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The House of God: The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital Paperback – July 1, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 457 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Brilliant !" -- Chicago  Tribune.

"Bawdy blistering... this is  Catch-22 with stethoscopes."  --Cosmopolitan.

"Does  for the practice of medicine what  Catch-22 and M*A *S *H did  for the practice of warfare." -- The  Newark Star-Ledger

"Wildly funny...  frightening... outrageous, moving... a story of  modern medicine rarely, if, ever told." --  The Houston Chronicle

From the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

9 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 397 pages
  • Publisher: Dell (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385337388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385337380
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (457 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Samuel Shem (pen name of Stephen Bergman) is a novelist, playwright, and, for three decades, a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty. His novels include The House of God, Fine, and Mount Misery. He is coauthor with his wife, Janet Surrey, of the hit Off-Broadway play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the story of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (winner of the 2007 Performing Arts Award of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), and We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues between Women and Men. Editors Carol Donley and Martin Kohn are cofounders of the Center for Literature, Medicine, and Biomedical Humanities at Hiram College. Since 1990 the Center has brought humanities and the health care professions together in mutually enriching interactions, including interdisciplinary courses, summer symposia, and the Literature and Medicine book series from The Kent State University Press. The first three anthologies in the series grew out of courses in the Biomedical Humanities program at Hiram. Then the series expanded to include original writing and edited collections by physicians, nurses, humanities scholars, and artists. The books in the series are designed to serve as resources and texts for health care education as well as for the general public.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are all kinds of things I hate about this book. I hate remembering how long I would go without sleep and the psychic torture that an internship inflicts on you. I hated the depersonalization of patients. I hated the sexual escapades. Most of all, I hated having in print the real feelings of an intern who has been up for three days - praying on the way to the ER that that Nursing Home Gomer with 20 fatal diagnoses would have the decency to croak before you got there so you could get an extra five minutes of sleep or a stale doughnut before the cafeteria closed again.
Shem portrays masterfully the jumble of emotions of a typical intern. There is a superficial level of glossy brown-nosing that got you into med school in the first place. Buzz words like compassion, continuity of care and empathy are used with the teaching physicians and in meetings. Then there is a deeper level of survival where you would kill your mother for 5 minutes of sleep or being able to crap without the code blue pager going off. This level is usually not discussed or written about in many of the typical intern coming-of-age books out there. Not because it isn't true, but because it's uncomfortable and offensive to non-physicians. Shem is the master of this level of medical thinking. No one else even comes close. Shem approaches but doesn't quite get to an even more primal level - that of duty. This level is what keeps an intern from punching his residency directors or the arrogant surgeon who asks him "What is the difference between a sh*thead and a brown-noser" and then tells you the answer is depth perception.(True story) It's what makes you do your best when you know the patient is hopeless or even abusive as you try your best to save them from themselves or some disease.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's interesting to hear non-medical opinions on HOG. This book is actually not that humorous. I can see how it "seems" to be; with all the dark morbid humor and the LAWS. A colleage told me not to read this book until i had finished my 3rd year of MD-school. Why? Until you put yourself on the ward, this book doesn't mean much to you. I didn't believe him and read it at the end of my 2nd year. I read it again at the end of my 3rd year. It was like i was reading a different novel. There is no way to clearly describe the sensation of having 7 admissions on call...all gomers....trying desperatly to BUFF and TURF them.
This book is a must read for the doctor to be. The nonmedical world has to realise that what seems as perverse dark sick humor (gomers, turfing, not doing anything, the only good admission is a dead admission) is merely an attempt to survive the onslaught of internship. Balance fatigue with limited knowledge and throw in some unparralled responsibility and you get a taste of what it's like.
House of God does just that.
Oh.. and never ever.... go to a teaching hospital in July. :)
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have read this book three times: When I was a first year medical student I found it to be exaggerated. When I was in my intern year I found it to be an understatement. Reading it for the third time in the middle of my residency allowed me to have a more mature perspective of this book. I find it to have a striking resemblence to another classic: "Catch 22" by Joseph Heller. I will start by saying that both books are NOT great literature masterpieces . They do not stand in one line with Joyce, Amos Oz, Steinback or Hemmingway and as a work of art they therefore deserve , in my opoinion 2 or 3 stars of rating.They do share, however, a unique quality which is this: They both manage to capture in an astonishing accurracy, through sarcasm and absurd, all that is twisted, wrong and cruel in the systems they deal with. Being both a doctor and an IDF officer, I can testify from personal experience that both the military and the medical field have a lot in common , mainly that they both are a stressfull, wearing enviroments. Shem's accurate perception lead this book to being the sharpest description of this enviroment so far, just as "Catch 22" was in its times I therefore share the enthusiasm of the majority of the reviewers of this book, as much as I can identify with the ones who found it disappointing in the literary sense. It therfore gets a rating of 4.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
To the lay-readers who find the book's images and points of view both horrifying and repulsive, I would say only this: As a street paramedic I fully empathize with any experienced doctor, nurse, P.A., or other medical practitioner, who happens to be a little "crispy around the edges." Medicine at any level of practice is often a mental beat-down, frequently unrewarding, and always tough. The "gallows-humor" that HOG depicts so graphically is a defense-mechanism for a lot of health-care workers. Myself included. You either succumb to its temptation, or you burn out. And in that case, you're no good to anyone, least of all your patients. If you read the book from a perspective outside the medical profession, please keep an open mind and you will love the book as much as we who are "in the know" do. And if that doesn't work, you could always try walking a mile in our shoes...
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