The most recommended books about health care

Who picked these books? Meet our 64 experts.

64 authors created a book list connected to health care, and here are their favorite health care books.
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Book cover of The Social Transformation of American Medicine: The Rise of a Sovereign Profession and the Making of a Vast Industry

Joseph P. Newhouse Author Of Pricing the Priceless: A Health Care Conundrum

From my list on the economics and history of American health insurance.

Why am I passionate about this?

My mother wanted me to be a physician, but as a child I was very squeamish about human biology and knew that wasn't for me. In college I was exposed to economics and found it, and the policy debates about national health insurance, fascinating. So, maybe with my mother’s wishes in the back of my mind, I became a health economist. I was privileged to direct a large randomized trial called the RAND Health Insurance Experiment, which varied the cost of medical care to families. This project lasted more than a decade and got me so deep into the economics of health and medical care that I became a professor of health policy and management.


Joseph's book list on the economics and history of American health insurance

Joseph P. Newhouse Why did Joseph love this book?

Another classic book that describes the history of American medicine and organized medicine’s interactions with the political process. 

It is necessary background to understand the predominance of employment-based health insurance and why the 2010 Affordable Care Act was such a breakthrough. Starr is a Princeton sociologist who participated in the 1990s debate on the failed Clinton health insurance plan.

By Paul Starr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Social Transformation of American Medicine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize in American History, The Social Transformation of American Medicine is a landmark history of the American health care system, examining how the roles of doctors, hospitals, health plans, and government programs has evolved over the last two centuries. Beginning in 1730 and coming up to the present day, renowned sociologist Paul Starr traces the transformation of our national health care system into a private corporate medical institution that dominates the field and threatens the sovereignty of the medical profession. In this new and revised edition, Paul Starr will bring his research…


Book cover of Fatal Decision: Edith Cavell, World War I Nurse

Joanna Higgins Author Of In the Fall They Leave

From my list on WWI Angels of Mercy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I’m neither a healthcare professional nor a historian, my passions are reading great fiction and continually striving to write it. Degrees in literature led to college teaching and then full-time writing. And that, to the publication of six works of fiction, including four historical novels. So, add to the mix, then, the years spent studying and teaching literature as well as those spent writing and rewriting—and, too, being an inveterate reader—and you have, in brief, the sum of my expertise. Each of the works listed below, I feel, has super qualities. I certainly enjoyed reading such masterful work and hope you will as well.   

Joanna's book list on WWI Angels of Mercy

Joanna Higgins Why did Joanna love this book?

Terri Arthur, a retired registered nurse, obviously wrote Fatal Decision: Edith Cavell, World War I Nurse, as an homage to a British nurse whose heroism not only saved hundreds of Allied lives when the penalty for doing so was death by execution but also inspired thousands to join the Allied war effort. I appreciated the numerous historical photographs throughout this prize-winning biographical novel. The narrative and incorporated historical context beautifully dramatize the courageous actions and inner life of a great WWI hero. In an Author’s Note, Terri Arthur states that her intention in telling the story of Edith Cavell in fictional form was so that readers could fully experience Cavell’s “amazing journey.” For me, Arthur achieved her objective. This is history richly conveyed,  

By Terri Arthur,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An inspiring story everyone should know…and will never forget!

Based on historical fact, this captivating novel tells the story of the legendary Edith Cavell, a British nurse whose duties as a healer clashed with the demands of a ruthless occupying regime during World War I. At the request of a brilliant,
hot-headed surgeon, Edith went from London to Brussels to create Belgium's first school of nursing. At the height of her success, the German army marched into neutral Belgium and took over her hospital and school.

Knowing the dangers of working against the repressive and brutal control of the German…


Book cover of Law and Bioethics: An Introduction

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?

The defining text of the topic of law and medicine, written by one of the nation’s premier bioethicists, Menikoff’s compendium of challenging cases and analyses is as relevant today as it was when first published two decades ago. Serious students of the subject matter will appreciate both the nuance and thoroughness of this short yet comprehensive volume.

