The best books that give an insider’s view of the good, bad, beautiful, and ugly in medicine

Why am I passionate about this?

As a cancer doctor, I have spent two decades dedicated to understanding the causes and therapy of cancer, how my patients experience their diagnosis and treatment, and how meaningful improvements in their experience should be reflected in the criteria we use to approve cancer drugs approval in the U.S., to improve their lives. In over 100 essays published in outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post and in two books, I sing the stories of my patients as I learn from their undaunted spirits and their utter humanity, as I try to figure out how to be a better doctor, and a better person.


I wrote...

Drugs and the FDA: Safety, Efficacy, and the Public's Trust

By Mikkael A. Sekeres,

Book cover of Drugs and the FDA: Safety, Efficacy, and the Public's Trust

What is my book about?

In Drugs and the FDA, I tell the inside story of how the FDA came into being, against the backdrop of the contentious 2011 hearings on the breast cancer drug Avastin, where I served on the cancer drugs advisory committee. The FDA was formed and gained its authority when children were poisoned by contaminated vaccines, an early antibiotic contained antifreeze, a drug prescribed for morning sickness in pregnancy caused babies to be born disfigured, and access to AIDS drugs was limited while thousands died. The stories that led to the creation of the FDA culminated in the Avastin hearings, which put to the test a century of the FDA's evolution, demonstrating how its system of checks and balances works—or in how it doesn't work.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Tornado of Life: A Doctor's Journey through Constraints and Creativity in the ER

Mikkael A. Sekeres Why did I love this book?

If you ever need to go to the emergency room, you would want Jay Baruch to be your doctor.

In Tornado of Life, Jay explores medicine as an exercise in storytelling, and across a series of essays, tries to find truth in the stories his patients tell him.

With each patient we encounter, we struggle along with Jay to solve the moral quandaries of medical practice in the 21st century, and share in the heartache faced by the families surviving medical catastrophes.

By Jay Baruch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tornado of Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stories from the ER: a doctor shows how empathy, creativity, and imagination are the cornerstones of clinical care.

To be an emergency room doctor is to be a professional listener to stories. Each patient presents a story; finding the heart of that story is the doctor’s most critical task. More technology, more tests, and more data won’t work if doctors get the story wrong. Empathy, creativity, and imagination are the cornerstones of clinical care. In Tornado of Life, ER physician Jay Baruch offers a series of short, powerful, and affecting essays that capture the stories of ER patients in all…


Book cover of When We Do Harm: A Doctor Confronts Medical Error

Mikkael A. Sekeres Why did I love this book?

Nobody is perfect. But in medicine, not being perfect can cause injury in another person, or even death.

In When We Do Harm, Ofri tells the stories of patients who fell victim to medical errors, conducting root-cause analyses of how errors occur in the complicated practice of medicine, and the mundane interventions and cultural shift that will be necessary to prevent them in the future.

It’s not an easy puzzle to solve.

By Danielle Ofri,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When We Do Harm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Medical mistakes are more pervasive than we think. How can we improve outcomes? An acclaimed MD’s rich stories and research explore patient safety.

Patients enter the medical system with faith that they will receive the best care possible, so when things go wrong, it’s a profound and painful breach. Medical science has made enormous strides in decreasing mortality and suffering, but there’s no doubt that treatment can also cause harm, a significant portion of which is preventable. In When We Do Harm, practicing physician and acclaimed author Danielle Ofri places the issues of medical error and patient safety front and…


Book cover of Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America

Mikkael A. Sekeres Why did I love this book?

There’s a seedy side to the pharmaceutical industry that started well before the creation of the FDA, and continues through the modern era, fueling the epidemic of opioid drug dependency.

In Pharma, Posner’s comprehensive reporting introduces us to brilliant scientists, incorruptible government regulators, and brave whistleblowers facing off against company executives often blinded by greed.

We learn how the Sacklers built a culture of pain relief on the shoulders of oxycontin – one that ultimately led to the lowest survival rates for Americans in a century.

By Gerald Posner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pharma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author Gerald Posner traces the heroes and villains of the trillion-dollar-a-year pharmaceutical industry and uncovers how those once entrusted with improving life have often betrayed that ideal to corruption and reckless profiteering-with deadly consequences.

Pharmaceutical breakthroughs such as anti biotics and vaccines rank among some of the greatest advancements in human history. Yet exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs, safety recalls affecting tens of millions of Americans, and soaring rates of addiction and overdose on pre scription opioids have caused many to lose faith in drug companies. Now, Americans are demanding a national reckoning…


Book cover of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

Mikkael A. Sekeres Why did I love this book?

Less than a century ago, having a diagnosis of cancer was almost universally a death sentence, if the word was even uttered at all.

In The Emperor of All Maladies, Mukherjee (who overlapped in training with me) takes us back in time to the heroic – and at times cavalier and even brutal – procedures and discoveries that led to the very first cancer treatments, some of which are told by the people who pioneered those therapies.

By Siddhartha Mukherjee,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Emperor of All Maladies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Guardian First Book Award 2011

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction 2011

Shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize 2011

Shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize

In The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee, doctor, researcher and award-winning science writer, examines cancer with a cellular biologist's precision, a historian's perspective, and a biographer's passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with - and perished from - for more than five thousand years.

The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience and perseverance, but also…


Book cover of The Year of Magical Thinking

Mikkael A. Sekeres Why did I love this book?

While your daughter is hospitalized, on the brink of death, your husband dies suddenly. How do you make sense of it all?

In The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion iteratively revisits the events that occurred over the few days before and after her husband (the writer John Dunne) suffers a cardiac arrest as she explores the notion of illness, grief, and our medical system.

This book taught me about how my own patients and their families navigate death, and prepared me for when my own father died.

By Joan Didion,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Year of Magical Thinking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of America's iconic writers, a portrait of a marriage and a life - in good times and bad - that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child. A stunning book of electric honesty and passion.

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill. At first they thought it was flu, then pneumonia, then complete sceptic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later - the night before New Year's Eve -the Dunnes were just…


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Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

Book cover of Ferry to Cooperation Island

Carol Newman Cronin Author Of Ferry to Cooperation Island

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Sailor Olympian Editor New Englander Rum drinker

Carol's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

James Malloy is a ferry captain--or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a "girl" named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island’s daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a plan for a private golf course on wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep historic trees and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have to learn to cooperate with other islanders--including Captain Courtney, who might just morph from irritant to irresistible once James learns a secret that's been kept from him for years.

Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

What is this book about?

Loner James Malloy is a ferry captain-or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a girl named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island's daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a private golf course staked out across wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, a Narragansett Indian, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep rocky bluffs, historic trees, and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have…


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