Best Anatomy Books for Medical Students [2022 Reviews]

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anatomy textbooks

As with any student nurse learning resource, there is a huge selection of anatomy books to choose from.

Not only do they cover a range of experience levels, (beginner to advanced), some will offer extra materials online too.

Considering they can be expensive to purchase too, especially considering the budget of the average medical student, it can be difficult knowing which to buy.

Although let’s not forget, there are many different reasons you may wish to buy a detailed book on anatomy. Students, qualified nurses, doctors, or even artists and sculptures, will find such resources extremely useful.

Anyway, in this roundup, I have selected 7 high-quality anatomy textbooks covering a range of learning needs.

Best Anatomy Books for Medical Students

BEST FOR STUDENTS
Atlas of Human Anatomy, Professional Edition: including NetterReference.com Access with Full Downloadable Image Bank (Netter Basic Science)
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
Anatomy & Physiology For Dummies (For Dummies (Math & Science)) (For Dummies (Lifestyle))
Clinically Oriented Anatomy
BEST FOR VISUAL LEARNERS
Anatomy: A Photographic Atlas (Color Atlas of Anatomy a Photographic Study of the Human Body)
MOST COMPREHENSIVE
Atlas of Anatomy
BEST FOR EXTRA RESOURCES
Human Anatomy & Physiology
Atlas of Human Anatomy, Professional Edition: including NetterReference.com Access with Full Downloadable Image Bank (Netter Basic Science)
Anatomy & Physiology For Dummies (For Dummies (Math & Science)) (For Dummies (Lifestyle))
Clinically Oriented Anatomy
Anatomy: A Photographic Atlas (Color Atlas of Anatomy a Photographic Study of the Human Body)
Atlas of Anatomy
Human Anatomy & Physiology
BEST FOR STUDENTS
Atlas of Human Anatomy, Professional Edition: including NetterReference.com Access with Full Downloadable Image Bank (Netter Basic Science)
Atlas of Human Anatomy, Professional Edition: including NetterReference.com Access with Full Downloadable Image Bank (Netter Basic Science)
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
Anatomy & Physiology For Dummies (For Dummies (Math & Science)) (For Dummies (Lifestyle))
Anatomy & Physiology For Dummies (For Dummies (Math & Science)) (For Dummies (Lifestyle))
Clinically Oriented Anatomy
Clinically Oriented Anatomy
BEST FOR VISUAL LEARNERS
Anatomy: A Photographic Atlas (Color Atlas of Anatomy a Photographic Study of the Human Body)
Anatomy: A Photographic Atlas (Color Atlas of Anatomy a Photographic Study of the Human Body)
MOST COMPREHENSIVE
Atlas of Anatomy
Atlas of Anatomy
BEST FOR EXTRA RESOURCES
Human Anatomy & Physiology
Human Anatomy & Physiology

1. BEST FOR MEDICAL STUDENTS: Atlas of Human Anatomy, Professional Edition: including NetterReference.com Access with Full Downloadable Image Bank (By Frank Netter)

A current top-selling anatomy textbook that has proved very popular with nursing and medical students is the Atlas of Human Anatomy.

Containing hundreds of detailed hand-painted drawings, (by medical illustrator Frank H. Netter,) this is a high-quality resource that is designed to be used as a study aid for students.

Artist Dr. Carlos Machado also lends a hand with visualizations that offer a more in-depth understanding of human anatomy.

Alongside these sophisticated drawings is an abundance of photographs, descriptions, clinical data tables, and other important details that you’ll be scribbling down into your notes in preparation for your exams.

The textbook follows the anatomic standard for terminology, an important distinction that makes looking up references during revision time much easier.

Your study will be further supported via the detailed appendices section that aims to help students master difficult anatomical structures.

Much like Anatomy and Physiology For Dummies (below), this textbook will be a valuable resource for artists or medical students looking to develop their understanding of human anatomy.

Add all of that to the fact this professional edition contains access to NetterReference.com (and image bank), and you have yourself a “one-stop-shop” for anatomy students across the board. As my ranking states, this is my top pick anatomy textbook for medical students for good reason.

2. BEST FOR ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS: Anatomy and Physiology For Dummies, 3rd Edition

I’ve always been a big fan of the Dummies series of books. They cover myriad subjects now and are always written in a way that is immediately approachable for beginners.

