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The House of God

(House of God #1)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  21,128 ratings  ·  1,487 reviews
The hilarious novel of the healing arts that reveals everything your doctor never wanted you to know.

Six eager interns—they saw themselves as modern saviors-to-be.   They came from the top of their medical school class  to the bottom of the hospital staff to serve a  year in the time-honored tradition, racing to answer  the flash of on-duty call lights and nubile  nurses.
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Dell (first published 1978)
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Doug This is a novel with a very STRONG basis in fact. Having gone through a medical residency, I can tell you that there is a ton of truth in this book.

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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  21,128 ratings  ·  1,487 reviews

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Mar 16, 2013 rated it did not like it
I don't usually review books I rate at 3 stars or lower, but this is an exception: I detest this book so much that I feel compelled to write something about it.

Make no mistake: I am a resident physician (and read this book during my internship year), so none of the horrible things that happen in the book faze me. I am also the last person to dislike a book because it is not "feel-good", or because it offers more questions than solutions (those are often the best books). However, I take issue wit
Oct 20, 2007 rated it liked it
As I tell people: I liked the morals, not the story.

The message on why "the boys" didn't like the chief, how doing nothing is good medicine, and the difference between gomers and old folks are very pertinent to me and how I practice in healthcare. My favorite Laws include:

3. At a cardiac arrest, the first procedure is to take your own pulse.
4. The patient is the one with the disease
10. If you dont take a temperature you can't find a fever.
13. The delivery of medical care is to do as much nothing
Renee Godding
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4/5 stars

"Gomers Never die"
Neither will that quote...

Let me try to review this book in one sentence:

This book tells the truth, nothing but the truth, but NOT the full truth...

Sounds cryptic but if it is the best I can do. The House of God adresses grim and dark topics that are usually not spoken about in literature. It does not shy away from showing the “dark side” of medicine and truly, as both a patient aswell as a doctor to be, that is the type of book that will get my 5 star r
Patrick Henderson
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hilarious
I read this in college, then again my first year of medical school, then again my last year of medical school, then again during my internship, and I'm reading it once more now as a senior resident. Along with the television show Scrubs, it's the most accurate portrayal of American medicine that I'm familiar with. I gave it to my father and he called me saying that he wanted to go medical school. I gave it to my mother and she called me crying, asking if my job really is as bad as Shem makes it ...more
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I've avoided reading this for years. To be fair, I didn't even know about it until half way through med school and then I never had much desire to come home and 'read about the day job'. But, now I'm a GP and have been out of the hospital for approaching 2 years now I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Hmmm. It's about what I was expecting. Almost everyone who has reviewed it on here appears to be a doctor and the number of 'just like real life' comments astound me. I trained in the UK and work in NZ s
Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I did my internship and residency at the other hospital, "MBH," in Shem's classic novel about medical training, at the same time that he was busy observing his fellow house officers and higher ups at the House of God. So my take on this book is colored by immersion in the culture he parodies, and by the fact that one of his main characters bears strong resemblance to a medical school classmate who interned in Boston at Shem's hospital.
Fresh out of five years of medical training, I
Dec 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
I felt I should read this book, described as the "Catch-22 of medicine" before graduating from med school. It was scary how accurate most of it is, right down to the 'Laws' of the House of God quoted throughout. Remember, Age + BUN = Lasix dose. But well written and a good read, although I don't know how funny it will be to those outside the medical profession (probably still so to spouses). ...more
Amy Bruestle
First of all, let me say that i have never heard of this book. However, i won the sequel through a giveaway on goodreads in exchange for an honest review. Anyone who knows me knows that i must start from the beginning of a series! So i checked this book out from my local library and read it so I could read its sequel.

Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that i wanted to make sure i didn’t miss out on any pertinent information that would be needed to understand or interpret parts of book 2, i wo
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When I was a nursing student, I was sitting at the nurses station and writing a rough draft of my patients notes for my supervising RN to read through before I put them in the file. One of the medical interns sat down next to me and asked me if I'd read The House of God. I thought he might have been trying to convince me to join some obscure religion. I hadn't, I warily told him so, and he threw his hands up in the air and said "You have to, you need to read it, it's real life put down on paper, ...more
India M. Clamp
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Samuel Shem is the pen name for the author of this book. After reading a few lines of the lascivious tales within, it becomes obvious why a pseudonym was used. "The House of God” details the journey of Roy Bausch and 5 interns at one of the most prestigious teaching hospitals in the world. Contents are plenary, raw and tragic.

“ ...Get the job done, and since we're all in the ninety-ninth percentile of interns, at one of the best internships in the world, what you do turns out to be a terrific j
Mar 25, 2013 rated it liked it
This was my second attempt at reading this book. My first, when I was still a medical student, ended a few chapters in, when I had to stop reading because I found the book far too cynical and depressing. Now, apparently, I'm jaded enough to enjoy it, though I know the reality isn't quite as awful as this book would have you believe.

Plenty of it, of course, hits right on target. The exhaustion of night shifts: that moment when you actually wish somebody would die because it means less work for yo
Oct 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Spoiler alert (esp. 3rd paragraph) Also, this book has some very *explicit* parts.

This novel follows an intern, Roy G. Basch, for his internship year at a prestigious hospital nicknamed the “House of God.” Roy must deal with sickness of the elderly, the death of the young, the competition of his peers, the lack of an outside life, and the tension with his superiors. Roy discovers providing medical care is nothing like what he was taught in medical school. Each of these stresses makes Roy withdra
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I read this during the first weeks of residency and couldn't have picked a better time to do so. What an excellent depiction of all that medical training is but shouldn't be.
Few thoughts:
1) Some of my Family Med colleagues thought House of God was abhorrent. I thought long and hard about this--and even about why it wasn't shocking to me. Here's the rub: it's satire y'all! All I can say is that if the anecdotes make you so uncomfortable, commit yourself to improving health care and medical educa
Mar 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Over the years, I've been told many times by many different people that I should read The House of God. These recommendations usually come with some variation on an explanation that the book is a thought provoking insight into the delivery of healthcare and/or medical education. I envisioned delving into an Atul Gawande-esque, cerebral discussion of the virtues and limitations of modern medicine. Instead, I found myself stifling gut wrenching laughter as I - initially - enjoyed this "fictionaliz ...more
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Oh my goodness, this was so good, and so painful! Funny and endearing enough to make up for all the horrible, and there is a lot of horrible. This is very true to modern medicine as I have experienced it. People constantly tell me that 'it's different now.' Sadly, not enough has changed, and what has changed hasn't changed enough. Regardless this is an incredible and a marvelous read. It breaks up well enough for reading on the bus, although at over 400 pages it is a little long for that. I woul ...more
Natalie Liogas
Jul 14, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: summer-2020
I'm not finishing this. I was told this book was full of insight into what life as a resident is like, but those tidbits of wisdom are scarce. It's less of a recollection of the life of a fresh medical school grad and more of a collection of immature and bizarre musings about women's bodies and vivid descriptions of the author's sexual fantasies. I hope the author sought help for his psychosexual dysfunctions :/ ...more
Pragya Maheshwari
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Actually, I rate the book at 3.5 stars.
As true as the back cover read, the book is raunchy, troubling, hilarious and another personal addition, it's DEPRESSING.
Plot Outline: The story is narrated by Dr. Roy Basch, a student of BMS, about his life during the year of his internship at the House of God. The central characters are: his constant girlfriend Berry, his co-interns Potts and Chuck, senior the Fat Man, the hospital hierarchy including Jo, Fish and Leggo, the nursing staff at the hospital
Vanessa Rogers
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.