By Jerry Menikoff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

While the American legal system has played an important role in shaping the field of bioethics, "Law and Bioethics" is the first book on the subject designed to be accessible to readers with little or no legal background. Detailing how the legal analysis of an issue in bioethics often differs from the "ethical" analysis, the book covers such topics as abortion, surrogacy, cloning, informed consent, malpractice, refusal of care, and organ transplantation. Structured like a legal casebook, "Law and Bioethics" includes the text of almost all the landmark cases that have shaped bioethics. Jerry Menikoff offers commentary on each of…


Book cover of The Long COVID Survival Guide: Stories and Advice from Twenty Long-Haulers and Experts

Susannah Fox Author Of Rebel Health: A Field Guide to the Patient-Led Revolution in Medical Care

From my list on defend yourself U.S. health care system.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m not a clinician, but friends often ask for my advice when they get sick or need help caring for a loved one. I’ve spent nearly 25 years mapping the terrain created by innovative patients, survivors, and caregivers, the rebels of medical care. I’m also a caregiver to elders. Along the way, I’ve collected books to loan when someone facing a health challenge asks me, “What do I do now?” Each of these five books was written for when you find yourself in the healthcare maze and need to borrow courage, sharpen your senses, and navigate as best you can.

Susannah's book list on defend yourself U.S. health care system

Susannah Fox Why did Susannah love this book?

The COVID-19 virus swept across the world like a hurricane, and 20 survivors of the storm gathered to share the lessons they had learned.

I love how this book centers on the experiences of people living with Long Covid who not only point out the inequities of our health systems but also give practical advice about getting a diagnosis, navigating care, asking for help, and contributing to research.

You don’t have to have Long Covid to benefit. Their wise advice applies to everyone.

By Fiona Lowenstein (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Long COVID Survival Guide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first patient-to-patient guide for people living with Long COVID - with expert advice and an afterword by the leading research scientist.

For people living with Long COVID, navigating the uncharted territory of this new chronic illness can be challenging. With over two hundred unique symptoms, and with doctors continuing to work toward a cure, people experiencing Long COVID are often left with more questions than answers.
A support group in book form, The Long COVID Survival Guide is here to help. Twenty contributors - from award-winning journalists, neuroscientists, and patient-researchers to corporate strategists, activists, and artists - share their…


Book cover of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Cassandra Arnold Author Of Beyond Borders: Reflections from the Humanitarian Frontline

From my list on becoming the doctor your patients need you to be.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a doctor who is lucky enough to have worked in many countries with many people. I wanted to do this ever since I read Albert Sweitzer’s biography when I was about thirteen. I enrolled in medicine as a single parent in my thirties, then built up experience in emergency departments, pediatrics, obstetrics, remote area locum work, and a year in a hospice before beginning my career overseas. Being a doctor was, at one and the same time, exhilarating and terrifying, heartbreaking and absolutely filled with joy. The more I was able to connect to my patients, the more I loved every moment of my work. I hope the books on this list will give that same gift to you.

Cassandra's book list on becoming the doctor your patients need you to be

Cassandra Arnold Why did Cassandra love this book?

I absolutely loved the simplicity and clarity of this approach.

It’s almost the opposite end of the spectrum to my first selection and a method that I found more and more common over the years of my career: checklists and flowcharts for the serious and frequent presentations in the Emergency Department, in the operating theatre, and at Triage. And Gawande was right: they did and do save lives.

More generally, I used this process all the time when I was training other staff in my posts with Doctors Without Borders. Preventing and avoiding problems with fail-safe systems is so much better than trying to solve them after they occur!

By Atul Gawande,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his latest bestseller, Atul Gawande shows what the simple idea of the checklist reveals about the complexity of our lives and how we can deal with it.

The modern world has given us stupendous know-how. Yet avoidable failures continue to plague us in health care, government, the law, the financial industry—in almost every realm of organized activity. And the reason is simple: the volume and complexity of knowledge today has exceeded our ability as individuals to properly deliver it to people—consistently, correctly, safely. We train longer, specialize more, use ever-advancing technologies, and still we fail. Atul Gawande makes a…


Book cover of Tenmile

Laura Anne Bird Author Of Crossing the Pressure Line

From Laura's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader Nature lover Meditator Coffee drinker Wisconsinite

Laura's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Laura Anne Bird Why did Laura love this book?