They prioritize clear illustrations and formating and typeset that presents detailed information really clearly.

This runs throughout their entire back catalog and Anatomy and Physiology for Dummies is no different.

I have chosen it as my top pick for beginners (students, artists, and anyone new to anatomy) for this reason.

The book is packed with useful facts and concepts that will help build up your knowledge of the complex organ systems that make up the body.

Fact boxes and essential info make revising easy, while also breaking down details into chunks that are easier to digest.

Topics such as the circulatory, digestive, endocrine, immune, nervous, and respiratory systems are covered from a beginner’s perspective.

And while a doctor would not want to be seen with this book on the shelf, for students the materials do go in-depth enough for you to gain a comprehensive understanding.

Medical terminology is used throughout, and scientific explanations of various anatomical and organelle systems are provided.

Overall, the book is set over 350 pages with the onus on the visual. Comprehensive data, charts, and visual drawings are used so that study is made easier.

Essentially, I recommend Anatomy, and Physiology for Dummies as an excellent accompaniment to whatever your curriculum dictates.

It will prove to be a valuable resource for the learning and clarification of the key concepts you will encounter throughout all of your anatomy studies.

And as a bonus, the anatomy and physiology book also offers a separate companion workbook with online practice courses.

Come exam time you will be able to enter that room with confidence I am sure.

3. Moore’s Clinically Oriented Anatomy

Moore’s clinically oriented anatomy is a detailed textbook providing deep insight into clinical human anatomy.

This is weighted more towards practitioners with the level of detail and the format in which it is all presented, (the large chunks of text make it difficult to revise from this book), however, a student will still learn a lot by having the book as an accompaniment to, say, the Beginner pick recommended above.

Sections include anatomy in terms of physical diagnosis as well as the interpretation of diagnostic imaging.

You will also find information on the anatomical aspects of emergency medicine and general surgery.

The sections that include clinical highlights are useful too. Here anatomical variations, trauma, diagnostic and surgical procedures are all covered.

The level of detail does go beyond what you need on a general anatomy course, however, I did find the textbook very useful as I progressed through my studies. It was very often on hand as a reference tool.

If you do buy it now as a medical student, you should keep hold of it as you may find it serving you well in other subjects as you progress.

4. BEST FOR VISUAL LEARNERS: Anatomy: A Photographic Atlas (Color Atlas of Anatomy a Photographic Study of the Human Body)

I have already mentioned the great range of anatomy books available. This means it is possible to purchase a book more relevant to your preferred method of study, and level of comprehension.

Take Color Atlas of Anatomy, a Photographic Study of the Human Body, for instance.

This is a highly visual tome of a study aid, packed with over 1,200 images of the human anatomy.

If you feel more comfortable learning via imagery rather than text, this is the book to buy.

The images have been collated using actual real-life photography of the body’s anatomical structures. Cadaver dissections were used throughout, to provide realistic images that go further than any illustration could.

Another benefit of real-life photography is authentic color reproduction and accurate spatial dimensions.

This level of detail makes the book suitable for both visual learners and experienced medical practitioners that require a valuable resource of general anatomical structures.

It’s not just all imagery of course. The textbook also contains schematic drawings, illustrations, and diagnostic images.

MRI scans, CT scans, and endoscopic techniques have all been used to create this side of the content.

For students, this is an amazing resource that I only wish was around when I was learning. Being a visual learner myself, this is the book I would buy.

5. MOST COMPREHENSIVE: Atlas of Anatomy (Gilroy 4th Edition)

The most in-depth anatomy textbook in my top 7 list is this one; Atlas of Anatomy.

With over 2,000 detailed illustrations you are certainly getting your money’s worth here. The skeletal system, nervous system, muscular system, organs, and vascular system are all covered with the book.

Published by Thieme atlases, this has proven to be a student favorite, due to the captions and descriptions that accompany the illustrations in a clear and concise manner.

Alongside all of this, you will also find more than 170 tables that summarize anatomical information.

These are excellent for revision purposes, as they break down the details into chunks that you can attempt to process for exam-style recall. Their inclusion is also a step up from the Netter atlas, which doesn’t feature them.

