Books to Read During Surgery Residency

I often interact with a number of residents and students who are about to enter surgery residency or are 1st year PGs.
“How do I study during residency?” is a question that is on every resident’s mind. Surgery residency in the subcontinent is pretty unstructured. In some situations, the residency is a cakewalk with very few duties. In most situations it is a toxic hellhole. Studying during a tough surgery residency is not easy at all.
The biggest challenge will be your seniors and colleagues who will use all their skills of persuasion to make sure that books remain a distant dream. The hours are long, sleep is a long lost memory and seniors don’t hesitate to insult your entire khaandaan. This is the reality of most residencies in India and it doesn’t make studies any easier.
But one fact we forget is – studying in residency is not a privilege, it’s a duty. Acquiring knowledge so that you can treat your patients appropriately is a fundamental duty.
In this particular article we will deal with the books one needs to read during surgery residency.

How do I study for general surgery?

Best operative surgery books to read during surgery residency

Reading before every surgery is essential, but often under-emphasised. The sub-continent has a strong guru-sishya culture with a strong focus on learning under a guru. Most residents assume that a senior who will guide them through the steps of surgery is more than adequate. However all of us aren’t lucky to have such mentors. The role of a teacher can never be under-estimated. On most days you may not have time. Youtube videos and small manuals may have to substitute formal learning. When time is precious and you are sleep deprived, learning often takes a back-seat. We will be doing a separate post on youtube videos and channels that every surgeon needs to subscribe. However in this article, we will be dealing with books to read before you start your residency or if you are a young resident.

1. Fischer's Mastery of Surgery, Seventh Edition

Easily the big daddy of operative surgery. It starts small with anatomy but progresses slowly describing in detail every operative step in detail. The attention to minutiae is something that I really love with Fischer. This two-volume masterpiece is the book every expert surgeon on the Surgtest panel swears by. Every aspect of operative vascular, common thoracic, breast, esophageal, endocrine, colorectal, gastric, pancreatic, liver, and biliary surgery is covered in d The tips of caution from some of the world’s leading surgeons that accompany every procedure is a feature that stands out. The illustrations are clear and easily visualisable when you are actually operating. One disadvantage is that it takes a few hours to read every procedure. If you are planning to read more than one procedure that evening, maybe Fischer is a little too exhaustive. It is however the book you need to read if you are preparing for that big esophagectomy you are likely to assist in the morning.
Best Book for Surgery Residency

2. Farquharson's Textbook of Operative General Surgery, Tenth Edition

Farquharson is a darling of a book. Sixty years since the first edition was published but it still stands as the textbook of choice when you have very little time to read for a procedure. This cute single volume book was my go-to surgery book when I was sleep deprived and still needed to be confident before a case. Short, succinct yet delightfully precise – Farquharson is a book every surgeon needs to have in his/her bag
Books to read during surgery residency

3. Zollinger's Atlas of Surgical Operations, Tenth Edition

Zollinger remains one of the world’s most loved atlas’ of surgery. This top class exposition is an example of how well-drawn illustrations can change the way you approach a surgery. Some of the illustrations are old but a single page can cover an entire surgery. The older illustrations have withstood the test of time in a way that never ceases to astonish me. I always had a soft copy of Zollinger in my phone and iPad. It helped me go through every step and recapitulate it before scrubbing.
There are a few other books that some surgeons swear by like the rather provocative titled Chassin’s Operative Strategy in General Surgery: An Expositive Atlas. I however have no personal experience but some of my mentors had quite a torrid affair with this book.
One book that one of my mentors considered invaluable was Rob & Smith’s Operative Surgery: Atlas of General Surgery. Unfortunately it is not in print anymore but I had an old version that had been photocopied multiple times. I must say it was easily one of the most educative textbooks ever. Some of the steps and procedures outlined must seem a bit outdated in the era of minimal access surgery but many principles of surgery are still valid. If you have the discriminative power to recognise updates (or rather the lack of it), this book is worth it’s weight in gold. There is an SRB manual of surgery, which a lot of early career surgeons use. Simple photographs help you understand concepts. I did not use it though.

