I’m trying to gather the motivation to pack up all of my things to move back home for the summer now that my course has finished for the year. But all I’ve successfully done so far is find myself astounded at the pure number of textbooks I have collected over the year. Some are borrowed for the library but others I bought second hand or off the internet.
When you start medical school there are the basic textbooks you are told are practically essential to any medical student. But unlike for A-levels and GCSEs there is no ONE textbook. In actual fact, there are thousands of textbooks you could use and you are supposed to find which ones work for you and buy those.
The best place to start if you’re unsure is the library. Libraries at university are like a whole new world. They have hundreds of copies of the ‘essential books’ and several copies of the ‘inessential books’ so it’s perfect for a newbie, who doesn’t know their grays anatomy from their Moores, to have a good old peruse. Dedicate one of your freshers days to the library and you won’t regret it. Spend the time browsing and exploring all of the suggested books on your reading list and getting to grips with which books you like and those you’re indifferent about. Pick at least one from each category and you’re set.
You can either check those books straight out of the library or make a note of the titles and then buy them online. I recommend doing both. Check them out and you’ll have them for your first weeks but buy them so you have your own copy to make notes in and feel secure in the knowledge that the library can’t recall your only copy and leave you bookless. Of course, don’t be greedy and keep library books if you have brought your own and physically have two copies in your room. That’s not cool.
You can buy pretty much any textbooks you will need on amazon but you can also get them second hand from sites like Abe books and these might be cheaper. If the price is a consideration (and when isn’t it?) you might also want to think about maybe not getting the latest version, as many textbooks bring out new versions every few years but the content doesn’t change much. I tend to go for one or two versions before the latest as this brings the cost down significantly and means you are a lot more likely to find them second hand.
Before you buy textbooks also check your libraries online system as my library has online copies of many of the core books as well which means that I didn’t need to buy them as I can access them in a few clicks on my laptop from anywhere in the world with my uni login. Yours might do something similar so it’s definitely worth checking. Although at the end of the day I much prefer physical books to reading off my computer screen.
My university library also runs a textbook recycling scheme that’s worth a look in. Graduating students donate their old textbooks that they no longer need and current and new students can pick up a set amount for free. You don’t always find the core textbooks in schemes like these, but if you have a specialty you’re interested in it’s often a goldmine of specialty textbooks. Last year I picked up a couple of good ones on neuroscience and psychiatry.
I wish you all the best with the search for your own personal perfect textbooks and hope you find a quite and easy fit with the core books of your course. If you are really struggling with a book, there’s probably another out there with the same information but written differently, that might be better for you. So have a look. It must just make studying easier. Last year I struggled through half a semester with Snells Anatomy before I discovered that untypically, I actually preferred Grays.