The latest 4th edition on sale now also includes expanded sections on radiographic anatomy, with over 40 new radiographs, CTs, and MRIs.

The publishers have also added extra details on function, pathology, diagnostic techniques, and anatomic variation, making what was already a very in-depth textbook, even more, loaded with materials.

Essentially, if you are looking for great value for money in terms of the sheer volume of materials offered in one place, Atlas of Anatomy is the textbook to go for. Highly recommended.

6. BEST FOR ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: Human Anatomy & Physiology

Human Anatomy and Physiology by Elaine N. Marieb and Katja Hoehn is a quality textbook on human anatomy and physiology that is also available in a budget-friendly kindle edition. (I’ll talk more about the pros and cons of digital edition textbooks more below)

Easy to understand with content delivered in a way that will assist you in your recall ability, the book contains over 1,200 pages of text, images, and descriptive material.

The book states in its advertising copy that over 3 million healthcare professionals have been assisted in using the book, (I guess that just means they have sold over 3m copies).

While that is impressive numbers, the popularity is justified. Designed to help students with their study, the level of information does mean qualified practitioners find the book useful too.

The former also can get their hands on the companion Study Guide for Human Anatomy & Physiology. This works in tandem with the textbook to test students in preparation for their exams.

Being so widely used, The Human Anatomy & Physiology textbook has received a large number of updates/revisions to ensure the information is up-to-date. Make note of the edition before you buy so that you have the latest one available, (at the time of writing, that’s the 11th edition).

Another bonus with this textbook is the availability of a coloring workbook, plus access to the Mastering A&P online education system.

This features new Interactive Physiology 2.0 tutorials, new Focus Figure Mini-Animations, and new customizable Practice Anatomy Lab (PAL 3.1) Flashcards, and a whole lot more besides.

7. A TIMELESS CLASSIC: Gray’s Anatomy (Leatherbound Classic Collection)

“Gray’s Anatomy classic book offers a deep dive into the human body from one of the most well-known teachers in history.”

If you are looking for a classic textbook that would not have looked out of place on a Victorian Dr. bookshelf, Gray’s Anatomy (the Leatherbound Classic Collection) is the top choice for you.

Written by Henry Gray F.R.S. this is a classic anatomy book with a wonderful vintage aesthetic that makes it a joy to use, (I have had a copy for many years).

Not only is it leatherbound, but the illustrations used are over 100 years old.

The attention to detail and vocabulary used has stood the test of time too. Many books from this era can seem fusty and verbose, however, in Gray’s Anatomy, the descriptions are leveled just right for a meticulous student as well as a qualified doctor.

The textbook contains nearly 1,100 pages full of information and illustrations, with detailed medical descriptions and terminology used throughout.

I can only recommend this classic as a supplementary textbook. However, this is one that you are likely to hold on to.

Not only will it be a wonderful reference book to have once you are qualified, but you’ll also continue to find pleasure in simply removing it from the shelf and leafing through it.

How to Choose the Best Anatomy Textbook for your Needs

anatomy textbooks library

The best anatomy textbook for one person, might not be so well received by another.

The reason is, we all have our preferred learning styles and outcomes. The most obvious being that a sculpture will have different needs to the average medical student when it comes to the content of an anatomy book.

To find the best anatomy book for you, there are various factors to consider. Let’s take a look at a few of them now.

Things to consider when buying an anatomy textbook
  • Consider the education level and whether the content is appropriated for your learning goals.
  • Does the textbook cover everything you need for the course module you are taking?
  • Are you a visual learner, or do you prefer text-heavy content to help your understanding?
  • Will you be using the textbook to prepare for exams? Is it designed for this?
  • Does the presentation of the information overall, suit your reading and learning preferences?
  • Does the textbook come with any additional resources (access to supplementary online materials for example?)
  • Has the book been well received by others with similar requirements as you?
  • Is the textbook within your budget?

These are all important questions that will help determine the textbook you buy.

Resources such as this very review roundup will help narrow down your choices. Throughout the reviews, I have mentioned the visual elements of the books, and whether they are appropriate for exam study, etc. Hopefully, this has helped to guide you.

All the same, let’s take a closer look at the questions I have raised above.