Best surgical anatomy books to read during surgery residency

There is only one contender in my humble opinion for this section – Skandalakis Surgical Anatomy: The Embryologic And Anatomic Basis Of Modern Surgery. Son of greek immigrants, Dr John Skandalakis and his family affair ( Lee and Panagiotis Skandalkis being the other authors) created a masterpiece of surgical anatomy that remains the most authoritative textbook on surgical anatomy. He was one of the earliest people to describe the transversalis fascia as the innermost layer of endoabdominal fascia and, consequently, not synonymous with it.
Books to read during surgery residency
As a resident, I loved the complexity in anatomy that a simple (as they term it) surgery like inguinal hernioplasty presented. That was the beginning of a passionate relationship with Skandalakis. I simply couldn’t resist the urge to skim through its small, flimsy black and white pages. As I would peel the fascia layer by layer, I could visualise how Skandalakis imagined it. In the world of fashionably edited slick youtube videos, Skandalkis transported me to a time when dissection was gentle and planes still had to be opened with fine scissors (not the stinging fumes of electrocautery).

Best Emergency surgery books to read during surgery residency

1. Schein's Common Sense Emergency Abdominal Surgery

Best Book for Surgery Residency
Now in its 5th edition Moshe Schein’s deliciously concise yet power packed work on emergency abdominal surgery is one book no young surgeon should skip in his/her lifetime. Translated into more languages than any one can possibly learn in one lifetime, Schein explains simple concepts of emergency general abdominal surgery in simple language filled with quips, anecdotes and cartoons. There are no scary tables, no p-value driven charts and unnecessary scientific jargon. In an era, where every surgical decision is under the scrutiny of evidence-based medicine, this book puts good-ole’ common sense back into forefront. Have a copy of this book in your bag and refer to it before every abdominal surgery you are about to attempt or assist. My mentor Prof GD Sharma loved Schein and insisted every resident have a copy and read it. It’s a book every surgeon needs and deserves.
I have included a few illustrations and cartoons from the book. Surgery is a serious sport and you need something to lighten the mood. I prefer a dose of Schein.
Best Book for Surgery Residency
Dr Ramana B from Kolkata has a chapter in it and I believe that his sense of humour fits well with the style of the book. I had an opportunity to meet Prof Danny Rosin from Israel, one of the authors and I didn’t waste the opportunity to tell him how his book made me smile and learn at the same time.

2. Hamilton Bailey's Emergency Surgery

Hamilton Bailey was one of the world’s most influential surgical educators who was immortalised in multiple textbooks which bear his name. This volume is a must have for those who love emergencies and students with a particular interest in trauma and emergency surgery. My father, a fine emergency surgeon who trained in the military, lived by this book. So did many of my mentors. However I never got to reading it properly. If you have more to tell about this book, do let me know.
Books to read during surgery residency

3. ATLS Advanced Trauma Life Support 10th Edition

ATLS Advanced Trauma Life Support 10th Edition is the basis of trauma treatment in your residency. However the best way to learn the ATLS course content would be to attend one of the ATLS courses. It is a 3 day course with an exam at the end. ATLS certification is absolutely necessary for making a career switch to the UK, US or practically anywhere in the world.
Best Book for Surgery Residency
For surgeons operating in resource poor settings Primary surgery is another fantastic short textbook that explains how to perform the quality surgeries with minimal resources. It’s a useful companion to every rural surgeon and any surgeon who wishes to practise war-time surgery or volunteer in low-income countries.
Kenneth Mattox is considered the godfather of modern trauma surgery after whom the eponymously named Mattox manoeuvre ( also known as a left medial visceral rotation, is a surgical manoeuvre to explore and handle Zone 1 and 2 retroperitoneal injuries (aorta, left iliac and pelvic vessels) is named. His legendary book Top Knife: The Art & Craft of Trauma Surgery is an absolute neccessity for any trauma surgery aficionado It is a detailed guide for trauma surgery. However I must be honest – I have no personal experience with Top Knife. My favourite trauma surgeons simply love it though.
Best Book for Surgery Residency

Best books on Surgical Handicraft and fluid management to read during surgery residency

My go-to book during residency for basics of surgical techniques and simple procedures like nevus excision, drain fixation, basic knotting was Kirk’s Basic Surgical Techniques, Seventh Edition.
However I must admit, for a lot of surgical techniques and laparoscopic knots, I preferred youtube. But that is beyond the scope of this article as I mentioned before.
Practical Guidelines on Fluid Therapy, Dr. Sanjay Pandya, 2nd Edition is your one stop guide to understanding fluid management in the perio-operative period. It has simplified concepts without getting into too much detail about physiology.
Best Book for Surgery Residency
You can check out my video which I had made for students preparing for MRCS on Acid base balance. This 25 minute video will help simplify concepts.

