2013: Best Medical Books of All Time

By | 30 August, 2013


Here is my as-of-year-2013 list of the best medical books of all time, books which I consider to be great to spectacular.

Anonymous posts are allowed. Please let me know if you have any additional suggestions for inclusion. I would especially like to add to the list books on electrocardiography, sports medicine, oncology and autoimmune diseases, subjects which are not represented in this list at all.

The oldest book on the list is Dr. Hoppenfeld’s Physical Examination of the Spine and Extremities. I seriously doubt whether its place on the list will be granted to a different musculoskeletal medicine book in my lifetime–but I’d be happy to prove myself wrong. The most recently-published book is Dr. Gallagher’s Board Stiff TEE: Transesophageal Echocardiography, 2e (2013). It is a great book about echocardiography in particular and about valvular heart disease in general.

There is a slight tendency toward including books published in the United States, in part because many outstanding medical books have, in fact, been published here. Availability bias, however, could not be avoided. Also unavoidable–at least in the short term–is the fact that I don’t understand or speak French, German, or Japanese. A good chunk, if not most, of the world’s medical literature is inaccessible to me because of language barriers. Please let me know if you know of any non-English language books that deserve special consideration.

Without further ado, and in no definitive order, here they are:

  1. Dr. Gerald de Lacey, The Chest X-Ray: A Survival Guide by  (2008, reviewed here).
  2. Igbaseimokumo, Usiakimi, MD, Brain CT Scans in Clinical Practice (2009, reviewed here)
  3. Herring, William, MD, Learning Radiology, Recognizing the Basics, 2e (2011, reviewed here)
  4. Kurtz, Ira, MD, Acid Base Case Studies (2004, reviewed here)

    acid base case studies

    Acid Base Case Studies (2004)

  5. Desai, Samir P., MD, Clinician’s Guide to Laboratory Medicine: Pocket (2009, reviewed here)
  6. Peters, Wallace, MD, Atlas of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology (2007, reviewed here)
  7. Schlossberg, David, MD, Differential Diagnosis of Infectious Diseases (1996, reviewed here)
  8. Klatt, Edward C., MD, Robbins and Cotran Atlas of Pathology, 2e (2009, reviewed here)
  9. Howick, Jeremy H., Dr., The Philosophy of Evidence-based Medicine (2011, reviewed here)
  10. Hauser, Alan R., MD, PhD., Antibiotic Basics for Clinicians: The ABCs of Choosing the Right Antibacterial Agent, 2e (2012, reviewed here)
  11. Orient, Jane M., MD, Sapira’s Art and Science of Bedside Diagnosis (2009)
  12. Hoppenfeld, Stanley, MD, Physical Examination of the Spine and Extremities (1976, reviewed here)
  13. Buttaravoli, Philip, MD, Minor Emergencies (2007, reviewed here)
  14. Blackbourne, Lorne H., MD, Surgical Recall, 6e (2012, reviewed here)
  15. Jarrell, Bruce, MD, NMS Surgery Casebook (2003, reviewed here)
  16. Silen, William, MD, Cope’s Early Diagnosis of the Acute Abdomen  (2010, reviewed here)
  17. Ovalle, William K., PhD., Netter’s Essential Histology (2007)
  18. Gallagher, Christopher, MD, Board Stiff TEE: Transesophageal Echocardiography, 2e (2013)
  19. Bain, Barbara Jane, Prof. Haematology, A Core Curriculum (2010, reviewed here)

Update: Newer (as of 2015) list here.

14 thoughts on “2013: Best Medical Books of All Time

  1. Jeremy Steinberg

    I have a large personal medical library (around 40-50 books) and borrow frequently. I would vote for “Physical Diagnosis Secrets” by Salvatore Mangione. This unassuming book is the most well researched and most well written book I have come across in the field of evidence based physical examination. It is a book that keeps of giving and is a joy to read. I especially like all the historical references. It’s accompanying “heart and lung workshop” is also fantastic. I feel so much more confident listening to hearts and lungs after it.

    1. Mark Yoffe MD Post author

      Thank you, Jeremy, for your comment.

