First, my book recommendations for the core third-year clerkships can be found here. What follows are “best” book recommendations geared for MS3/MS4 elective rotations and sub-internships (“sub-i’s”), including most of the surgical and medical subspecialties. Some of these books are geared for medical students; others more for residents. I’ve done my best to include both when appropriate, including a first buy single resource when possible and alternates and options for further reading when necessary. For more info about methodology, feel free to peruse this.
Let me preface this list by saying that a typical student on a normal rotation in a field outside their main interest does not need to buy anything. Even in a field of interest, many (most?) students will simply wait to buy books until they have a book fund during residency and will nonetheless succeed. No one has a monopoly on medicine and medical knowledge; in this new era of medicine, you don’t need to buy anything simply for your education if there isn’t an important test at the end of it.
As a general rule, you will rarely go wrong reading UpToDate for your typical brownie point efforts (particularly in non-surgical fields). As a matter of gamesmanship, you of course never say, “UpToDate says,” you merely state the information as a fact, occasionally referencing “reading” you did or “studies have shown.” It works well to click on the link to the footnote on anything you feel might net you a gold star, click on the reference, then browse the abstract. Then you could say, “a big RCT in Sweden demonstrated…” and if anyone pushes you on details you didn’t glean from the abstract, you simply say, “good question – I don’t recall – I’ll need to go back and look further.”
It should also be said: your success on your rotations has much more to do with how you function as a human being than how many facts you know.
Internal Medicine (general approach)
- Step up to Medicine and UWorld, as has been done since the dawn of time.
- Pocket Medicine
- If your institution pays for it, plenty of further reading (including Harrison’s, for example) is available through AccessMedicine.
Surgical subspecialties (general approach)
- Most medical students during surgical sub-Is should probably focus on anatomy and bread & butter pathology. The mini sections found in Crush Step 2 would be a reasonable start for the latter that would take you literally a few minutes. Obviously, that’s not much of a foundation, but you could do at least that before starting your rotations. But really, I can’t stress this enough: anatomy.
- If your institution pays for it, plenty of further reading (including Schwartz’s and Zollinger’s) is available through AccessSurgery.
Pediatrics (general approach)
- Harriet Lane has been the classic reference for ages
- For inpatient gen peds, consider The Philadelphia Guide: Inpatient Pediatrics or On Call Pediatrics
- For neonatology, Gomella’s is a mainstay text. That said, the more Case Files-like Workbook in Practical Neonatology is a shorter and more digestible approach.
- For PICU, perhaps the Roger’s Handbook, the portable cousin to the mainstay text.
- For outpatient clinics, some perhaps counterintuitive reads would be Baby 411 and Toddler 411. You may know medicine–and there are lots of places to learn it from–but unless you have children, you probably don’t have good answers to the majority of parents’ many questions.
- The AAP Redbook
- There are a thousand subspecialties, for which it would be overkill to purchase a specific book at this stage. If your institution pays for AcessPediatrics, there’s more than you could handle, including most of the above.
- Basics of Anesthesia (“Baby Miller”)
- If you prefer the Q&A format, Anesthesia Secrets
Critical Care / ICU
- The Vent Book (this is short enough you can actually read it), covers the most ICU-specific part of the ICU.
- The Little ICU Book (not that little) is the most common recommendation if you really think you can do a textbook on an ICU rotation (good luck).
- Alternate: The Washington Manual of Critical Care, if you prefer algorithms > textbook-style treatment.
- Harrison’s (Part 12), if you planned on getting it anyway.
- Learn to read EKGs. Rapid Interpretation of EKGs (Dubin) is the classic standby, but I’d also recommend The Only EKG Book You’ll Ever Need, which as a bonus isn’t written by a child molester.
- My rundown of free ECG resources is available here.
- Clinical Cardiology Made Ridiculously Simple
- For a back to basics approach, you can build from The Pathophysiology of Heart Disease.
- AAD’s Free Basic Dermatology Curriculum
- Lookingbill and Marks’ Principles of Dermatology
- If the reasonable 300+ pages in Lookingbill isn’t enough for your derm dedication, upgrade to Habif.
- If you prefer the pimp-friendly format, Dermatology Secrets.
- Atlas? Fitzpatrick’s. Pocketbook? Derm Notes.
- Emergency Medicine Manual (“Baby Tintinalli”)
- Tintinalli’s Emergency Medicine is cheaper than Rosen by a huge margin, but neither should be purchased without a book fund. And as “Bibles,” both are more than two thousand pages and longer than you could hope to get through.
- Essentials of Gastroenterology
- Simpler, conciser, basic-er, pocketbook, almost “made simple” type treatment: The Little GI Book.
- WebSurg, free online video reference
- If you didn’t read it during third year, The NMS Casebook. I’m assuming you read Pestana last time.
- If you didn’t get it last time, Surgical Recall. If you want a different pocketbook, try Pocket Surgery (though Recall is better liked overall).
