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Most frequently recommended medical school textbooks?

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by bailey42, May 3, 2012.

  1. bailey42

    bailey42 5+ Year Member

    Oct 19, 2008
    Hey guys,

    I was wondering if anyone could give me some insight into what the most frequently recommended/required medical school textbooks are? Are there some textbooks that "every medical student uses" or that "every medical school requires?" I know that every school is going to be different, but are there some textbooks that tend to keep popping up in curricula?

    This is for an undergraduate research project and I'm just looking for some primary sources. Thanks for any help! :)
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  3. Don't use anything but Netters and step 1 prep books. Everything else will be covered in your lecture slides
  4. Green Grass

    Green Grass Physician 10+ Year Member

    Feb 7, 2007
    Under Your Feet
    Couldn't agree more. I didn't buy a single textbook other than my Step 1 prep books. Many were recommended; none were bought. :thumbup:
  5. MrBeauregard

    MrBeauregard Soon-to-be PGY-1 5+ Year Member

    Mar 10, 2009
    I personally disagree with both of the previous posters. It isn't a given that you will have lecturers who include 'everything' in their powerpoints. There will always be things you want you want to know that they haven't told you. You also won't find a comprehensive list of books, mainly because different people prefer different texts. The general consensus on SDN is that Step 1 prep books should be used as primary texts for learning. I disagree.

    Texts I used (but I didn't real each of them all the way through, only the physiology, EKG, and most of Robbins):
    Big Robbins
    Cecil Medicine
    Nelson's Pediatrics
    Mark's Basic Biochemistry
    Dubin's Rapid Interpretation of EKGs
    Vander's Renal Physiology
    Linda Costanzo's Physiology
    John West Respiratory Physiology: The Essentials

    I own more but I can't think of them off the top of my head. I used these books because I like to learn from prose. I don't like to learn from powerpoint slides that contain lists and bulletpoints. Some of these books are absolutely overboard for a second year medical student (especially Cecil and Nelson's), but they still helped to lay a solid foundation for me. To each his own.
    Ender1 likes this.
  6. Green Grass

    Green Grass Physician 10+ Year Member

    Feb 7, 2007
    Under Your Feet
    Wiki would be faster and easier to understand than all those books you have listed.
  7. MilkmanAl

    MilkmanAl Al the Ass Mod Physician 7+ Year Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Kansas City, MO
    hSDN Alumni
    However, it is a given that what you need to know for Step 1 and the vast majority of what you'll need (and reasonably could have learned during the first two years) for your clinical years is in those books. Cecil alone is probably more pages of text than I read in all of med school, and I did just fine in class and on boards. Aside from a few extreme zebras that even the residents didn't know anything about, I haven't run into any condition that I haven't at least been exposed to.
  8. flatearth22

    flatearth22 7+ Year Member

    Isn't Thieme (Gilroy) regarded as better than Netters?

    Based on reading various posts and blogs, here are some of the common textbooks that keep popping up:

    Anatomy Atlas: Thieme (Gilroy), Netters, Rohen, Grays Atlas
    Anatomy Text: Moore's, Gray's Anatomy for Students
    Anatomy Dissector: Grant's
    Biochem: Lippincott's, Harper's, Lehringer
    Embryology: Langman
    Histology: Junqueira
    Immunology/Microbiology: Lange
    Pathology: Big Robbins, Middle Robbins
    Pharm: Katzung
    Physio: Costanzo, Guyton

    And for review for Step 1:

    First Aid,
    RR Pathology (Goljan)
    BRS Physio + Cases
    BRS Behavioral Science
    Lippincotts Pharm (Illustrated)

    And question banks for Step 1:

    Kaplan Qbank
    + NBME's
    1apple2oranges likes this.
  9. MrBeauregard

    MrBeauregard Soon-to-be PGY-1 5+ Year Member

    Mar 10, 2009
    If that is what someone chooses to use, sure. I'm just giving OP some options.

