ben Goldacre’s book, this is by a York academic and gives a revisionist take on the history of medicine. Particularly interesting is the way he demonstrates how Doctors have often been quite reactionary and slow to adopt new techniques when it threatened their professional identity (e.g. surgeons reluctance to use anaesthetic for 50 years because tradition dictated that a good surgeon was someone who could work fast and endure the patient’s screams). Also shows how in statistical terms health services and doctors make a fairly marginal difference to public health.

For a link to the authors university website click here – there is also an excellent website dedicated to the book with reviews, debate and further links
Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1 edition
Year: 2007
ISBN-10: 0199212791

Viewer Comments:


Just finished this – its a good read and full of surprises (like ‘who’ discovered penicilin), along with some old friends (whole chapter on Dr John Snow). The section that made me think most was probably the chapter on vivisection, and the harm doctors have caused to animals in the past. Whilst on a personal level I have always seen experimentation on animals as justfiable, it is good to have those ideas challenged and tested.

I also liked the fact that the book is better received by doctors than by historians, some of whom apparently baulk at the idea of a history of ‘progress’.

Fitzgerald, F Scott.Tender is the Night


To the French Riviera come Dick and Nicole Diver. Handsome, rich and glamorous, their dinners are legendary, their atmosphere magnetic. But something is wrong – Nicole has a secret and Dick a weakness. Together they head towards the rocks on which their lives crash – and only one of them really survives. Fitzgerald worked on seventeen versions of this novel, the obsessions of which consumed his marriage and his life.

Stephen Bradley HYMS: One of  Fitzgerald’s best, about the descent into dissapation of a psychiastrist, from his  promising youth to obscurity and disgrace.

Publisher: Penguin Classics
ISBN-10: 0140622608

(spoiler alert)

(spoiler alert)

Viewer Comments:


It’s not clear to me in the book whether Nicole gains in health at Dick’s cost, or in fact what really leads to his apparent dissolution, but I thought this quote rings true about the affect that caring for a family member can have. (Topsy is Dick and Nicole’s daughter and second child, the quote comes at a point when Nicole has ‘relapsed’)

Having gone through unprofessional agonies during her long relapse following Topsy’s birth, he had, perforce, hardened himself about her, making a cleavage between Nicole sick and Nicole well. This made it difficult now to distinguish between his self-protective professional detachment and some new coldness in his heart.


From what I remember it seemed that by compromising his ethics and getting involved with a patient Diver begins his decline. Fitzgerald seemed to be fascinated by failure and people doing what they want to do rather than what they should do. The beautiful & the damned is another other striking example. They all drink too much and lead dreadful lives not having the discipline to avoid any temptation that comes their way. There is almost a whole genre of books about wealthy americans being obnoxiously aimless in post war europe. Hemmingways ‘sun also rises’ is the best other example I can think of, highsmiths the talented mr ripley is an interesting variation. Fitzgerald &  hemmingway are probably guilty of romanticising a fairly silly attidude but they’re enjoyable books.

Not sure why but 2 points are very memorable for me on diver’s trajectory: maybe his lowest ebb when he acts like a bigot and when a colleague’s wife condems him, noting that he is ‘no longer a serious man’.

Interestingly much of this book seems to have been based on Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, and her experiences of mental illness. She has written about this herself elsewhere.

Sacks, O. The man who mistook his wife for a hat (and other clinical tales)

A 1985 book by neurologist Oliver Sacks describing the case histories of some of his patients. The title of the book comes from the case study of a man with visual agnosia

Author: Sacks, Oliver

Title: The man who mistook his wife for a hat (and other clinical tales)

Publisher: Chester Music

Year: 1996

ISBN: 0711960836

Pemberton, M. Trust me I’m a (junior) doctor

If you’re going to be ill, it’s best to avoid the first Wednesday in August. This is the day when junior doctors graduate to their first placements and begin to face having to put into practice what they have spent the last six years learning.  Starting on the evening before he begins work as a doctor, this book charts Max Pemberton’s touching and funny journey through his first year in the NHS. Progressing from youthful idealism to frank bewilderment, Max realises how little his job is about ‘saving people’ and how much of his time is taken up by signing forms and trying to figure out all the important things no one has explained yet — for example, the crucial question of how to tell whether someone is dead or not. Along the way, Max and his fellow fledgling doctors grapple with the complicated questions of life, love, mental health and how on earth to make time to do your laundry.