Best General Surgery textbooks to read during Surgery Residency for final exams and NEET SS

1. Bailey & Love's Short Practice Of Surgery, 27th Edition

The classic textbook which you should master cover to cover. It’s the second book bearing Hamilton Bailey’s name. It’s short, simple, easy to understand without any superfluousness. There are tinges of dark British humour you might discover if you read it carefully. This is the single most important book for your final exam and NEET SS superspecialty examinations. Every single page and line is important. You might be asked about it in your final exams or NEET SS. The first volume which describes the basics of surgery, surgical physiology and nutrition is invaluable and will stand with you for a lifetime.
Books to read during surgery residency
Best Book for Surgery Residency

2. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice, 21st Edition

Sabiston is gold.. Precisely the right balance of content, detail and evidence that a student of surgery needs. This American gem will give you a strong foundation in all aspects of theoretical GI surgery and transplant surgery. The latest edition poses certain updates such as fetal surgery and tissue regeneration which are not found in most conventional textbooks. The chapter on robotic surgery is an absolute essential before venturing into practice of surgery. I have made a few videos on certain updates on Sabiston updates that can be found on the Surgtest app. This is for students who wish to avoid reading multiple textbooks and wanna use videos as a shortcut for NEET SS.
Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice, 21st Edition
The GI surgery part of Sabiston is very important for your super-specialty preparation as well.

3. Schwartz's Principles of Surgery, 11th Edition

Schwartz is an essential companion for examinations, especially the endocrine surgery sub-division. Thyroid and breast surgery are covered in great detail in Schwartz. This would form a significant chunk of your exam and NEET SS preparation.
Schwartz's Principles of Surgery, 11th Edition
There is a useful adjunct to your Schwartz preparation Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery ABSITE review – a collection of MCQ/SBAs based on Schwartz. However this book is based on the older 10th edition.

Android Play store and Apple App store Apps

1. Surgtest - App for NEET SS preparation

Surgtest is your go-to app for NEET SS preparation. It is extremely affordable and the user interface is clean and clutter free. The general surgery resource of >3000 MCQs based on Bailey, Sabiston and Schwartz is invaluable and a must have for every resident and student of surgery. The cost is affordable and if you contact the helpline, a discount is almost always available. I must admit that there is a strong bias because I personally created the MCQs but it remains the most loved resource among residents. You will find that every concept in general surgery is covered in the form of simple MCQs. Dr Gopi Ramu and I started creating an affordable MCQ resource when we were residents and it finally came out as an app a few years ago. It gives us both pleasure to see that it remains a student-favourite. The excellent NEET SS ranks validate that. Do use the free trial option before subscribing to know if it fits your study pattern.
Download the Surgtest app
The general surgery video lectures on the app cover all aspects of surgery which are required for surgery residents and also for NEET SS. For those preparing for INISS, hyper focussed videos on GI surgery, urology, oncosurgery, plastic surgery and neurosurgery are available. These are however based on specialty textbooks and are ideal for those interested in the subject. The general surgery video lectures cover all important aspects of Bailey, Sabiston and Schwartz. I do have a few sample video lectures here.

2. Mortimer Green - App for MRCS Preparation

This new app led by Dr Rohan Khandelwal and me, is a much needed effort. The latest MRCS exams are getting tougher and it remains the only question bank which is updated with the latest RCS and NICE guidelines. Dr Rohan and I have been involved in MRCS and surgery teaching for a pretty long time and we beleive that we can help you crack MRCS. If you are looking to do MRCS in the near future, this app is a must-have. The MCQ/SBAs are super elaborate yet lucid. The app UI is smooth and doesn’t crash. The weekly test and discussions led by top faculty are a boon to students. The video lectures will be launched soon.
Download the Mortimer Green app
App for MRCS Preparation
I have shared a couple of links for videos and Test and discussions over here.
Disclaimer: I have been personally involved in creation of content of both Surgtest and MortimerGreen. There is however no monetary interest in other books or content.
Happy studying guys. You are some of the best students in the world. You have taken a very special area to specialise. Surgery is a subject where you are allowed to think with your hands. Make it worth. May the Gods of Surgery shine upon you.
P.S: I might have left out a few books. Will add them if you guys give me some feedback. There is one more article on youtube channels you should look out for coming soon.
Vinayak Rengan
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Surgtest author bio
Vinayak Rengan is a surgeon and founder of Surgtest. He is interested in teaching and is also a deep learning researcher who founded