reading recommendations

To me, reading a book is a lot like meeting someone new or making a new friend: the timing has to be right. Most of my favorite books are my favorites because I read them at the right time – during a crisis of faith, when I was broken hearted, when I needed inspiration – a time when I needed to read what I read. I think the best friendships start that way too, when you meet someone you really need in your life at that moment – or maybe they needed you. The books below mean a lot to me because they gave me a different world when my own didn’t feel like home. 


  • Translation of the Qur’an by Muhammad Farooq-i-Azan Malik – I’ve talked about this translation in one of my previous posts on Ramadan. It’s still sitting on my side table and I really should pick it up more often than I do but I haven’t found any translation that I like more than this one. It provides context of when the surahs were revealed and what was going on at the time.
  • No god but God by Reza Aslan – This text provides a more general history of Islam and provides context for a lot of the history that we’re always hearing about. It’s a good book for those interested in learning more about Islam because it provides a lot of background information that may be missing for texts written specifically for a Muslim audience. I read this book when I first started becoming serious about practicing Islam and it served as a great starting point.


  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom – I read this book at a time in my life when I really needed it. I was really worn down from the things going on in my life and was trying my best to hold it together and just get through each day. Reading this book really helped me at a time when I needed to put everything back in perspective. Morrie helped me remember what is truly important in life and with the help of Mitch Albom and the wonderful people in my life, I was able to crawl out of the darkness.
  • Lean In by Sheryl Strandberg – I read this book while I was applying to medical school and getting to know my now husband so it came at a perfect time. Strandberg helped me realize that a life of balancing home and career was possible and I really shouldn’t feel the need to sacrifice either. It helped me navigate a lot of conversations with my future husband about how we’d balance family life with both our careers and the expectations we had of each other with regards to caring for our home. However, I do have to say that this text is lacking a lot of things I was hoping to see. Strandberg rarely addresses her privilege as a white woman and a lot of the advice she gives pertains to someone in her socioeconomic group, which not all of her readers are. The text also has this tone of looking down on women who choose to leave their careers to raise their families, which is upsetting because that is a valid choice and women should do whatever they want without any judgement. But I do think there is something to gain from this text. And please send out a prayer or some love to her family as they’re still coping with the loss of her husband.
  • Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala – This book is truly unreal. It’s a memoir by Deraniyagala about losing her family: her husband, two sons and both parents, in the tsunami that struck Sri Lanka in 2004. I had such a hard time getting through the first couple chapters of this book because I just could not wrap my mind around how someone could possibly exist with so much grief in her heart. She takes us through nearly the decade after the ‘wave’ and is so real about all the emotions and memories she experiences over the years. Reading this text has definitely brought me a whole new appreciation for my loved ones and reminded me to appreciate them while they’re still around because you really don’t know what life has in store, as morbid as that sounds.


  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – I think this book is probably a favorite for anyone who has ever read it. It’s just so applicable to life and generally working towards your goals. I read this book towards the end of college during on of my finals weeks and it definitely helped motivate me. In the society we live in, it’s often hard to pursue our dreams when there’s so much pressure to be realistic. And I have to say that I’m lucky because my dream field is a relatively easy path. Not easy in terms of the work load and expectations, but it’s already all lined up. I went to college, now I’m in med school, then I’ll go to residency, etc. I don’t have to necessarily fight to create my space in this world to do what I want to do. But I do always feel like an oddball in this world of medicine because I’m not great at science and I feel like I just feel  too much. Reading (and rereading) this book helps me remember there’s a place for me in the world, wherever I want it to be, and I just have to fight for it.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – I read this book ages ago but it’s probably always going to be one of my favorite fiction texts. I don’t read a lot of fiction so that may have something to do with it but the way Hosseini write his characters is so beautiful. They’re so human. I’ll probably be rereading this book sometime soon because it’s been far too long.
  • The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen – This one is definitely a throwback. I remember Dessen being my favorite author during my angsty preteen and early teenage years. This one was always my favorite because of the game ‘truth’ (think truth or dare without the dares). I’ve actually gotten to know a lot of people playing this game and it’s obviously really intense but I really enjoy all the conversations that it brings about. I still pick up this book every few months when I can’t sleep or just feel like I need something familiar. I remember the first time I read this book after I was older than the main character and it kind of felt like a punch in the gut – I was an adult. I feel like getting lost in the pages of this book sometimes helps me return to a simpler time.


  • Kitchen Table Wisdom by Dr. Rachel Remen – I know it’s kind of blasphemous for us readers to have a favorite book but this one really does take the cake. I heard about this book in my first year of college in a seminar on compassion and medicine and it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. In previous posts, I’ve talked about how I’ve always felt more ’emotional’ than people around me and this book Dr. Remen really helped me feel not so alone in that. My husband describes it as a ‘warm read.’ This book is a series of stories from her perspective as a daughter, physician and patient. It’s helped me realize my place in the world of medicine as someone who hopes to help physicians lead emotionally healthy lives and thus take better care of their patients.
  • Body of Work by Dr. Christine Montross – This text is not at all new to this blog. It really is the text that helped me get through first year of medical school relatively unscathed. As many of the books in this list, it means a lot to me because it’s helped me normalize and reflect on my life experience, specifically anatomy lab. You can read a more extensive review on it here.
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder – This book is a biography on Dr. Paul Farmer, who is known for his work in health care abroad, especially in Haiti. Reading about the life and work of Dr. Farmer has a way of really showing you that there is so much need in this world and that we have no excuse to not help. While I don’t think I’ll ever be able to embody all his characteristics, reading about the way he thinks and his beliefs has really inspired me to work harder and harder to help the people I want to help. It’s served as a reality check for what it truly beens to be an advocate for your patients and to realize that there’s always more work to be done.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – As someone who has been involved with clinical research for most of my education, this text really helped me understand the process and where all the protections for patients come from. This text relates the life of Henrietta Lacks, the source of the HeLa cells that have been used to research pretty much every disease out there. So much of what we understand of various disease processes and treatments comes from something that was taken from Lacks without her consent and I think we owe it to her to get to know the history of her life and her family. Getting approval from the Institutional Review Board to conduct a study can often be a grueling and frustrating process but really understanding why it was set up and its significance has really made accepting it all much easier.
  • What Doctors Feel by Dr. Danielle Ofri – This is another text that has been all over this blog. It’s about how the emotional realities of the field of medicine affect how physicians practice and care for their patients. Dr. Ofri is like the older sister/aunt I wish I had. I’d imagine our conversations would be something like me freaking out about something and her trying to calm me down and tell me things are going to be okay. A review of the book (with a comment by Dr. Ofri herself!) can be found here.

Currently reading: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Currently listening: Tose Naina by Arijit Singh

6 thoughts on “reading recommendations

  1. Hey Anum! I completely agree – books are so much more impactful during certain states-of-mind!
    I’m excited to check out your recommendations!


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