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15 books for EMTs and paramedics

Looking for a gift, a weekend read, or a resource? Check out our recent favorites



By EMS1 Staff

Whether you’re picking out a gift for the holidays or just looking for something to read in your downtime, we’ve got you covered. Here are 15 books EMS1 readers recommend.

1. A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard

This is the memoir of a paramedic who spent nearly a decade working EMS in the city of Atlanta. It was released in January 2016, but has proved to be an instant classic of EMS literature.

A Thousand Naked Strangers opens when Hazzard quits his office job at the age of 26 to become an EMS student. He starts working IFT before finding a 911 position at Grady Memorial Hospital, eventually becoming a paramedic along the backdrop of gunshots, cracked skulls, and slightly unhinged medics. The narrative traces his journey from adrenaline-junkie EMT “tourist” to a medic who believes he’s found his calling in Georgia’s busiest system. We hear about cases that are sometimes bloody, sometimes funny, but always fascinating.

2. Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

In an extraordinary book, former Los Angeles Times journalist Sam Quinones explores the roots of the national opioid crisis by weaving together the stories of shady doctors, twisted medical research, OxyContin marketing campaigns, and the massive quantities of black tar heroin transported and sold by Mexican cartels.

Quinones masterfully handles the complex subject matter, clearing up the picture and putting a face to an epidemic that claims thousands of lives each year and tears apart American towns. Dreamland provides answers about the epidemic that you never knew the questions for, and is an important read for anyone seeking to better understand the opioids that are taking a huge toll on the communities we serve.

3. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Mary Roach is one of the finest and funniest pop-science writers of our time, writing a book that balances sensitivity for her sometimes delicate subjects with tremendous wit.

Stiff, her breakthrough work, is a book about the remarkable things that cadavers do after their deaths, from helping investigators understand why a plane crashed to helping auto manufacturers design safety features to protect the living. Some are left in a room to do nothing but decompose so that forensic scientists may study them firsthand, and others are used by plastic surgeons to practice facelifts.

4. Portraits of an Emergency Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 by Dan Sundahl

Dan Sundahl is a Canadian firefighter/paramedic who creates stunning, unique images of first responders in action. If you haven’t seen his work, you can check out several of the pieces he’s submitted to EMS1.

Sundahl has finally released a physical collection of his work in hardcover format. Each piece features the artist’s own thoughts about the unique experiences of medics, firefighters, and police officers as well as the occasional gut-wrenchingly honest interview.

5. Tactical Medical Field Guide by Jim Morrissey, EMT-P

This spiral-bound, waterproof guidebook is filled with useful information on a wide variety of subjects that a SWAT or tactical medic might encounter on the job. It covers everything from patient assessment in the tactical environment, what equipment is most effective, and even how to deal with non-life threatening injuries such as knee and ankle injury management.

The book summarizes interventions in a way that prepares SWAT and tactical medics to perform in highly-stressful situations and provides current best practices and guidelines such as MARCH, THREAT, SALT, and TECC. This guidebook will expand the tactical medic’s base of knowledge in everyday life.

6. Bringing Out the Dead by Joe Connelly, EMT-P

Yes, before it was adopted into the classic Nicolas Cage movie, Bringing Out the Dead was the first novel of an NYC paramedic who earned his stripes in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen.

The book follows a burned-out, insomniac medic named Frank Pierce who got into the profession to save others, but can’t shake the ghosts of the patients he’s lost. It’s a gripping and stylish novel about guilt, the compulsion to excel at your job, and the heart of a medic.

7. Rapid Interpretation of EKG’s by Dale Dubin

Know a paramedic student? This is the book to get them through cardiology.

Dale Dubin’s book has been a fantastic resource for medical students for generations. Rapid Interpretation is structured as an activity book with several fill-in-the-blank sections to reinforce what readers have learned so far. Unlike other textbooks, Dubin’s resource is written in a very simple way that doesn’t require the reader to have any previous medical knowledge to understand. The latest edition is fully colorized.

8. Captain Scrooge and other Holiday Tales by Michael Morse

The latest from EMS1 Contributor Michael Morse, retired firefighter and author of Rescuing Providence, is dedicated to stories about emergencies in homes and cities during the holiday season.

Morse shines in his treatment of the smaller stories in his profession, exploring the depths of compassion, sympathy, and loyalty to the community that all first responders may relate to.

9. Arterial Tourniquets: For Police Officers, Law Enforcement and other First-Responders by Dan Pronk

When applying a tourniquet, time is of the essence. This short eBook will help EMTs, police officers, and other first responders understand the theory behind placing arterial tourniquets and increase their skill in stopping a life-threatening limb bleed.

10. Black Flies: A Novel by Shannon Burke

Black Flies is the story of rookie paramedic Ollie Cross and his first year on the job in Harlem in the mid-90’s. It’s a book about the suffering of human beings, both the patients and the medics he works with during his time on the ambulance.

This book is perhaps the darkest of the EMS fiction here, following the protagonist as he becomes more jaded with his job and the shootouts, burned out medics, and bizarre circumstances that he comes across.

11. Population: 485 - Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time by Michael Perry

New Yorker, NPR contributor Michael Perry returns to his hometown of New Auburn, Wisconsin after a decade of writing to reconnect with his roots. In this book, he writes about responding to calls as a volunteer firefighter for the city.

The book is filled with a diverse cast of characters, including the cross-eyed senior firefighter who works as a butcher, and the farmer’s wife who walks around with a pistol and a bible. Population 485 is a comic and sometimes heartbreaking story about life, memory, and meditation in small-town America.

12. Performance Thinking: Mental Skills for the Competitive World...and for Life! by Jacques Dallaire

The author of the book helps athletes and actors perform in high-stress situations. In his new book, he addresses two basic but profoundly important questions: “How do I mentally sabotage my own performance?” and “How can I control my thinking in order to optimize my performance?”

Learn a simple but powerful framework of mental rules that you can use to understand clearly how your thoughts influence your performance.

13. The Last Punisher: A SEAL Team THREE Sniper’s True Account of the Battle of Ramadi by Kevin Lacz

The Last Punisher follows the story of Kevin Lacz, a sniper and combat medic who served in the legendary SEAL Team THREE unit along with Chris Kyle (American Sniper), Mike Monsoor, Ryan Job, and Marc Lee.

Motivated by loyalty to their teammates and love of country, these men were instrumental in capturing key locations during the 2006 Battle of Ramadi. The Last Punisher offers a gripping, minute-by-minute account of intense urban combat and the harsh realities of war.

14. The Gift of Fear Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin de Becker

In this empowering book, Gavin de Becker shows you how to spot subtle signs of danger before it’s too late. The book describes specific ways to protect yourself and those you love in a variety of situations, regardless of how non-threatening they may seem. Learn to spot the danger signals others miss. It might just save your life.

15.On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace by Dave Grossman

What type of training does it take to head into a situation from which others will flee? On Combat takes a look at the evolution of combat and the development of the physical and psychological leverage that enables humans to kill other humans.

The author also takes a look at what happens to the human body under the stresses of battle and discusses new research that describes measures warriors can take to prevent debilitation so they can stay in the fight, survive and win.

What books did we miss? Tell us in the comments below and we’ll continue to grow our list of must-read books for EMS professionals.