RCSI Bahrain Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

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Recommended reads for aspiring doctors


The selected books below have been compiled based on recommendations by our faculty members at RCSI Bahrain. These books will provide any young aspiring doctor with wonderful and varied insights into the nature of a life and career in medicine and also from the patient’s perspective. We recommend that anyone interested in pursuing a career in medicine take the time to inform themselves of the nature of the profession before taking the decision to apply to medical school. We hope you enjoy reading the selected books below.

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Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum

Gavin Francis

We assume we know our bodies intimately, but for many of us they remain uncharted territory, an enigma of bone and muscle, neurons and synapses. How many of us understand the way seizures affect the brain, how the heart is connected to well-being, or the why the foot holds the key to our humanity? In Adventures in Human Being, award-winning author Gavin Francis leads readers on a journey into the human body, offering a guide to its inner workings and a celebration of its marvels. Drawing on his experiences as a surgeon, ER specialist, and family physician, Francis blends stories from the clinic with episodes from medical history, philosophy, and literature to describe the body in sickness and in health, in living and in dying. At its heart, Adventures in Human Being is a meditation on what it means to be human. Poetic, eloquent, and profoundly perceptive, this book will transform the way you view your body.

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When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir. Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.



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Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Atul Gawande

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering. Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.

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A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor

John Berger

In this quietly revolutionary work of social observation and medical philosophy, Booker Prize- winning writer John Berger and the photographer Jean Mohr train their gaze on an English country doctor and find a universal man--one who has taken it upon himself to recognize his patient's humanity when illness and the fear of death have made them unrecognizable to themselves. In the impoverished rural community in which he works, John Sassall tend the maimed, the dying, and the lonely. He is not only the dispenser of cures but the repository of memories. And as Berger and Mohr follow Sassall about his rounds, they produce a book whose careful detail broadens into a meditation on the value we assign a human life. First published thirty years ago, A Fortunate Man remains moving and deeply relevant--no other book has offered such a close and passionate investigation of the roles doctors play in their society.