The best books about medication

12 authors have picked their favorite books about medications and why they recommend each book.

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The Billion-Dollar Molecule

By Barry Werth,

Book cover of The Billion-Dollar Molecule: The Quest for the Perfect Drug

This account of the early years of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, from its inception as a scrappy start-up to its early work in HIV, is a must-read classic for anyone interested in how science turns into new drugs. Barry Werth’s journalistic play-by-play is a cinematic, true-to-life picture of the strategic decisions, real-world challenges, and larger-than-life personalities that underlie modern drug development. His riveting follow-up, The Antidote, continues the saga by taking readers through Vertex’s pathbreaking work to transform the care of patients with hepatitis C and cystic fibrosis.


Who am I?

Frank S. David, MD, PhD leads the biopharma consulting firm Pharmagellan, where he advises drug companies and investors on R&D and business strategy. He is also an academic researcher on strategy, regulation, and policy in the drug industry; a member of the Harvard-MIT Center for Regulatory Science; and a former blogger at Forbes.com.


I wrote...

The Pharmagellan Guide to Analyzing Biotech Clinical Trials

By Frank S. David,

Book cover of The Pharmagellan Guide to Analyzing Biotech Clinical Trials

What is my book about?

If you're a biotech executive, investor, adviser, or entrepreneur -- or aspire to be one --  you’re supposed to understand clinical trial results. But what if you’re not an expert in study design or biostatistics? The Pharmagellan Guide to Analyzing Biotech Clinical Trials will give you the foundation you need to analyze journal articles, press releases, and investor presentations about studies of new drugs with more confidence.

The Nature of Drugs

By Alexander Shulgin,

Book cover of The Nature of Drugs: History, Pharmacology, and Social Impact

This is the first volume of lecture notes from the infamous Alexander (Sasha) Shulgin, “inventor” of MDMA “ecstasy or molly”. Sasha and his wife Ann are well known in the world of psychedelics for their publications based on Sasha’s incredible knowledge of chemistry, Ann’s capacity to integrate experiences, and their shared contributions to the world of psychedelia. This new book, with an introduction from Mariavittoria Mangini, is a ‘warts and all’ introduction to the chemistry of mind alteration. It is highly accessible, at times comical, and a fascinating opportunity to voyeuristically sit in on a series of Shulgin lectures that promises to pique your curiosity about our chemical lives.


Who am I?

I have been researching and writing about the history of psychedelics for two decades. I am a professor of History and Canada Research Chair in the History of Health and Social Justice at the University of Saskatchewan. I became utterly inspired by the many different psychedelic projects that fascinated researchers across disciplines, regions, and world views. These psychoactive substances have been fodder for deep studies of consciousness, dying, mysticism, rituals, birthing practices, drug policy, Indigenous rites, mental illness, nursing, how to measure and give meaning to experience… the list goes on. To study psychedelics is to surrender yourself to endless curiosity about why things are the way they seem to be. The books on this list are just the tip of the iceberg in a diverse conversation that is erupting on this topic. 


I wrote...

Psychedelic Psychiatry: LSD from Clinic to Campus

By Erika Dyck,

Book cover of Psychedelic Psychiatry: LSD from Clinic to Campus

What is my book about?

LSD's short but colorful history in North America carries with it the distinct cachet of counterculture and government experimentation. The truth about this mind-altering chemical cocktail is far more complex—and less controversial—than generally believed.

Psychedelic Psychiatry is the tale of medical researchers working to understand LSD’s therapeutic properties just as escalating anxieties about drug abuse in modern society laid the groundwork for the end of experimentation at the edge of psychopharmacology. Historian Erika Dyck deftly recasts our understanding of LSD to show it as an experimental substance, a medical treatment, and a tool for exploring psychotic perspectives—as well as a recreational drug. 

Bad Pharma

By Ben Goldacre,

Book cover of Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients

A best-seller in the UK, it never garnered the attention it deserved in the US. As a trained physician, Goldacre explains why doctors cannot trust the information concerning prescription drugs that is made available to them, and why this should concern every patient. The incentives motivating drug regulators constitute a big part of the problem, but the actual conduct of clinical trials comes in for intensive scrutiny as well. The rigors of double-blinded trials are useless if owners of the data can hide whatever outcomes they don’t like. His chapter on how to bend a clinical trial has become a classic.

Who am I?

