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Top Ten Books for First Year Medical Students

 Top Ten Books for First Year Medical Students
This list is part of a series of articles about the best books for medical students. Click on the Med School Books Main Page to see other lists including the best books for each year in medical school, the best books for each clinical rotation, and the best books for USMLE Steps 1, 2, and 3. 

In this list I will review books used in the basic science courses in medical school.  If you are interested in microbiology, pharmacology, and systems based books check out my list of the Top Ten Books for Second Year Medical Students.

1. Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy:

You can not live without an atlas while you are studying gross anatomy. There are a number of atlases to choose from and choosing ‘the best atlas’ for med school depends on how you learn. Netter’s atlas is brightly colored with finely demarcated images.  There is very little text and the atlas focuses solely on great drawings.  This is my favorite.

If you are not a fan of Netter’s, there are plenty of other options. Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy Top Ten Books for First Year Medical Studentsis widely used by many medical students; it contains more detailed images and text that highlights some important clinical relationships. Check out these other Amazon links if you want to learn more about the other options available.

Gray’s Anatomy
Clemente’s Anatomy
Rohen’s Color Atlas of Anatomy

Fellow bloggers over at medstudentbooks.com have written a concise, well organized review of the differences between each atlas.  I recommend you read their comments on the subject. (link)

2. First Aid for the Basic Sciences, General Principles:

The First Aid series is one of the jewels of medical school. You will certainly learn this as you are studying for Step 1. However, their texts for first and second year medical school coursework are also very good. First Aid books are never sufficient, but they are great tools to help you learn the most important points and should be used in conjunction with other texts and tools.  The Basic Sciences book is a great companion throughout most of your first year courses. (It’s companion, First Aid for the Basic Sciences: Organ Systems Top Ten Books for First Year Medical Students, is a similarly great tool for the second year).

You can get a $40 discount if you buy both the Organ System books together on Amazon. Click Here: First Aid Basic Sciences (VALUE PACK)

3. Netter’s Anatomy Flash Cards:

Just like an anatomy atlas, there are many options to choose from in this category. I found flash cards even more helpful than the anatomy textbook.  I rode the bus to school most mornings and could go through 10 or so flash cards a day.  It is a great way to study while on the move and it gives you some time away from books.  I used Netter’s, because they were so pretty!

Many students also rave about Kaplan Anatomy Flashcards Top Ten Books for First Year Medical Students
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4. Clinically Oriented Anatomy:

In addition to an anatomy atlas and anatomy flash cards, an anatomy textbook is a must have.  You will be tested on anatomy identification in the anatomy lab. However, most of your test questions will come from clinical relationships in anatomy. A good anatomy text is crucial to understanding these relationships. This was my favorite.

5. Grant’s Dissector:

Most medical students are required to purchase a dissector during gross anatomy.  My advice?  Get a second copy that never gets soaked in formaldehyde.  Skim over the text before anatomy tests and make sure you know ALL the bold terms.

6. High Yield Embryology:

The High Yield series is very good, but this is their best product. (High Yield Series, Amazon Link Top Ten Books for First Year Medical Students) Embryology can be terribly difficult to understand, but this book made it much more clear while I was studying.  If you like what you read, you should also check out High-Yield Gross Anatomy Top Ten Books for First Year Medical Students and High-Yield Biochemistry Top Ten Books for First Year Medical Students.
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7. Lippincott’s Illustrated Review of Biochemistry:

We all have to take a biochem test in medical school, and we all hate it.  There is no relaxing or enjoyable way to memorize the Kreb’s Cycle, but this book is the most efficient and high yield resource that I have found.

8. Ross Histology Text and Atlas:

A few years ago I would have suggested that everyone needs a histology atlas.  However, recently a number of medical school pathology departments have been creating fantastic websites with easily navigable histology slides and explanations.  If you are book person, let me recommend the histology atlas below, which is very good.

If you don’t want to spend the money and don’t mind using websites to study, check out my review of some of the best internet review websites for histology.

9. First Aid for the USMLE Step 1:

There is no reason to wait.  Buy this book the first day of medical school and make it your best friend.  The people over there at First Aid have an uncanny knack for knowing what will be asked on the boards (trust me, I’ve used their books for Step 1, Step 2 CS, Step2 CK and Step 3! They have been SPOT ON each time!).  It is important to learn the nitty gritty of each course you take so you can do well on your exams, but it is also important to know what you actually need to take away from those courses.  This is where First Aid comes in. Use it as a brief review of the most important topics for each course.

10. Med School Confidential:

Dubbed by the author as, “The complete guide to the medical school experience: By students for students.” This is actually a neat little book and something you can read when you want to get away from all the anatomy!

  • Updated July 6, 2012

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