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Eight Books that Celebrate Doctors for National Doctor’s Day

30th June, 2016

Doctors work day and night, at the cost of their own personal life, to make the life of another better and happier. But they are often taken for granted and not appreciated as much as they should be. Here is a list of books that celebrate doctors and medicine.

The appreciation day for doctors is celebrated on different days in different parts of the world. July 1 is National Doctors Day in India. In US, it is celebrated on March 30. However, no day is not a good day to value their contributions to the world.

Grey’s Anatomy and House MD (my personal favourite solely for the crackling sarcasm) are TV shows that throw light into the life and stress of doctors. The number of books that revolve around medical contributions seem smaller in terms of their readership and reach in spite of their significance. Here are eight books that acknowledge the contributions of doctors.  All the books have been linked to their GoodReads page.

1. MY COUNTRY by Abraham Verghese

My tools – the hammer, the flashlight, the stethoscope – are scattered on his bed. As I pick them up one by one, I realize that all I had to offer Luther was the ritual of the examination, this dance of a Western shaman”

 A memoir that uniquely describes the experience of an immigrant physician faced with the devastating medical and personal consequences of treating AIDS in the 1980’s. His life becomes entangled with the lives and suffering of his patients which ultimately costs him his marriage.

2. WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanithi

The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out.”

The 2016 release is the story of either side of the diagnosis table – Paul’s life as a successful intern/doctor and later as a patient diagnosed with cancer at the peak of his career.

You can read a review of the book here.

3. COMA by Robin Cook

Finally some medical fiction- Robin Cook has written so many medical thrillers that it seems unfair to include just one.

Coma is a powerful book on harvesting black-market-organs. Susan Wheeler, a third-year medical student investigates the causes behind two cases of unexpected comas and discovers the oxygen line has been tampered with to induce carbon monoxide poisoning. She discovers the evil nature of the Jefferson Institute, an intensive care facility where patients are suspended from the ceiling and kept alive until they can be harvested for healthy organs.

Here is a list of Robin Cook’s other works. Pick one up if you want to explore medical thrillers.

4. TAKE MY HANDS : The remarkable story of Dr. Mary Verghese by Dorothy Clarke Wilson

This book is a favourite of my mother’s who herself is a doctor. I have read this years ago on her insistence, while at school, and it touched my heart. The book isn’t famous on GoodReads, but it is a good one.

Mary Verghese was among the earliest pioneers of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in India. However,  she was injured in a road crash in 1954 that resulted in complete spinal cord injury leaving her a permanent paraplegic. She still continued her professional work and was awarded the Padma Shri in 1972 in recognition of her contributions to the field of medicine.


This is a book of the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre neurological disorders. Often the patients are in their own private world and fail to see reality the way it is. There are stories of individuals with mental aberrations, loss of memory of past and those who have unmatchable talents in other spheres such as art or mathematics in spite of being mentally challenged.

In January 2015, Oliver Sacks was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer, and wrote Gratitude which combines his four essays that appeared originally in New York Times.

World Doctor's day: Complications by Atul Gawande


Complications is a book of anecdotes about a surgical resident’s experiences and thoughts on the current health care environment. Gawande divides his stories into three sections: fallibility, mystery, and uncertainty. The fallibility section demonstrates that doctors can make mistakes. The mystery section has stories of illnesses that cannot be explained by medical science. The uncertainty section is about making the right diagnosis or judgment.

Gawande is a surgeon, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and a professor. His latest book is Being Mortal.

World Doctor's day : The Emperor of Maladies by Sidhartha Mukherjee

7. THE EMPEROR OF MALADIES by Siddhartha Mukherjee

“All cancers are alike but they are alike in a unique way.”

Though not a book about doctors, this Pulitzer winner cannot be ignored on a list that celebrates medicine. This is a biography of one of the illness that has mystified humans for ages – cancer. Often nicknamed a “thriller about cancer”  Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths related to cancer. The book makes us salute the individuals who have suffered its wrath as well as those who fought to find a cure.

World Doctor's day : How doctor's think by Jerome Groopman

8. HOW DOCTORS THINK by Jerome Groopman

“I feel that I have to do everything better just to be judged as okay. It is something I wish I could let go of. It’s something that I wish just wasn’t there.”

This book has some extensive interviews with some of the best doctors, and Groopman’s own experiences as a doctor and as a patient. He talks about the mistakes he has made as a doctor and the errors his doctors made in treating his own medical problems.

Let's discuss

Have you read any of these? Do you have any books that celebrate doctors and medicine, fiction or non fiction, that you would like to recommend? Feel free to add to the list.

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This Post Has 43 Comments
  1. I just read Black Man in a White Coat by Damon Tweedy. That was good too. Emperor of All Maladies is one of my favorites.

  2. Love this list and thanks to you I know there is such a thing as doctor’s day! 🙂 So many authors here that I have yet to try because scared the memoirs in particular will make me bawl. I’ve read Sacks only, but enjoyed it. But Verghese is so on my list, I still have to read his Cutting for Stone (but hve very trusted blogger rec for it) and I didn’t even know he had written this one, so glad you put it on your list. It sounds so amazing!

    1. Thanks Bina. I heard mixed reviews about Cutting for Stone, so I will wait for your review after you read. And I totally understand the apprehension, non fiction and memoirs don’t do well with me. There are some gems that I am glad I read though.