I am an economist who came to realize that the marketplace of ideas was a political doctrine, and not an empirical description of how we came to know what we think we know. Science has never functioned in the same manner across centuries; it was only during my lifetime that it became recast as a subset of market reality. I have spent a fair amount of effort exploring how economics sought to attain the status of a science; but now the tables have turned. It is now scientists who are trained to become first and foremost market actors, finally elevating the political dominance of the economists.


I wrote...

The Knowledge We Have Lost in Information: The History of Information in Modern Economics

By Philip Mirowski, Edward Nik-Khah,

Book cover of The Knowledge We Have Lost in Information: The History of Information in Modern Economics

What is my book about?

This book is a history of how American economists sought to incorporate “information” into their theories of choice and markets. Far from being driven by psychology or philosophy, we argue most of the options were borrowed from the natural sciences. The version which eventually became dominant by the late 20th century was prompted more by the politics of neoliberalism than by any logical or empirical considerations.

The book illustrates my larger interest, which is to explore how claims to know something are often rooted in a curious admixture of science and politics. I continually find that the supposed separation of science from politics rarely holds up in history.

Six of Crows

By Leigh Bardugo,

Book cover of Six of Crows

I fought between the Kaz Brekker/Inej romance and the Mal/Alina romance of the previous series in the Grishaverse that Leigh Bardugo created. Both are lovely and full of sacrifice, but when it comes down to it, I just plain loved Kaz better. He is dark and tragic and full of complexities and Inej comes to a point where she realizes she has to let go of what she feels for Kaz in order to live fully. Their romance is one that reminds me that love can follow you no matter where you go, even if it means stepping away from the person that love is centered around. 


Who am I?

I grew up in an era when princesses were big and the idea that a woman needs a man to be saved was just beginning to be questioned. I also lived in a single-parent household when that was still something society shamed. Watching my mother, I got a front-row seat to just how loving, vulnerable, and tough-as-nails women can be, and this instilled a desire to tell stories that highlight these sorts of women. My novels have survivors who discover that relationships do not need to be the only thing that defines them, but instead that relationship shapes both parties in ways neither can expect. 


I wrote...

Usurper

By A.J. Maguire,

Book cover of Usurper

What is my book about?

Trenna and Nelek were happy to live the rest of their lives in exile, but the war had other plans. When a blood mage arrives to demand their son be placed on the throne, Nelek and Trenna must set out to prove how much they’re willing to sacrifice for peace. Worse yet, a cry for help has been sounded from the one place they thought was safe from harm: Kiavana Fortress. Can Nelek and Trenna keep their family safe as they race through the battlefields surrounding their homeland?

The Obsession

By Jesse Q. Sutanto,

Book cover of The Obsession

Thrillers! At a time when the world feels so perilous, what could be more satisfying than a high-stakes story that’s fully resolved by the last page? Only one that’s also a triumphant revenge fantasy.

Delilah is sick of feeling scared. When she retaliates against her tyrannical stepfather and he winds up dead, it would be the perfect crime–if not for a hidden camera planted by her creepy classmate. Logan believes he and Delilah are meant to be together, and he’s not above using blackmail to keep her around. Told in dual POV between Delilah and the eerily calm Logan, The Obsession is fast-paced, riveting, and, if you’re new to the thriller world, an A+ introduction to the genre.


Who am I?

Two facts about me as a reader: I like books that deal with difficult issues, and I like reading a lot of them. There’s something about watching teens, for whom everything feels new, deal with the toughest stuff imaginable and come out the other side. I love a protagonist who has been through the wringer. Some people call these stories dark or morbid. I prefer to think of them as hopeful. My own writing history is as diverse as my reading habits. I’ve published in poetry, romance, and criticism, but these days I’m all about YA, like the politically-charged thriller I’m querying or my queer New Orleans ghost story, The Women of Dauphine


I wrote...

The Women of Dauphine

By Dev Jannerson,

Book cover of The Women of Dauphine

What is my book about?

Cassie’s girlfriend, Gem, is a ghost. She’s also the most stable part of Cassie’s life. As our protagonist comes of age in 1990s New Orleans, her parents are increasingly violent, her church looks the other way, and she couldn’t care less about the boy drama that obsesses her friends. 

When Cassie reveals her secret relationship with the spirit, her community sends her to a sinister conversion therapy camp in hopes she’ll come home normal–not to mention straight. Can she keep her head down long enough to get back to Gem? And even if she does, how can the couple make long-term plans when one of them is growing up and the other is frozen in place?

