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The House of God

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  10,489 Ratings  ·  799 Reviews
Now a classic! 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 nu ...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Berkley Books (first published 1978)
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Oct 20, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julianne by: Joe D.
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
Mar 16, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who enjoy orgies in the callroom
Shelves: america, fic-realism
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
Apie šitą knyga būtų galima rašyti ir kalbėti daug: pradėti nuo to, kokios yra medicinos realijos lyginant su mūsų visų susidarytomis iliuzijomis, maitinamomis visokių grej anatomijų ir daktarų hausų ir baigti daktarų persidirbimais ir psichozėmis. Bet nieko panašaus daryti aš nenoriu. Nenoriu ne todėl, kad ši knyga būtų bloga, priešingai – nepaisant astronominio kiekio cinizmo, abejingumo ir paniekos, kurios visam pasauliui kupini šios knygos herojai, knyga tikrai nebloga bent jau tuo, kad priv ...more
Patrick Henderson
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ANYONE going into medicine in any capacity...and anyone attached to said people
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
Dec 11, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medicine, humor, classics
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).
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
Elizabeth  Holter
Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer: I was 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
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  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone, but esp. med students, people interested in how hospitals work
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
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health-med
this book was poignant; that's my final, lingering feeling after i closed the cover. the main drawback is that it's written by a white male and filled with sexist, racist, other -ist stuff that might have been more acceptable at the time, and would be considered politically incorrect now. it's probably part of the "genuineness" that is its brand. overlooking that, it's still an excellent read. it's both cynical and heartwarming; it's laugh-out-loud hilarious at times and bizarre always. the writ ...more
Pragya Maheshwari
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Vanessa Rogers
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
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: human-studies
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
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lorelei by: Havva
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
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.
Ricardo Signes
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
I was pitched on this as being something like Catch-22, but about medicine instead of war. This made me dubious because (1) I don't know that I think Catch-22 is exactly about war and (2) comparing anything to Catch-22 is going to make me dubious on general principles.

Still, this was really worth my time. It was funny and sad and touching and interesting, and the fact that a lot of doctors seem to say that it conveys a real feeling of what internship is like is *crazy*. I don't think it'll becom
Mary JL
Jun 19, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: incredibly patient and fast readers who may be curious why this turkey has lasted tne years!
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.
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
Jun 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ryan Monaghan
Aug 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think that if medical internship literature was an actual genre, this book would be its Lord of the Rings, its Dracula.

Without giving anything away, this book details - excruciatingly - the trials and growth of a fresh doctor in his first year of residency, deemed internship.

It is black humor at its finest, I think; a cynical reflection of a doctor who has come to hate the futility he feels in the profession, not to mention the stresses. The only break in sex with just about everything that
Lisa Bacque
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.
Nov 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this peak behind the curtain of the life of a medical doctor intern. It is at once hilarious and completely disturbing. The characters explode many myths about who doctors are and what goes on in a hospital, though in doing so I found even greater empathy and respect for them as human beings. The writing is generally quite good. Certain passages are particularly elegant and poignant, while a few veer unnecessarily into unreadable stream of consciousness. The book includes a strong crit ...more
Jesús Arroyo
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top, in-my-possession
Un libro que la mayoría de residentes de medicina con sentido del humor y con dudas de sí mismos y de su profesión (que deberían ser todos) tendrían que leer de manera obligatoria. Está llena de sarcasmo, puyas al mundo de la medicina, cuñas psicoanalíticas y carga sexual pero en conjunto es una gran novela satírica escrita con buen ritmo y estilo, aunque el autor no deja de demostrar su extensa cultura en muchos comentarios de los personajes. En el libro te emocionas, te aburres, te asqueas, te ...more
Eric Li
"WELL AS A DOCTOR HERE IS MY OPINION OF THIS BOOK". ha nobody cares that you're a doctor. I like how one reviewer felt the need to include that they trained at "Mans Best Hospital", cool story bro. Book is relatively enjoyable, weird style though which I found it annoying and obnoxious at times.
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think I might be one of the few, if only, non-medical professionals reviewing this book. All the reviews I've seen have come from physicians, surgeons, nurses, etc.; and this was, in fact, recommended to me by a doctor friend after I asked for keystone books in other fields. That said, my background is in social work and I have worked in a nursing home, so many of the concepts in this book (e.g. gomers, admissions) were not foreign to me.

Reviewers have said the book is outdated (definitely) bu
Moujtaba Kasmani
This book is the story of a doctor's internship year, told using a mild stream of consciousness. It's disturbing and at times disgusting. But fundamentally it forces the reader to acknowledge the suffering not just of patients but also of physicians at the hands of the medical establishment and its socioeconomic norms. The novel's crassness may seem off-putting, but I think that accurately captures the negative emotions of newly minted doctors and their very human inability to cope with the horr ...more
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 1/2 stars -- drags in the middle, but glad I forged ahead. I can't imagine enjoying this book unless you have been through the American medical system. I don't think this is necessarily a flaw of the novel, just that it requires a certain amount of learned cynicism to stay on board for the ride. Many of the characters and plot points are caricatures of actual experience in medical training, and thankfully the system has changed a bit since this novel was written. However, much of the narrator' ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: The House of God by Samuel Shem 1 10 Dec 14, 2015 08:49AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: The House of God by Samuel Shem 1 6 Nov 29, 2015 07:12AM  
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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
More about Samuel Shem...

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“Life's like a penis; When it's soft you can't beat it; When it's hard you get screwed. - The Fat Man, Medical Resident in The House of God” 21 likes
“The patient is the one with the disease” 21 likes
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