Core texts in medical humanities

A core reading list in medical humanities with notes

John Gillies created this list in January 2017. Many are suitable for adapting into posts (examples on home page) and you may have things that should be added to the list below.

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Core reading list

Gavin Francis: Adventures in Human Being (2015). ? under Anatomy. But could of course fit in many places as background reading for undergraduates

Tools of the Trade: poems for new doctors.  We are reviewing this with Scottish Poetry Library in 2017, and looking at how it might be used and evaluated earlier on in the medical UG course

William Carlos Williams: the Doctor Stories  A short collection based on his experiences as a family doctor in a poor area of New Jersey in the 1920s and 30s. Powerful, unvarnished, evocative.   General Practice but could be used for discussion of professionalism in all medical disciplines

Miguel Torga: diaries 1933-1976 (extracts) translated from the Portuguese by Iain Bamforth
Download as pdf (see pages 18-22 of the pdf, pp1042-1047 of BJGP from December 2001).
Diaries and patient stories of Miguel Torga, literary GP in Coimbra, Portugal.
General Practice

Franz Kafka: A Country Doctor tr Iain Bamforth. Probably based on Kafka’s uncle Loewy, a rural GP in Bohemia, this is a disquieting story about a doctor’s nightmare, or possibly reality of a night call. General Practice + all disciplines

Kathleen Jamie/ Brigid Collins: Frissure Prose poems / texts and drawings/ paintings after Jamie’s mastectomy for breast cancer.  Oncology/ breast surgery/ general practice

Siddhartha Mukherjee: The Emperor of all maladies, a biography of cancer
Should be a compulsory read for all surgeons and all oncologists in embryo.

Siddhartha Mukherjee: The Laws of Medicine  (TED Books) Law 1: Rumours are more important than tests. Law 2: The piece of data that does not fit your model is the most crucial piece of data that you own. Law 3: For every perfect medical experiment, there is a perfect human bias.
Important counterblast to simplistic ideas of EBM

John Berger & Jean Mohr (intro Gavin Francis) A Fortunate Man A GP and his patients in the 1960s. Classic, still very relevant General Practice

Henry Marsh Do no harm A neurosurgeon talks frankly about brain surgery, hospitals and hope Neurosurgery

Paul Kalanithi: When breath becomes air A young doctor tells the story of his life with incurable cancer, with an afterword by his physician wife Palliative care/ oncology

Iain Bamforth: The Body in the Library : a literary anthology of modern medicine. Verso Books 2003. A huge potential resource for medical students. Bamforth’s selections and translations from French, German, Portuguese and Russion cover the whole gamut of commentary on medicine from Berger to Virginia Woolf via Chekhov, Torga and Kafka (A Country Doctor) and Kierkegaard.

Iain Bamforth A Doctor’s Dictionary  Humorous, exacting and erudiate look at medicine today. All specialities!

Ivan Illich: Limits to Medicine, medical nemesis. Pelican 1977. Illich’s radical take on medicine is probably even more relevant today than 1977.  All specialities/ public health

David I Harvie: Limeys medical history which deserves to be better known: the story of discovering how to prevent and treat scurvy All specialties/ EBM/Public health

Oliver Sachs: seeing voices. Sacks’ foray into the world of the deaf, some of our most neglected and stoical patients  all specialties/ ENT/ general practice

John Salinsky: medicine and literature. Salinsky’s reviews of major pieces of literature :  Austen, Bronte, Eliot, Kafka form a medic’s view. All specialties

Clement Bryce Gunn: Leaves from the life of a country doctor. (Foreword by John Buchan) Stories of medicine and  general practice in Peebleshire in 1880s to 1918. Well written and compelling General Practice

Stressed/unstressed: classic poems to ease the mind. J Bate, Paula Byrne, S Ratcliffe, A Schuman (eds) This interesting collection and commentary is edited by literary scholars and a meic in oxford. really intended to help lay individuals, I think it could have a place for medical students as well All specialities

John Gillies 9th January 2017

1 thought on “Core texts in medical humanities”

  1. Hello, I am the author of novel The State of Me (HarperCollins, 2008), a fictionalised account of my experience of the poorly understood neuroimmune illness myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). I was diagnosed with ME by a consultant neurologist (at the old Southern General in Glasgow) in early 1984, when I was an undergraduate at Glasgow University. I had first become extremely ill 18 months earlier with Coxsackie B4 virus, there was an outbreak in west of Scotland at this time. I remain ill today. The novel is my best tool of education. I occasionally write short stories/flash fiction and have been shortlisted for several awards. I’d be very grateful if you’d consider adding my novel to your reading list. Many thanks! NASIM MARIE JAFRY

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