Breastfeeding and Medication

By Wendy Jones,

Book cover of Breastfeeding and Medication

Sadly, one of the many obstacles to breastfeeding lies within the healthcare system. For too long, education about how breastfeeding works has been severely lacking in the training of doctors, pharmacists, and a host of other disciplines. The result is that time and again, women who seek help – often for conditions unrelated to lactation – are given advice or care that fails to take into account their feeding choices, Many are told that they must stop breastfeeding in order for either them or their baby to receive treatment. As a pharmacist and breastfeeding counsellor, who, for years, ran the UK’s Drugs in Breastmilk helpline virtually single-handed, Wendy’s knowledge in this area is second to none. In the hands of health professionals, this book has the power to bring about huge change.

Who am I?

I got hooked on breastfeeding when, during my health visitor training, our class had a lecture from Drs. Penny and Andrew Stanway, who wrote the original Breast is Best. I breastfed my own children, became a breastfeeding counsellor and lactation consultant (IBCLC), and championed breastfeeding as a health visitor and midwife. I then worked for 14 years with the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, teaching and supporting healthcare staff to improve standards of care for breastfeeding mothers and babies. Throughout, I gained a huge respect for babies’ abilities in relation to breastfeeding. This directly influenced my belief in their capacity to continue feeding themselves when they start solid food, which is my current focus.


I wrote...

Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide

By Gill Rapley, Tracey Murkett,

Book cover of Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide

What is my book about?

Solid foods are nowadays recommended from around six months. At this age, the vast majority of babies don’t need to be spoon-fed, and they don’t need their food to be pureed. Instead, they can feed themselves with pieces of real food, using their hands. They know what they need to eat, how fast, and how much. The parent’s role is simply to provide healthy food and shared mealtimes, and to trust their baby’s abilities and instincts.

I first began speaking and writing about BLW back in 2001. A few years later, I teamed up with Tracey Murkett to write the first edition of this book, which sets out the benefits of baby-led weaning, why it makes sense, and how to do it. Since then, baby-led weaning has taken off worldwide and the book – now in its second edition – has been translated into over 20 languages. As a result, many authors have followed in our wake. But our book was, and remains, THE definitive guide.

Autonomous

By Annalee Newitz,

Book cover of Autonomous

Autonomous is a thought-provoking cyberpunk story that takes place in a near-future society where Big Pharma pretty much runs the show. Our main character, Jack, makes dupes of expensive prescription drugs, selling them on the black market. Even though her goal is arguably pretty noble (selling expensive drugs to poorer citizens on the cheap), the story follows the consequences that ensue when she starts selling a black market drug that gives users horrific and life-threatening side effects. 

Our other main characters are a military-grade AI-powered robot and a member of the armed forces who are tasked with chasing down the drug pirate responsible for this catastrophe. These two track down clues to lead them to Jack’s hideout, all while she tries to find a medical solution to the problems she’s caused. 

None of the characters in Autonomous are particularly likable. All of them are jam-packed with absolutely deal-breaking flaws, but…


Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by morally grey characters. One of the things I find so fascinating about them is their unpredictability. You can always count on a knight in shining armor to do the right thing. Captain America will always make the sacrifice play. That doesn’t mean they’re not great characters… it just makes it a little harder for them to surprise us. When everyone is kind of a “bad guy” in a story, it makes things doubly fascinating because you simultaneously want to root for everyone and no one. That was my goal in writing Among Thieves: for readers to have no idea who they wanted to “win” in the end. 


I wrote...

Among Thieves

By M.J. Kuhn,

Book cover of Among Thieves

What is my book about?

Ryia ‘the Butcher’ Cautella has earned her reputation as the deadliest blade in the city – not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name.

A deadly secret has kept Ryia on the run, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster – sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms. But even the most powerful men can be defeated. One last job stands between Ryia and her freedom – but she can’t do it alone. She teams up with a crew of miscreants, smugglers, and thieves to attempt an impossible heist on the most tightly guarded island in the kingdoms – the Guildmaster’s stronghold. Unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are all planning betrayals of their own...

