More Advice You Don’t Need: Textbooks

Hello troopers! Condolences on getting into med school, if you have. Don’t give up on your dream, if you haven’t (but maybe consider an easier dream).

Today we’re talking tomes. Med textbooks cost several arms and legs, and the reality is you won’t be needing every single one of them. In this post I will attempt to dispense advice on which ones I think are absolutely crucial, and which ones you can borrow or rent or even do without.

Without further ado,

Crucial Basics

Anatomy. Here we use Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy for the pictures (internationally renowned) in conjunction with Last’s Anatomy for the descriptions. You will need these for the rest of your life.

*Just FYI – those homemade textbooks the Anatomy department sells you in first and second year are actually useful for passing anatomy, but utterly useless for the rest of your live.

Physiology. The Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology is recommended, but there are other like the Ganong that are probably just as good. If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I didn’t spend much time reading Physiology textbooks, because they’re pretty much all long-winded and boring (f you know of one that isn’t, please leave a recommendation in the comments!) but you absolutely have to know how systems work and these texts are the way to do that.

Pathology. Here we use the Robbins and Cotran Pathological Basis of Disease. It’s long-winded, but you should get it because after you learn how systems work you have to learn how they fail, which helps you figure out how to fix them.

Crucial basics only get more relevant as you advance in your career, and you will constant be using them as references. Yes, the editions will constantly be updated but the core material will remain the same. Think of these books as investments in your future.

Clinical Necessities

Textbook of Clinical Practice. Such as the McLeod’s. Highly indispensable book, full of instructions and techniques for histories and examinations. You will use this from third to final year. Even once you’re confident in your skill set, the McLeod’s is still a book you turn to from time to time.

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine. I love small books that pack a punch. The OHCM is first class for information dispensed in bite sized portions that still cover all the necessary basics. I see residents walking around with this book (it’s pocket-sized too). Nuff said.

Textbooks of Surgery, Obstetrics/Gynaecology and Paediatrics. Yes, all three. Because when you’re in school they’re incredibly valuable.

For surgery, we use the Bailey and Love’s Short Practice of Surgery as a reference text (have a love/hate relationship with this book – it is huge and long-winded but surprisingly fun to read). A pocket-sized textbook for surgery is also useful. I prefer the Surgical Recall (and Advanced Surgical Recall), but some think it’s inadequate. I found it extremely adequate for my senior surgery rotation and remarkably easy to read.

For OB/GYN we use locally published textbooks. The Textbook of Obstetrics by Roopnarinesingh is perfectly tailored to our exams and clinical setting, despite being several years old. Similarly the Textbook of Gynaecology by Bharat Bassaw was written by most of the people who teach and test us. Basically? Get these books.

For paediatrics, we use Nelson’s Textbook of Pediatrics, but I think any well-respected textbook would do for paeds. Just make sure to pick one that you’re comfortable with because you will most likely end up teaching yourself this subject.

Nice Knowing You

Your first and second year textbooks of Histology, Embryology and Pharmacology don’t get much use later in your clinical years. Or maybe it was just me? Once you’ve learned the material and passed the exams anything else you need to know can be answered with a quick Google.

These books can be rented or bought and resold to junior students: DiFiore’s Histology, Langman’s Embryology, the Rang and Dale pharmacology text. Don’t get too attached to those names.


Any specialty textbook: Ophthalmology, ENT, Dermatology, Rheumatology, Orthopedics etc etc.

You can borrow all of these for the duration of your rotation. Even if you’re planning a career in the field, five years down the line (when you actually start your residency) you’re going to need an updated edition anyway.

That concludes our session, I think. Questions? Disagreements? Leave ’em in the comments. Good luck my friends. And happy studying.

17 thoughts on “More Advice You Don’t Need: Textbooks

  1. Hey Dr. Robyn,

    Thanks so much for sharing! Also, I had another question on a different matter. If you were told you are a sponsored student earlier around the time you were accepted, were they suppose to send an official letter stating that or will you just see the cost adjustment when you go to pay your fees?

    Thanks so much! ;)


  2. ChrisM says:

    Hi! I know this list is solely for MBBS individuals, but do you have any recommendations for books for anyone perusing the DDS programme?

    Good job on this list BTW :))


    1. Well, the first two years DDS and MBBS students use the same books and sit the same exams. Beyond that, though, I’m at a loss to recommend anything.

      But you can try to get in touch with a DDS student or recent graduate and see what advice they have to offer.


    1. I certainly can’t speak for all UWI students. Personally, I think it is good at what it is – an offshore university training students to work in the US. I do know a few students from the American Institute of Medical Sciences (which is the name of the school in Black River) and I think they are just like us UWI students for the most part.

      That being said, there does tend to be some skepticism about the practical training experience offered by any school that is not UWI. Like I have mentioned before, UWI focuses heavily on clinical skills, which I think is the main reason for any doubts we may have about another medical school’s output.


      1. Bernie says:

        Thanks for your response Robyn…do you know if the student at the american institute of medical sciences will be able to work in Jamaica and what is the procedure?


      2. The procedure would be to sit the Caribbean Licensing exam, but I’m not sure about the details. You can contact the Ministry of Health for more information though; they should be able to help you or point you in the direction of someone who can.


  3. shari1709 says:

    Hey Robyn, do you have any advice on how best to study for anatomy? I have been using Last’s (which seems really detailed and not as easy of a read as Gray’s). Netter’s is really good for the pics though. How should I go about studying all of this info for this class???



    1. Practice, practice, practice! A lot of anatomy is rote memorization and the use of mnemonics (memory aids) several of which can be found online.

      Like I have said before, the anatomy you need to know to pass Years 1 and 2 is not the same as the anatomy you need to know for your clinical years. For now it will help you most to swot the information. Later on, when you’re being taught by clinicians you can focus on understanding and applying the concepts.

      Not that you can’t understand and apply from now! Just that the volume of information you have to know makes this a little more overwhelming.


      1. diahann bernard says:

        Thanks for your response….will the students from  American Institute of Medical Sciences be able to practice in Jamaica and what is the procedure?


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