    I'm not saying you couldn't do well in class without them. I am simply making the point that using a Step 1 review book as a primary learning text might not work for some people, and there are some good texts out there that fit the bill. I guess I just hear all these students who essentially want to be taught out of Step 1 books because all they care about is Step 1 and being taught material that will be on Step 1. There are some really great resources out there that will allow people to uncover material they may not be exposed to otherwise. If someone wants some good books, I'll try and point them in the right direction. That's all.
    Last edited: May 3, 2012
    emergencycat likes this.
  10. Morsetlis

    Morsetlis I wish I were a dentist 7+ Year Member

    Jan 22, 2010
    The "Garden" State
    If you want primary sources, try Big Robbins (path), Guyton (physio), and Lippincott (biochem). And if you want to quote anatomy, I suppose you could use Gray's.
  11. Slack3r

    Slack3r Sicker than your average 7+ Year Member

    Jul 23, 2008
    Superfluous every one, with the possible exception of Costanzo.
  12. Freakfarm0

    Freakfarm0 2+ Year Member

    Nov 2, 2009
  13. MilkmanAl

    MilkmanAl Al the Ass Mod Physician 7+ Year Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Kansas City, MO
    hSDN Alumni
    That's fair, and I'm definitely not saying those are bad books, by any means. They just have way, way too much info (and filler) in them to be useful for a med student. To me, saying a med student should read Cecil's is like handing a pre-med student a copy of Griffiths, probably the best-known text for electricity and magnetism, and telling them to derive the formulas they need to work a problem instead of having them read a book with the formulas already there. That is, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me and is a hell of a lot harder and more effort-intensive than it should or needs to be. Yeah, you'll know E&M really freaking well for your level if you manage with Griffiths, It doesn't matter if nobody, examiners included, expects you to know any of what you read.

    Blah, I digress. In any event, the only actual texts (i.e., non-review books) I'd recommend would be Costanzo's Phys text and baby Robbins. Langman's embryo is hit-or-miss by section: some are mind-bendingly unreadable, while some are indispensable. I hear good things about Katzung's pharm text, but it's freaking giant. I'd be careful of that one. If you're counting anatomy atlases as texts, Rohen's was easily my favorite, but people seem to like Thieme's these days, as well.
    Last edited: May 3, 2012
  14. Ilovewater

    Ilovewater 7+ Year Member

    Apr 26, 2009
    I don't use any books, just the syllabus, Uptodate, and Wikipedia. However, I know a lot of students use BRS Physio, Lippincott Biochem, and Pathoma/Rapid Review for pathology. I personally would never buy a real textbook (non-review books). Way too much information that you probably don't need.
    RisingCaduceus likes this.
  15. 194342

    194342 Physician 7+ Year Member

    Mar 17, 2008
    I actually really like big robbins but I will admit you absolutely shouldn't need it. Just some additional info.
  16. JackShephard MD

    JackShephard MD

    Oct 17, 2011
    New York
    This is a solid list. I'd skip Guyton and use Costanzo. I didn't like that embryo book. Gray > Moore, except for clinical boxes, which Moore > Gray.

    I've purchased some textbooks, they aren't going to improve your grades or anything like that BUT I do like being able to look things up from time to time and a well written textbook at the proper level of depth is better than Wikipedia. So, I would recommend textbooks for things you have interest in, rather than in attempt to do "better" in medical school.
    emergencycat likes this.
  17. JacobSilge

    JacobSilge 7+ Year Member

    Apr 21, 2007
    Big Robbins is invaluable for the figures/micrographs alone. I wouldn't expect to read the text though.
  18. badasshairday

    badasshairday Vascular and Interventional Radiology 10+ Year Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    RR Pathology by Goljan
    BRS Physiology or the actualy text Physiology by Costanzo

    That is all.
  19. todds

    todds Member 10+ Year Member

    Jun 6, 2004
    Some of the texts mentioned here are too much, but ill make a list

    Basic Science:
    Anatomy - Clinical Anatomy by Moore. useful even in clinical years during surgery
    Physiology - Costanzo Physiology is all you need
    Histo - WebPath online is free at most schools, dont buy a book
    Biochem - definitely don't buy a book. WebPath, First Aid, Goljan should be enough
    Embryology - Theres a embryology website based out of France (in English) thats very good
    Neuroanatomy - I heard Clinical Neuroantomy made ridiculously simple is good. Otherwise WebPath

