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The House of God: The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital Mass Market Paperback – December 15, 1980

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Dell Books (December 15, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440133688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440133681
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (380 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 Publisher

"Brilliant !" -- Chicago Tribune. "Bawdy blistering... this is Catch-22 with stethoscopes." --Cosmopolitan.

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 nubile nurses. But only the Fat Man --the calm, all-knowing resident -- could sustain them in their struggle to survive, to stay sane, to love-and even to be doctors when their harrowing year was done.

"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

Customer Reviews

I was told to read this book as a pre-med, medical student, intern, resident, then again as an attending.
This book reflects -- how alarming & realistic medicine can be, albeit the irony in medicine inevitably exist in one way or the other.
By the end of the book I was laughing and crying and rediscovering just why I'd gotten into this business to begin with.
Jane Harper

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

327 of 330 people found the following review helpful By USAF Veteran VINE VOICE on December 19, 2001
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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73 of 79 people found the following review helpful By MD resident on January 9, 2000
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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77 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Yuval Ben- Amnon,MD. on June 15, 2000
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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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Jane Harper on July 25, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a well-known phenomenon in health care called "reality shock." It occurs when an idealistic student practitioner emerges from the educational process, bright-eyed, scrubbed and shining, and learns what the hospital industry is REALLY like. The light at the end of the tunnel can be seen (according to the studies on this process) when the new professional regains a sense of humor. When I graduated from college with a nursing degree, I went to work for a huge west coast HMO that shall remain nameless; after a year on the wards I was ready to lay down in front of a bus. I was working nights, caring for 22 patients with one unlicensed assistant, facing 28-year-old geniuses with metastatic cancer, or middle-aged alcoholics who would disconnect their IV lines and watch the blood splash on the floor, or .. well you get the idea. Somebody gave me "House of God" before a weekend off. By the end of the book I was laughing and crying and rediscovering just why I'd gotten into this business to begin with. If you're a health care professional and haven't read this yet, READ IT! If you're a "frequent flyer" in the health-care system and can't figure out why caregivers laugh at things that are absolutely NOT funny to the Real World, this book will tell you. Send this book to your senators and representatives. Send a case to your insurance carrier's Utilization Review department. And thank god that our anonymous author had the guts to write the truth.
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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.

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