100 books like Strangers at the Bedside

By David J. Rothman,

Here are 100 books that Strangers at the Bedside fans have personally recommended if you like Strangers at the Bedside. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Bad Blood

Allen M. Hornblum Author Of Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America

From my list on human experimentation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began working in prisons 50 years ago. I was just out of grad school and I accepted the challenge of starting a literacy program in the Philadelphia Prison System. The shock of cellblock life was eye-opening, but the most unexpected revelation was the sight of scores of inmates wrapped in bandages and medical tape. Unknown to the general public, the three city prisons had become a lucrative appendage of the University of Pennsylvania’s Medical School. As I would discover years later, thousands of imprisoned Philadelphians had been used in a cross-section of unethical and dangerous scientific studies running the gamut from simple hair dye and athlete’s foot trials to radioactive isotope, dioxin, and US Army chemical warfare studies. My account of the prison experiments, Acres of Skin, helped instill in me an abiding faith in well-researched journalism as an antidote to societal indiscretions and crimes.

Allen's book list on human experimentation

Allen M. Hornblum Why did Allen love this book?

This in-depth account of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study is considered a classic in the field of medical ethics. Though Greg Dober and I have recently discovered the true origins of the Public Health Service’s “non-treatment study” and former Surgeon General Thomas Parran’s critical role in the ugly saga, Jones’s book is still the best chronicle available, and lays out a devastating narrative of how a sophisticated but uncaring and racist scientific establishment could annually examine and not treat hundreds of unschooled Alabama sharecroppers suffering from a deadly disease. 

By James H. Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From 1932 to 1972, the United States Public Health Service conducted a non-therapeutic experiment involving over 400 black male sharecroppers infected with syphilis. The Tuskegee Study had nothing to do with treatment. It purpose was to trace the spontaneous evolution of the disease in order to learn how syphilis affected black subjects. The men were not told they had syphilis; they were not warned about what the disease might do to them; and, with the exception of a smattering of medication during the first few months, they were not given health care. Instead of the powerful drugs they required, they…


Book cover of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

Brian Elliott Author Of White Coat Ways: A History of Medical Traditions and Their Battle with Progress

From my list on medical history that changes medical perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a physician, medicine is my job. But along the way, I wondered how medicine got to where it is now–like really wondered. I wondered to the point that I was reading the original treatises written by 18th-century physicians. I started publishing research on medical history and giving presentations at medical conferences. I’d like to think this helps me be a better doctor by broadening my perspective on the healthcare industry. But at the very least, I’ve found these books enjoyable and compelling. I hope you enjoy them, too!

Brian's book list on medical history that changes medical perspective

Brian Elliott Why did Brian love this book?

Healthcare is delivered by people who are sometimes subject to biases or prejudices, and this book is a vivid and extraordinarily researched account of how horrible it is when these biases and prejudices go unchecked.

However, what really hit hard for me was that this book is only half about medical history. The last part of this book discusses research practices and biases that are in effect today.

As a physician, this book was imperative to better understand the historical and contemporary issues involving race and medicine. 

By Harriet A. Washington,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Medical Apartheid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER • The first full history of Black America’s shocking mistreatment as unwilling and unwitting experimental subjects at the hands of the medical establishment. No one concerned with issues of public health and racial justice can afford not to read this masterful book.

"[Washington] has unearthed a shocking amount of information and shaped it into a riveting, carefully documented book." —New York Times

From the era of slavery to the present day, starting with the earliest encounters between Black Americans and Western medical researchers and the racist pseudoscience that resulted, Medical Apartheid details the ways…


Book cover of The Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War

Allen M. Hornblum Author Of Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America

From my list on human experimentation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began working in prisons 50 years ago. I was just out of grad school and I accepted the challenge of starting a literacy program in the Philadelphia Prison System. The shock of cellblock life was eye-opening, but the most unexpected revelation was the sight of scores of inmates wrapped in bandages and medical tape. Unknown to the general public, the three city prisons had become a lucrative appendage of the University of Pennsylvania’s Medical School. As I would discover years later, thousands of imprisoned Philadelphians had been used in a cross-section of unethical and dangerous scientific studies running the gamut from simple hair dye and athlete’s foot trials to radioactive isotope, dioxin, and US Army chemical warfare studies. My account of the prison experiments, Acres of Skin, helped instill in me an abiding faith in well-researched journalism as an antidote to societal indiscretions and crimes.

Allen's book list on human experimentation

Allen M. Hornblum Why did Allen love this book?