    Pathology - Robbins Basic Pathology. Big robbins is way way to much.
    Pathophysiology - Lange Pathophysiology is a great reference text
    Pharmacology - First Aid + Physiology text + Golan Pharmacology as reference

    Clinical Years:
    Medicine Handbook + Netter's Internal Medicine: should cover surgery, medicine, neurology
    Nelsons Essential Pediatrics - baby version of mammoth book should cover peds
    Case Files for every rotation on top + UWorld
  20. ucladoc2b

    ucladoc2b 7+ Year Member

    Nov 24, 2008
    I really don't learn from my schools bulleted powerpoints and lectures (I was a Poli Sci major in undergrad). Not really having a strong background in the foundational principals of biological science (never took biochecem, cell bio, et cetera), I found I really needed the texts. This was really key. After a very brief foundations course, we jumped into organ systems and pharmacology (which I found to be a bit awkward) in first year, so getting this base knowledge down was critical.

    That being said, here are the books I really liked.

    Immunology: Basic Immunology by Abbas. 200 pages long. Lots of pictures and charts. Very well organized.

    Pharm: I liked Katzungs Pharmacology, Examination and Board Review. Shorter than the text of the same name. Lots of well described pictures. Has MC review questions at the end.

    Microbiology: Levinson. Lots of color pics and review questions. Also, CMMS is good.

    Anatomy: I liked Gray's for students. Lots of pictures, easy to read prose, lots of well organized charts. I didn't find Netter's very useful (too detailed and all of those arrows are confusing). The anatomy curriculum at my school lacked decent organization (there was almost no lecture component, and most of the cadavers were 2 years old and tough to learn from).

    Hemeatology for the Med Student and Heme in Clinical practice were both very good.

    For physio, I tended to go for the shorter, system-specific, books. They tend to be to the point, have well described pictures (and companion websites), and fit easily in a backpack.

    There are two books I liked a lot: Resipratory Physiology: A Clinical Approach and Cardiovascular Physiology: A Clinical Approach. There is also a Renal Physiology in the same series that just came out, which I have not yet reviewed.

    Also, there is a website,, which is excellent. He also has a book, which is well written and easy to understand. I also liked GI by Barrett (she has a sense of humor tucked in to some of her prose).

    Costanzo's is also really good.

    Biochem: Lippencotts is ok. I thought it was a bit dense. Goljan Rapid Review was a nice addition. The Medical Biochemistry Page ( is also very well done.

    Neuroanatomy: We had a good sylabus. However, I liked Neuroanatomy Through Clinical Cases. Clinical Neuroanatomy by Gilman is a nice 200 page review.
    Last edited: May 4, 2012
  21. Cali2


    Apr 15, 2012
    Agree with most of the books posted above. I would add:

    Anatomy - Rohen's Color Atlas of Anatomy: Cadaver images, very helpful when you *don't* want to go into the lab.

    Physiology: I found pulmonary and renal physiology difficult, and felt like I really understood them after reading the two books below, both written at the MS1/MS2 level:
    -West, Pulmonary Physiology and Pathophysiology (case-based)
    -Rennke and Denker, Renal Pathophysiology, The Essentials.

    -Also, the clinical rotations classic Marino's The ICU Book, which will definitely be a reference I continue to use.
  22. CBG23

    CBG23 10+ Year Member

    Jun 27, 2007
    I hope you're not serious about using wikipedia as a primary learning resource...
  23. MrBeauregard

    MrBeauregard Soon-to-be PGY-1 5+ Year Member

    Mar 10, 2009
    I didn't want to be the first one to say it, but I can't believe that medical students use Wikipedia as a primary resource and actually trust it more than a text written specifically to address a certain topic. Mind boggling, really.
  24. LossForWords

    LossForWords PGY-1 5+ Year Member

    Jul 29, 2008
    I mean, I didn't use a whole lot of texts first and second year, but I did get Case Files for every clinical rotation and Blueprints/Step-up/First Aid for a few that they were good for.

