If you gave up on ER post-George Clooney, this book is what you have been craving. Gawande is a writer with a scalpel pen and an X-ray eye, and in this memoir he applies them to the world of the stressed-out, sleep-deprived, terrifyingly fallible trainee surgeon, where life-or-death decisions are made on the basis of five cups of coffee and an educated guess. A surgical resident himself, Gawande turns every case--from gunshot wounds to morbid obesity to flesh-eating bacteria--into a thriller in miniature, with the author in the role of the oft-stymied but always sympathetic sleuth. Diagnosis: riveting.
--By Lev Grossman