Welsome investigates a particularly repugnant episode in medical history; doctors secretly injecting hospital patients with plutonium as part of the Manhattan Project. Designed to weigh the increased threat of cancer during the outset of the atomic era, the book navigates the governmental and scientific concerns of a new nuclear world, the prestigious players who argued for human experimentation, and the unwitting victims - all hospital patients - who’d be used as test material. In addition, Welsome also explores other Cold War examples of atomic abuse such as “radioactive cocktails” given to pregnant women and radioactive breakfast cereal given to five and six-year-old “morons” at state institutions. 

By Eileen Welsome,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a Massachusetts school, seventy-three disabled children were spoon fed radioactive isotopes along with their morning oatmeal....In an upstate New York hospital, an eighteen-year-old woman, believing she was being treated for a pituitary disorder, was injected with plutonium by Manhattan Project doctors....At a Tennessee prenatal clinic, 829 pregnant women were served "vitamin cocktails"--in truth, drinks containing radioactive iron--as part of their prenatal treatmen....

In 1945, the seismic power of atomic energy was already well known to researchers, but the effects of radiation on human beings were not. Fearful that plutonium would cause a cancer epidemic among workers, Manhattan Project doctors…


Book cover of Experimentation with Human Beings: The Authority of the Investigator, Subject, Professions, and State in the Human Experimentation Process

Allen M. Hornblum Author Of Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America

From my list on human experimentation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began working in prisons 50 years ago. I was just out of grad school and I accepted the challenge of starting a literacy program in the Philadelphia Prison System. The shock of cellblock life was eye-opening, but the most unexpected revelation was the sight of scores of inmates wrapped in bandages and medical tape. Unknown to the general public, the three city prisons had become a lucrative appendage of the University of Pennsylvania’s Medical School. As I would discover years later, thousands of imprisoned Philadelphians had been used in a cross-section of unethical and dangerous scientific studies running the gamut from simple hair dye and athlete’s foot trials to radioactive isotope, dioxin, and US Army chemical warfare studies. My account of the prison experiments, Acres of Skin, helped instill in me an abiding faith in well-researched journalism as an antidote to societal indiscretions and crimes.

Allen's book list on human experimentation

Allen M. Hornblum Why did Allen love this book?

Known only to true devotees of medical ethics and the history of human research, Jay Katz’s hefty volume (1,150 pages) is a comprehensive encyclopedia of humans used as research material. Information-packed chapters cover everything from Chester Southam’s use of senile hospital patients in cancer cell injection studies during the 1960s, and the legal fallout from such indiscretions, to the ethical obligations of researchers, and the evolution of informed consent as a pillar of ethical human research. Impressive in both detail and scope, this imposing piece of scholarship is a valuable resource for anyone looking to learn the many moral and legal issues inherent in experimenting on humans. 

By Jay Katz, Alexander Morgan, Eleanor Swift Glass

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Experimentation with Human Beings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In recent years, increasing concern has been voiced about the nature and extent of human experimentation and its impact on the investigator, subject, science, and society. This casebook represents the first attempt to provide comprehensive materials for studying the human experimentation process. Through case studies from medicine, biology, psychology, sociology, and law―as well as evaluative materials from many other disciplines―Dr. Katz examines the problems raised by human experimentation from the vantage points of each of its major participants―investigator, subject, professions, and state. He analyzes what kinds of authority should be delegated to these participants in the formulation, administration, and review…


Book cover of "On Second Thought" and Other Essays in the History of Medicine and Science

Vivian Nutton Author Of Galen: A Thinking Doctor in Imperial Rome

From my list on Galen and Galenism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Vivian Nutton is an emeritus professor of the History of Medicine at UCL and has written extensively on the pre-modern history of medicine. He has lectured around the world and held posts in Cambridge and Moscow as well as the USA. His many books include editions and translations of Galen as well as a major survey of Greek and Roman Medicine, and he is currently writing a history of medicine in the Late Renaissance.

Vivian's book list on Galen and Galenism

Vivian Nutton Why did Vivian love this book?

This series of essays by a humane physician-historian who first attracted me to medical history examines basic ideas in medicine across centuries and cultures. Published when the author was almost a hundred, it raises important questions about medical ethics and the place of medicine in society from the Greeks onwards.

