Personal Views

Gimme five—books, that is

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7123.1712 (Published 20 December 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1712

We can probably agree that the best doctors will try to understand how the world looks to their patients. But how can we hope to achieve such understanding? We are prisoners of our own backgrounds (usually privileged), culture and experience (always limited), and training (narrow, overstuffed, and reductionist). One route to broader understanding is books. Chris Bulstrode, a trauma surgeon who teaches creative writing to medical students, suggested that we try to compile a list of the best books for medical students and doctors to read. We asked the people below to start us off, but now we want your suggestions. Please send us a list of five books with a sentence or two on why each is worth reading.

We will publish all the lists on our website, compile a comprehensive list there, and then publish a list of the top 10 (or possibly more) in the paper version of the journal—perhaps with a summary of each and some of the best quotes. And once we've done books we might try films. Or music?

Kate Adams, medical student, United Kingdom

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, Richard Bach

I have been lost in flight with Jonathan Seagull on numerous occasions. It is a truly inspiring book that reminds me that life is about living and not just following the flock. Since reading this book I have not been able to look at a seagull in the same light.

Some Lives, David Widgery

This book helped me decide to train in east London. Written by a general practitioner with 20 years of experience, it gives an interesting account of the history, politics, and solidarity of the east end.

Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks

A beautifully written, powerfully descriptive, and deeply moving story about the first world war. The personal touches made me feel as though I was also there …

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