Sunday, September 13, 2009

Books For First Year Medical Students

While I am sure your classes will provide you with curricula and suggested texts to read, there are several textbooks that any first year medical student should consider buying as part of their long-term collection of books. Looking back at some of my book purchases, it is shocking to see the books that I omitted and the ones I blew hundreds of dollars on only to have them collect dust.

What Books Should Every First Year Medical Student Own?

There is no definitive list of books, of course. But, I think the list below would serve any medical student well, since these topics are cornerstones of any medical education. Besides, we all have to take USMLE Step 1 at some point, right?

1. Netter Atlas of Human Anatomy

Every medical student will have to master anatomy regardless of what field they go into. I really liked how well-drawn and clear the Netter drawings and illustrations were. Even now, a few years later, any time I have a question about anatomy, it is the first text I turn to. Although I never used them for studying, I am aware that some find the Netter's Anatomy Flash Cards to be quite helpful as well.

2. Color Atlas of Anatomy: A Photographic Study of the Human Body

I also found Color Atlas of Anatomy: A Photographic Study of the Human Body to be helpful. Seeing the anatomy in photograph form is much more similar to how you would see it on an anatomy practical, or actual patient. It helps to open up both Netter's and the photographic atlas to correlate the ideal anatomy to the actual stuff.

3. First Aid for the USMLE Step 1

As I have mentioned before, Step 1 is a high-stakes test for any medical student. Obtaining First Aid early and reviewing it as you learn the material initially will just solidify the content for you two years down the road when you have that giant test to study for. In fact, if you annotate the book as you go along, you will create this wonderful resource for yourself that you are intimately familiar with when it comes time to crack open the books to study for the boards.

4. Bates' Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking

All the major techniques for history taking and physical exams are covered in this book. I like how the diagrams are clear and the sidebar notes highlight important points and diagnoses. The book is really indispensable when you are first learning basic exam technique and the significance of certain results. If you are interested, check out the pocket version as well: Bates' Pocket Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking, North American Edition

5. Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple

Infectious diseases is another cornerstone of any medical education. This book uses numerous techniques to help you learn about infectious agents, including many (bad) puns, funny diagrams, explanatory text, and tables grouping similar agents. It really is easy and even fun to read, which makes learning this otherwise seemingly disparate set of information not so bad. And yea, it's easy to review when Step 1 rolls around too.

6. Robbins & Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease

The definitive book on general pathology. I thought the book did an excellent job not only describing the underlying pathology of almost any major disease you can imagine, but it often clearly explained the physiology as well. Definitely the best reference book I bought and the one I used most often, especially when very detailed questions came up during pathology and immunology.

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I still own all these books, used them throughout Step 1 (and Step 2) studying, and still refer to them as needed today. Do you know any other books that you think every pre-clinical medical student should have? Any books you disagree with in the list above? Leave a comment with your best book suggestions.

Updated 2015-12-18


  1. kuby immunology and Lang's embryology!

  2. While I agree embryology books are good references during first year, I am not sure if they are worth the investment because you really will not touch them past MS1. Whatever embryology comes up later on is either covered in First Aid or on a specialty-by-specialty basis.

  3. snell's clinical anatomy by regions

  4. wow...nice topic you got..

  5. interesting topic in your blog..

  6. keith l moore clinical anatomy by regions is one of the best book i found



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