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Download the introductory reading list as a pdf document

Students often ask for reading suggestions, in order to get their minds tuned into some of the topics that will be covered, or to simply provide a more general foundation for University. This list of suggested reading is not an exhaustive one, nor is it a list of material you must read. There are countless good general texts, so do explore: as well as books, read the local and national press, and look for relevant podcasts, websites, lectures, events and museums or exhibitions in your local area. This is not a list of books you should rush out and buy:

  • First and foremost, read what interests you the most. Each student should, from early on, begin to develop their own particular area of expertise.
  • Second, consider what subjects or topics relevant to Medicine you may not cover in your A-level studies (or equivalent).


Ashcroft, F. Life at the Extremes. Univ California Press, 2002.

Black, J., Boyd, C.A.R. and Noble, D. (editors). The Logic of Life. Oxford University Press, 1993.

Calvin, W. H., and Ojamann, G. A. Conversations with Neil's Brain: The Natural Nature of Thought and Language. Basic Books, 1995. (Conversations with Neil's Brain is also available free of charge)

Clarke, R. Your Life in my Hands: a Junior Doctor’s Story. Metro Publishing, 2017.

De Kruif, P. Microbe Hunters. Kessinger Publishing Co, 2005.

Glynn, I. Elegance in Science. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Goldacre, B. Bad Science. Harper Perennial, 2009. (also see Ben Goldacre’s columns for the Guardian)

Kalanithi, P. When Breath Becomes Air. Random House, 2016.

Kay, A. This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor. Picador, 2018.

Marsh, H. Do no Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery. W&N, 2014.

Mukherjee, S. The Emperor of all Maladies: a Biography of Cancer. Fourth Estate, 2011.

Sacks, O. The Man who mistook his Wife for a Hat. Pan Macmillan Picador, 1986.

Sykes, B. Blood of the Isles. Corgi Books, 2007.

Westaby, S. The Knife’s Edge. Mudlark, 2019.

Williams, I. The Lady Doctor. Myriad Editions, 2019.

Williams, I. The Bad Doctor. Myriad Editions, 2014.

Wishart, A. One in Three. Profile Books, 2007.

Yong, E. I Contain Multitudes: the Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life. Vintage, 2017


You could also consider reading some of the Medicine and Health-related volumes in Oxford University Press’ Very Short Introductions series.

Online resources

Start by looking for websites providing information on topics you might be interested in, or read the science sections of newspapers. There are plenty of useful resources out there so do explore.

Here is a list of websites offering podcasts and videos relevant to medical sciences:

Oxford Podcasts
iTunesU > Oxford University > Medical Sciences or University of Oxford Podcasts site

BBC Science