Reading lists


Vincent Lam’s Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures  (‘How to Get into Medical School Part 1’) – fiction

Stephen A. Hoffman’s Under the Ether Dome (Chapter 1 ‘Medical School’) – non-fiction

Johnathan Kaplan’s The Dressing Station (extracts) – non-fiction

Mikhail Bulgakov’s A Country Doctor’s Notebook (‘The Speckled Rash’) – fiction

Ian McEwan’s Saturday (extracts) – fiction

Samuel Shem’s The House of God (extracts) – fiction

Philip Roth’s Anatomy Lesson (extracts) – fiction


Rachel Cusk’s A Life’s Work (‘Forty Weeks’) – a non-fiction, ‘patient’ perspective

Vincent Lam’s Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures  (‘An Insistent Tide’) – a fiction, patient perspective


Lorrie Moore’s ‘People Like That Are the Only People Here’ from Birds of America  – a fictional, patient perspective

William Carlos Williams’ ‘The Girl with a Pimply Face’, ‘The Use of Force’, ‘Jean Beicke’ from Doctor Stories – a fiction, doctor perspective


John Berger’s A Fortunate Man  – a non-fiction, third-party perspective

JD O’Connor ‘Doctor in the Dales’ – a non-fiction, doctor perspective

Carlo Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli (extracts) – a non-fiction, doctor perspective

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera (extract) – a fiction, third-party perspective


Barbara Ehrehreich’s Smile Or Die (‘The Bright Side of Cancer’) – a non-fiction, patient perspective

Sophie Petit-Zeman’s Doctor, what’s wrong? (extracts) – a fiction, third-party perspective

Lia Mills’ In Your Face (extracts) – a non-fiction, patient perspective

Paul Zweig’s Departures (extracts) – a non-fiction, patient perspective


Sherwin B. Nuland’s How We Die (‘Doors to Death of the Aged’) – a non-fiction perspective

Joyce Carol Oates’ ‘Angel of Mercy’ from The Female of the Species – fiction

Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych – fiction


Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture (extracts) – a non-fiction perspective on both doctor and patient

Oliver Sacks ‘An Interview’

Paul Valéry’s ‘Socrates and his Physician’ (extract) – fiction

Herman Broch The Death of Virgil (extract) – fiction


Dave Eggers’ What is the What? (extracts) – fiction

Donnacha Rynne’s Being Donnacha (extacts) – non-fiction

Jean-Dominique Bauby’s The Diving Bell & the Butterfly (extracts) – non-fiction


Work from poets including Patrick Kavanagh, Núala Ní Dhómhnaill, Anne Sexton, Nessa O’Mahony, John Stone, and Philip Casey


Petr Skrabanek and James McCormick’s Follies and Fallacies in Modern Medicine


We’re reading the first chapter from Barbara Ehrenreich’s Smile Or Die, extracts from the fiction part of Sophie Petit-Zeman’s analysis of the NHS Doctor, what’s wrong?, an extract from Lia Mills’ In Your Face, and the ending of Paul Zweig’s memoir, Departures, as the basis for a discussion on the way cancer is represented in literature.

But of course we can hardly discuss this without reference to Susan Sontag’s book Illness as Metaphor. As summarised on the website, we see that the book is seen by many to show that “the metaphors and myths surrounding certain illnesses, especially cancer, add greatly to the suffering of patients and often inhibit them from seeking proper treatment. By demystifying the fantasies surrounding cancer, Sontag shows [apparently – ed.] cancer for what it is — just a disease. Cancer, she argues, is not a curse, not a punishment, certainly not an embarrassment and, it is highly curable, if good treatment is followed.”

Of course, we do not have to go along with Sontag’s analysis. But it’s important to get to grips with what she says about how cancer is represented. For starters, there’s an extract from the book here

And an interesting perspective from her son here:

But of course everyone ought to read the book itself if you can.

Something Is Going to Fall Like Rain by Ros Wynne-Jones (Reportage) – a student doctor in Sudan.

I read from the following texts:

If I’d had the time I would really like to have read from these too:

And there are so many others including the couple below, but I’ll keep people posted on this site. Let others know about it.