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House of God: A Novel [Hardcover]

Samuel Shem
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1984

As in all hospitals, the medical hierarchy of The House of God was a pyramid - a lot at the bottom and one at the top.Put another way it was like an ice-cream had to lick your way up!

Roy Basch, the 'red-hot' Rhodes Scholar, thought differently - but then he hadn't met Hyper Hooper, out to win the most post-mortems of the year award, nor Molly, the nurse with the crash helmet.He hadn't even met any of the Gomers ('Get Out of My Emergency Room!'), the no-hopers who wanted to die but who were worth more alive!

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Pub Group (T) (April 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399900233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399900235
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 15.7 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,306,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Great glittering floods of talent rage through this extraordinary novel" (Cosmopolitan)

"A wildly funny, sad, laugh-out-loud, frightening, outrageous, thought-provoking, moving book" (Houston Chronicle)

"Raw, realistic, ribald and randy" (Richard Gordon, author of Doctor in the House)

"Catch-22 with stethoscopes" (Cosmopolitan) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The House of God is a wild and raunchily irreverent novel that teaches you the not-so-gentle arts of healing, and tells you what your doctor never wanted you to know.It is the best medicine since M*A*S*H, and does for the doctor's art what Catch-22 did for the art of war.e year award, or Molly, the nurse with the crash helmet. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, Moving, and Just a Little Bit Scary 25 Nov 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Have you ever wondered what's going on behind the impassive, professional countenance of a hospital doctor? Have you ever considered those early years in their careers that they spend on wards? How it is that on the day they graduate from medical school they suddenly have all the answers? Well, they don't.
"House of God" is Samuel Shem's account of his year as an intern, the first year after medical school (in the UK they're called House Officers).
He captures the intensity of the experience perfectly, and the humour that helped him survive makes this book one of the funniest I have ever read.
Behind the laughter is a serious account of how he came close to the edge mentally during that first year. The limits of medicine are also revealed, disturbingly for the lay-patient with a naive belief that modern doctors can cure anyone who reaches hospital alive, and there are some sobering conclusions about how we treat the elderly for those who wish to draw them.
But I wouldn't want to mislead you - this is above all a hilarious account of a year in the life of a junior doctor in those carefree 70s when alcohol and sex were still recreations and not merely pathologies. The hard edge beneath makes that humour all the more effective, and the occasional tragic event makes the laughter as necessary for the reader's emotional well being as it was for the author.
Buy it, read it, and wonder why you had never come across this masterpiece before.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellently dark but american 17 Dec 2003
By A Customer
this is the original and much imitated "oh no i'm losing the plot and i'm a junior doctor" book. he gets a bit emotional and cheesy sometimes, but its a great collection of the best mess gags.
theres another excellent english junior doctor book by michael foxton called 'bedside stories' which is the angry NHS junior doctor column guy who wrote for the guardian, and thats hilarious and horrible.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars classic must have. 4 Aug 2010
a must-buy gift for your favorite med student.
amazon delivered international in less than a week!
thanks amazon uk!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How not to train a doctor 5 Feb 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A lively and bawdy account of medical training in the USA 40 years ago, based on the author's experience, which became a classic plea for humanity in the treatment of patients. Unfortunately the issues behind it are still relevant, and I am going to present it to my granddaughter, currently a medical student, and see what she thinks.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Samuel Shem's take on the first year of being a Doctor, the internship, is an excellent account of the destruction of the ideology of Medicine and the gradual erosion of innocence within this context.

Basch, Shem's protagonist is introduced to the daily practicalities of being an Intern, by The Fat Man who kicks Basch's lofty ideals out from under him, giving him the cynical know-how to survive the ordeal. Basch turns from being shocked at such disrespect, to eventualy embracing it and losing his own humanity.

Shem chronicles Basch's use of sex, humour, cynicism and finally denial as tools to survive the onslaught from the patients and the Institution's inane ethos of treating their patients to death. What struck resonance with myself was not only the connection with medicine (having been the equivalent of an intern myself) but the analogy (intended or not) with growing up and the loss of childhood belief and innocence. This belief is something that society maintains when it comes to medicine, a belief that everyone (or at least many) can be cured, and that Doctors can do it.

Basch's journey is that of discovering the true meaning of being a Doctor and rather than becoming permanently jaded and disillusioned, he finds the balance between reality and holding on to the origin of why he chose medicine as a career. This is an excellent read, evoking thought and reflection, truly a memorable book that I took something away from. I look forward to Shem's book on his experience within psychiatry.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
A book of wry wit and black humour which rightly deserves its cult status amongst doctors. I suspect that much of its off-beat message will miss a non-medical reader, and that which is understood may not enhance the reputation of the the followers of Hippocrates.
The total lack of support from management and bosses, black humour as a coping mechanism and the sad toll on the morale, altruism and wellbeing of doctors is all too vividly brought home.
The "Laws of the House of God" are remembered by those doctors who read this book long after the professorial lectures on pathology and pharmacology have sunk into (blissful) oblivion.
Buy it, read it, and enjoy.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Treat with care 5 Sep 2003
By A Customer
There's a difference between being a competent technician capable of diagnosing and treating cases and being a good doctor. This book is a cautionary tale of ill-prepared junior medical staff falling into the trap of becoming technicians when faced with the enormity of suffering that disease inflicts upon us. It is superficially quite funny (I remember chuckling over it in my last year of medical school) with its tales of GOMERs and the means by which to 'turf' patients (ie no longer have responsibility for them). But at its core it's a dark and tragic tale of Bergman's near-breakdown at the end of his internship year. Focus on the humour and you're not only missing the point, you run the risk of falling into the same trap.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Interesting read for medical students
Published 4 hours ago by yaf
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointed by this book
disappointed by this book . I trained in hospitals around same period. Found some of the references childish and degrading. Read more
Published 19 days ago by David H Gaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Fun
Enjoyed it lots. Witty, earthy blah blah blah. Just read it and let me get on with my life ok.
Published 3 months ago by Eric Sweetland
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining and educative
A very realistic portrayal of the time of an intern going through the period of residency. Samuel Shem did a good job with the narrative in "The House of God", vividly... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Bobby Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Thirty years on
Read this shortly after I qualified thirty years ago and again recently. Shocking but was a good if exaggerated reflection on junior hospital doctors life. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Patrick Flynn
3.0 out of 5 stars Hype not delivered
Had this book recommended to me by several senior doctors (usually in the context of complaining about the health service, patients or colleagues). Read more
Published 5 months ago by Roscoe
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
Love the writing style and vivid characterisation. I first read this as a first year junior doctor (a couple of years ago now) and for me, this still captures the essence of that... Read more
Published 6 months ago by atkoj
5.0 out of 5 stars Condition
Better condition than advertised. Great book which is almost as good as new. No problems found as of yet. Thanks
Published 7 months ago by Laura Chapman
2.0 out of 5 stars junior doctor
hmmm, silly book with no relevance to junior doctors of today. showing it's age, some funny parts but wasn't worth the time.
Published 9 months ago by D. Dickinson
2.0 out of 5 stars Very bawdy...not my cup of tea
Didn't enjoy this book....stopped reading it a quarter of the way through. Very bawdy and slapstick...not my cup of tea.
Published 10 months ago by Hmmm....
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