6 Best physiology books for medical students (reviewed)

This post may contain affiliate links, click here to learn more.

Physiology is one of the most important pre-clinical subjects. Few subjects can match its future clinical relevance. Because of this, it is important that you understanding and comprehend the material. This is where a good textbook comes in handy.

I highly recommend Guyton and Hall’s textbook of medical physiology. I consider it to be the best textbook for the subject, offering the most value for the price you pay. You can check it out by clicking this link to head over to Amazon. Here you can get a sneak preview and get its current price.

There are several great textbooks on physiolgy that are popular among students. Contue below to read my reviews on the most popular and why I consider Guyton and Hall to be the best.

Remember that the subject is thought differently between universities. Therefore, you should always consult your university’s book recommendations. Nevertheless, the books listed here should cover everything required for the average medical physiology 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.

Guyton and Hall textbook of medical physiology

This textbook is widely regarded as the gold-standard in the field of medical physiology, Which it has been since its first edition was released in 1956.

Its 1172 pages are packed with in-depth material covering all aspects of medical physiology and provides everything you need for your physiology course.

The material is Material broken down into 15 sections subdivided into 85 chapters. Each topic is covered with attention to detail and intended to educate.

While the bulk of the book is dedicated to textual information, it features plenty of figures and tables for visual comprehension.

While the physical book does not include them, collections of multiple choice questions from each section can be found online using the Student consult that comes with the book.

Here you also get the full online version of the book and additional resources including several video animations for free.

While some might find it too dry, lengthy or confusing, this textbook is one of the most highly recommend for the subject.

It is also one that I am very confident to recommend. The information is timeless and essential and is written to be easily understood. If you are looking for the gold standard for med school, this is my pick.

You can see it for yourself by clicking this link to head over to Amazon. Here you can skim through tons of positive reviews from real customers. You can also get a look into the book to help you decide if the value it offers is worth the price.

Boron & Boulpaep Medical physiology

The only book on this list to match and even surpass the Guyton & Hall textbook in terms of depth and length.

Boron & Boulpaep’s textbook of medical physiology is Considered a bible in medical physiology. This textbook is as much suited to a Ph.D. student as one in med school.

Overall, the material is very detailed and in-depth, yet surprisingly easy to read. It features lots of graphs and figures that are well explained.

Every topic features the physiology down to the cellular level, and clinically relevant information is highlighted with squares surrounding the text.

The overall organization is great for such a big textbook. It has 10 sections, each covering a given bodily system which is then discussed over several chapters. Overall this amounts to 62 chapters totaling 1312 pages (including the index).

While some consider it a masterpiece. It is without a doubt, one of the best resources to get an in-depth, comprehensive understanding of physiology.

Compared to the Guyton & Hall textbook, this one offers that little extra, but nothing vital for your average physiology course. If you are the type that enjoys diving into a massive textbook, this might be the best choice for you.

On the negative side, it is somewhat pricier than its shorter and less comprehensive peers, however, it is surprisingly affordable when considering the value it offers.

To check out its current pricing, click this link to head over to Amazon. Here you can also read through a vast amount of positive reviews from real buyers and take a look at the in-depth material yourself.

Costanzo’s Physiology

This book falls in the category of extensive review book. It is more detailed than a review book but less comprehensive than a full textbook.

Interestingly, this book is the work of Linda Costanzo, which is also the author of the only review book to make this list, the BRS physiology review.

This book has 10 chapters subdivided into subtopics, with each chapter covering a bodily system.

In total, you get an extensive review of the field of physiology which features lots of helpful diagrams and tables. In addition, each chapter includes clinical and laboratory cases featuring the physiology being discussed.

To cap it off, each chapter ends with a collection of sample questions to test your knowledge.

All this is packed into a little more than 500 pages. Because of this, it is praised for its broad coverage of the topic, without becoming too overwhelming.

I really appreciate how this book is able to include everything needed for your average physiology course in such a concise, easy to read manner.

Students that enjoy a full-size textbook might find it slightly lacking. But If you find the average 800+ page textbook to be overwhelming and dense, I think this book is the ideal choice for you. In addition, it makes for a good choice for the price-conscious, selling for as little as half the price of its more expensive peers.

If you want to check out this bargain of a book, you can click this link which takes you to Amazon. Here you can check out the current price, read reviews from real customers, and get a first-hand look into the book.

Ganong’s review of medical physiology

Ganong’s review of medical physiology is somewhat of a misleading title. It might be distilled, but this is no less than an extensive review book.

It has 8 sections, each covering the physiology of a selected organ system. Each section is subdivided into several subchapters. In all, this review ends up at a total of 752 pages, which is far more than your average pocket review book.

Despite being a review book, it has a broad coverage of all the important topics featured in an average medical physiology course.

All this material has then been trimmed down in an effort to keep it from being overly detailed, while at the same time not becoming overly simplistic.

The books writing is generally excellent and easy to follow and features tons of helpful tables, diagrams, and illustrations. Throughout the text, you can also find Clinical boxes which also includes a separate section on therapeutic highlights.

Before moving on to the next chapter, each subchapter is capped off with a bulleted summary and a selection of MCQs to make the material stick.

The Ganong book is a great source for medical physiology but falls in between 2 stools. On one hand, despite its nearly 800 pages, it is not as detailed as the full-sized textbooks.

On the other, it is way more extensive than your average review book. This is also reflected in its price, which falls right in between that of an average extensive review and a full-sized textbook.

If you like the material and how this book presents it, it can be a cheaper alternative to a full textbook, or a slightly more expensive, but detailed review book.

To help you decide, click this link to head over to Amazon. Here you can check out the book for yourself. You can also get the current price and compare it to your other alternatives.

Berne & Levy Physiology

The Berne & Levy textbook on medical physiology offers a solid option for a student wanting a comprehensive book source on the subject.

The book covers everything you need for your physiology course across 8 sections, subdivided into 44 chapters over a total of 867 pages.

Each section covers a bodily system, with each chapter giving an in-depth presentation of its unique physiology. The text is supplemented with numerous graphs, tables, and diagrams for better understanding of the material.

In addition, it features “in the clinical” and “at the cellular level” text boxes. These highlight the clinical relevance and the actual cellular process that contribute to the physiology being discussed.

Each chapter is capped off with a summary of key concepts for better memorization. The book also comes with Student Consult, which gives you full access to the book online, as well as a collection of USMLE-style review questions to test your knowledge.

Although this is a great textbook, it simply does not measure up to Guyton & Hall. At the end of the day, it ends up as a discount version of the Guyton & Hall textbook.

If you like the way the material is presented (visually and textually) and price matters a lot to you, this might be a solid option for you. You can click this link which takes you to Amazon. Here you can check out the material as well as compare the price to your other alternatives.

BRS physiology

Coming from the popular BRS review series, this book is the work of Linda Costanzo, who is also behind the extensive review book discussed earlier.

In this book, the material has been distilled down to 335 pages. This is substantially lower than the full textbooks and has made it a go-to book for a solid yet effective physiology review.

The material is presented in a straight and concise fashion. It has a neat structure with clear headings and subheadings that take you through each topic. In addition, the key concepts in the text are highlighted for even greater potential to skim through.

Despite being a review book, it finds room for diagrams and tables for even better understanding.

It is currently being printed in its 7th edition and comes highly recommended by medical students all over the world. I enjoyed this book myself when preparing for my weekly tests with limited time during my physiology course.

If you are interested in a physiology review book, I consider this to be the best option. To see whether you agree click this link to head over to Amazon. There you can get a preview to check out the layout and diagrams as well as get the current price which is a bargain considering the value it offers.

Closing remarks

I think the best course of action is to go with a full textbook and a review book for physiology. This is because of its importance as a subject, both in your future career and USMLE step 1 test.

With regards to textbooks, my recommendation is Guyton & Hall, but any full-sized textbook covers what you need to know. When it comes to review books, the only viable option I’ve come across is the BRS.

I hope this helped you to choose the right physiology book for your medical studies. If you have any other books to recommend or experiences with the books discussed above, be sure to contact me through the email on the about page.