Not that I’ve had too much free time to read books “for fun” in college, but I thought I’d share the better ones that pertain to science and medicine and explain what they’re about and why I like them. *Note these are only books that I have actually read. I would love suggestions of other books pertaining to science and medicine to read as well. Feel free to comment!
1. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
by: Siddharta Mukherjee
Worthy of a Pullitzer Prize and written by a physician, scientist, and writer as I aspire to be, this book talks about cancer in a way that you cannot put down. Mukherjee works in his own experiences with patients while going through the history of the disease from simply understanding what it is to the development of the first drugs for it as well as how the public perspective on the disease has been changed over the years and the challenges that cancer awareness activists have faced while trying to promote prevention and research of the disease. It gives a rather comprehensive description of cancer and helps the reader understand where we have come from so that we can truly appreciate how far we have come. It is a rather lengthy book at 608 pages, but it is worth every word.
By: Philip B. Dobrin, M.D.
I’ve read a few sort of medical school/residency memoir books, but this one was definitely my favorite. I found it as a free rental with Amazon Prime and had it done after two overnight shifts at work. What really gets me about this book is that it contains many stories and experiences that I found in similar books, but he tells them in such a narrative that it is essentially a single greater story.
By: Sam Kean
While the first two books I listed are medical books, this one is basic science. Did you know that gallium (Ga, 31) while a solid metal at room temperature would melt if you, say, put it in your freshly brewed tea? Or did you know that radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruined Marie Curie’s reputation? This and so much more are explored in this book. It goes into how these elements were discovered including the race between scientists to do so and the process of determining how to organize these elements into the periodic table we know and love today.
By: Donald Moss
As a Ph.D. student at Colorado University, Don Moss discovered that a chemical called methanesulfonyl fluoride, MSF for short, inhibits acetylchonlinesterase, the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory. This memoir follows his journey to prove to the world that acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and more specifically MSF can be a useful drug to reverse the memory loss associated in Alzheimer’s disease and strokes. Along the way, he deals with problems in the patent process and the difficulty of bringing a drug to fruition without the help of big pharma. He also has international experiences that include trying to make drug trials happen in Argentina and commuting back and forth every week for 8 or so months from El Paso, Texas to Chihuahua, Mexico while doing a clinical trial. It was a very good book for learning about the challenges that come along with being a professor and trying to have your research affect a larger audience.
By: Ben Carson, MD
Raised in the ghetto of Detroit, Ben went from his father leaving the family and being the worst kid in the school to being the smartest kid in the school. He faced peer pressure and anger problems. Most importantly, he didn’t let his financial situation determine his future. This book explains how a kid growing up in the ghetto became a highly respected pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins hospital. It is an incredibly inspiring story that shows the reader that you can achieve what you set your heart on. Thanks for the suggestion, @DoctorMojito!
By: Viktor E. Frankl
Frankl, a jewish psychiatrist living in Austria, began his life’s work of writing a book describing a new area of psychotherapy, logotherapy, that focuses on the will to meaning rather than the will to power or will to pleasure. Then he spent four years in concentration camps. This book includes his psychological analysis of how prisoners at concentration camps reacted to their position with many first hand accounts, which is unlike any account of the holocaust that I’ve at least heard of. He then proceeds to further explain logotherapy in a more academic method. It is an inspiring book that helps the reader see the world in a little different light.
Books that have been suggested to me to read:
“Stiff: The curious lives of human cadavers” by Mary Roach (suggested by @Dr_PrincessMD)
“The X in sex: how the X chromosome controls our lives” by David Bainbridge (suggested by @DoctorMojito)
“Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs: The making of a surgeon” by Michael J. Collins (suggested by @AGArmstrong)
“The Double Helix” by James D. Watson (suggested by @Evan_Cameron)