Summer Reads for Future Doctors of all Sorts

Last Updated on June 23, 2022 by Laura Turner

If you are aspiring to become a doctor, it can be tempting to spend your summer trying to get ahead. It is crucial that you maintain a healthy habit of regularly keeping up on the latest studies and breakthroughs in your field of interest. But it is equally important that you maintain your sanity, personality, and continue to enjoy your own favorite reads. I’ve put together this list of interesting summer reads for future doctors that will allow you to unwind during your off season but that will continue to add to your reservoir of knowledge.

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Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks

American social scientist Arthur Brooks recounts his experience of learning how to disagree better. His book teaches how to better conduct ourselves when the opinions of others seem to misalign with our perception of fact or reality. Brooks calls out our “culture of contempt,” or the habit of treating those who disagree with us, not just as wrong, but as disgusting and worthless. What he suggests about the malpractice of contempt can meaningfully be aligned to common disputes in science, healthcare, and tension among colleagues and patients. Brooks’ wisdom about consistently acting in good faith offers several guidelines on how to productively disagree and contribute to lively, and healthy, competitions of ideas.

The White Coat Investor by James Dahle

Beyond the requirements and responsibilities that come with higher education, on top of studies it can be overwhelming to worry about strategically planning finances. James Dahle, emergency medicine physician, combines his knowledge and experience with finance and makes it applicable to medical students, residents, practicing physicians, dentists, and other healthcare professionals. Dahle gives his experienced knowledge about business, personal finance, investing, insurance, taxes, estate planning, asset protection, and other tricky situations that may not have a right or wrong answer. It is a must-read before making big decisions that will affect your savings, loans, and other investments. Dahle includes many chapters including information on how to graduate from medical school with as little debt as possible, escape from student loans within two to five years of residency graduation, and become a millionaire within five to ten years of completing residency. In a description Dahle writes, “Straight talk and clear explanations allow the book to be easily digested by a novice to the subject matter yet the book also contains advanced concepts specific to physicians you won’t find in other financial books” (Amazon).

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

You may have already seen Warner Bros’ award-winning production of the historical Walter McMillan case in motion picture Just Mercy (2019), but civil rights defense attorney, Bryan Stevenson, writes a best-seller that tells a much more detailed story of his personal journey. This incredible true story includes his creation of the Equal Justice Initiative and Stevenson’s role in granting that justice to thousands of falsely convicted “criminals,” including women, children, and disabled individuals. Though the story is full of painstaking statistics and facts that are extremely heavy to digest, it is an equally phenomenal and inspiring story in every way. The books’ theme of injustice translates well to issues within the healthcare system that affect everyday patients. It is sure to spark interest and strong reminders of the great need for improved healthcare for the underprivileged in prisons, rural, and low-income areas.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

PhD and Master of Social Work Brené Brown reveals years of data and takeaways concerning vulnerability and courage to act in situations that are “raw and scary.” Her work is particularly applicable to medical professionals in that it defines how human beings are shaped by uncertainty, risk, exposure, and our reaction to such moments. The premise of her research is that vulnerability is not weakness, but the “most accurate measure of courage.” The road to any professional endeavor is often a mix of disappointment, joy, mistakes, and success. Brené’s book conversationally lets the reader experience moments of both despair and hilarious encounters with vulnerability that strengthen by giving you the courage to continue an unwavering pursuit of your passion. Brené leads with her ability to set boundaries that ensure healthy amounts of vulnerability that builds character during risky moments like receiving criticism, engaging in difficult conversations, experiencing failure, and more. “Daring Greatly is a practice and a powerful new vision for letting ourselves be seen” (Amazon).

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

By way of personal stories and experience, practicing surgeon Atul Gawande touches on struggles and difficult topics, including death, that frequently arise in the field of medicine. Gawande emphasizes common failures, set-backs, and limitations that arise near the end of patients’ lives. Being Mortal is an honest read that gives face to common difficulties between aging and medicine’s, sometimes improper, functionality. The book is described as showing that “the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life—all the way to the very end” (Amazon).

The Med School Survival Kit by Wendell Cole, MD

This book has everything you’ll need to know about studying smarter, which applies to every exam throughout the four years of medical school and boards. Cole offers a story-telling study tactic that will save you time in learning new content, and make you up to four times more effective in your studies. The purpose of this survival guide is to give you every tip necessary to succeed in medical school and eventually get placed in your desired residency; however, the book also aims to teach you how to enjoy the journey of reaching lofty goals while still having fun and keeping your social life. Cole’s book even includes travel tips on how to get major airline discounts as a medical student. This book offers guidance on how to study with the correct resources and methods that will enable you to thrive and to endure the tasks of being a medical student!

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Mukherjee’s ability to examine cancer is complete with “a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion” (Amazon). The book is written in the form of a thriller while it builds on the topic of the survival stories of cancer victims throughout the ages. Endurance and the human will to survive drive this story to incorporate primal cures of cancer, as well as a hopeful future and clarity concerning the disease that has caused unrest for thousands of years. This book is a Pulitzer Prize winner and is now a Ken Burns documentary on PBS.

How We Do Harm by Otis Webb Brawley, MD

Oncologist and chief of medical and scientific officer of The American Cancer Society, Dr. Brawley writes an unbelievable book that calls for an astronomical change in today’s healthcare. This book exposes the malpractice of doctors and pharmaceutical companies concerned with drug sales, whether or not they enhance health or do even if they do more damage than help. He reveals situations where some physicians have been guilty of placing their own fiscal benefits before truly treating patients, based on how much money they will receive for ordering and advocating for “hot new drugs.” Perhaps the most admirable element of the book is the emphasis on the all too frequent overtreatment of the wealthy and under treatment of the poor. Amazon reviews call Brawley’s masterpiece a “…passionate view of medicine and the politics of illness in America – and a deep understanding of healthcare today.”

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

This novel about Alzheimer’s sheds light on what life is like with the early-onset memory disease. Lisa Genova is a New York Times best-selling author and neuroscientist. In 2014 the book was made into a major motion picture. The main character, Alice, is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at just fifty years old. Amidst her successful life as a psychology professor at Harvard, Alice becomes more forgetful and enters into her journey of change with family relationships and the world around her. Her journey teaches heart-warming lessons about worth and life as a whole.

Anything but textbooks!

Make sure you spend some time to read the things that you love. Not everything has to be about becoming a doctor. If that’s re-reading Harry Potter or your favorite manga or a cookbook, then do what will bring you joy as well as knowledge. Happy reading!