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The Genre Missing from your Bookshelf: Medical Nonfiction

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at GSU chapter.

Are you a “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Private Practice” fanatic? Majoring in the field of science or medicine? An avid reader? Chances are you would love some of these books that I’ve compiled into my collection over the last year, specifically relating to stories about medical practice and disease. 

An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System

I’m not saving the best for last this time- “An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System” by Matt Richtel is a Pulitzer prize winner and my personal favorite book at the moment. Richtel, a columnist for the “New York Times” and an experienced novelist, breaks down complicated immune system processes in a way that is entertaining and easy to digest. Sprinkled with stories of patients with autoimmune disorders and captivating histories about vaccines and science, this book offers lots of entertainment while also inspiring higher thought. 

Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis

The author of this book, Lisa Sanders, is also an attending physician at Yale School of Medicine and a columnist at the New York Times, where she writes a column called “Diagnosis”. In this book she writes about some of the most difficult diagnostic stories that she’s collected, navigating readers through the diagnostic thinking of physicians along the way. She also provides insight and commentary on the art and the importance of the physical exam, which is becoming less prevalent as a diagnostic tool with the rise of imaging and other modern amenities in medicine.

Diagnosis: Solving the Most Baffling Medical Mysteries

Another work by Lisa Sanders, this is the novel that I am currently unable to put down. Sanders takes some of her intriguing medical mysteries and divides them by common symptoms. The cases are shorter (usually only 2-4 pages), making them super digestible and also giving a lot of interesting variety. This book coincides with a Netflix mini-series, also called “Diagnosis”, that is definitely worth the watch. 

Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science

This work is a collection of essays written by author and surgeon Atul Gawande, where he gives vivid first-hand accounts of his surgeries and experiences in hospitals. There is a focus on the imperfection of medical practice, as well as the pressure and struggles that one faces when working in high risk situations. His writing is personal while also being incredibly informative; I’m pretty sure I devoured it in just a couple of days.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

This novel, written by Rebecca Skloot, has been on my “must-read” list for quite awhile. It’s the story of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who unknowingly donated her cells at John Hopkins Hospital and forever changed the course of history. Her cells happen to be the “first, and, for many years, the only human cell line able to reproduce indefinitely, paving the way for numerous medical breakthroughs. This woman’s cells have been duplicated many, many times over and can be found worldwide. I’m excited to read about her story and I hope you give this one a shot as well.

The most amazing aspect of these medical stories is that they are all true. I used to think that the entire “nonfiction” genre consisted of  boring autobiographies that I’d have no interest in reading, but now that I have found medical nonfiction I simply can’t stop reading it. If you’re an avid reader and enjoy medical dramas like me, you’ll become hooked.

Hey Everyone- call me Sam! I am a Colorado transplant and senior Exercise Science student at Georgia State. Some of my passions include traveling, birds, reality television, and rock climbing.