Consider your education level and whether the textbook is appropriate

anatomy textbooks library 2

If you are starting out and have very little prior knowledge of anatomy, you should aim for a beginner-level textbook such as Anatomy and Physiology For Dummies.

Conversely, the Grey’s Anatomy textbook, (especially the leather-bound edition), would not look out of place on a Dr’s shelf that was preparing for retirement.

Paying close attention to what is included within the textbook, along with having a chance to read some of the pages to ascertain the tone and level of details, will assist you in your conclusions here.

Speaking to your tutors, customer reviews and the opinion of your peers will also help.

Ultimately, if the education level of the textbook is not made apparent within the title, (beginners, advanced, etc), you will need to dig a bit deeper.

Does the textbook cover the relevant content for your course?

anatomy textbooks visual

Simply browsing through the chapter headings will help guide you on this. You will also have to know what your course is due to cover too.

An in-depth textbook such as Atlas of Anatomy is likely to cover most of what your need to learn on an anatomy course, however, it is important that you don’t select something that is too in-depth and therefore contains superfluous information.

This will make learning and revision more difficult as you wade through unnecessary content in search of what you really need.

Essentially, spending a little time comparing the course modules against the content of the textbook will put you on the right path.

Speaking to tutors and peers will also help you here.

Are you a visual learner, or is text-heavy content appropriate for you?

anatomy textbooks visual 2

This one is clearly down to personal preference. Even if you are buying online, you should be able to read a sample of the textbook to see if the information is presented in a way that appeals to you.

Again, I have reviewed the above textbooks with commentary on the overall style used to present the content. I hope that proves beneficial to you.

As we have focused on anatomy textbooks here, it stands to reason that each book follows a more illustrative approach. You need to see images of the anatomy to understand.

That being said, the level of text that accompanies these images does vary. Try to find a textbook that suits you in this regard.

Is the textbook designed for preparing for exams?

medical student exams

This is an important consideration and is connected with the presentation of the content.

Some textbooks are specifically designed to aid you in the exam-taking process. This means that the content will be delivered in a manner that aids recall and revision.

You may also find mock test questions or multiple-choice quizzes at the end of chapters. This clearly has benefits for the medical student.

Other textbooks meanwhile, will be designed as simple reference books with little in the way of assistance towards finals.

This should definitely be a factor in your choice.

Does the style of the content presentation suit your needs overall?

Essentially, we have answered this in the previous two questions. It is worth concluding that the style of the book will have an impact on what you get out of it.

If you purchase a textbook that is unsuitable, you will find learning from it more difficult.

Does the textbook come with any additional resources?

extra resources anatomy

These days, many publishers will provide access to online resources and materials alongside the sale of the textbook.

This often adds a huge amount of value to the purchase and may sway your decision.

It is important to look into what is provided to see if you can get any use out of it of course. However, these materials are often interactive, so can really assist your learning.

Both the Human Anatomy & Physiology textbook and Atlas of Human Anatomy, Professional Edition, provide access to websites and downloadable materials.

I would definitely recommend paying close attention to what is on offer, especially if you are using these resources for study purposes.

Has the textbook been well received? What are the reviews like?

Buying a textbook on Amazon means you generally have access to a lot of reviews from previous purchasers of the textbook. Read these thoroughly. The reviews will give you a better idea of the good and bad points of a book.

They will also help you gauge whether the textbook is suitable for you.

The books I have reviewed in this article did not get anything less than 4.5 stars out of 5 on Amazon, with each receiving a lot of positive feedback.

User reviews are extremely helpful.

What is your budget?

Finally, there is the issue of budget. Some of these textbooks cost close to $200. This may well be beyond what you are in a position to pay.

Anatomy and Physiology For Dummies, on the other hand, can be picked up for less than $20. Second-hand books are a good way of finding bargains, as are earlier editions of a textbook. Digital editions are also generally cheaper.

You may be able to pick up used books at your college or university too. See what is on offer, and aim to get the best resources you can with the budget you have available.

About Hannah Drake

Hannah Drake, RN, CSP is a registered nurse and owner and founder of Nurse Focus. Her nursing career spans almost two decades, and in that time she has developed her skill base across a variety of settings, including med surg nursing, clinical informatics system administration and implementation, and healthcare community management. Contact Hannah.

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