Recommended novels, short stories and essays

Just a few of the many!


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The Year of Magical Thinking         Joan Didion

Insights into bereavement and grief


Rowing Without Oars                                   Ulla-Carin Lindquist

A young woman’s account of her Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis


A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian     Marina Lewycka

Elder abuse, autonomy


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time           Mark Haddon

Asperger’s syndrome


A Good Likeness                   Paul Arnott

Adoption and identity


Teacher Man                         Frank McCourt

The importance of teaching


Shadow Baby                         Margaret Forster

Child abandonment, obsession and revenge


Before I Say Goodbye                      Ruth Picardie

A moving account of a young mother with terminal breast cancer


A Country Doctor’s Notebook           Michael Bulgakov

The story of a lone practitioner in a vast country practice in rural Russia


The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down                        Anne Fadiman

The colliding worlds of Western medicine and Hmong culture


Secrets from the Black Bag                Susan Woldenberg Butler

A fictionalised account of the lives of remote and single-handed general practitioners all over the world


The White Spider                               Heinrich Harrer

The ascent of the Eiger. True stories of human courage, achievement and sacrifice


A Fortunate Man                               John Berger and Jean Mohr

The story of a country doctor in the mid 60s


Once in a House on Fire                               Andrea Ashworth

A story of poverty, depression, and abuse


Regeneration                                                 Pat Barker

In Craiglockhart war hospital, Doctor William Rivers attempts to restore the sanity of officers from World War I.


The Diving-bell and the Butterfly                                    Jean-Dominique Bauby

A remarkable book about the author’s experiences locked inside his body after a massive stroke. (Also now a film)


Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science       Atul Gawande

Dismantling the myth of medical infallibility – making mistakes, learning on the job and improvising technique and self-confidence. A reminder that doctors are people too.


The Citadel                                                                                       Joseph Cronin

The experiences of a newly-qualified doctor taking up his first post with a Welsh mining community


C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too…                                                 John Diamond

An account of John Diamond’s life with and without his cancer


A Child Called It                                                                                                Pelzer

An autobiographical account of child abuse


A Suburban Shaman                                    Cecil Helman – GP/anthropologist

Tales from medicines frontline


Paradox of progress                                                                         James Willis

Stories about “the very stuff of GP”


Medicine and literature                                                                        John Salinsky

Volumes 1 and 2 act as guides through some of the world’s greatest literature


The Green Bookshop                                     John and Mary Salinsky and Iona Heath

Loads of suggestions from articles in the “Green Journal” – Education for Primary Care


A number of books by Oliver Sacks including one about his own injury called A leg to stand on

These books are a treasure trove of interesting essays about unusual patients


Notes from an exhibition                                                                        Patrick Gale

The effect of mental illness on an artist on her family including interesting sections about Quakers


Deaf Sentence                                                                                    David Lodge

The effects of deafness on a college lecturer both on his work but also the scrapes he gets into


Alan Bennett short stories including “The Lady in the van”

Many of his stories have huge general interest and this one about a recluse – schizophrenic lady is delightful


The sound of my voice                                                                         Ron Butlin

Short but very powerful novel about alcoholism


The Plague                                                                                       Albert Camus

Allegory about suffering bravery and human existence



Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde                                                                         R L Stevenson

Creates lots of ethical discussion about doctoring


Blindness                                                                                                 Jose Saramago

Main theme is about the disintegration of society and how people react when the “blindness plague” threats


Cancer Ward                                                                         Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Powerful stories based around the doctors and patients in a Russian Cancer Ward


My year off                                                                           Robert McCrum

Novelist and magazine editor has a major stroke and writes brilliantly about it the following year


Equus                                                                                         Peter Shaffer

Classic play about a child who blinded horses and his story and relationship with his psychiatrist


The Kite Runner                                                                         Khaled Hosseini

Class and cultural barriers to friendship in Afghanistan and an ultimate seeking of redemption


The Good Doctor                                                                         Damon Galgut

Doctor in rural hospital in S Africa trying to maintain his ideals


The Secret Scripture                                                             Sebastian Barry

The different perspectives of a 100 year old long term psychiatric patient and her psychiatrist about her life


Stuart a Life Backwards                                                   Alexander Masters

Fascinating story from “grave to cradle” looking at the life of a chaotic homeless man


Way to Go                                                                                     Alan Spence

Perspectives of death and dying and “creative” undertaking


The Spare Room                                                                         Helen Garner

About a woman who agrees to look after her dying friend and her difficulty coping particularly with her friend’s constant search for non-medical cures.


Poetry resources: here are some websites that may be of interest.

The Poetry Society

The Poetry Archive:

Academy of American Poets:

Bloodaxe Books: – a good source for books on modern poetry

Favourite Poem Project:

Poem Hunter:    is a good poetry site


And a very good database for the humanities is

The Literature, Arts and Medicine Database: