Your summer 2023 book recommendations

July 18, 2023 | Author: Royal College Staff

Every summer, we publish a list of book recommendations from our members. From fiction to memoir, science history to self-improvement, here are this year’s picks.   

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Have something to add? Leave a comment and continue the discussion! (Please note, to keep the annual list a place to impartially share books, we will not be including books recommended by their own authors.)

Disclaimer: All items in this list are recommendations submitted by Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (Royal College) or residents; their appearance in this list does not constitute endorsement of the books and/or their contents by the Royal College.


The Break book cover

The Break (2016)
Katherena Vermette  

“This book is a fantastic discussion on the racism and sexism experienced by Indigenous women in Canada. The characters are all well-formed and the story is a plausible depiction of contemporary Canadian cities.” — Aneesh Dhar, MD, FRCPC, radiation oncologist at London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ont. 

The Marrow Thieves book cover

The Marrow Thieves (2017)
Cherie Dimaline 

“Dystopian future, the Indigenous are hunted for their marrow to make a serum to restore the ability to dream.” — Sadiya Kukaswadia, MD, FRCPC, hematologist, Toronto, Ont.



Everything I Never Told You book cover

Everything I Never Told You (2014)
Celeste Ng 

“I’m obsessed with this book. It’s addictive. The characters are so well developed, I couldn’t stop thinking about them after I finished it.” — Thirza Carpenter, MD, FRCPC, general internist at the University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton

When We Cease to Understand the World book cover

When We Cease to Understand the World (2020)
Benjamin Labatut  

“This combined work of fact and fiction traces associations through 20th century science, exploring whether leading thinkers pushed themselves beyond the brink of sanity in their pursuits and how they coped with the implications of their discoveries. This was a deeply captivating book, interesting both for its style and content.” — Jess Kancir, MD, CCFP, FRCPC, regional medical officer of health, Eastern Zone, Nova Scotia Health Authority

Crooked Plow book cover

Crooked Plow: A Novel (2019)
Itamar Vieira Junior 

 “A fascinating look into the lives of two sisters in rural Brazil.” — R. Cavalcanti, MD, FRCPC, General Internal Medicine, Toronto

Quand les femmes étaient des ombres book cover

Quand les femmes étaient des ombres (2014)
Claire Bergeron

“This is the story of two women who tried to make a difference at the turn of the 20th century. Men ruled the world during this time of upheaval, amidst the Spanish flu and war, when French Canadians were leaving for the Unites States. Following a serious car accident, the author, a former nurse, decided to pursue a new career and realize her dream of publishing novels – with great success. I met her at the Salon du livre [Book Fair] in Québec City and was very impressed by her.” Guylaine Lefebvre, MD, FRCSC, executive director, Learning and Connecting, Royal College

Circe book coverCirce (2019)
Madeline Miller  

“This is a fantasy fiction story of Circe, the daughter of the Greek sun god Helios. The author describes the life of this character and her adventures through well-known Greek myths. A great book.” — Brinda Balachandra MD, FRCPC, anatomical pathologist at Royal Alexandra Hospital, Edmonton 



The Song of the Cell book cover

The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human (2022)
Siddhartha Mukherjee 

“Basic science history review as related to medicine.” — Eric Leith, MD, FRCPC, internist and allergist at Oakville Trafalger Memorial Hospital and Women’s College Hospital   

Sapiens book cover Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011)
Yuval Noah Harari 

 “Superbly written book that integrates evolution, history, science, capitalism and human nature to make an engaging read.” — Manisha Mulgund, MD, FRCPC, rheumatologist, Hamilton 



What I Talk About When I Talk About Running book cover

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (2007)
Haruki Murakami 

“Murakami is a well-known modern master of fiction and surrealism, but this book provides an inner monologue of his creative sparks, inspirational mantras and insights about the human condition while he runs. As a runner myself, this book made me consider my own thoughts while running and shows how such an activity not only provides respite from the rigors of medicine but can also offer a meditative experience to reflect on our own practice and seek ways to learn and improve it.” — Jaideep Kanungo, MD, FRCPC, neonatologist, Victoria General Hospital, Victoria, B.C.

Patient H.M book cover Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets (2016)
Luke Dittrich 

“Authored by the grandson of the neurosurgeon who performed ‘psychosurgery’ on the 37-year-old titular subject, in the belief that it would benefit his epilepsy, this book documents the astonishing events in the life of the man known as ‘HM’ and the study of what is thought to be the most examined human brain in history, both in life and after death. It includes the important discoveries of McGill neuroscientist Brenda Milner, who is now 104 years old! Fascinating read.” — Jeff Trott, MD, FRCPC, Halton Hills, Ont. 

Wired for Music book coverWired for Music: A Search for Health and Joy Through the Science of Sound (2022)
Adriana Barton  

“A great description of how musicality is in all of us and can bring joy to our daily life and help us during challenging times.” — Pablo Perez d’Empaire, MD, FRCPC, FCCM, FASE, cardiovascular anesthesiologist and perioperative echocardiography, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine  

Always Pack a Candle book cover Always Pack a Candle: A Nurse in the Cariboo-Chilcotin (2021)
Marion McKinnon Crook 

“This is relatively light reading but conveys what it was like to be a public health nurse in a rural area of British Columbia in the 1960s. The parts about how the Indigenous people were treated is particularly relevant to today’s discussions about cultural humility.” — Barb Kane, MD, FRCPC, psychiatrist in Prince George, B.C.

The Other Dr. Gilmer book cover The Other Dr. Gilmer: Two Men, a Murder, and an Unlikely Fight for Justice (2022)
Benjamin Gilmer  

“This is the true story of a rural family physician joining a practice where he is taking the place of his namesake (Dr. Gilmer). He later finds that his predecessor was in prison for murdering his father. The book explores the troubling interconnection between medicine and the U.S. legal system.” — Terrill E. Theman, MD, FRCSC, retired cardiothoracic surgeon, Bethlehem, Pa.

In Shock book cover

In Shock (2017)
Rana Awdish  

“Physician who ended up critically ill. She discusses communication in a very candid memoir.”
— Anonymous 



What Happened to You?book cover

What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing (2021)
Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry  

“This book combines the power of storytelling using case scenarios encountered in clinical spaces and personal experiences of vulnerabilities in dealing with early childhood trauma.” — Rotimi O Kolawole, MBBS, FRCPC, DRCPSC

The Happiness Trap book cover

The Happiness Trap (2007)
Russ Harris 

“Learn to understand the source of your day-to-day stress and how to alleviate it in every aspect of your life.” — Madeleine Gagnon, MD, FRCPC, dermatologist, Victoria Park Medispa, Laval



Looking for more picks? Check out these other lists.


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Tyrone Turner | August 13, 2023
I would like to recommend for summer reading, a new release; GASPING FOR AIR AND GRASPING AIR IN MEDICINE -Equity, Diversity and Inclusion on the Medical Frontlines edited by Mariam Abdurrahman MD FRCPC. The book is a fast moving journey into the world of traditional medical thinking and how it has conflated race and gender with human biology, when to the largest extent, they are social notions, wrapped up in colonialism and inferiorization. It challenges to examine the biases we bring to the bedside.. Ty Turner MD CCFP FRCPC