Author: Max Pemberton
Title: Trust me I’m a (junior) doctor
Publisher: Hodder
Year: 2008
ISBN: 0340962054

Peschel, R. When a doctor hates a patient, and other chapters in a young physician’s life

Enid and Richard Peschel have collaborated to create another fine contribution to the new and growing field of medical humanities.In this interesting volume, Richard Peschel, MD, recounts a number of gripping events recollected from his internship and early medical training. Each tale describes a moment of considerable intensity when doctor meets patient. Following each of these short narratives, Enid Peschel, PhD, describes similar encounters drawn from art, music, and literature.

Author: Peschel, Richard E
Title: When a doctor hates a patient, and other chapters in a young physician’s life
Publisher: University of California Press
Year: 1986
ISBN: 0520057554

O’Malley.E. On Another Man’s Wound

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Experience
of a medical student who abandons his course to take part in the Irish war of independence.
O’Malley quickly became one of the most important leaders of the republic’s army during
the war and later fought against the new state in the civil war.

Publisher: Roberts Rinehart Publishers
Year: 2002
ISBN: 1589790049

Galgut, D. The Good Doctor

When Laurence Waters arrives at his rural hospital posting, Frank is instantly suspicious. Laurence is everything Frank is not – young, optimistic and full of new schemes. The two become uneasy friends, while the rest of the staff in the deserted hospital view Laurence with a mixture of awe and mistrust. The town beyond the hospital is also coping with new arrivals, and the return of old faces. The brigadier – a self-fashioned dictator from apartheid days – is rumoured still to be alive. And down at Mama’s place, a group of soldiers have moved in with their malign commandant, a man Frank has met before and is keen to avoid. Laurence wants to help – but in a world where the past is demanding restitution from the present, his ill-starred idealism cannot last. In gleaming prose Damon Galgut has created a literary thriller out of an unlikely friendship.

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Set in post apartheid south africa, about niaviety and cynicism and the problems of both in situations of great scarcity and civil conflict

Publisher: Atlantic Books
Year: 2003
ISBN-10: 1843542013

(spoiler alert)

Cronin, A. The Citadel

This novel by Dr A.J. Cronin (1896-1981) is an excellent entrée into the world of British medicine in the 1920s and `30s, a world in which a character in his 50s can be described as “elderly,” and in which doctors specializing in lung diseases are regularly portrayed cigarette in hand.

Dr Jane Adam HYMS: I have just finished re-reading The Citadel, and it has given me enormous pleasure. I must have been in my early twenties when I first read it, and so – although I thought it was a marvellous read then – I was unaware of just how prophetic it was too, particularly about medical education and training. I also have taken great delight in reading a straightforward and romantic narrative novel (ie a story with a beginning, middle, end); made me realise that these ‘post-modern’ novels are so complex nowadays

Author: Cronin, A.J.
Title: The Citadel
Publisher: Gollancz
Year: 1937

 (spoiler alert)

Misselbrook, D. Thinking about patients

Written by a practising GP, the book critically examines early 21st-century NHS trends and also explores the broader scientific base underlying our ideas about health and the provision of healthcare. Drawing on his own experience, and upon case histories, contemporary literature and research reviews, the author discusses the different viewpoints of patients and doctors and gives a new slant on the sociology of medicine, urging a move from the mechanistic, to the holistic approach
in doctors’ attitudes towards their patients

Author: Misselbrook, David
Title: Thinking about patients
Publisher: Petroc Press
Year: 2001
ISBN: 1900603497

O’Donnell, M. A Sceptic’s medical dictionary

Everyone involved in, and indeed all who have ever had dealings with the medical profession, will find this unique dictionary both humorous and enlightening. In all the definitions Michael O′Donnell entertains the reader with his eloquent observations on the all too recognisable follies of human behaviour.