I adore historical fiction, and historical fiction written for intrepid young girls is even better. 

Sandra Dallas takes readers back to the dusty, noisy mining town of Tenmile, Colorado, in 1880. Her tenacious main character, Sallyann Carlson—known as Sissy—is the motherless thirteen-year-old daughter of Doc, who delivers babies and dresses up wounds in his home office. He often requires Sissy’s assistance, and she rises to the challenge, even as she grapples with much more than she bargains for.

In soothing, quiet prose, Dallas manages to address big issues like poverty, child abuse, and sexism. With Sissy, she presents a relatable and ambitious heroine who will inspire readers of all ages to reach high, even when society repeatedly says No.  

By Sandra Dallas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tenmile as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Life in 1880 Tenmile, Colorado, isn't easy. But it's all that 12-year-old Sissy Carlson knows. She's lived here her whole life, watching her father, the local doctor, tend to the town's citizens. And while the mountain setting is gorgeous, Tenmile is a rough gold mining town. It often feels like there's just a thin line between life and death. Mining is a hard job; men are hurt or even killed. Sissy sees the same thin line between the haves and the have-nots as she assists her father in his practice, seeing firsthand the personal and not-always-private struggles of his patients.…


Book cover of The Mysterious Private Thompson: The Double Life of Sarah Emma Edmonds, Civil War Soldier

Julian Sher Author Of The North Star: Canada and the Civil War Plots Against Lincoln

From my list on Civil War plots against Lincoln from Canada.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been an investigative journalist for four decades and the author of eight books. From covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to biker gangs or online child predators, I have always tried to encourage people to question their assumptions and popular beliefs. When I was a history student at McGill University in Montreal, I came across a plaque to Jefferson Davis, the leader of the slave South, on the walls of one of our major department stores. Why were we honoring the Confederates more than a century after the Civil War? That quest led me to dig into the myths about the Civil War and the fight against slavery.

Julian's book list on Civil War plots against Lincoln from Canada

Julian Sher Why did Julian love this book?

I am always fascinated by the life-changing choices people make during crucial turning points in history. How certain are you that–depending on where you were born and what race, class, or gender you were–that you would have sided with Lincoln against slavery?

Emma Edmonds was a feisty New Brunswick farm girl who rebels against the 19th-century restrictions against women by disguising herself as a man to become a very successful bible salesman. She finds herself in the US when the Civil War breaks out, and even though it is not her country or her cause, she decides to enlist (as a man!) in the Union Army. Gansler does an excellent job of capturing Edmonds’ conflicted emotions, turmoil and troubles as she tries to hide her identity for two years wearing a man’s uniform. She also navigates the difficult exaggerations and lies around Edmonds’ story. A serious yet exciting read. 

By Laura Leedy Gansler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Resurrecting a lost hero of the Civil War, The Mysterious Private Thompson tells the remarkable story of Sarah Emma Edmonds (1841-98), who disguised herself as a man and defended her country at a time of war. Drawing on Edmonds's journals and those of the men she served with, Laura Leedy Gansler recreates Edmonds's experience in some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, including both the First and the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, and the Battle of Fredericksburg, during which she served with distinction in combat as a "male" nurse and braved enemy fire as…


Book cover of Setting Limits: Medical Goals in an Aging Society with "A Response to My Critics"

Raphael Cohen-Almagor Author Of The Right to Die with Dignity: An Argument in Ethics, Medicine, and Law

From my list on medical ethics and end-of-life.

Why am I passionate about this?

Raphael Cohen-Almagor, DPhil, St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, is Professor of Politics, Olof Palme Visiting Professor, Lund University, Founding Director of the Middle East Study Centre, University of Hull, and Global Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Raphael taught, inter alia, at Oxford (UK), Jerusalem, Haifa (Israel), UCLA, Johns Hopkins (USA), and Nirma University (India). With more than 300 publications, Raphael has published extensively in the field of political philosophy, including Liberal Democracy and the Limits of Tolerance; Challenges to Democracy; The Right to Die with Dignity; The Scope of Tolerance; Confronting the Internet's Dark Side; Just, Reasonable Multiculturalism, and The Republic, Secularism and Security: France versus the Burqa and the Niqab.