Firekeeper's Daughter

By Angeline Boulley,

Book cover of Firekeeper's Daughter

Angeline Boulley, Ojibwe, is the current rock star of young adult crime writers. Her book, Firekeeper's Daughter, is setting the literary world on fire. She is a hit not just in indian country but across the country. I met Angeline at the Kweli Writer’s Conference; a gathering to ‘nurture emerging writers of color and create opportunities for their voices to be recognized and valued.’ At the time I had one novel published and a handful of children’s non-fiction. She was working on developing and finding an agent/publisher for the Firekeeper's Daughter. All the right pieces fell into the right places when she was mentored through the We Need Diverse Books program. A YA thriller with murder, drugs, mystery, and some romance thrown in, is set on a Native reservation. A ‘gotta read’ book.

Who am I?

As an Anishinaabe writer, my award-winning/nominated books, Murder on the Red River and Girl Gone Missing, feature Cash Blackbear; a young, Native woman, who solves crimes for the county sheriff. Oprah Magazine 2020 listed me as a Native American Author to read. I received Minnesota's 2020 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award. My script, Say Their Names, had a staged reading with Out of Hand Theater, Atlanta, 2021. Vazquez and I received the Loft’s 2017 Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship for work with incarcerated women. I have been a friend, colleague, and peer with the authors recommended. We might currently be a small crew writing but we are a mighty, award-winning crew.


I wrote...

Girl Gone Missing

By Marcie R. Rendon,

Book cover of Girl Gone Missing

What is my book about?

Bored by her freshman classes at Moorhead State College, Renee “Cash” Blackbear just wants to play pool, learn judo, chain-smoke, and be left alone. But after one of Cash’s classmates vanishes without a trace, Cash, whose dreams have revealed dangerous realities in the past, can’t stop envisioning terrified girls begging for help. Things become even more intense when an unexpected houseguest appears: a brother she didn’t even know was alive, from whom she was separated when they were taken from the Ojibwe White Earth Reservation as children and forced into foster care.

When Sheriff Wheaton, her guardian and friend, asks for Cash’s help with the case of the missing girl, she must override her apprehension about leaving her hometown in order to discover the truth about the girl’s whereabouts.

RX

By Rachel Lindsay,

Book cover of RX

Time for a fun one. RX is a wry, insightful, graphic memoir by a woman with bipolar disorder who gets a job writing ads for a pharmaceutical company. She finds herself in meetings, brainstorming ad ideas for bipolar medication! A manic episode lands her in an inpatient psychiatric facility. She chronicles her experience as a patient, and reflects on what it means to heal. 


Who am I?

I’m a writer and illustrator based in coastal California. I have bipolar disorder, and my writing reflects my preoccupation with the mysteries of mental health. I wrote a novel-in-stories about an idealistic young teacher struggling with bipolar disorder, and my latest book is a graphic novel about a bipolar bear who gets trapped in the labyrinth of health insurance claims. I’m also the creator of a website designed to encourage people who are fighting off depression’s Voice of Doom. 


I wrote...

Bipolar Bear and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Health Insurance: A Fable for Grownups

By Kathleen Founds,

Book cover of Bipolar Bear and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Health Insurance: A Fable for Grownups

What is my book about?

Bipolar Bear and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Health Insurance: A Fable for Grown-ups is a funny, whimsical, graphic novel about a bipolar bear who confronts the labyrinth of health insurance claims. 

The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide

By David J. Miklowitz,

Book cover of The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide: What You and Your Family Need to Know

This is the most concise and clear overview of bipolar disorder and the ways it which affects everybody around the identified patient. It also gives a great introduction into all the ways in which various forms of therapy and medication can help a bipolar person navigate the confusing and unpredictable symptoms of the illness.


Who am I?

I'm an enrolled member of the Spokane Tribe of Indians. I grew up in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. In 2010, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 Disorder but I now believe that I’ve struggled with the disorder since childhood. I'm a novelist, poet, short fiction writer, and filmmaker. I've won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature and the PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction.


I wrote...

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir

By Sherman Alexie,

Book cover of You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir

What is my book about?

Family relationships are never simple but my bond with my mother, Lillian Alexie, was more complex than most. She plunged our family into chaos with a drinking habit but shed her addiction when it was on the brink of costing her everything. She survived a violent past but created an elaborate facade to hide the truth. She selflessly cared for strangers but was often incapable of showering her children with the affection we so desperately craved. She was a tribal elder, language speaker, and culture keeper, but she was also a mentally ill mother who was wildly unpredictable.

When she died, the loss was so complex that I responded in the only way I knew how: I wrote a memoir. It's filled with raw, angry, funny, profane, and tender memories of a reservation childhood that few could imagine, much less survive.

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