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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, Moving, and Just a Little Bit Scary
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...
Published on 25 Nov 2002 by Amazon Customer

versus
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). They all seemed to think it was edgy and controversial - a glimpse into the 'real' world of healthcare and revealing the untold truths about how doctors view their patients and each other. In reality, the content is far from...
Published 7 months ago by Roscoe


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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
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This review is from: House Of God (Black Swan) (Paperback)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Account of Discovering The Meaning of Doctorhood, 5 Sep 2007
This review is from: House Of God (Black Swan) (Paperback)
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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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 review is from: House Of God (Black Swan) (Paperback)
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life, death and how to survive as a doctor in a cult classic, 12 Jan 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: House Of God (Black Swan) (Paperback)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars classic must have., 4 Aug 2010
This review is from: House Of God (Black Swan) (Paperback)
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
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J. Littler (Bristol UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: House Of God (Black Swan) (Paperback)
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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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Treat with care, 5 Sep 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: House Of God (Black Swan) (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black humour, full of humanity, 25 Jun 2009
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Dr. G. Caldwell (Worthing, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: House Of God (Black Swan) (Paperback)
Essential reading for all medical students and doctors of all ages - black humour steeped in humanity - when you are in hospital as a patient, hope for "The Fat Man" who relies on your body to heal itself. Watch out for nearly all others. The humour was the only way to survive the system. A classic - generally voted near the top of lists of books to read by doctors - so we recognise ourselves in there somewhere - and of course all our colleagues! Trust me you need a doctor with a sense of humour!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a good read for any junior doctor and everyone else, 6 Jan 2012
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Mr. M. R. Williams "Marko" (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: House Of God (Black Swan) (Paperback)
a great book, humorous and makes you think about how to practice and how not to practice medicine. a work of fiction yes but plenty of parallels to real life and medicine stay true. couldn't recommend it too much.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for anyone interested in medicine, 22 Dec 2010
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This review is from: House Of God (Black Swan) (Paperback)
This is a cynical, but accurate, view of hospitals from the inside. It's like Scrubs and Gray's Anatomy without the hype, and is well-written, compelling, and moving.
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House Of God (Black Swan)
House Of God (Black Swan) by Samuel Shem (Paperback - 1 Feb 1998)
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