Must-Have Books for the Beginning Ophthalmologist

By Adam Jacobson, MD; and Eric Rosenberg, DO

The transition from internship to residency is often as exciting as it is overwhelming. During this time period, budding ophthalmologists tend to thoroughly investigate big-ticket items, such as which ophthalmoscope will best fit their needs and where to find reasonable living quarters. It is often easy to ignore smaller undertakings due to time constraints.

As ophthalmology residents, we were surprised to find that one frequently passed-over topic is which books to purchase for residency. This article details our picks for two thought-provoking narratives and seven informative textbooks, each of which fills a particular niche on the educational spectrum and is a must-read before starting ophthalmology residency.


No one should start residency, or any career in treating patients, without first reading Reflections of a Pupil by R. Rishi Gupta, MD, FRCSC. This practical tapestry of short passages presents readers with all the adages of our wisest mentors in a concise and easy read. We strongly believe that this gem of a book will not only stand the test of time but also will mature alongside your career every time you pick it back up.

Take-Home Message
About a thousand of them—enjoy!

Fast Facts
Cost | Print: $18.95; eBook: $9.99
Editor review | 5 stars


The world was a different place in the 1980s, and those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Doused in controversy, Waking Up Blind is a nonfiction work by Tom Harbin, MD, who courageously sheds light on the murky intersection between academia, medicine, law, responsibility, and, most important, character. We simply couldn’t put this book down, and the turn of every page implores the reader to consider his or her humility with respect to the trust bestowed upon physicians by their patients.

Take-Home Message
Never forget why you went into medicine in the first place.

Fast Facts
Cost | Print: $21.99; eBook: $9.99
Amazon review | 4.7 stars

basic and clinical science course

The Basic and Clinical Science Course, or BCSC, is a 13-book set published by the AAO. Each book covers a particular topic in detail, making the BCSC a mainstay resource for ophthalmology residents throughout all 3 years of training. Most residents try to read the complete set once a year, although the information can be dense at times. This series is generally considered a necessity, as questions on the Ophthalmic Knowledge Assessment Program exam are derived from material found in these books.

Take-Home Message
The gold standard for ophthalmic education.

Fast Facts
Cost | Print: $1,255; eBook: $1,155; print + eBook: $1,855
Amazon review | 5 stars

operative dictations in ophthalmology

Operative Dictations in Ophthalmology serves as both a preparation and a debriefing for surgeons or surgeons-in-training by improving comprehension time and cultivating surgical forethought. It features dictation samples, detailed steps, abstract reviews, complications, and preoperative indications for nearly every surgical procedure a resident will encounter. More precisely, the book is 694 pages and reviews 160 procedures, and chapters are authored by leading experts within all ophthalmic subspecialties.

Take-Home Message
Never be unprepared to operate; otherwise, you won’t.

Fast Facts
Cost | Print: $194; eBook: $167
Amazon review | 5 stars

Review of Ophthalmology

Review of Ophthalmology is a popular book (not the periodical of the same name) among ophthalmologists, and for good reason. William Trattler, MD, and coauthors provide easy-to-read text with many useful charts, outlines, and diagrams. Much like with First AID for the United States Medical Licensing Examination, many residents opt to supplement information from other texts and didactic sessions into Review of Ophthalmology.

Take-Home Message
First AID for ophthalmology.

Fast Facts
Cost | Print + eBook: $84.99; eBook: $75.99
Amazon review | 4.6 stars

Kanski’s clinical ophthalmology

Kanski’s Clinical Ophthalmology is a 928-page, all-in-one textbook that provides a comprehensive foundation for ophthalmologists in training. Many residents find it easier to study from a single source, compared with the 13-volume BCSC series. Additionally, this text includes well-selected images that make integrating studying into clinical practice a seamless transition (a feature lost in many other sources).

Take-Home Message
Classic systematic approach.

Fast Facts
Cost | Print + eBook: $214.79; eBook: $187.19
Amazon review | 5 stars


Best read during a busy intern year or as a medical student on away rotations, OphthoBook provides an easy-to-read and solid foundation of information for those interested in ophthalmology. Not only does Timothy Root, MD, drive home the important points, but he also provides fantastic supplementary YouTube videos reviewing ophthalmology exam techniques. Generations of ophthalmologists owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Root.

Take-Home Message
Cartoons + ophthalmology = instant winner.

Fast Facts
Cost | Print: $19.95; Online/PDF: free
Amazon review | 4.7 stars

THe wills eye manual

With updated editions released yearly, The Wills Eye Manual is every resident’s best friend while on call. This guide contains workups, exam findings, differentials, surgical techniques, and more. Plus, it is a surprisingly portable paperback that fits perfectly into a call bag. Complimentary copies for residents are available from Allergan.

Take-Home Message
If you take call, you need The Wills Eye Manual.

Fast Facts
Cost | Print: $76.72; eBook: $79.00
Amazon review | 4.3 stars


Although not everyone’s favorite topic, optics is covered heavily on the Ophthalmic Knowledge Assessment Program exam. This book boils down the essentials into an easy-to-digest manual with clear ray diagrams.

Take-Home Message

Optics are hard; reading this is easy.

Fast Facts
Cost | Print: $54.90;
eBook: $51.95
Amazon review | 4.5 stars

Adam Jacobson, MD
• Chief Ophthalmology Resident, New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York
• Financial disclosure: None

Eric Rosenberg, DO
• Ophthalmology Resident, Westchester Medical Center, New York; Twitter @EyeDRosenberg
• Financial disclosure: Editor (Operative Dictations in Ophthalmology)


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