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List of the Best Preparatory and Review Books for Medical Students

If you are a medical student and you want to close some gaps in knowledge or deepen your understanding of some topics, this article will be of great help to you. Here you will find an overview of the most easy-to-read and informative preparatory and review books for medical students. Of course, it is impossible to review at least one book on every topic in the field of medicine in one article. Still, most first and second year students will certainly be able to catch up with some topics and find new information in the books presented in our review. The works and manuscripts discussed in the article will help you to recall the previously learned information. In the annotation to every book, you will find a brief recap of the themes it covers and reasonable arguments as to why this work is worth attention. Thus, you will surely find a book that fully suits your academic needs.

Please, note that we do not offer or prompt you to buy any of the reviewed books. Quite the opposite, we are sure that you will benefit from free online resources, class notes, and presentations to deepen your medical knowledge. Still, our article, divided into sections according to the college subjects, will help you to find the best preparatory and review books for medical students. And in case you need to get ready for an important exam or test, you will know exactly where to find the most accurate and complete information on the subject. 

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But before we turn to our medical books reviews, it is good to recall the main aspects and pitfalls of the educational process. Thus, the most important thing about the studying process is to choose a pace you are comfortable with. FOMO (the fear of missing out) is proved to be one of the strongest fears of young people, especially students. Medical students are particularly afraid of missing out. The only thing to remember is that the more the better rule does not always work for the good. Studying is not the only thing in life to value.

Another thing you might come across in medical school is the high level of competitiveness among students when it regards grades, resources, and other study aspects. Some students even like to brag about the number of books they have already read or the number of professional subscriptions they have added on YouTube or Facebook. There is also a group of students that disdainfully makes comments regarding the books you read, particularly that they are not worthy of attention or that they do not provide any credible information whatsoever. For many students, it can be really hard to withstand the pressure of such emotional bullying. As a result, many students start to create reasons in their minds why they are worse than others, why they are missing out, etc. however, when you stop for a while and think about all those words and comments, you will find out that those remarks are totally biased and not objective. In fact, you do not even need to read all those books you were told about. All in all, there is nothing to worry about and nothing to be afraid of. Just be consistent with your studies and try to do your best. If you do not compare yourself with other people so often, then you will find out that you can demonstrate far greater academic achievements.

Best Preparatory Books for Medical Students

Below you will find specific subjects that are covered over the course of studying medicine and the best preparatory books for medical students that are suitable for each course:

  • Anatomy

If you are looking for a textbook that will clearly explain to you all the concepts, notions, and fundamental ideas of anatomy, just do not waste your time. There is hardly such a universal book. As a rule, you do not need any supplementary materials in anatomy unless you are going to specialize in this field further. All that will suffice is your course textbook. You will get to know the fundamental concepts of anatomy. There is no need to cram your head with unnecessary knowledge, principles, and in-depth knowledge in this area.

If you are a senior student and you would like to delve deeper into anatomy, you have to have Rohen's Anatomy: A Photographic Atlas. You will get a perfect opportunity to see how knowledge may be applied in practice. Besides, the book provides a lot of real-life photos on a variety of topics. This fact will bring more clarity and a realistic vision of many things (unlike the ordinary drawings you have got used to). With the help of Rohen’s guidance, you will be able to differentiate body structures and study their correlation.

If you feel that illustrations offered at the standard Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy, usually used in colleges, are not sufficient for you, consider purchasing Atlas of Anatomy written by Thieme. It provides more explanations to the tables, graphs, and pictures.

  • Neuroanatomy

If you taking a first-year course in neuroanatomy, the subject may be difficult to handle but actually, it will not require any specific book apart from class materials. Further, Clinical Neuroanatomy Made Ridiculously Simple written by Stephen Goldberg will help you identify the core aspects of neuroanatomy and their succinct characteristics. The book is written in as plain language as possible and provides highlights on the fundamentals of the subject. If you need more in-depth information and more details, you may as well consult the book High-Yield Neuroanatomy by James Fix. Still, it is written in a more formal and dry language.