- Reference, but don’t buy, Sabiston.
- The Washington Manual of Hematology and Oncology Subspecialty Consult
- Cancer Management: A Multidisciplinary Approach (free, online)
- NCCN Guidelines (free App)
- For third years: Can start with Blueprints Neurology for a quick summary. Otherwise, go straight to PreTest if you’ll be taking a shelf. Focus on the subjects you feel least comfortable about (e.g. movement disorders) since it’s often difficult to churn through a whole PreTest book.
- The neuro section of Step up to Medicine will also serve you well if you have that volume already. Localizing the lesion is oddly more of a focus on the preclinical neuroscience exams, but for help with that you might try Clinical Neuroanatomy Made Ridiculously Simple.
- For those looking for the next level during additional rotations, try Neuroanatomy Through Clinical Cases.
- The residents are probably reading Greenberg’s Handbook of Neurosurgery. It would be much easier and more practical to start with Essential Neurosurgery.
- If you want a pocketbook, try Tarascon.
- ACOG’s Obstetrics & Gynecology
- Blueprints Ob/Gyn (maybe you can actually finish reading it the second time around)
- ENT Secrets is the solid choice.
- For further study, the consensus would then point you to Pasha or the Handbook of Otolaryngology. Pasha is by far the more popular but also isn’t available for Kindle; the Handbook assumes a bit less on your part and may be more readable for most students.
- For ophtho, start with the free online “OphthoBook.”
- For the non-ophtho bound, Basic Ophthalmology is well regarded for students and primary care/ER docs etc.
- If you decided to pursue an eyeball residency, then go for Practical Ophthalmology: A Manual for Beginning Residents.
- Handbook of Fractures
- Hoppenfeld’s Surgical Exposures in Orthopaedics is commonly recommended by gunners. It costs $250. You would likely never actually read it but would help most if you know the day’s cases in advance. Netter’s Concise Orthopaedic Anatomy is probably the more reasonable choice and better geared for the normal human student level.
- Essentials of Plastic Surgery, the classic introduction
- Michigan Manual of Plastic Surgery, the pocketbook
- Plastic Surgery Secrets Plus, the usual solid Q&A
- Free textbook alternative: Textbook of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
PM&R (Physical medicine and rehabilitation, sports medicine, physiatry)
- Pocketpedia is the common recommendation (short, readable, pocket-sized, incomplete).
- If you like the format, Physical Medicine And Rehabilitation Secrets gives you more detailed basics.
- First Aid for the Psychiatry Clerkship (which has been updated for the DSV-V)
- You don’t need more, but if you were to pick another thing to read, consider Stahl’s Essentials of Psychopharmacology.
- Cancer Management: A Multidisciplinary Approach (free, online)
- NCCN Guidelines (free App)
- Radiation Oncology: A Primer for Medical Students (journal article, free via institutional access)
- Handbook of Evidence-Based Radiation Oncology (“Hansen and Roach”), if you feel strongly about having a book
- Learning Radiology: Recognizing the Basics
- Felson’s Principles of Chest Roentgenology (for chest films). So good.
- Pocket Guide to Urology (popular, sold directly by the author/not available on Amazon)
- Smith’s General Urology is probably the only traditional textbook readable for a student, for those so inclined (Glenn’s is a bit much, very pricey, and focuses more on surgery).
Thank you – this is very helpful!
Glad to hear it!
I’d like to add some sources:
http://Www.123sonography.com offers cheap echo courses that I have had enormous use of as a physician. Expensive though if you want to dig deeper into their courses.
MedMaster.com appears to be the same gang, looks good, somewhat expensive.
For those who need to step up their ECG game I recommend http://www.ecgwaves.com (free e-book, extensive material) or Galen Wagner’s book which I forgot the title of, but it’s amazingly well written. Dale Dubin’s book is great until you actually meet a patient, then you’ll notice its blatant shortcomings. Another great book is Ary L Goldbergers ECG a simplified approach.
Any advice/recommended books for an interventional radiology rotation?
See the IR section of this post if you’re hungry. You don’t necessarily need to read anything, just be observant, generally helpful, and try to review the anatomy.
Any thoughts on the resources to use for an Infectious Diseases Elective?
Thankyou for all your advice. You’ve been a great help throughout med school. A virtual mentor.
Good question. Most medicine books have chapters on ID, including Harrison’s, so the ID chapter from whatever larger text you have should be pretty good. The big reference would be Mandell, but I wouldn’t bother even going to the library for that on a short elective.
Antimicrobial stewardship changes quickly, so it’s hard for a textbook to keep up. The only book I’d considering buying if you don’t have it would be the The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy to keep in your pocket, which is updated annually.
No recommendations for Pediatrics?
Well, that seems large a blatant oversight, doesn’t it? Addressed now.
Hey. Do you have any recommendations for resources for electives in Thoracic Surgery? Something to read during that 1 month. Thanks