    A bunch of us students just bought the best books for whatever their first rotation was, then traded them around to each other as we went through those rotations.
  25. ucladoc2b

    ucladoc2b 7+ Year Member

    Nov 24, 2008
    Actually, Wikipedia does an ok job with "big picture" explanations. At least with this background, you can figure out where all the tedious details fit in.
  26. Shadowmoses

    Shadowmoses 5+ Year Member

    Mar 18, 2011
    Might as ask here because I am struggling to find a good pathophys book. I am stuck between the one quoted above, and clinical pathophysiology made ridiculously simple. I am favoring the latter, but I am not sure how "complete" the book is, especially when compared to the Lange Pahophys book. Could someone compare/contrast the 2 books?
  27. D elegans

    D elegans 5+ Year Member

    Mar 30, 2011
    Flyover Country
    For micro - Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple
  28. Brachyury

    Brachyury 2+ Year Member

    Jul 19, 2010
    Old Swampy
    Anatomy: Rohen +/- Netter
    Physio: BRS (it's also written by Constanzo, but it's shorter)
    Path: Big Robbins and Pathoma

    For step I, besides FA and UWorld, I also used Pathoma, HY neuroanatomy, and BRS behavioral science (only for ethics and biostats)
    Edit: I also thumed through Deja review biochem, BRS physio, and HY anatomy (only certain parts)
  29. GladifImakeit

    GladifImakeit Banned 2+ Year Member

    Apr 9, 2010
    I would use First Aid and Kaplan Lecture Notes in addition to 1 or more question banks. You have to buy the Kaplan lecture notes on Ebay though, unless you take a Kaplan course.
  30. JackShephard MD

    JackShephard MD

    Oct 17, 2011
    New York
    Any comments on medium vs big Robbins?
  31. Brachyury

    Brachyury 2+ Year Member

    Jul 19, 2010
    Old Swampy
    Both cover the same information, but I felt Big Robbins, due to its larger size, fleshed out difficult concepts better. If you've been reading the New Yorker since high school, majored in the humanities in UG, or went to a LAC, Big Robbins is probably a good fit.
  32. PTPoeny

    PTPoeny Senior Member Physician PhD 10+ Year Member

    Mar 3, 2005
    I would say the only books that everybody has are first aid for step 1 and maxwells.

    Other than that it depends on what you like. Differently people learn better from different types of presentations. Frankly, I found it incredibly useful for different people in my study group to have different text books. The only time we looked at text books was when notes and syllabi didn't make sense and reading the same information phrased a bunch of different ways (one from syllabus and one from each textbook) was extremely helpful. So... to answer your actual question, no, there isn't a most often recommended primary text book, use whatever you can find in a library out of everything above. For citation purposes, you probably want the "big" version of the various books. My school recommended a number of different text books for each class knowing that different students would learn better from different books.
  33. blazers

    blazers Banned Banned 2+ Year Member

    Feb 5, 2012
    i heard buy kaplan medessentials book and first aid before going into medical school, and incorporate them into your studies as you progress through the first 2 years.
  34. blazers

    blazers Banned Banned 2+ Year Member

    Feb 5, 2012
    i think its just better to buy kaplan medessentials. has all the books in one book, and has the most important thing drawn out from the lecture notes in this one book
  35. robflanker

    robflanker 7+ Year Member

    Feb 17, 2009
    Only textbook I really got a lot out of was costanzo's physio book. Tho West's respiratory phys was good too.

    Most of the books I use are for questions - so BRS, Pre-test, gray's anatomy Q book, rapid review etc
  36. Ok2Panic

    Ok2Panic Resident 10+ Year Member

    Aug 21, 2005
    New York, NY
    I'm in the anti-textbook camp, but would definitely say Rapid Review for Path, and maybe BRS for Physio.
  37. Oxer45

    Oxer45 2+ Year Member

    Feb 26, 2008
    First Aid for Step 1. The one book every med student has.
  38. bailey42

    bailey42 5+ Year Member

    Oct 19, 2008
    Awesome, thanks guys. These textbooks wouldn't be for me trying to actually learn the material, but rather it's for a research project regarding how medical textbooks are written. This was all super helpful.

    In addition, I was wondering if anyone knew if there are any books that cover bedside manner? I know this question is kind of strange, but do textbooks that teach bedside manner actually exist? Or is it something that doctors are just expected to learn through experience and through other doctors? Is it something that is included in medical school curricula?

    Thanks again everyone.

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