Author: Charlotte Davies / Editor: Liz Herrieven / Codes: SLO1, SLO2, SLO3, SLO4, SLO5, SLO6, SLO7, SLO8 / Published: 12/01/2021

I’m a huge fan of books, and truly believe they transport you to another world. Whether it’s immersing yourself in the childhood nostalgia of the faraway tree, learning about more medicine, or learning about subjects allied to medicine, the book has a powerful hold on people. The art of the story teaches you how to understand the emotions around life, and how other people think. Our wedding gift list just asked for books – and we learnt a lot about our friends from the books they choose, and found many new authors. 

Here’s a new year’s introduction into some of the books on my bookshelf, and some talk about why I think you should all read them. In the middle of a pandemic you might suggest you have no time for reading. I would argue the time is never better to be reading, and immersing yourself in a different world, where the worries are different. 

I’ve chosen to link to most books through hive. There’s lots of ethics around purchasing books, and for me, hive is a great compromise between price, ethics, and delivery speed. World of books and WHSmith also provide a great service, but do make your own choice. I’ve joined the shelter book club as well – it donates to charity, provides  a book from an author I’d never normally have chosen, all delivered without me having to do a thing. Perfect. For me, I’m a paper book person, although I certainly can see the appeal of eReaders. I do have the kindle app on the front screen of my phone in a bid to make me more productive. I’m not sure that being productive is my current target. When ever I use the eReader, I struggle to get to sleep – the documented effect of light on sleep might be real! 

ALIEM used to run a book club, and gerisoc still does. The doctors bookshelf has some great lists of books. I think that all books count in some way to CPD, and some more than others. There’s a list of picture books available on prescription (available from the Guardian) and I’m working my way through them, as the more I know about the book options, the more I can recommend appropriately to parents. 

If you’re short of time, you can read two minute books and other summaries, but I’m not sure they ever truly immerse you in another world, which is probably why they focus on non fiction. The short edition have taken short books a step further – mini reads you can print out whilst you’re waiting… I think they’d be good in the ED waiting room! 

General Books 

Treasure in an Oatmeal Box by Ken Gire: I love this book. It’s about a young boy with LD, and you learn a lot about him. It’s one of those books that I seek out when I feel like I need a good cry (and can’t put my finger on why), and need a trigger to let the tears escape. 

The Children Act by Ian McEwan: This is a complicated book on many levels about a very complicated subject. It’s about a 17 year old who needs a blood transfusion and is refusing it. We know legally what should happen (read our consent blog if you’re not sure), but what is right for the child. This book artfully takes us through the dilemma – what’s the right option? 

Can you see me by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott is written through the eyes of autistic Tally, and you feel Tally’s frustration. Makes me realise how overwhelming our ED must be. 

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: Jodi Picoult likes books with a twist, and this is no exception. It explores what happens when African American Ruth, a midwife, is accused of killing a white neonate. It explores race and justice with sensitivity, and made me think, as much as The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

I’m loathed to skip out these:  Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo which amongst other things, talks about finding rubbish in the Mumbai slums, reminding me of how much I throw away. The house of the spirits by Isabel Allende – different isn’t always bad. All the light we can not see by Anthony Doerr. Becoming – Michelle Obama. 

Medical Memorabilia and Stories

I like reading other people’s experiences but the number of books out there seems to have expanded so significantly it’s hard to keep up. This is going to hurt by Adam Kay is funny, and worth a read. 

Call the doctor by Ronald White-Cooperr, Suburban Shaman by Cecil Helman, Hanging by a Thread by Emmanuel Cauchy, Confessions of a GP by Dr Benjamen Daniels, Great Australian flying doctor stories by Bill ‘Swapmy’ Marsh,  maximum insecurity A doctor in the supermax William Wright all made it to the bookcase a few years ago (I’m normally an avid charity shop passer onner), but I can’t remember why. 

Something for the Pain by Paul Austin, Time to Care by Robin Youngston, Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen made me consider writing a book about the tragedies of emergency medicine. But then I realise how privileged we are to be a part of life. 

I’ve read more medical memorabilia – some irritated me when they couldn’t spell Bair Hugger correctly. Some upset me that we couldn’t provide good deaths to our patients in a pandemic. 

The Spark in the Machine by Daniel Keown is an interesting different book that makes me think about the interface between western and eastern medicine. I’m sure we could both learn a lot from each other, but draining the chi out of someone by doing an ABG has always stuck in my mind. 

The Sue Barton series by Helen Dore Boylston is nothing like nursing nowadays, but reading the books reminds me of a) being young, and b) how much medicine has moved on and progressed in the past few decades. I’m lucky to be a female doctor – I’d have been an awful deferential nurse! 

Working Books

There’s many books about how to work smarter, and know more. My current favourites are getting things done (as mentioned here), a hefty tome on human factors, human factors in paramedic practice and if Disney ran your hospital. 

Actual medical text books I’ve mostly dispensed with due to foamed, but there’s always space for a Kloss and Bruce guide to infectious diseases and a few hypnosis and communication texts.

I believe that all of these books (and many more) have helped to make me a better doctor with greater compassion, communication, and understanding. They’ve certainly helped me switch off and sleep during the pandemic. I’d love to hear what books you’ve enjoyed – this list is only the beginning, and the tip of the iceberg. Share book reviews, and bookcase pictures, and anything book related that makes you happy – #rcembooks on twitter and we’ll add any emails received to the bottom of this blog. We make no apologies for contributing to your #tsundoku! 

Have a happy 2021. 


Picture of bookshelf containing books on human factors and ergonomics, management and change management and data science