Even physicians need to take vacations sometimes, and the summer is the perfect time for a holiday. When you’re packing your bags for your next beach getaway, be sure to pack some of these irresistible books written by physicians like you.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, MD
You’ve probably heard of this one. Dr Kalanithi’s moving memoir climbed national bestseller lists and was a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize. The memoir was published posthumously: Dr Kalanithi, a neurosurgical resident at Stanford University, died at age 37 from stage IV metastatic lung cancer.
The memoir details Dr Kalanithi’s life as a neurosurgeon and takes the reader through the harrowing story of his diagnosis. In the blink of an eye, Dr Kalanithi goes from a surgeon giving patients a new chance at life to a patient battling mortality himself. With poise and profundity, Dr Kalanithi pens a truly moving memoir about what makes life worth living in the face of death.
Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong by Paul A. Offit, MD
Anyone who has worked on a research study can tell you that sometimes, your ideas just don’t pan out the way you expected. In this fascinating collection of essays, Dr Offit details 7 times that brilliant ideas led the world toward disaster.
Dr Offit deftly weaves morality into these true tales as he challenges the reader to consider what separates good science from bad. Although these mistakes can seem obvious in hindsight, this book asks us to take that same lens to the most controversial scientific creations that are being used today.
Extreme Medicine: How Exploration Transformed Medicine in the Twentieth Century by Kevin Fong, MD
Perfect for the adventurer at heart, Dr Fong details how medicine evolved as humanity conquered hostile climates. As humans began to explore places that pushed their bodies to physical extremes, physicians had to respond in kind, pushing medicine to new extremes.
Extreme Medicine focuses on how cutting-edge medicine has evolved as a result of exploration: Arctic exploration paved the way for new breakthroughs in open heart surgery, battlefield doctors created new techniques for skin grafts, and space exploration has completely transformed our understanding of breathing. If you like Dr Fong’s work, you’ll be happy to know that he has since published 2 more books in the same series.
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD
A 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner, The Emperor of All Maladies combines Dr Mukherjee’s personal experiences as a hematology/oncology fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital with the history of cancer treatment and research. The book takes you back to the first identification of cancer 4600 years ago in Egypt, detailing the way cancer treatment began and evolved.
Dr Mukherjee said that he wrote the book in response to a patient, who said, “I’m willing to go on fighting, but I need to know what it is that I’m battling.” The Emperor of All Maladies is his gorgeous response: a thorough documentation of a nearly 5000-year struggle to answer that same question.
Starved: A Nutrition Doctor’s Journey From Empty to Full by Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD
As the obesity crisis continues to sweep the nation, physicians constantly have to advise patients who are struggling with their weight. For physicians who have never struggled with disordered eating, it can be hard to understand what the patient is going through. Enter this searing memoir from Dr McTiernan, in which she chronicles her transition from malnourishment to obesity to obsessive dieting.
Dr McTiernan gives a raw, personal account of how eating disorders can infiltrate and take over someone’s life. She provides insight into what kinds of trauma can affect a person’s relationship with food and how it can make eating habits difficult to change. This memoir offers a way into empathy for anyone trying to better understand disordered eating.
A life dedicated to medicine can feel isolating at times, but these physician authors are proof of that kindred spirit that exists across the profession. If you’re feeling like you need a break from the stressful life of a physician, take a little vacation with a book. These picks are sure to rekindle your passion for medicine.