      I once heard a live lecture by Dr. Mangione. It was one of the best medical lecture’s I’ve ever heard. I like his Physical Diagnosis Secrets books a lot. Is there anything else that you would recommend?

      1. Jeremy Steinberg

        There is nothing else that I can think of that you haven’t already mentioned.

        How about a more prosaic/philosophy of medicine type book? My absolute favourite book out of my whole library (medical and non-medical) has to be “Osler s A Way of Life and Other Addresses, with Commentary and Annotations” ISBN 0822326825. The title is self-explanatory. Without the annotations and commentary, a comparatively uneducated person like myself cannot hope to grasp all the literary and other allusions that Osler utilises.

        Also as an aside, I love my three volumes of “The seats and causes of diseases” written by Morgagni (the founder of anatomical pathology) in the 18th century. It is basically an autopsy case series. It is entertaining trying to work out what these people had with the mind of a 21st century physician.

        1. Mark Yoffe MD Post author

          Thank you, Jeremy, for these ideas.

          I sometimes wonder how puzzling or laughable our medical lexicon will be to physicians in centuries to come. My bet is that they will be trying very hard to figure out what we meant with the word “disease.”

  2. Sue Shultz

    Hi Mark,

    I absolutely agree with Silen (Cope), Blackbourne, Hoppenfeld and Schlossberg. I even have a copy of Cope in my personal library. It is not just a Best Book; it is a Great Book.

    David Schlossberg has several other practical books as well, but the one you picked is definitely his best.

    How did you come across Hoppenfeld? It has a very old (for medicine) publication date. In my experience, the only docs that ever used it were the orthopedists. I’m glad you put it on your list.

    There are a few other titles I always liked and wonder if you looked at any of them:

    Wallach’s Interpretation of Diagnostic Tests
    Squire: Fundamentals of Roentgenology
    Mackowiak: Fever: Basic Mechanisms and Management
    Goldberger: A Primer of Water, Electrolyte and Acid-Base Syndromes

    Sue Shultz
    Medical Librarian (retired)

    1. Mark Yoffe MD Post author

      Thank you, Sue, for your wonderful post.

      I came across Hoppenfeld’s book while in medical school. I think I saw it either at a library or at a medical bookstore. Some of the examination techniques demonstrated in it have been replaced or rendered less useful. The drawing, however, are some of the best in all of medicine. The contents are without any doubt extremely relevant to virtually all primary care practitioners.

      I’m not a big fan of Squire’s at the moment. It’s a rather large book, and I tend to favor smaller monograph-like works. I’m not familiar with the other books you mentioned (except for Dr. Schlossberg’s), but I’ll be sure to look them up.

      Again, thank you for your insight.

  3. robert senkumba

    i love reading my MERCK MANUAL of medical information. pliz don’t laugh. Robert -uganda.

    1. Mark Yoffe MD Post author

      No shame in liking the Merck Manual, Robert. I find it to be exceedingly good in certain areas. It’s terrific for Ob-Gyn, for example.

  4. Medical Notes

    You can check out this Pharmacology book, it has a lot of illustrations that really help with memorizing!!!

    Pharmacology Illustrated Notes enables rapid review, assimilation of the basic concepts of clinical pharmacology and it is a perfect study tool for your courses and examinations. Full-color pictures offer humorous and memorable presentations of key drugs, mechanism of action, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, therapeutic use, administration, adverse effects and contraindications. This is an easy, fast and effective way to learn Pharmacology.

  5. Mark Yoffe, MD Post author

    Thank you, Kiren, for this suggestion!

    I am seeing multiple titles and editions related to this author and subject. Which do you favor the most and why?

  6. Aliasger

    For clinical years; macleods has ousted hutchison . For UG level:
    Internal medicine – davidsons
    Surgery – manipal manual or bailey n love
    Obgyn – dutta
    Pediatrics – nelsons essential or ghai
    Orthoped – maheshwari
    Ent – ?
    Opthalmology – parsons or khurana
    Emergency medicine – oxford handbook

    1. Mark Yoffe, MD Post author

      Thank you, Aliasger, for your suggestions.

      There are some really excellent books on your list. Thank you for sharing. I might need to to “borrow” some titles for my next list!


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