The Merck Manual

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Summary of review

What is it?
According to Wikipedia (did I really just reference that?!) this is the best selling medical textbook of all time. And it’s my favourite. I love it. Think of it as a super-powered oxford handbook. It has got almost every condition known to man, in very readable and bare-essentials format.
Since I got mine over a year ago, I have rarely ventured further than the Merck Manual + Oxford Handbook combination when wanting to look something up, and it’s no understatement to say its left my Kumar & Clarke completely redundant.  
It’s pretty small too. Printed on the kind of paper you're more likely to find in a Religious text, there’s just about 3000 pages packed into a book half the size of a standard clinical text.
First published in 1889 by pharmaceutical company Merck, it’s fully peer reviewed by an independent panel, and into its 18th Edition.
It is also avilable online for free, but the online search doesn’t always find the right topic, and at this price, it’s well worth a hard copy.
What does it tell me?
The format is pretty similar to the oxford handbook, but thanks to the abundance of pages, there’s much more detail. Every disease imaginable has its own section complete with the standard; Summary Signs & Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment
Everything in there is really clinically relevant (unlike other clinical texts – yes you Kumar and Clarke and Davidson’s!) and there’s still enough detail to leave you satisfied that you don’t need to go elsewhere. To me, it’s the perfect combination of the Oxford Handbook, and a larger clinical text.
There must be some bad points?!
Okay, okay yes there are a few downsides. It’s American, which means some of the investigations and treatments aren’t always spot on, but I’ve never found anything that’s ‘wrong’.
Also, although it’s pretty small, it’s not quite on par with the Oxford Handbook. You’re unlikely to worry about carrying it around in your bag all day, but you couldn’t really call it ‘pocket sized’ and I doubt many would take it as their companion on the ward.
There also a very distinct lack of images (none at all!) which can make it appear tough going. However, in the style in which it is intended to be used (a quick look-up or refresher of a one-off disease) this isn’t too much of a problem.   
In Conclusion
For me, The Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine and the Merck Manual are the two MUST have textbooks. Infact, with the help of the internet, I think it would probably be possible to get through the whole of clinical years medical school owning only these two books.
Some might find the lack of images daunting, but its succinct, small enough to take everywhere, and I have yet to find a disease it doesn’t contain.
Can’t recommend it enough!
Review by Tom Leach
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