1. Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon



In this spellbinding memoir, Dr. Q, short for Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, reveals his tumultuous, yet exciting journey, from his impoverished childhood in Mexico, to literally jumping the fence to enter the United States, to farming tomatoes for pennies under the unforgiving California sun, while also taking evening English classes, to graduating from Harvard Medical School, and finally becoming an internationally celebrated neurosurgeon and cancer researcher at the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Q’s descriptions of his brushes with death are both gripping and uplifting, and his life is the American Dream personified.

  1. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer


Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee elegantly and effortlessly breaks it down for his readers, connecting the present with the past of cancer origins and the evolution of its treatment. Thorough, yet succinct, Dr. Mukherjee’s writing recounts the key events and figures that fundamentally changed the way we look at cancer today. After reading this biography of cancer, you will come out feeling educated and optimistic. A must read for anyone curious about the past, present, and future of this age-old disease.

  1. Mountains Beyond Mountains


Although not exactly written by a Physician-Writer, the book covers the life of an amazing and inspiring infectious disease specialist, Dr. Paul Famer, who is also a professor of medical anthropology at Harvard and the recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant. In this biography of Dr. Farmer, author Tracy Kidder takes the reader to Haiti, where Dr. Farmer is literally working day and night to treat patients in a remotely-situated Haitian village. The book highlights Farmer’s unyielding efforts to improve the health of marginalized people, culminating in the founding of Partners in Health, in collaboration with his long time friend, Jim Yong Kim, who recently served as the president of the World Bank. By following Farmer around, Kidder captures how on more than one occasion, Farmer puts his patients’ needs before his own health, money, family, safety and even life. Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains highlights the best humanity has to offer. A great read for anyone looking to feel motivated and inspired.

  1. Gifted Hands


Is the autobiography of the renowned Dr. Benjamin Carson, the first neurosurgeon in the world to successfully separate conjoined twins. A gripping narration of personal and professional challenges, the autobiography illustrates the victory of hard-work and determination over the many hurdles of poverty and discrimination that Dr. Carson faced as an African American child, growing up in a disadvantaged neighborhood of Detriot, Michigan, or even as a doctor, having his credibility repeatedly questioned by colleagues and patients alike. As a bonus, Dr. Carson skillfully describes several groundbreaking surgeries he pioneered in his fertile career as a neurosurgeon.

  1. When the Air Hits the Brain


This riveting memoir by Dr. Frank Vertosick Jr. presents some of the most challenging cases of his medical career as a neurosurgeon. Dr. Vertosick consciously chooses to narrate the cases with rather unhappy endings and contends that one learns more from failures than from successes, especially in surgery. The book is often recommended for medical students, but is also relevant to anyone interested in learning how doctors make some very difficult, life or death choices.