  3. Interesting topic! I just watched a PBS show last week on Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal and it was so beautifully done and so sad. The book is on my TBR but I didn’t know he’d written another one. He strikes me as a very thoughtful, caring person. The Mukherjee book interests me too, as does his new one, The Gene.

    1. That is one thing about medical books and shows- they make you so sad. I hope you will enjoy the read when you get a chance. I have not read the book, but the reviews are heart breaking.

  4. Ooh! fantastic post! My sis-in-law is a doctor, so I’m going to share this with her 😉 I have read The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. I first heard about it in a neuropsychology lecture when I was doing my Masters. Found it in my library last year and read it. It is a wonderful book. Haven’t read Abraham Verghese though I’ve heard good things.

    1. Thank you Vijayalakshmi. This idea dawned on me when I was simply wasting time on Google and couldnt find any list related to doctors. Glad you enjoyed Oliver Sacks when you read him. I am sure the fact that you read it during your masters must have made the read more insightful. Thanks for sharing it with your sis-in-law too. 🙂

  5. A nice selection my dear. (I’ll pass it on to one of my daughtrers who’s a doctor) 😉
    I read Coma. a long time ago. Not bad. he invented the medical thriller.
    And I just read a review on Paul Kalanithi’s book. Quite tragic.
    (Did you “produce” the photo?)
    Take care

    1. Thank you. When Breath Becomes Air was a tear jerker indeed. I didn’t quite understand what you meant by ‘produce the photo’. If you meant whether I took it by myself, yes. All the photos on the website are taken by me.

      Thanks for passing it to your daughter, I hope she will like it.

  6. I read Coma years ago, but none of the others yet. Your post celebrating doctors reminded me of a book I loved The Dressing Station: A Surgeon’s Chronicle of War and Medicine by Jonathan Kaplan a memoir that stayed with me for ages. Postmortem: The Doctor Who Walked Away
    by Maria Phalime was another memoir I read recently after a school librarian conference where the author spoke. Her book highlights the difficulities doctors face.

    1. Glad you enjoyed Coma. And thank you very much for adding to the list. Good books on doctors are very rare and it is lovely to get these two recommendations. I will check if I can get a copy. Thanks. 🙂

  7. I want to read Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism by David S. Cohen, which is about the dangerous people abortion doctors face on a daily basis and why they keep doing their jobs.

    I also want to read Working Stiff: 2 years, 262 bodies and the making of a medical examiner by Judy Melinek.

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot might fit this category. It’s less about doctors, though, and more about how doctors used this woman’s cells and how companies made billions off of them, how the Lacks family goes on, even today, in poverty.

    I also have the Oliver Sacks book on my list 🙂

    1. Thank you very much for adding more books to the list. I have heard about Working Stiff. It is such a relevant topic. I didnt include it in the list because I heard mixed reviews about it. I have heard about Henrietta Lacks too. I have heard about the book but wasnt sure what the book was about. Thank you for pointing it out. Glad you have enjoyed the reads. The brief up you have given about Henrietta Lacks makes me think it is surely a heart breaking one. Living is Crosshairs is completely new to me. I will look for it.

  8. I second the recommendation for Cutting For Stone – I loved it! And, there are lots of doctors in it. 🙂
    Thanks for this great list!

  9. This is a great lest and a great theme for a post.

    I read Coma a very tong time ago. I remember it being very enjoyable.

    I would like to read most of your other picks. In particular, I will hopefully get to The Emperor of All Maladies soon.

  10. The Man who mistook his wife for a hat has been on the tbr simply because of the title. It sounded like an absolutely hilarious book. But how deceptive titles can be. I never read the summary but now I’m even more intrigued.

  11. I have not read any of these *hangs head in shame* Although I’m basically uncultured swine so this doesn’t surprise me. Ahem. There is ONE doctor movie I’ve read and watched and omg, can I remember it??? NOPE> I think it was called Gifted Hands. But I’m like only 43% certain about that. BUT IT WAS REALLY GOOD AND I BASICALLY CRIED (well, I cried on the inside) the pressure doctors go through is amazing and definitely to be admired. Plus the whole part about them saving lives. That little detail too. *nods sagely*

    1. Yes!! Gifted Hands. That was an awesome movie. I loved the mother in that. How she made her kids read and study and finally achieve a lot in life even though she didn’t know reading. And also how she later took classes to read.

      True, doctors do go through ALOT

  12. I did not even know there was a National Doctor’s Day, but I guess there is literally a day for everything. All these books look very interesting and I have been meaning to read some books about doctors and maybe get a feel to see if it is something I want to pursue in the future. Great post!

    1. Haha. I guess you are right – about there being a day for everything. I hope you get some recommendations to read before pursuing your dream. Being a doctor is a nobel profession indeed.

      Thank you for visiting.

  13. Oh I reeeeeally want to read the Jerome Groopman book! It looks super interesting — I’m always fascinated to read about what it’s like to have jobs like doctoring that I would never ever do. Great list!

  14. I’m so so glad you decided to do this post! Although, I’ve been a part of the medical fraternity, I haven’t come across books that revolved around Doctors. Not anymore, it’s time for the tbr to explode 😀

  15. Love your recommendations here. I’d like to try one of Sacks’s books and I’m curious about Abraham Verghese. I think Kalanithi mentioned him in his book. I’m pretty sure I read Verghese’s name recently and since I’m on When Breath Becomes Air, I’m sure that’s where I saw it.

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