Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Confessions of a Knife” as Want to Read:
Confessions of a Knife
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Confessions of a Knife

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  108 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
Merging art and religion with science, these largely autobiographical essays delve deeply into the emotional territory of medicine commonly avoided by other writers. This collection, first published in 1979, utilizes the physical body as a means to explore the human mind and soul. Never hesitant to admit his own frailties, Selzer draws on his experiences as a surgeon with ...more
Paperback, 223 pages
Published November 30th 2001 by Michigan State University Press (first published 1979)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Confessions of a Knife, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Confessions of a Knife

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 241)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Cheyenne Blue
Mar 21, 2012 Cheyenne Blue rated it it was amazing
I read this a long, long time ago (maybe in the 1980s) and I have never forgotten it.

I have forgotten many books I've read. That this one hangs with me.... well, it makes me want to hunt it down and read it again.

In the meantime, I'm giving it 5 stars for its longevity in my memory.
Mar 19, 2012 Kristin rated it did not like it
I was hoping this was a book primarily about the author's work as a surgeon, but he went off on so many tangents that I found the book to be more like a hodge-podge of whatever subject he felt like writing about on a given day. The essays that dealt with surgery and working in the hospital were interesting but were few and far between. The others though were quite strange. There was one on the author's religious background that followed at least one other non-medical story and I skipped it all t ...more
May 19, 2008 Donn rated it really liked it
Two of my favorite writers (maybe my most favorite) are not writers by profession. The first, Wallace Stevens, was an insurance adjuster. The second, Richard Selzer, is a surgeon. He is the only writer who has made me truly cringe with a turn of a line. Aside from introductions and forewords elsewhere, this is the first collection of his that I've ventured into.

"Not long ago, operating rooms had windows. It was a boon and a blessing in spite of the occasional fly that managed to strain through t
Jul 01, 2013 Sarah added it
I loved how it is more than a collection of descriptions for operations. This showed me the complexity of every aspect of life - how connected your memories, your present, and your visions of the future are. I found Selzer's memories of childhood most intriguing. Favorite stories would include Sarcophagus, Il Traviato, In Praise of Senescence, Love Sick, Pages from a Wound Dresser's Diary, Alexis St. Martin, and The Lammergeier. I think Part II, along with other books and influences, made me mor ...more
Jan 25, 2014 Rdt rated it really liked it
Selzer is one of the great medical essayists. As a prose stylist, he is even better than Oliver Sachs, and his reflections on illness, health and mortality are deeply felt and thought provoking. Overall this book isn't quite as good as Mortal Lessons, but it is still a good read. Definitely recommended.
Huw Evans
Dec 01, 2011 Huw Evans rated it it was amazing
I read this book whilst I was training and was enthralled by its beauty and the messages within. It was my first realisation that there were doctors out there who could communicate their ideas without being patronising or paternalistic. Some of his esssays are slightly off centre (e.g. the idea that all pathologists should be coralled and shot, not that i disagree with him) but I am sure there is a tongue firmly in a cheek at the time. There is raw power in each short piece, controlled emotion a ...more
Mar 14, 2010 Isis rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir, audiobook
A mixed bag of essays, memoirs, stories and histories, and the problem with listening to the audio version is that you can't browse around and skip the boring ones. Some of the writing about medicine is so ponderously literary it threatens to collapse under the weight of its own metaphor, but I enjoyed a few of the essays and most particularly the history of Alexis St. Martin and William Beaumont, the 19th century voyageur who suffered an injury that opened a kind of window in his stomach and th ...more
Emily Hutcheon
Nov 02, 2011 Emily Hutcheon rated it it was amazing
An excellent book if you are in to medicine or surgical procedures, however I believe it could be read and enjoyed by someone who just likes heavily descriptive writing. Despite the fact Selzer is a surgeon first and a writer second, his use of metaphor is exquisite and often highly intricate in detail.
Oct 02, 2014 Wwalztoni rated it it was amazing
This was a second reading of this book after about 25 years. It was as I remembered, exceptionally well written and compelling. Not every story is perfect but there are enough to put this compilation in a short list of short story books that one can really savor.
Jan 31, 2009 Travis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medicine, writing
Wow this guy can write. His style is thick with metaphors for the human body and for illnesses, but he comes across as real and as someone searching for meaning in suffering. Poetic-style. I'm going to have to read his other books.
Mar 26, 2009 Dmattz added it
I picked this book up at a library sale for $0.50! What a find!
I was really captivated by his stories. So much so that I have started reading some of his other works!
Nov 02, 2007 Catie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great if you are interested in medical type books- his wiritng style is very unique and sometimes disturbing, but I love these short stories!
Marian Kaye
Sep 13, 2010 Marian Kaye rated it really liked it
Read more by Selzer.
Ana Groshev
Ana Groshev marked it as to-read
Jun 17, 2016
Kt marked it as to-read
Jun 16, 2016
Bernard Farrell
Bernard Farrell marked it as to-read
Jun 15, 2016
Alastair Kemp
Alastair Kemp marked it as to-read
Jun 05, 2016
Rushdi marked it as to-read
May 14, 2016
Joanne rated it really liked it
May 09, 2016
Steph marked it as to-read
Apr 20, 2016
Omar is currently reading it
Apr 06, 2016
Annie Bailey
Annie Bailey marked it as to-read
Apr 06, 2016
Eric White
Eric White marked it as to-read
Mar 29, 2016
Heather marked it as to-read
Mar 23, 2016
Brittany Farrell
Brittany Farrell marked it as to-read
Mar 18, 2016
Sabna marked it as to-read
Mar 15, 2016
Nawal Al-Battashi
Nawal Al-Battashi rated it liked it
Feb 21, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Intoxicated by My Illness
  • The Best American Essays 2004
  • Faith and Reason: The Philosophy of Religion
  • Modern American Memoirs
  • The Dressing Station: A Surgeon's Chronicle of War and Medicine
  • The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher
  • Second Opinions: Eight Clinical Dramas of Decision Making on the Front Lines of Medicine
  • Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History
  • Circles: Fifty Round Trips Through History Technology Science Culture
  • The Best American Essays 2003
  • El Juramento/the Oath
  • Jonas Salk: A Life
  • Doctors: The Biography of Medicine
  • The Best American Essays 2005
  • Physical Examination of the Spine and Extremities
  • The Best American Essays 2009
  • The Best American Essays 2006
  • Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood

Share This Book