Views & Reviews Personal View

The failure of modern textbooks

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 07 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2132
  1. Roger K Allen, consultant thoracic and sleep physician, Wesley Medical Centre, Brisbane
  1. rogerallen{at}

    I was recently asked by a colleague overseas to coauthor a chapter on the treatment of sarcoidosis for a book on interstitial lung disease. However, the task competes with a book I am writing about my early childhood and in which I am very much aware of the “voice” of the book. I have not yet started the chapter of the textbook but have looked at some early editions.

    The overwhelming thing I observe is the failure of most modern textbooks to convey personal experience, except by virtue of a citation of some prior publication. The voice, by convention, is scientific, impersonal, passive, and not active. It is far off. The patient and the medical process are viewed like an enemy frigate through a spyglass at a league’s distance, only even less emotive. A handbook I own, …

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