This post may contain affiliate links, click here to learn more.
Histology is often grouped into your anatomy or cell biology early in med school. The degree to which you get a full textbook will vary. It depends on how your school teaches the subject.
My histology course was grouped in with my anatomy course which lasted a full 4 semesters. Besides being lengthy, our course was also very slide-heavy. By that I mean we looked at a lot of histology slides under the microscope. Because of this, I choose to go with a solid textbook.
I highly recommend Junqueira’s basic histology. It is an extensive textbook and atlas, yet readable. This makes it detailed enough for any medical course without becoming too overwhelming. You could also go with Gartner’s color atlas and text of histology. This one is shorter and, thus, a bit less comprehensive, but high yield.
Both books have great visuals, which are important for the subject. Also, they cover all aspects of histology and cell biology needed for your course. Although I highly recommend these, they aren’t the only books available. Let’s take a look at the most popular histology books available and which might be the best suited for you.
- Junqueira’s Basic Histology (Textbook)
- Gartner’s Color atlas and text for histology (Textbook)
- Ross Histology: A text and atlas (Textbook)
- Wheater’s Functional Histology (Textbook)
- BRS cell biology and histology (Review book)
- Lange histology and cell biology (Review book)
Remember that the way the subject is thought differs between universities. So make sure to consult your university’s book recommendations. Even so, the books listed here should cover everything required for the average medical Histology course.
If you want to know more about the process I used to evaluate these books. You can read my article about evaluating medical textbooks.
Junqueira’s basic histology (text and atlas)
If you are looking for a full-size atlas and textbook. One that will provide you will everything you need for your histology class, look no further.
This book has got you covered with in-depth information and
I like how the material is presented throughout the book. It uses both diagrams and high-quality photos/micrographs throughout the book. This shows you both the theoretical and actual structure with a side-by-side comparison.
Another neat feature is the frequent medical application boxes. These highlights the clinical relevance of the tissue/cells presented. Finally, each chapter ends with a key points summary and a collection of multiple-choice style questions. Together, it makes studying from this book very rewarding.
In general, students praise this textbook for its
Another feature praised by students is its applicability for preparing for the USMLE and other tests, despite its size.
Some students argue that other books have better pictures. Don’t take their word for it, check it out yourself by following this link to Amazon. Here you can get a look into the book as well as get its current price.
Color atlas and text for histology (Gartner’s)
If Junqueira’s basic histology provides everything you need for your course, so does Gartner’s histology atlas and textbook. These books are relatively similar in scope and size with Gartner’s being
Like Junqueira’s and most other histology textbooks, this book lays out the basics and general tissue types before going through the organ-specific histology.
The book is widely praised by students for its many high-quality pictures, which is supplemented with high-yield, informative, and clear text.
Both the pictures and text have a good internal organization which makes it more enjoyable to study from and makes it easy to use during lab sessions with the microscope.
This book comes highly recommended
Histology: A text and atlas (Ross)
If you want the one and only book you will ever need for medical histology, Ross’ histology text and atlas will provide it. This extensive textbook, spans close to 1000 pages, contains in-depth material on all aspects of cell biology and histology.
To help understand cell biology, the book employs loads of helpful diagrams. With regards to the histology, the book is packed with micrographs, showing all of the bodily tissues as seen under the microscope.
In addition to featuring high-definition micrographs, they are also labeled to help you differentiate between the neat tissue structures.
This combination of in-depth cell biology and histology atlas makes this book a 2-in-1. In some areas this is an understatement as lots of the material is also immersed in anatomy, embryology, and physiology.
This is further emphasized by the clinical correlation boxes being scattered around the text. This makes this book helpful and applicable to other subjects besides cell biology and histology.
In general, the book is divided into 24 chapters. These are sorted according to basic cell biology, system, tissue type, and tissue/slide preparation.
To help you navigate the chapters, each chapter has a color strip and subject title down the lateral margin of each page.
If you are looking for an in-depth textbook to help you master human histology, this book is definitely worth your consideration.
The only downside is its pricing, which is a little higher compared to its peers. However, many feel this is compensated for by its usefulness in other subjects, including anatomy and physiology.
To help you decide whether this book might be the one for you click this link to head over to
Wheater’s functional histology
Although branded as a textbook, I found this one to be closer to a review book. That is not to say that it is not extensive, spanning over 400+ pages. However, it remains less comprehensive than its peer textbooks
One area on which this book is less comprehensive is cell biology. After a few chapters with high yield cell biology, it moves right on to basic histology, followed by organ systems. This is where this book has its greatest emphasis, displaying hundreds of large, labeled, high definition micrographs on all tissue types.
The less comprehensive textual information makes it easier to follow, which has made it a favorite for many. I think it really depends on the level of your course.
If it less comprehensive and this book is recommended by your uni and/or former students, it should definitely be worth your consideration.
You can get a sneak preview of its great micrographs by clicking this link to take you over to Amazon. There you can also get its current price to compare with your other options.
BRS cell biology and histology
Just like most books from the board review series (BRS), this review book on cell biology and histology has become a student favorite due to its clear and concise take on the subject.
Although a review book, it totals over 400 pages which covers everything from basic cell biology, general histological tissue types, as well as organ-specific histology. Each chapter is also followed by a review test at the end.
In general, the text is easy to read, with the most important structures and terms being bolded for even greater information yield.
Although relatively extensive in terms of material, students tend to prefer it as a review book to use for prep ahead of tests, including the USMLE.
If you have a light histology course without many slides, this book might suffice for your course. If your course is a bit more extensive and slide-heavy, it is best used for test prep in addition to a full textbook.
To see whether this book offers something you can benefit from in your histology course you can follow this link to head over to Amazon where you can get a sneak preview as well as see its current pricing.
Lange histology and cell biology
Although a review-type book, this one suffers from a severe lack of diagrams and micrographs. Although this might not be such a bad thing for your average review book, I simply cannot see how it measures up in such a visual field as histology.
It is not a bad book when it comes to the actual material covered, which is quite extensive. It does better with regards to cell biology, which is less visual dependent. Therefore, if your course has a higher emphasis on general cell biology, it can be very useful.
Although not a bad book, I recommend you know what you need for your course before going for this one. Don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself by clicking this link to head over to Amazon. There you can get a preview into the book and its current pricing.
How to proceed
You might be reading this before you know how comprehensive your histology class is going to be. Therefore I would advise you to wait with getting a book until the first couple of classes.
By doing this you get a feel for how extensive the course is. It will also allow you to get some recommendations from your teacher/professor and classmates.
If you have a rather superficial histology course that is crammed into your anatomy or cell biology class, you might “get away” with only getting a review book in addition to lecture material.
For a more comprehensive course with frequent use of the microscope to look at tissue slides I highly recommend you get an atlas and textbook to help you with both the presentation and theory.
Take home message
I believe the alternatives discussed above are the best options available, however when deciding which one to get, the most important is to find one that suits you and your style of learning/understanding.
To enable you to do that you can pay attention to the format, as well as how the information is structured and presented. Then take the time to read through a topic.
This will give you a feel for whether it was presented in a way that you understood it straight away, or if you find the information difficult to comprehend. If you understood and liked how the material was presented in a book, you might have a winner.
I hope this article helped you with your quest for finding the histology book. If you found this article helpful, if you have any suggestions for other book alternatives or any other inquiries, be sure to contace me through the email on the about page.
Other book recommendations
- USMLE Step 1
- Books for first-year students