Raphael's book list on medical ethics and end-of-life

Raphael Cohen-Almagor Why did Raphael love this book?

Like Pellegrino, Daniel (Dan) Callahan is also one of the forefathers of the field of medical ethics. 

A prolific author, Dan published 47 books and some 800 articles and blogs. Dan is also the co-founder of the Hastings Center in New York, one of the leading research centers on medical ethics in the world. In many ways, his vision established medical ethics as a legitimate field of studies.

In Setting Limits, Callahan suggests the concept of a “full biographical life span,” meaning the point at which it can be said that a person has lived a complete, fulfilling, whole life. He does not determine a specific age but suggests a range — late seventies, early eighties, which in his opinion is equivalent to a natural, complete life cycle. 

Callahan claims that today medical technology can extend life beyond the point that he believes is sensible and worthwhile. He deliberates…

By Daniel Callahan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a provocative call to rethink America's values in health care.


Book cover of Unknown Warriors: The Letters of Kate Luard RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918

Alison Fell Author Of Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

From my list on women and the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the First World War ever since I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the age of 19. When I lived in France in my twenties I started to read French nurses’ memoirs and diaries, and for the last fifteen years or so have continued to read and write about women’s experiences during and after the war as a university academic researcher, often from a comparative perspective. Men’s stories and memories of the First World War still dominate our understanding of it, but I believe that women’s perspectives give us a vital and often overlooked insight into the war and its consequences.

Alison's book list on women and the First World War

Alison Fell Why did Alison love this book?

Although it’s not as well-known as Vera Brittain’s powerful 1933 memoir Testament of Youth, British military nurse Kate Luard’s letters deserve to be widely read, for the vivid and moving picture they paint of life in a front-line hospital in the last two years of the war. Luard had already worked as a military nurse in the Boer War, and was a confident and highly skilled nurse, but it is clear that four years of nursing seriously ill and wounded soldiers often stretched her to her professional and emotional limits. There are lighter moments, too, and Luard pays tribute not only to the men she nursed, but to the courageous and tenacious women she worked alongside. Make sure you also read nurse historian Christine Hallett and Tim Luard’s excellent introduction.

By John Stevens, Caroline Stevens,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The words of Unknown Warriors resonate as powerfully today as when first written. The book offers a very personal glimpse into the hidden world of the military field hospital where patients struggled with pain and trauma, and nurses fought to save lives and preserve emotional integrity.

The book's author was one of a select number of fully trained military nurses who worked in hospital trains and casualty clearing stations during the First World War, coming as close to the front as a woman could. Kate Luard was already a war veteran when she arrived in France in 1914, aged 42,…


Book cover of Robethics: Ethical implications, risks, and opportunities of the rise of intelligent machines

Kerrie Holley Author Of AI-First Healthcare: AI Applications in the Business and Clinical Management of Health

From my list on artificial intelligence in health care.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with technology when I wrote my first computer program at age 14 when there was no public Internet, no personal computers, no iPhone, no cloud. I have made technical contributions to every era of computing from mainframes, to PCs, Internet, Cloud, and now AI. I was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering. AI currently surpasses my wildest imagination on the art of what’s possible. I'm still passionately working in technology at Google focused on how to live healthier lives. I believe we can make AI the telescope of the future, to helping everyone live long and healthy lives.

Kerrie's book list on artificial intelligence in health care

Kerrie Holley Why did Kerrie love this book?

I must confess the book title drew me to the book as I sought to understand and learn more about the ethics of the misuse of AI. 

Having worked on committees in the AU and advised various entities in the United States, the subject of ethics is front and center. The expanding use of large language models and rise of generative AI makes the potential for harm stronger than ever.  

AI is poised to change our lives and society in ways we have not imagined much like the iPhone when it first arrived. Understanding its potential is useful but understanding its potential for harm is mandatory. 

I found this book to be enlightening on the ethical components of AI and technology.

By Matteo Di Michele,

Why should I read it?

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