6 Best Medical Books of the Past 75 Years

What are the best medical books written in the past 75 years? Here’s one opinion.

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I read the Parade magazine in my Sunday newspaper regularly (see previous post). To celebrate  75 years of publication,  the editors commissioned  author Ann Patchett to create a list of “The 75 Best Books of the Past 75 Years” .


As Ms. Patchett explained, she enlisted the help of the staff at Parnassus Books, a bookstore she owns in Nashville Tennessee. They limited their consideration  to books written in English. She calls the list a “mash-up that exemplifies the passionate convictions of 17 booksellers.”


Many of the books of the list are unfamiliar to me, but I recognized some well known classics like

Charlotte’s Web

The Old Man and the Sea

Fahrenheit 451

A Wrinkle in Time (a personal favorite of mine) 

Where the Wild Things Are

To Kill a Mockingbird, and

the Harry Potter series.


Although many books deal with birth and/or death to some extent, I searched the list for ones with a definite medical connection or theme that ran through most if not all of the book.  I’m sharing those with you here.(There might be others, these seemed most  obvious to me) . They are listed in chronological order by publication dates.  


Caution: Most of these discuss adult themes and issues which may not be appropriate for children or adolescents without adult guidance.


The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

This is a novel about a woman with depression but is considered semi-autobiographical. The author , Sylvia Plath, a poet,  suffered from depression and died by suicide not long after publishing this book, her only novel. It was also made into a film.





One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

This may be more familiar to you as the same titled movie which won five major Academy Awards, including Best Actor  Jack Nicholson and Best Actress Louise Fletcher.

 The novel’s events take place in a psychiatric hospital and examines the treatment and mistreatment of patients in such facilities.


The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson, PhD.


the double helix molecule of DNA
used courtesy of skeeze on Pixabay




As the name implies, Dr. Watson wrote about his and Francis Crick’s discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. The book mostly ignored the contributions of Rosalind Franklin, who also worked on DNA, earning it criticism for this.


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Described as a young adult novel, it relates the story of  a female high school student who sinks into depression after being raped, which she is afraid to report to anyone.   



My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

In this novel ,  Lucy, a young woman hospitalized with a mysterious illness for 9 weeks, receives a 5 day visit from her mother.   


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, M.D.

A memoir by a neurosurgical resident who learns he is terminally ill. I have reviewed this book here. I would vote this as the best medical book. 


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi


Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

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