Author: O’Donnell, Michael
Title: A Sceptic’s medical dictionary
Publisher: BMJ Publishing
Year: 1997
ISBN: 0727912046

Viewer Comments:


Michael O’Donnell was already a writer for the BBC when he applied to medical school. He wanted to maintain this interest so askd the Dean if the medical school if he could be a part time medical student.  ‘Is there any other kind?’ said the Dean wearily

Murray, R. Ethical dilemmas in healthcare: a practical approach through medical humanities

Medical humanities is a method of promoting the discussion of health care issues by using literary texts. Poems, short stories and novels about illness can provoke us into discussing not only medical conditions but also the attitudes, emotions, and underlying cultural values of patients and carers. It helps students develop compassion and empathy. In professional practice, it develops and maintains reflective practice. The author defines and explains the nature of medical humanities.
She then gives specific examples and case studies, and provides appropriate pieces of literature so that the reader can use this text as a source book.

Author: Murray, Rowena
Title: Ethical dilemmas in healthcare: a practical approach through medical humanities
Publisher: London, etc., Chapman & Has ll
Year: 1997
ISBN: 0412624303

Mukherjee, Siddartha. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

In The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee, doctor, researcher and award-winning science writer, examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with – and perished from – for more than five thousand years.

Publisher: Fourth Estate
Year: 2011
ISBN-10: 0007250924

Viewer Comments:


For reasons too dull to explain I had to read this book in 7 days and it’s a consequence of the excellence of the writing (and two long train journeys) that I was able to get through the 600 pages quite easily. It’s hard to believe that this is Mukherjee’s first book.If 600 pages is too daunting, it’s possible to dip into sections and still gain something.Students may find the accounts of early treatment experiments and trials from the late 19th and 20th centuries fascinating and informative. The book is quite US-centred, although there are great summaries of the classic UK Doll and Hill epidemiological studies into smoking and lung cancer.

There are memorable chapters on patients in treatment trials, that give insights into what it must be like from the patient’s point of view.

An excellent read.

I think this book provides something which is hugely helpful in learning medicine, a ‘narrative’ that links science, its application through therapeutics and the human story that follows this – for both patients and scientist/clinician. Trying to ‘make sense’ of isolated pieces of knowledge whilst being disconnected from the way current understanding has developed from past perspectives is hard – reading this book may make that job a bit easier. I learned a huge amount from this book and whilst it has both a US and clinical oncology ‘bias’ this didn’t detract from the enjoyment.



Mirko, D. Western medical thought from antiquity to the Middle Ages

This text covers medical thought from antiquity through to the Middle Ages, reconstructing the slow transformation and sudden changes in theory and practice that marked the birth and early development of Western medicine. Throughout the links between socioeconomics are highlighted, with a focus on the physician, and the scientific ideas, beliefs and techniques behind prevailing medical practices.

Author: Mirko D, Grmek ed
Title: Western medical thought from antiquity to the Middle Ages
Publisher: Harvard UP
Year: 1999
ISBN: 067440355X

MacCarthy, Aidan. A Doctor’s War

An RAF medical officer, Aidan served in France, survived Dunkirk, and was plunged into adventures in the Japanese-American arena comparable with those of famous heroes. Interned by the Japanese in Java, he helped prisoners with ingenuity in appalling conditions. In 1944, en route to the Japanese mainland, his ship was torpedoed. A Japanese whaling boat picked him up and he was re-interned on the mainland. In Nagasaki, his life saved by the dropping of the A-bomb, he witnessed the horror and devastation it caused. Finally, he cruised home on board the Queen

Publisher: The Collins Press
Year: 2005
ISBN-10: 1903464706

Porter, R. The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity

Stephen Bradley HYMS: A classic and very accessible history of medicine. Chapters on modern medicine (since 19th century) are particularly worth reading especially the account of the precocious discovery of sepsis by Hungarian obstetrician Semmelweis and his tragic end (he was driven to insanity by his inability to convince his colleagues to wash their hands).

Publisher: Fontana Press
Year: 1999
ISBN-10: 0006374549

Viewer Comments:


This a fascinating book – its a bit of a brick, but is does cover all of recorded history! Roy Porter was an excellent historian and a prolific writer who died tragically young – I’m sure we’ll post more of his books in future, particularly those on the history of madness. This link should take you to his Amazon page with links to other books.

