The best neurosurgery books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about neurosurgery and why they recommend each book.

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Do No Harm

By Henry Marsh,

Book cover of Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery

Henry Marsh, similar to Richard Selzer, is another rare example of a senior surgeon with an amazing ability to recount both the outer and inner life of a surgeon. Marsh is a British neurosurgeon with a long career full of remarkable stories, and Do No Harm focuses a lens in particular on what can go wrong, along with the physical and emotional repercussions. It’s a very honest and fascinating narrative that should be required reading for all medical students, not only for those contemplating neurosurgery.


Who am I?

As the daughter of a surgeon and as a surgeon myself, medicine is in my blood. I understand that a job in medicine is never just a job. It’s a world filled with human beings in need of help, often in dire need. And the human connections that fulfill that need fuel the richest stories imaginable. That’s why there will always be a popular television series with a medical theme. It’s the same with books: the reservoir of compelling medical narratives is wide and deep. But tapping into this reservoir requires a certain skill. The writers I highlight here have this skill in spades. Enjoy!


I wrote...

Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside

By Katrina Firlik,

Book cover of Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside

What is my book about?

Katrina Firlik is a neurosurgeon, one of only two hundred or so women among the alpha males who dominate this high-pressure, high-prestige medical specialty. She is also a superbly gifted writer–witty, insightful, at once deeply humane, and refreshingly wry. In this narrative, she draws on this rare combination to create a neurosurgeon’s Kitchen Confidential–a unique insider’s memoir of a fascinating profession.

Neurosurgeons are renowned for their big egos and aggressive self-confidence, and Dr. Firlik confirms that timidity is indeed rare in the field. “They’re the kids who never lost at musical chairs,” she writes. A brain surgeon is not only a highly trained scientist and clinician but also a mechanic who of necessity develops an intimate, hands-on familiarity with the gray matter inside our skulls. It’s the balance between cutting-edge medical technology and manual dexterity, between instinct and expertise, that is so appealing–and so difficult to master.

Gifted Hands

By Ben Carson, Cecil Murphey,

Book cover of Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

Another favorite! Raised by a single mom who spurred him to do his best, Ben Carson rose from a low-income, inner-city upbringing to become director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins by age thirty-three. He gained worldwide recognition for developing a technique to separate Siamese twins conjoined at the back of the head—the first successful operation of its kind. His strong faith, instilled in him by his mom, influenced every decision he made, making him a more compassionate and sensitive doctor. This book combines fascinating scenes from the surgical suite with a picture of a remarkable yet humble man who is an extraordinary role model for future generations.

Who am I?

Having practically grown up at the hospital where my dad worked as a medical photographer, I wanted to be a nurse from the age of ten. I worked in ICU for five years and then retired to become a stay-at-home mom and later a homeschool mother. But once a nurse, always a nurse. I continued to care for friends and family, including my one-hundred-year-old mother-in-law, through health crises and long-term illnesses. My book and the others listed here tell stories of God’s healing—physically, mentally, and spiritually—a theme I’m passionate about and hope you are, too!


I wrote...

Health, Healing, and Wholeness: Devotions of Hope in the Midst of Illness

By Tracy Crump,

Book cover of Health, Healing, and Wholeness: Devotions of Hope in the Midst of Illness

What is my book about?

Are you facing a health crisis or battling chronic illness? Do you need a dose of hope? Through her work as an intensive care nurse, Tracy Crump witnessed lifesaving miracles when everyone involved had given up—everyone except God.

Crafted with unique examples of God's miraculous power and saving grace, Health, Healing, and Wholeness blends Scripture-rich meditations with biblical principles highlighting God's mercy in times of medical need. Moving stories of a mother's sacrifice, children overcoming catastrophic accidents, and joy despite traumatic brain injury instill hope. Whether you are experiencing a medical crisis, walking alongside someone who is, or caring for a loved one, these thirty devotions will bring comfort and peace.

It Ends with Us

By Colleen Hoover,

Book cover of It Ends with Us

It’s difficult to discuss this book without revealing certain plot points, but I will say it’s a prime example of what I love and respect in a romance novel: characters enduring and then persevering through trauma. We are taken from Lily’s first doubts and fears about her new love, through a complex and escalating set of circumstances. Hoover guides us through her heroine’s emotions—all her pain and fear, her love and joy, her doubt and self-loathing—with precise, engaging prose. It’s an expertly mapped, masterful journey from A to Z, with no aspect left untouched, until finally, Lily comes to an ultimate conclusion that somehow made me cheer in triumph and cry for her loss at the exact same time.


Who am I?

I’m a writer who values telling difficult stories that don’t always cohere to the idea of the “light, fluffy” romance. I write about social issues, grief, trauma, and do my utmost to research whatever topics my characters endure in order to do justice to readers who share these experiences. Having suffered a major trauma myself (my eldest daughter passed away at the age of ten), I’m very interested in stories that deal with characters overcoming tremendous obstacles in order to reach their happily ever afters. I love writing (and reading) stories that go outside the box, that give the reader something more than what they were expecting, couched in solid writing, and possessing all the feels.


I wrote...

Full Tilt

By Emma Scott,

Book cover of Full Tilt

What is my book about?

From USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Emma Scott... "I would love you forever if I only had the chance..."

She’s a rock star teetering on the edge of alcoholic oblivion. He’s her limo driver with a life-changing secret. Neither of them expected the deep connection they feel, or how that connection can grow so fast from friendship into something more. Something deep and pure and life-changing. Something as fragile as glass that they both know will shatter in the end no matter how hard they try to hold on to it.

Into the Magic Shop

By James R. Doty,

Book cover of Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon's Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart

We are born with so much untapped potential and Dr Doty’s techniques can really help us transform our lives through a series of visualisation and relaxation exercises. From humble and difficult beginnings Dr. Doty has had considerable achievements in his lifetime and has been so generous in sharing what he has learned over the years. Being a neurosurgeon, Dr. Doty has a wealth of experience of the inner workings of the mind. His self-development journey brought him to create amazing tools to increase confidence, positivity, and self-expression.


Who am I?

Dominique Antiglio is a Qualified Sophrologist, former Osteopath, and best-selling author based in London. Sophrology is a simple practice for mental well-being supporting everyone to tap into the unlimited resources of consciousness and become empowered in daily life. Having used Sophrology to overcome her own issues as a teenager, Dominique is passionate about how each one of us can find resilience and meaning through difficult times. She is a world-leading Sophrologist, founder of BeSophro, a leading Sophrology clinic in London and a Sophrology platform so everyone can learn to practice the method based on relaxation, breathing, visualisation and movement. Dominique gained her Master's in Caycedian Sophrology under Professor Caycedo.


I wrote...

The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology: Breathe and Connect with the Calm and Happy You

By Dominique Antiglio,

Book cover of The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology: Breathe and Connect with the Calm and Happy You

What is my book about?

In a world that can feel uncertain and overwhelming, this comprehensive guide on the practice of Sophrology will help you access resilience, confidence, and serenity in your daily life.

Sophrology is a mental well-being practice and self-development system already extremely popular in Europe, growing worldwide, and used successfully by people from all walks of life, including athletes, CEOs and mum-to-be. This simple method combines Western science and Eastern wisdom using relaxation, breathing, body awareness, and visualisation into a step-by-step practice which has the power to radically transform your life. Featuring practical tips, case studies, and 13 audio downloads, this leading book on Sophrology is a must-have self-help resource.

When Breath Becomes Air

By Paul Kalanithi,

Book cover of When Breath Becomes Air

As recent as its publication was, Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air has truly become an instant classic in the space of medical memoir as it spans the space between and across the authoritative physician and the patient seeking help. In Paul’s case, he experienced both as he was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer during his surgical residency. Paul manages to reveal within his words and complex thoughts just how rich a person’s spirit can be even whilst its body is beginning to fail. 


Who am I?

I used to think one had to choose a career and work at it, giving up the parts of himself that didn’t fit neatly into that category. I was wrong. As a man in my late thirties, I am an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, but I’m also a writer. It’s books like the ones I’ve recommended here that convinced me that one does not need to turn off the parts of himself that are creative in order to be a doctor or even a grown-up. In fact, cultivating those same parts can be additive to this whole experience of being an adult. 


I wrote...

Committed: Dispatches from a Psychiatrist in Training

By Adam Stern,

Book cover of Committed: Dispatches from a Psychiatrist in Training

What is my book about?

Committed tells the story of Dr. Adam Stern’s journey from wide-eyed med school graduate to full-fledged Harvard psychiatrist. On its surface, Committed is a very realistic account of what it’s like to train in psychiatry at one of the most prestigious programs in the country while at its very core, it’s really a book about finding human connection and even love. Dr. Stern brings the reader along as he pulls the curtain back on the emotional toll of training. He reveals to the reader the strengths and many limitations of the field of psychiatry and shows that a foundation of empathy alone can go a long way toward helping another person. 

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors

By Sonali Dev,

Book cover of Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors

This clever trio of books – Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, Recipe for Persuasion, and Incense and Sensibility – are probably the best re-telling of the classic Jane Austen books. Sonali’s world is built around the Raje family, Indian royalty now living in San Francisco. The only thing better than her rich characters and beautiful writing is the beautifully diverse tapestry of characters. 


Who am I?

Why do I have a passion for getting lost in books? I guess it’s something that I’ve loved since I was a kid. Finding a world, a life, a life so incredibly different from mine. And, good writing that draws me in and makes me completely forget who I am. These are books that you don’t just read, but they envelop you. And, as a writer, it’s something that I strive to do for my readers. 


I wrote...

Dire's Club

By Kimberly Packard,

Book cover of Dire's Club

What is my book about?

Dying isn’t just hard on the ones left behind, the regret of unfinished lives weighs heavily on the terminally ill. That’s where Dire’s Club steps in, a specialty travel agency that takes a small group of dying people on one final adventure—so they can be free of guilt, be more than a diagnosis, and find a way to confront life…and death.

A life coach with a death wish, a rock god, a telenovela star, a grandmother living her life-long dream, and a young tech genius round out this group of strangers facing death together. But when tragedy strikes, their bond is shattered. Lies and fraud surface, forcing the dying to come together to save someone’s life. Everybody dies. The lucky ones have fun doing it.

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