Oh, anatomy. For most of us medical students, anatomy is the first course we take in medical school. It can be rough. It is a LOT of information and memorization. Then there are the dissections. Most people take a while to at least get used to the idea of cutting into a dead, preserved human. It really can be hard. But it’s also an extremely unique opportunity. With all that in mind, time is of a premium. Like any course, you want to find the best resources. And limit them so you avoid resource overload. In this post we will go over the best anatomy books for medical students. These generally fall into two categories: atlases and textbooks. I generally don’t recommend multiple books for a course, but many people find it helpful in anatomy. It’s also helpful that you don’t need the most recent edition of these books! Think about it… anatomy has not changed much recently.

Best anatomy atlases

So, what are anatomy atlases? They’re books filled with a lot of nice pictures of the human body. Their job is to show the anatomy to you in as many planes, angles, and varieties as possible. This allows you to see what a structure classically looks like, and where it is in relation to other structures/landmarks in the body. The anatomy atlas is sort of like your reference guide or dictionary. In my opinion, the anatomy atlas is indispensable if you’re going to do well in anatomy in medical school. Getting ready to dissect the heart in lab tomorrow? Grab your atlas and take a look at the landmarks around and within the heart. Reading your textbook and having trouble visualizing something? Grab your atlas. You get the picture. We believe there are two anatomy atlases you should consider buying. Either one is great. Or you can buy both (used, older editions are cheap) and see which you like better. There are other, good quality atlases out there, but save your time and pick from these two.



Atlas of Human Anatomy by Frank H. Netter (aka Netter’s) is likely the most popular anatomy atlas used today (although Gray’s Anatomy is more famous, it is rarely used now). This is without a doubt one of the best anatomy books. This atlas contains many hand-drawn representations of human anatomy. This atlas, unlike some others, does not include anything but pictures (often referred to “anatomy plates”) does not include any text or description of the anatomy. In my opinion, I think this is okay: you want the best and greatest variety of pictures with an atlas. That said, there are some options for anatomy atlases if you think you need descriptions.

Netter's - Best anatomy books for medical students



Atlas of Anatomy published by Thieme (this is usually referred to the “Thieme” atlas) is another great choice for medical students and is also a very popular anatomy atlas. This is actually my personal favorite and what I used during first year. Thieme uses images drawn digitally, contains some description ands tables of information, and also has CT/MRIs of much of the anatomy. Although I have not actually counted, I am pretty sure that Thieme has more images/representations of anatomy than Netter’s. I used both quite a bit (our school had copies of Netter’s in anatomy lab) and felt more comfortable with Thieme.

Thieme - Best anatomy books for medical students

Best anatomy textbooks

Anatomy is a very visual discipline. It and histology are probably the two classes in medical school where you will be relying mostly on visual learning. That said, some people are better visual learners than others. In the case that you aren’t the best with visual learning, a textbook can help you a lot. Even if you are confident in your abilities, a textbook can help you better understand the anatomy and how it ties to physiology and clinical concepts. Luckily, there is only one anatomy textbook worth buying; it’s certainly one of the best anatomy books out there. Again, don’t be afraid to buy an older edition to save money.



Clinically Oriented Anatomy by Keith Moore (aka Moore’s) is a widely used textbook resource for anatomy and certainly one of the best anatomy books for medical students. You can either read this cover-to-cover, or use it as a resource in areas you need help with understanding. I tended to do the latter. That said, the best thing about this text is that it draws in clinical correlations to anatomy. Oftentimes, this is how you are tested on anatomy exams. Not to mention it lays a nice groundwork for third year when you’re on the wards and in the OR.

Rohen’s: Another anatomy book you should consider

Anatomy: A photographic atlas
Anatomy: A photographic atlas by Johannes Rohen (aka Rohen’s) is another anatomy book that may be helpful to you. It is especially helpful for preparing for anatomy lab. This book is essentially another anatomy atlas, but it uses photographs of dissected cadavers for images, rather than drawings. I don’t think this book is quite as necessary as a regular atlas, as it does not offer as many perspectives/images of the anatomy. That said, it is more realistic and can help you in the lab. Consider getting a copy, or sharing with a friend.

Best anatomy books for medical students
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3 thoughts on “Best anatomy books for medical students

  • January 22, 2018 at 5:03 pm

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    • January 23, 2018 at 9:02 pm

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