Shem, S. House of God

The hilarious novel of the healing arts that reveals everything your doctor never wanted you to know. Six eager interns — they saw themselves as modern saviors-to-be. They came from the top of their medical school class to the bottom of the hospital staff to serve a year in the time-honored tradition, racing to answer the flash of on-duty call lights and nubile nurses. But only the Fat Man –the Clam, all-knowing resident — could sustain them in their struggle to survive, to stay sane, to love-and even to be doctors when their harrowing year was done.

Author: Shem, Samuel (Stephen Bergman)
Publisher: Dell Club Co
Year: 2003
ISBN: 0440296080

 (spoiler alert)

Viewer Comments:


Steven Oliver HYMS: Law nine of the House of God (there are 13 in total) is ‘The only good admission is a dead  admission’. To understand why you may one day entertain exactly this thought – despite your best ‘patient-centred’ intentions – I would recommend this book. It’s not great literature, my copy has the word ‘bawdy’ on the cover blurb, so brace yourself for some very ‘phallocentric’ sex (however ‘my copy’ is in fact my wife’s copy – so it’s not solely for ‘lads’). I’m not sure I now find it a particularly funny book – its humour is very black – it is the writer’s anger about systems that can choke the caring out of medicine, and the impact this has on young doctors that makes this a ‘must read’ for me.

Maskalyk, J. Six Months in Sudan: A Young Doctor in a War-torn Village

James Maskalyk set out for the contested border town of Abyei, Sudan in 2007 as Medecins Sans Frontieres’ newest medical doctor in the field. Equipped with his experience as an emergency physician in a Western hospital and his desire to understand the hardest parts of the world, Maskalyk’s days were spent treating malnourished children, fending off a measles epidemic and staying out of the soldiers’ way. Worn raw in the struggle to meet overwhelming needs with inadequate resources, he returned home six months later more affected by the experience, the people and the place than he had anticipated.

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Experiences of a MSF volunteer, not always very well written but gives some insight into humanitarian work

Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
Year: 2009
ISBN-10: 1847672744

Marshall, Penny (dir). Awakenings.

Mike Hardey HYMS: Robin Williams (annoying) as Dr. Malcom Sayer pioneering the use a new drug, L-Dopa, to revive catatonic patients. He finds, however, that his patients always return to their original state no matter what he does.  Based on Oliver Sacks’ book

Director: Penny Marshall
Studio: Columbia
Year: 1990

(spoiler alert)

Blakemore, C. The Oxford Companion to the body

Here is a delightfully diverse, informative look at the human body, combining medical and physiological fact with articles that offer cultural, mythological, religious, historical, and artistic perspectives. In over 1200 alphabetically arranged entries, The Oxford Companion to the Body covers every aspect of human anatomy as well as related topics that range from Aggression, Aspirin, and Anxiety, to Warts, Whistling, Yoga, and X-Rays.

Author: Blakemore, C & Jennett, S
Title: The Oxford Companion to the body
Publisher: Oxford ; Oxford University Press
Year: 2001
ISBN: 019852403X

Kleinman, A. The illness narratives: suffering, healing and the human condition

Based on twenty years of clinical experience studying and treating chronic illness, a Harvard psychiatrist and anthropologist argues that diagnosing illness is an art tragically neglected by modern medical training, and presents a compelling case for bridging the gap between patient and doctor.

Author: Kleinman, Arthur
Title: The illness narratives: suffering, healing and the human condition
Publisher: New York, Basic Books
Year: 1988
ISBN: 0465032044

Lees, A and Kennedy, R. Ray of Hope: The Ray Kennedy Story

Former Liverpool & England footballer who developed Parkinson’s Disease at 35 (If you don’t remember the late 1970’s here he is in his prime)

Title: Ray of Hope: The Ray Kennedy Story
Authors: Lees, A & Kennedy, R
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Year: 1994
ISBN: 0140172610

Douglas, C. In sickness and in health

Spanning the lives and careers of two generations of Scottish doctors and patients, this novel charts the changes throughout the 40-year history of the National Health Service. The story encompasses crises, scandals, power-struggles, triumphs and tragedies. By the author of “The Houseman’s Tale“.

