Books to Buy

Third year has begun, and you’re used to buying books. While you can get away with a lot less, here’s my recommendations for the best books to start the year off right. Summary: Everyone should get Boards and Wards and the Sanford Guide; for the remainder your mileage may vary.

Books For Third Year of Medical School

  1. Boards and Wards. If you only buy one book, this is it. Covers everything at a basic level, gives you the bare bones you need. Combine this with UpToDate and you will be set. Absolute, 100% recommended.
  2. Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy. Mine was a gift from my family practice preceptor, and I’ve used it on literally every single rotation. There is ALWAYS a reason to look up what antibiotic you need, and this book covers it. Recommend getting the most current version – pocket sized book is $22, iPhone or Android app is $30 per year. Worth it.
  3. Pocket Medicine. AKA the Green Book. AKA the Purple Book. AKA Mass General’s Hospital handbook of IM. Most frequently recommended, it is not light reading; a pocket sized binder with tiny print covering all the topics for in-patient Internal Medicine. Used religiously on IM rotations and not much in any other, but a great reference. You will probably have to get it, too. Some folks use a board prep book such as Step Up to Medicine instead, but that won’t fit in your pocket for reference in a hallway.
  4. Pocket Primary Care. AKA the Blue Book. AKA Mass General’s Handbook, and their answer to outpatient medicine. Great references for all the bread & butter of primary care in the clinic, with sections on derm, counseling, everyday ID, psychiatry, women’s health and geriatrics. Nothing pediatric specific, but all the information I wish I’d had during my first two months of third year, starting out in a family medicine rotation. If I could go back in time I’d use this before Pocket Med.
  5. Case Files Family Medicine. These cases cover the full spectrum of family medicine, with cases on women’s and men’s health issues, geriatrics, and even some pediatrics. You will learn about DM, HTN, joint pain, dementia, family violence, sleep apnea, IBS and 53 other issues with cases that present like patients. You may want to check out similar books in competing series such as Blueprints, but for Family Med this book is a great tool, especially if you read up on cases you saw in clinic each evening. Great for shelf prep.
  6. 5 Minute OMM Consult. This is for the DO’s out there – if you have a patient with something other than back pain can you think of a treatment you can do in less than 5 minutes? Nope? Yeah, neither could I, so I got this book for my 2nd year OMM clinic days and it really helped to figure out ways to treat patients with issues like fibromyalgia (where counterstrain may be recommended by some resources, but is too confusing when they have tenderpoints all over). Good for FM and OMM rotations.

Good luck, and let us know if your attending’s recommended other books as a must-have.

By Pixie


Pixie is happiest reading with a cup of tea in hand. She enjoys women’s health, adolescent medicine, painting and polymer clay. For more info, see her much longer bio on the author page.

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