  • Embryology

When it comes to embryology, your inquiries and needs will differ depending on the level, year, and course of study. The best option here is to search for the best books and materials on the net. Most often, you will not need any extra materials or supplementary sources apart from your textbooks and class lectures.

However, if you decide to study embryology more deeply, then the book High-Yield Embryology will definitely benefit you. You will get detailed and succinct explanations of different topics, subtopics, terms, notions, and phenomena. Besides, you will see how theory is applied in practice.

For an even more thorough study of embryology, it is highly recommended to consult Langman’s Medical Embryology as there you will find multiple real-life cases from medical practice as well as clinical correlations. The book contains a lot of photos so be ready for realism.

Before We Are Born written by Moore is definitely one of the most comprehensive and concise studying materials. Still, The Developing Human (also written by Moore) is even more detailed and formalized.

  • Histology

There is no necessity to buy books in histology either. It is usually one of the supplementary courses in medical schools. As a rule, the information presented in the class lectures and course textbook will be completely sufficient for acquiring an understanding of the fundamental concepts and essentials. Most often, professors teaching histology give students online materials as well as hand-outs so that they can properly prepare for the classes. However, if you would like to study histology on your own or if you have missed some materials, you have to have The Color Atlas and Text of Histology. The book comprises vivid pictures alongside detailed and clear explanations. Another book that can assist you with understanding the principles of histology is Basic Histology.

  • Physiology

Physiology written by Constanzo is the most detailed book on physiology you could ever find. This medical course is definitely the one where you need to get in-depth knowledge. Physiology should be studied well regardless of your future specialty. It is one of the fundamentals of becoming a good doctor or a nurse. BRS Physiology Review also written by Constanzo is another valuable resource for learning the basics of physiology and delving into its greater details.

  • Biochemistry

Biochemistry by Lippincott is definitely the best choice if you want to study biochemistry and understand its basic notions. Apart from the basic textbook, you will have to study plenty of other materials, including different online materials, flashcards, atlases, etc. Practice is what matters most in learning biochemistry. Sometimes biochemistry will be limited to mere rote memorization and cramming but with time you will understand the general notions better. When you are learning biochemistry, it is great to practice a lot with online questions, formulas, and other tasks. Flashcards will also positively influence the overall learning process. If you want to balance between flashcards and interpretations, consider First Aid for the Basic Sciences.

  • Microbiology

Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple written by Mark Gladwin is a classic book if you want to understand microbiology and learn its fundamental principles. The book contains comprehensive guidelines on how microbiology works, when it is used, what benefits it brings, what its role among the sciences is, etc. Unfortunately, the book does not cover microbiology in full detail but it is really beneficial for medical students. Although the book is not the best one to be used alone, it is great for students who have just begun to study in medical schools. When used with the other manuals, textbooks, and studying materials, the book will be an invaluable asset for an average medical student. Another advantage of the book is that it is affordable for an average student.

Deja Review Microbiology is a comprehensive source as it combines both a good record of information alongside notecards and explained questions. The book contains different questions, quizzes, flashcards, notecards, etc. This book will definitely help you keep track of your studying progress and get to know your weak points. If you have made up your mind to purchase this book, opt for a paperback. The Kindle version will not maintain the two-column format.

If you are a student seeking deeper knowledge, try reading Levinson. However, there are small chances that you will hardly ever need this book.

  • Behavioral Science

If you are interested in deepening your knowledge and learning something new about behaviorism, buy BRS Behavioral Science written by Barbara Fadem. This is a current review book that covers behavioral science, epidemiology, psychiatry, and related disciplines. It will help you to rapidly recollect the main information on the relationship between the mind and the body. You will be able to use this knowledge during your exams.

  • Genetics

Some extra books are not necessary and required in medical schools either. All the needed and required information can be found in the textbooks provided. However, if you would like to delve deeper into the notions of genetics, try Medical Genetics by Jorde, Bamshad, and Carey. It is written in more or less plain language and explains different notions in an understandable and comprehensible way. Besides, there is no irrelevant obsession with details. 

  • Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Additional books related to these courses can be safely ignored. Just stop looking for some additional materials related to these disciplines. The basic notions will be covered in your general textbooks and discussed during the studies.

  • Pharmacology

If the lectures in pharmacology are not sufficient for you, try out Lippincott Illustrated Reviews: Pharmacology. The book will lay the foundation for understanding the core concepts of pharmacology. If you had much material that was not understandable for you, this book will help you establish a solid foundation of pharmacology terms and concepts.

It is great to study pharmacology with the help of flashcards. If it is easier for you to learn from notes, pictures, and other visuals, then consider buying Deja Review Pharmacology. It contains many details and basic principles explained clearly and in detail.

  • Pathology

One of the best preparatory and review books for medical students in pathology is Robbins & Cotran’s Review of Pathology. Even the most difficult aspects and questions of this discipline will be clearly explained and interpreted in this book. You will obtain more clarity if you choose to have this book on your shelf.

As for the other sources, you may as well check videos and different conference speeches online, as well as scholarly articles.

Rapid Review of Pathology written by Goljan is another credible and properly thought-out book that deserves great attention. It contains many details regarding the subject and provides important materials and ideas in pathology.

Big Robbins Pathology is an impeccable textbook if believe that it is crucial to really learn the fundamentals and the core concepts of this discipline. The information found in this book will hardly help you with taking tests as it contains more in-depth and detailed information and facts. However, you will certainly enrich your general understanding of pathology and delve into more complicated concepts and ideas.

  • Pediatrics

APLS: The Pediatric Emergency Medicine Resource. Our medical books review would be incomplete without this work. The list of books on pediatrics emergency medicine is not long but this one is something all of the students must read. This book presents advanced material on the topic, so it’s on the list of medical books to read. This is definitely the book a medical professional should read before his/her pediatric ED rotations.

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  • Orthopedics

Emergency Orthopedics, 6th edition. It is a must-have for anyone studying their orthopedic block. There is no boring info there. It was written for EM students, so it contains everything you should know.

Carter’s Common Hand Injuries. Although it was written 20 years ago, we have included this textbook in our medical books review because it is still something to pick up from the library. The information in this book is organized in a way, which enables you to learn the basics of a hand in the most understandable way. Carter even included cartoons in it. Unfortunately, for those who are not fond of e-books, it is now out of print. However, e-version is still a must-have. There is a similar book by ACEP but the majority of reviews confirm that Carter is still the best.

  • Toxicology

Toxicology Secrets. Although this is a review book, it appears in many professional recommendation lists. It will help you to refresh your knowledge of the subject and get ready for the test.

  • Radiology

Accident and Emergency Radiology, 3rd edition. It is called a survival guide for a reason. It is a good book and it covers all x-ray essentials.

  • Electrocardiography

The ECG in Acute MI. The manual of reperfusion therapy describes the best evidence-based practice, so this resource is absolutely indispensable today. ER doctors frequently read Dubin or Marriot but the best guidelines were created by Stephen W. Smith. Knowing the signs of an MI on ECG still does not make you an expert. If you want to go to level II, enjoy the free version of this number-one textbook, which has been given away by the author now that it is out of print.

Electrocardiography in Emergency Medicine. While ER doctors are waiting for Dr. Smith’s masterpiece to return to print, they can enjoy this one written by Amal Mattu. The textbook received a lot of positive reviews, which means that is it definitely worth reading.

  • Emergency Ultrasound

Critical Care Ultrasonography, 2nd edition. Do you want to take your ultrasound skills to a whole new level? Read this book and enjoy your perfect ability to manage critically ill patients more effectively.

Emergency Ultrasound, 3rd edition by Ma and Mateer's. When this one appeared, many people truly rejoiced because, until this book was published, there were no good guidelines for EM UTS.

  • Texts on Procedure

Wounds and Lacerations (Online and Print), 4th edition. The book on emergency care and closure. This is the most comprehensive guide that will teach you how to manage wounds. Trott MD and Alexander T. (the editors) definitely know what you might need during the shift.