I'm really happy that I held onto this one to read as I prepared for my residency interviews. I found myself smiling often while I read it, either agreeing with the humour or grimacing from the honesty. Some parts of this I find exaggerated but the bulk of the trials of internship I actually do find believable. I can see why people out of the medical field often do not enjoy this book, but I definitely found much to relate to throughout. Medicine is not as neat and tidy as the public w
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-physical
There kinda just seemed to be...no plot?
Jun 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2013
This was a cult book in its time in the 1970’s amongst medical health professionals and in many ways it would have been brutally shocking. The truth about how patients and medical staff were treated, the sexualised nature and expectations of nurses, the dehumanising of new medical residents, the dark twisted black humour people used as a coping technique. It is all there and at the time there would have been no other book like it. Talking amongst my hospital colleagues all of the doctors from wh ...more
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Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
So this was recommended to me by a Physician I worked for. It amazes me that 5 years in an Emergency Department and I can see some of these patients as well as the residents clear as day. It's not for everyone and if you are not in medicine in some shape or form, you probably wont get it, but if you are, then remember, its suppose to be funny and it is. ...more
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic! A must read for medical students/residents/doctors everywhere. I can only imagine how meaningful this was to readers when it was first published and the culture of medical education was so different.
Mary JL
Jun 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished-books
Too much excess material. The parts about the hospital mostly were good. The interludes in the interns' (plural) loves lives and oddities were too much. I know it was popular but note my cup of tea.

I quit about page 153 out of 400. Too many good books waiting to wast time of this.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I had been meaning to read this forever and it had been languishing on my TBR pile. I have quoted the laws of the House of God numerous times and despite being over 40 years old, most laws remain true today. While medicine and residencies have completely changed over the past 40 years, making parts of this novel obsolete, the core story, of Roy G. Basch, newly minted MD, navigating his internship at a prestigious teaching hospital remains true. While there is exponentially more technology and me ...more
Jacob Fleming
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
There's not much to say about House of God that hasn't already been said. It's hilarious and appalling, often simultaneously. The characters and situations are uniformly ridiculous and at the same time believable. In all, I enjoyed the book for what it is, a satirical commentary on 20th century American medical training. From my novice career in medicine, some elements ring true, and some seem to be (and I hope are) more farcical.
Ultimately, I empathized with the book's portrayal of the brutali
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Borrowed this book from the library. I'm thinking of buying my own copy. I would carry it around with me all the time and hand it to everyone who asks why I'm not studying to be a "real" doctor.

The sad thing is that this dehumanization (of self as well as others) does happen to far too many people, and not just in the medical profession. And most don't have the luck to have it pointed out to them forcibly enough not just that it's happening, but that it's a bad thing.

When people are forced into
Sarah Zhang
Sep 18, 2022 rated it did not like it
LOL one of the few DNF reviews for me here! I got through about 40 pages before I realized this book was Not For Me. I'm already pretty skeptical about reading books about med, they feel a little too close to homework for me than anything else, but I got a promising review from a friend that this book was one of the few he actually enjoyed and felt was realistic so I was like ok why not! Unfortunately, the writing style is too crass and striaght up like....depressing for me. I know when you get ...more
Matt Scott
May 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
It has its bright spots, but this book does not deliver on its promises. Instead of a “timeless novel about life and death in an American hospital,” it is a dated and shallow story that is in desperate need of a modern spiritual successor. While some may dismiss its sexist, privileged, and even racist portrayal of its characters as a remnant of its time, this doesn’t mean that we should not strive for something better than this grim novel. Likewise, the inability of the author to explore the dep ...more
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Samuel Shem (aka Stephen Bergman) is the author of several books of fiction including the bestseller The House of God. He is a doctor, novelist, playwright, and activist. A Rhodes Scholar, he was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School for three decades and founded the Bill W. and Dr. Bob Project in the Division on Addictions at Harvard Medical School. He divides his time between Boston, MA and T ...more

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