Author: Douglas, Colin
Title: In sickness and in health
Publisher: Mandarin
Year: 1992
ISBN: 074931317X

Viewer Comments:


John Cookson HYMS: Colin Douglas is a geriatician in Edinburgh.  This is a fascinating account both of a group of medical students as they qualify and move through their careers and a parallel history of the NHS

Douglas, C. The Houseman’s tale

In charge of a ward for the first time, recently graduated Dr. David Campbell tries to cope with medical politics, over-zealous researchers, bewildered patients, and exhaustion, escaping by means of drink and social-sexual encounters with young nurses.

Author: Douglas, Colin
Title: The Houseman’s tale
Publisher: Fontana
Year: 1977
ISBN: 0006162401


Gaita, Raymond. The Philosopher’s Dog

Raimond Gaita is Professor of Moral Philosophy at King’s College London and Professor of Philosophy at Australian Catholic University. The Philosopher’s Dog is a mixture of storytelling, mostly about Gaita’s own, and his father’s, relationship with their domestic pets, and philosophical reflections on the stories he tells.

The stories are about animals and their character: about Jack the cockatoo, Orloff, Zac and Gypsy the dogs, about cats, spiders, butterflies, about his father’s love and care for bees and his antipathy for insects. All are fascinating and touching stories in themselves. But more than this, Gaita’s aim is to bring philosophy and story-telling together without turning the stories into long-winded philosophical examples and without compromising the philosophy for the sake of a good story.

Publisher: Routledge
Year: 2004
ISBN-10: 0415332877

Foulds, A. The Quickening Maze

A lyrical novel, fictionalising the experiences of. the poet John Clare during his incarceration in a reformist asylum in Epping Forest in 1840. Narrative strands explore the poet’s relationships with the natural world outside the asylum, with the eminent doctor running the asylum and with the poet Tennyson.

Title: The Quickening Maze
Author: Foulds, Adam
Publisher: Vintage
Year: 2010
ISBN: 0099532441

Davies, A. A Very Peculiar Practice

Steven Oliver HYMS: Back before he became synonymous with ‘sexing up’ the Period-Costume-Adaption (Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House…) Andrew Davies wrote this series (apparently as he owed the BBC £17k). Set in a very unusual university health centre its focus was as much on the broader world of higher education, just coming to terms with ‘the market’. It had a slightly surreal aspect to it (an anarchic pair of nuns were a regular feature always up to no good somewhere on the hideous 60’s campus), and very funny. Due a re-evaluation I think as we enter more ‘interesting times’ in the University sector.

Hooker, R. M*A*S*H

Is it a book, is it a film, is it a long running TV series? Well it’s all three, a book about the experiences of US medics in the Korean War that was read and then watched in the context of another in Vietnam. The original book was written by Richard Hooker, the film was directed by Robert Altman and the TV series made a star of Alan Alda.

Andy Kardasz HYMS: I like the use of humour in such difficult situations the Medical staff use to cope with the awful casualties they deal with. That’s why it appeals to me.

This was the original trailer for the film M*A*S*H 

Title: M*A*S*H, 20th Century Fox, 1969.
Direction: Altman, Robert
Preminger, Ingo
Writing: Lardner, Ring
Based on the novel by Richard Hooker.

DVD copies of the film available

Dostoyevsky, F. Crime and Punishment

Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St Petersburg and commits a random murder without remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, a Napoleon: acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov is pursued by the growing voice of his conscience and finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck. Only Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute, can offer the chance of redemption.

Jonathan Lloyd HYMS: themes – madness, paranoia, obsession

Publisher: Penguin Classics
Year: 2003
ISBN: 0140449132

Helman, C. Doctors and Patients, an anthology

An anthology of classic writing and short stories about doctors, patients, illness and health that illuminates the relationships between doctors and patients in the past and today, this volume features writings by world-famous authors, many of whom were also physicians, including Oliver Sacks, Anton Chekhov and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Author: Helman, Cecil
Title: Doctors and Patients, an anthology
Publisher: Abingdon : Radcliffe Medical Press
Year: 2003
ISBN: 1857759931

Huyler, F. The blood of strangers

A collection of short essays set in the ER introduces a neurosurgeon who practices witchcraft, a trauma surgeon who commits suicide, a wounded murderer, and a man chased across the New Mexico desert by a missile.

Author: Huyler, Frank
Title: The blood of strangers
Publisher: Berkeley : University of California Press
Year: 1964
ISBN: 0520218639

 (spoiler alert)