By Owsei Temkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked "On Second Thought" and Other Essays in the History of Medicine and Science as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over the course of a career spanning most of the twentieth century, distinguished historian Owsei Temkin has argued passionately for the necessity of chronicling and analyzing the history of medicine. The essays presented in "On Second Thought" and Other Essays in the History of Medicine and Science span Dr. Temkin's career, bringing together new pieces and many previously unavailable outside the journals in which they were originally published. Here the reader will find new thoughts and ideas that deviate from Dr. Temkin's earlier beliefs and reflect a lifetime of research into the historical and ethical foundations of modern medicine. Dr.…


Book cover of You Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor's Stories of Life, Death, and in Between

Jacob M. Appel Author Of Who Says You're Dead? Medical & Ethical Dilemmas for the Curious & Concerned

From my list on challenging ethical dilemmas in modern medicine.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a physician and attorney, I’ve always been fascinated by the nexus where my two professions meet.   During the course of my career, I have been asked to advise colleagues on topics as far-reaching as whether a death row inmate should receive an organ transplant to how to offer psychotherapy ethically to a conjoined twin. Although questions like these do not arise every day, even the everyday questions in my field – on such topics as confidentiality, boundaries, and informed consent – never grow old.

Jacob's book list on challenging ethical dilemmas in modern medicine

Jacob M. Appel Why did Jacob love this book?

Lamas, an ICU physician in Boston and New York Times guest columnist, has a distinctive gift for rendering the stories of her patients in three dimensions. Lamas is the Oliver Sachs of the ICU, exploring the ethical and emotional challenges of critical illness with eloquence and insight. By focusing on the personal elements of critical care, rather than the technological ones, she renders the complex experience of ICU patients vivid and indelible.   

By Daniela Lamas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You Can Stop Humming Now as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Gripping, soaring, inspiring . . . Read it' - Atul Gawande, author of the international bestseller Being Mortal

'You Can Stop Humming Now is essential reading on what it means to be human in an age of medical technology. I couldn't put it down' - Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body

'In turns anguishing, gripping, and hopeful, You Can Stop Humming Now is a must-read for anyone contemplating what medicine holds in store for us.' - Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of What Patients Say, What Doctors Feel

Modern medicine is a world that glimmers with new…


Book cover of Lakewood

Alex Jennings Author Of The Ballad of Perilous Graves

From my list on boundary-pushing fantasy.

Why am I passionate about this?

All of these books inspired me to become a better writer and to push my imagination to the limit by getting The Ballad of Perilous Graves onto the page. These books made me want to polish the contents of my own imagination and tell the biggest most heartfelt story I could. Ballad is in good company on library and bookstore shelves, so I wanted it to connect as hard as possible.

Alex's book list on boundary-pushing fantasy

Alex Jennings Why did Alex love this book?

Giddings takes the stories of Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee experiments and extrapolates them into the present day. A young woman dealing with crushing medical debt agrees to participate in medical trials with strange and debilitating side effects. This book is horrific, lyrically written, and brimming with emotion.

By Megan Giddings,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lakewood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NPR Book of the Year 2020

Electric Literature: One of 55 Books by Women and Nonbinary Writers of Color to Read in 2020 | Lit Hub & The Millions: Most Anticipated Books of 2020 | Ms. Magazine: Anticipated 2020 Feminist Books | Refinery29: Books by Black Women We are Looking Forward To Reading | One of The Millions' Most Anticipated Reads of 2020 | Amazon Book of the Month Pick | Audible Editor's Pick | Essence's Pick| Glamour's Must Read | Ms. Magazine's Anticipated Read of 2020

A startling debut about class and race, Lakewood evokes a terrifying world of…


Book cover of Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient

Allen Klein Author Of The Healing Power of Humor: Techniques for Getting Through Loss, Setbacks, Upsets, Disappointments, Difficulties, Trials, Tribulations, and All That Not-So-Funny Stuff

From my list on therapeutic humor & laughter.

Why am I passionate about this?

Allen Klein is the world’s only “Jollytologist®”. Through his books, workshops, and keynote speeches, for the past 30-plus years, he has been showing audiences worldwide how to use humor and positivity to deal with life’s not-so-funny stuff. He is a pioneer in the therapeutic humor field and a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. Comedian Jerry Lewis has said that Klein is “a noble and vital force watching over the human condition.”

Allen's book list on therapeutic humor & laughter

Allen Klein Why did Allen love this book?

This is the book that started the therapeutic humor movement. Cousins reveals how laughter helped him heal from a life-threatening illness. When he was diagnosed with a crippling and irreversible disease, he forged an unusual collaboration with his physician, and together they were able to beat the odds. This remarkable story of the triumph of the human spirit is truly inspirational reading.

