Nothing can be more expansive and uplifting than a good story that opens up a plethora of emotions, reminding us of our mortality and imperfections, and gently nudging a transformation within.

Here are some heart-warming stories of courage, vision, hope and love penned by doctors who have walked through little triumphs and desperate moments of hunger, illness and regrets.

1. When Breath Becomes Air by neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi

This endearing memoir by a Stanford University neurosurgeon, who was diagnosed with lung cancer at 36, will reframe your perspectives.

“Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when,” says Kalanithi.

Poignantly engrossing, it begins with a doctor examining his own CT scans. At 36 when he was already mapping out his future, Kalanithi saw his world crumbling and the book is an outpour of emotions and questions that were mostly existential yet so real.

2. Hope And Healing: A Doctor's Reflections On Cancer by oncologist Ang Peng Tiam

This book is one of hope with an encouraging tinge of humour and compassion sprinkled throughout the stories of patients who battled with cancer. Written from the doctor’s perspective, the author, a Singaporean oncologist with Parkway Cancer Centre, lets us into the thoughts of the doctor. Often, when things go wrong, doctors too carry heavy hearts.

He writes, “I curse myself for every wrong decision, for every outcome that defies the odds, when the odds ought to be in my patient's favour. In these times, I forget the moments of gleeful triumph, when the odds turn out in our favour, when our team of doctors snatches a patient from the jaws of death.”

3. The Gene: An Intimate History by oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee

Through the revelation of the author’s family history of mental illness, the book seeks to unlock the origins of human heredity and how it shapes our lives and choices.

Mukherjee, a cancer physician and researcher at Columbia University, who has a keen interest in the structure of knowledge, provides a magisterial response to the question: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information?

4. Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human by psychiatrist Daniel J. Siegel

Drawing insights from psychiatry, psychology, religion, sociology, philosophy, quantum physics, and art, Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry in California, takes us on a spiritual sojourn of the human mind. Through personal reflections, he delves into the mysteries of our experience, and helps us to appreciate the capabilities of the mind.

Siegel believes that "as physicians, we are taught much about the art and science of caring for the body, but very little about the mind of our patients, or ourselves."

"Physicians learning about the mind will be better able to care for their patients and even their own mental lives, reducing stress and enhancing well-being," he says.

5. Starved: A Nutrition Doctor's Journey From Empty to Full by oncology professor Anne McTiernan

This book is a moving account of the author’s childhood and how it affects her perception of herself and others.

When she was four years ago, Anne was abandoned by her mother at a boarding school. Distressed and lost, she starved herself, physically and emotionally. It was a journey of starvation, obesity and obsessive dieting.

Deeply absorbing, the story speaks of a hope amidst hopelessness and a quiet determination to take responsibility of one’s own actions.

6. Drug Dealer, MD: How Doctors Were Duped, Patients Got Hooked, and Why It's So Hard to Stop by psychiatrist Anna Lembke

Here, the author questions the existing pharmaceutical system, examines the science of addiction, and the barriers to address drug dependence and addiction. She maintains that many doctors do not know how to treat drug addiction while connections to treatment are lacking and insurance companies are not willing to pay for rehabilitation.

There are a number of interviews and case studies culled from her own practice, supported with statistics from public policy, cultural anthropology and neuroscience. ‘Drug Dealer’ is an ambitious attempt to hear and speak the voice for those struggling with opioid addiction, and highlights a weak healthcare system where cultural narratives promote pills as quick fixes.

7. Hard Truths Of Being A Doctor (Vol 1 & 2) by rheumatologist Pagalavan Letchumanan

In two volumes, ‘Hard truths’ is a useful guide to new doctors and medical students, and paints a realistic picture of the medical field in Malaysia while debunking stereotypical conceptions of the medical field. Malaysian physician Dr Pagalavan raises concerns on the quantity and quality of medical education in Malaysia.

The first volume provides helpful guidelines for people who intend to become doctors while the second part discusses the life and challenges of being a doctor. MIMS

Read more:
Why every healthcare practitioner should aspire to write a book
Healthcare professionals: 4 reasons to explore non-medical fiction
Healthcare professionals: Alternatives to medical books for leisure reading