Indispensable Medical Texts

Amazon has made it much harder over the last few years to find “Listmania!” lists, and there was one I made long ago to which I keep trying to refer students and residents. Therefore, I’ve reincarnated (or at least resuscitated) below my list of “indispensable medical texts”. I’ve only updated to newer versions of books where available, and otherwise just copied my prior content from Amazon. [Edit: I’ve now added more!] It also still links to the Amazon listing for the books, but I don’t receive any affiliate credit for your using the links. Hope it helps!

Medical texts are expensive, dense, and often useful for about six months. This short list contains those books that I’ve returned to, over and over, year after year, despite being (mostly) separate from my chosen specialty of acute care surgery. Every medical student should read these, most residents should have access to these, and every attending should own them—regardless of specialty. Rereading them regularly will make you a better doctor.

There are plenty more wonderful books out there (at least, there are for surgery, and I assume for other specialties), but these are the ones every doctor needs.

Felson’s Principles of Chest Roentgenology, A Programmed Text, 4e (Goodman, Felson’s Principles of Chest Roentgenology)
The systematic way to read a chest Xray.
Neuroanatomy in Clinical Context: An Atlas of Structures, Sections, Systems, and Syndromes (Neuroanatomy: An Atlas of Strutures, Sections, and Systems ()
Likely the best reference on this list rather than one you’ll frequently re-read, Haines has helped me recognize more neurologic lesions than MRI.
Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History-Taking – Eleventh Edition
By far the largest of the books on this list, this one is still indispensable. Never again forget how to appropriately check for ascites or what counts as rebound tenderness and what doesn’t.
Fluids and Electrolytes in the Surgical Patient
It says “surgical”, but that doesn’t matter. This is how to think about fluids. This is the only way to think about fluids. If you haven’t read this (and you’re not a nephrologist), you don’t know how to think about fluids.
Pathophysiology of Heart Disease: A Collaborative Project of Medical Students and Faculty
Your final need for evaluating the cardiac system. I didn’t attend my cardiology lectures (much) as an MS2, read this book cover-to-cover in the week before the exam, and did better on that test than on any other one in med school. It’s still awesome and useful whether you treat patients in the clinic or in the ICU.
Cope’s Early Diagnosis of the Acute Abdomen
By far the most surgical of these texts, Cope’s is a classic and still useful even in the days of the pan-scan. Not only will this book teach you how to appropriately examine an abdomen, it’ll also explain why the findings are the way they are.

[Edited to remove Dubin Feb 20 2019]

[Edited to add Cope’s June 16 2016]