Top Ten Books for Ophthalmology Residents

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.

No one outside of ophthalmology can truly appreciate the breadth and depth of this specialty. Most doctors assume that it must be quite simple to learn everything you need to know about one small organ. Though I had been told this many times prior to ophthalmology residency, I was still shocked but the amount of pathology that occurs in the eye. With a few years of residency under my belt, I will try to answer the most important question: what are the ten best books for ophthalmology residents.

Let me preface this list by saying two things.

  1. To do well on exams (OKAPs, ABO Board Exam) I can not rely on books, but rather I rely on questions. I have previously written a review of Ophthoquestions, which I think is a fantastic online resource and has helped me prepare very well for OKAPS. So while the following books are important, I would not recommend studying for OKAPS without a question bank, either online or in print.
  2. Your attending physicians will tell you that you can not ignore the current literature. For a while I convinced myself that I did not have time or desire to read current journals. However, the longer I am in ophthalmology, the more I realize how effective it is to read through the top ophthalmology peer-reviewed journals. As a resident you will get the "Blue" Ophthalmology Journal at your home. It takes no more than 10-15 minutes to read the abstracts. You will learn a ton and stay up-to-date on what is important in ophthalmology
  • Updated May 2015

1. The Wills Eye Manual:

A great reference manual is a must for all ophthalmology residents. The Wills Eye Manual, or as I call it, The Bible, always has everything I need to complete a workup or start a treatment regimen. Some residents also enjoy The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Illustrated Manual of Ophthalmology. Both are good, just make sure one of them is in your bag when you take your first call.

2. The Basic and Clinical Science Course (BCSC):

I know what most of you are thinking…What? The BCSC is second? Sacrilege! It is true, the BCSC is a great resource, but I must put the Wills Manual first because of its universal utility. You can carry 15 BCSC books to the hospital with you every day. Most of you will get these from your residency program; if not, you should seriously consider spending the money for them.

3. Friedman's Review of Ophthalmology:

Friedman's is like the "First Aid Series" for ophthalmology. The book is full of high yield facts and pearls. It is surprisingly thorough and is a great resource to study prior to a subspecialty rotation or OKAPs. I have found, however, that reviewing the lists of facts presented in Friedman's is not very useful until you have a grasp of the concepts…something that will come from time in clinic and the BCSC series.

4. Nerad: Techniques in Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery

I will list a number of subspecialty texts in this Top Ten list, but not have I turned to more often than the Nerad text. This is the perfect book to prepare for oculoplastic surgery patients in the clinic and the OR. The night before every oculoplastic OR day I would read through the techniques of the upcoming surgeries and I was always very well prepared to learn in the OR and to answer most pimp questions that came up. I HIGHLY recommend this book. 

5. Last Minute Optics:

I previously wrote about Dr. Hunters free optics lectures. This is the text that parallels his free lectures. If you prefer written text over video lectures, this is the best optics book available. You can read it in a few hours and you will learn a surprising amount of clinical optics. It is perfect for last minute OKAPs studying or if you actually want to learn clinical optics but don't have much free time.

6. Chern: Review Questions in Ophthalmology

There are many great resources for ophthalmology residents looking for good questions. I have already written about the online questionbank, Ophthoquestions, which I highly recommend. There are also 50 questions at the end of each BCSC book, which are very good. As far as printed question books, the Chern book takes the cake. It has hundres of great questions and great explanations.

7. Chang: Phaco Chop and Advanced Phaco Techniques:

Every ophthalmology resident wants to become a safer, faster, more efficient surgeon. Dr. Chang is world renowned in his phaco technique and his ability to teach his phaco tecnique. I found this book to be incredibly useful as I approached my third year surgical rotations. It discusses general techniques and also advice for getting out of difficult situations. You really need to read about everything that can happen in the eye, because you will not see everything as a resident. 

8. Cornea: Krachmer, Mannis, Holland:

The last three suggestions I will make are large, dense, subspecialty textbooks. The BCSC series is simply not robust enough to help with difficult cases. A good cornea text or atlas is a must for all clinics as a reference. I have been very impressed with the organization and clarity of the Mannis text, though there are a few others. For a less dense option with beautiful photos, Krachmer has also put out his Cornea Atlas, which is full of great cornea photos.

9. Ryan's Retina:

A retina reference text is another must-have for residents and clinics. Most of you will have access to these reference books in your libraries or clinics. If not, consider purchasing one early in training so you can familiarize yourself with it and bring it with you to your private clinics after training. The Ryan text is very well known, but another great option is Gass' Atlas of Macular Diseases.

10. Walsh and Hoyt's Clinical Neuro-ophthalmology:

A final must-have reference is a great neuro-ophthalmology text. Remember, these are the issues that can kill ophthalmology patients. You will not always have fellows and neuro-ophthalmologists in the room next door and you will need a great reference book. The Walsh and Hoyt text is the favorite of most ophthalmologists. 



  1. bhanu pangtey

    jacobeic book on ophthalmology is an awesome book …. provided u have gutts fr glory 


    and shields for glaucoma

  2. Anonymous

    no kanski????

    1. Andrew

      I LOVED Kanski, but I think of it as more of a general book of ophthalology for primary care docs and medical students.

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