By Norman Cousins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Anatomy of an Illness was the first book by a patient that spoke to our current interest in taking charge of our own health. It started the revolution in patients working with their doctors and using humor to boost their bodies' capacity for healing. When Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a crippling and irreversible disease, he forged an unusual collaboration with his physician, and together they were able to beat the odds. The doctor's genius was in helping his patient to use his own powers: laughter, courage, and tenacity. The patient's talent was in mobilizing his body's own natural resources,…


Book cover of Selected Stories of Anton Chekhov

Ruth Schwertfeger Author Of A Nazi Camp Near Danzig: Perspectives on Shame and on the Holocaust from Stutthof

From my list on authors shaped by education in medicine.

Why am I passionate about this?

I find that one of the advantages of having worked as a professor (now Emerita ) of German at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, is that it helped me gain perspective. When I study literature–especially in languages other than English–I am forced to step outside of my everyday world to identify the motif and leitmotif of the author. I am proposing that the medical training of these five authors helped them do the same: to dig below the surface to find other structures and root causes and to present their findings and unique diagnoses.  

Ruth's book list on authors shaped by education in medicine

Ruth Schwertfeger Why did Ruth love this book?

I recommend these short stories for both younger and older readers. In the latter case, they may well be re-reads and if so, they are essential reading in that they lead the reader to reevaluate past aspirations and ambitions. Chekhov’s medical training is immediately apparent in his uncanny ability to dissect both personal and societal issues. 

Though the diagnosis is frequently abrupt and unexpected, the treatment is less obvious. For example, in Gooseberries, written in 1898 as part of a trilogy, the reader is left with no doubt about the diagnosis of the social pretentiousness and even cruelty of the central character, but the possibility that happiness is elusive lingers like the pervasive smell of tobacco on the armchair. These stories are a must-read by the fireside on a rainy night, with the wind howling outside.  

By Anton Chekhov, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Selected Stories of Anton Chekhov as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, the highly acclaimed translators of War and Peace, Doctor Zhivago, and Anna Karenina, which was an Oprah Book Club pick and million-copy bestseller, bring their unmatched talents to The Selected Stories of Anton Chekhov, a collection of thirty of Chekhov’s best tales from the major periods of his creative life.
 
Considered the greatest short story writer, Anton Chekhov changed the genre itself with his spare, impressionistic depictions of Russian life and the human condition. From characteristically brief, evocative early pieces such as “The Huntsman” and the tour de force “A Boring Story,” to his best-known…


Book cover of The Secret Life of Dr James Barry: Victorian England's Most Eminent Surgeon

Patrice McDonough Author Of Murder by Lamplight

From my list on offbeat books about the Victorian Era.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a reading and history-loving family. My parents read all the time, and their books of choice combined historical fiction and nonfiction. It’s no wonder I ended up teaching high school history for over three decades. The first books I read were my older brother’s hand-me-down Hardy Boys. Then, I went on to Agatha Christie. Books written in the 1920s and 30s were historical mysteries by the time I read them decades later, so the historical mystery genre is a natural fit. As for the Victorian age, all that gaslight and fog makes it the perfect milieu for murder.

Patrice's book list on offbeat books about the Victorian Era

Patrice McDonough Why did Patrice love this book?

This superb biography is an engrossing account of the mysterious title surgeon and the doctor’s fascinating world. James Miranda Barry joined the British Army in 1813 as a regimental surgeon and served in colonial posts for the next fifty years. But Barry had been born Margaret Bulkley, an anatomical female—a surprise revealed after the doctor’s death.

Was Barry’s masquerade strategic, the doctor’s only route to a medical career? Was Barry a transgender person? I wondered if the “truth” would remain a mystery. Rachel Holmes persuaded me that the probable answer lies in a document “gathering dust” in Edinburgh’s medical school archives, a revelation she saves for the last chapter. 

By Rachel Holmes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Secret Life of Dr James Barry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A reissue of Rachel Holmes's landmark biography of Dr James Barry, one of the most enigmatic figures of the Victorian age. James Barry was one of the nineteenth century's most exceptional doctors, and one of its great unsung heroes. Famed for his brilliant innovations, Dr Barry influenced the birth of modern medical practice in places as far apart as South Africa, Jamaica and Canada. Barry's skills attracted admirers across the globe, but there were also many detractors of the ostentatious dandy, who caused controversy everywhere he went. Yet unbeknownst to all, the military surgeon concealed a lifelong secret at the…


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