Clinical procedures in emergency medicine were perfectly explained by Roberts and Hedges’ work. Their textbook is absolutely fantastic because it contains an in-depth description of virtually every procedure an employee should know in his/her EM career. If you still haven’t bought anything with your CME money, this is something to invest in. By the way, you can download it for free on some online resources but some illustrations will be missing.

Emergency Medicine Procedures, 2nd edition. Not many textbooks can surpass the aforementioned one but this one can. For some people, diagrams are easier to interpret than photos and the authors of this textbook seem to know this. Another benefit of this textbook is that it is comprehensive. Although the book is pretty expensive, it is definitely worth every penny.

Manual of Emergency Airway Management. Some call it a bible of EM airway management. Once you read it during your orientation month, you will be familiar with the basics of intubation before the 1st ED shift even begins. This procedure is one of those during which you should not really take your time, so make sure you use every available resource to prepare yourself.

Emergency airway management is described in The Airway Cam Guide to Intubation. Unlike the textbook by Wall, which explains the basics of managing airways, this textbook is a guide on laryngoscopy and inserting plastic between the cords. In other words, this is a must-read.

  • List of the Best Medical Books on Surgery/Trauma

Trauma, 7th ed. The textbook offers a detailed description of trauma management but it is aimed at surgeons, so you will probably only skim it.

Early Diagnosis of the Acute Abdomen by Cope. It is assumed that students should read this during their med school but if, for some reason, you did not, take it from the library immediately. However, choose the latest edition, in which the authors recommend pain medicine to treat abdomen pain (written by a surgeon).

Essential Emergency Trauma. Edited by Kaushal Shah, this work can be a brilliant textbook for those who need an introduction to the basics. Actually, it explains trauma from A to Z and is more than readable, so what else can a beginner possibly need?

  • General Books

It has become increasingly common for students to skim read and jot down the basics from the First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 as they move through the basic sciences. The first steps may be tough and complicated but then you will get accustomed to the process. However, not everyone likes this method. Many students like to differentiate between different studying materials and want their flashcards to be flashcards, textbooks to be textbooks, etc. Note-taking may not always be a thing that will save you during the exams or class discussions.

The First Aid is tedious to study, difficult to comprehend, and too overrated. Usually, to find the best source for yourself, you need to try out a few of them and then find out which one suits your needs and purposes.

Art and Science of Bedside Diagnosis. Sapira published a much improved physical diagnosis class all students took in medical school. It explains all the incredible techniques that doctors used in the good old days when they could not enjoy the luxury of x-rays and text labs. Although they could not treat patients as effectively as we do now, this book helps students learn some new skills and get more confident in the old ones.

Minor Emergencies: Expert Consult, 3rd edition. Both print and electronic versions are available. The textbook explains how to take care of cases that do not require an ambulance, such as nose bleeding. Well, the fact that patients call the ambulance once they have minor back pain is another story. Readers can familiarize themselves with the content of the book available online for free.

Rosen’s Emergency Medicine. This book should appear on absolutely all lists of medical literature because it is probably one of the most authoritative texts and it is also readable, which is not typical for the books of this type. The book presents a historical perspective but it cannot be compared to Tintinalli, which provides a more comprehensive description of certain topics, such as the comparison of sickle cell anemia sections, for example.

Emergency Medicine by Tintinalli. This is another book worth the attention of everyone interested in medicine. This is by far the most detailed textbook that contains a lot of useful information on a variety of topics. Despite having only one volume, Tintinalli is more comprehensive than Rosen’s because of the smaller print and cheaper paper grade. This is exactly what a medical professional needs to quickly find answers to questions that might arise during the shift.

Emergency Department Resuscitation of the Critically Ill. The author invited gifted and experienced ED critical care specialists and managed to publish an irreplaceable guide to ED resuscitation.

Those are just some of the best medical books for medical students. Reading at least 50% of them will help you take your skills to a new level.

Best Preparatory Books for Medical Students


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