The 7 Best Anatomy Textbooks

Updated April 26, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

7 Best Anatomy Textbooks
Human Anatomy
Human Anatomy & Physiology
Anatomy and Physiology For Dummies
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. All students have to shell out a small fortune for their education no matter what their field of study, but medical students are probably hit the hardest. So, if you know someone who is studying to be a doctor, nurse, or therapist, we're certain that one of these anatomy textbooks would make for a very welcome gift. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best anatomy textbook on Amazon.

7. Anatomy: An Essential Textbook

Anne M. Gilroy's Anatomy: An Essential Textbook is an illustrated review that uses an easy-to-manage bullet point-style format, yet is packed with all the information you'll need to gain a solid grounding in the human body. It features more than 450 images.
  • 400 in-depth questions
  • over 120 tables for quick study
  • suffers from some grammatical errors
Publisher Gilroy, Anne M.
Model n/a
Weight 4 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

6. Anatomy and Physiology For Dummies

For the casual reader interested in human physiology, Anatomy and Physiology For Dummies is a fine, fun-to-read choice. For the pre-med student who needs to gain a comprehensive understanding of the body, it's rather insufficient.
  • very affordable option
  • multiple full-color plates
  • layout is confusing
Publisher Norris Maggie A
Model n/a
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

5. Human Anatomy & Physiology

Hole's 14th edition of Human Anatomy & Physiology is an affordable choice for anyone looking for an easily digestible way to begin learning about the mechanics of the human body. It was created for the introductory level student and assumes no prior knowledge.
  • written with engaging prose
  • includes helpful reviews
  • not suitable for advanced studies
Publisher McGraw-Hill Science Eng
Model n/a
Weight 4.9 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Human Anatomy & Physiology

Hoehn and Marieb's Human Anatomy & Physiology is a must-have for anyone interested in the human body and for those studying sports medicine in particular. It helps create an understanding of our systems and how they work together.
  • comprehensive at 1264 pages
  • both authors are athletes
  • rather overpriced option
Publisher Human Anatomy & Physiol
Model BKHUMANA10TH9XOP
Weight 6.5 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. Atlas of Human Anatomy

The Atlas of Human Anatomy by Frank H. Netter, MD, includes student consult interactive ancillaries and guides, making this a fine choice for the medical or nursing resident intent both on learning the material and on getting good grades when they are tested.
  • 25th anniversary edition
  • easy to read tables and charts
  • region-by-region visual coverage
Publisher imusti
Model n/a
Weight 4.7 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. The Anatomy Coloring Book

The Anatomy Coloring Book by Wynn Kapit and Lawrence M. Elson is both an entertaining and educational way to learn about the design and inner workings of the human body. This one helps cement information in your mind by having you physically engage with the content.
  • best seller for over 35 years
  • updated and revised 4th edition
  • concise clear language
Publisher Kapit Wynn
Model n/a
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Human Anatomy

The authoritatively titled Human Anatomy by Martini, Timmons, and Tallitsch is now enjoying a 9th edition printing, and its atlas-style organization and comprehensive diagrams make the human body relatively easy to understand.
  • text builds concepts methodically
  • must-have for medical students
  • written in an engaging voice
Publisher Martini, Frederic H., P
Model n/a
Weight 6.7 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

The Anatomy Of An Anatomy Textbook

It should come as no surprise to anyone looking into textbooks covering human anatomy that the body and its functions are incredibly complicated. Frankly, many of these authors undertake a Herculean task just trying to cram the whole of it into a single tome. As you peruse our list, you may notice that some of these authors rather smartly chose to find a more specific angle from which to tackle the subject.

When you set out to choose an anatomy textbook for yourself, you’d do well to consider your specific interests before taking the plunge. If, for example, you want to become a personal trainer, then a text with an emphasis on kinetic movement and the musculoskeletal system might be your best bet. On the other hand, a biologist looking to get into medicine might be better off with a textbook that spends the lion’s share of its time on hormones, glands, and the body’s attempt to maintain homeostasis.

More than likely, if you’re purchasing an anatomy textbook for a class, the title will be handed to you, and whether or not it’s on our list will be of little consequence. But take a good look at that title, and consider the particular niche in which your professor operates. There may be a book on our list that fills in the gaps left by the book you’ve been assigned. Just imagine the look on your teacher’s face when you come in loaded with questions the other students wouldn’t have the information to even ask.

Of course, a big part of learning human anatomy is simply learning where everything is and what everything is called. If you bump your humerus against your desk and exclaim to a room full of anatomy students that you banged your funny bone, you might get some sideways looks. Keep an eye out for any text that might give you interactive or otherwise memorable ways to learn to identify all the parts of the body.

Finally, if you’re not a student, but your interest in the ins and outs of the human body is genuine, you might look for a book that’s written more for laymen than for future doctors. These books will tend to put things in simpler terms, though the best of these will never feel like the author is talking down to you. Who knows? A read like that might ignite your interest enough to actually enroll in a program some time in the future.

The Benefits Of Buying

One of the toughest parts of being a student is finding the extra money to afford expensive textbooks. Many publishers produce a new volume every year, as well, making it very difficult to find a used copy that will allow you to keep up with the rest of the class. As a result, a lot of students have turned to renting their textbooks for the semester, rather than buying them.

There are some benefits to renting over buying, the most obvious of which is the potential to save money. College textbook buy-back programs tend to be a bit of a joke, giving students a mere pittance for what were much pricier books just a few months prior. But this is true only from one perspective.

If you’re merely counting the dollars in your bank account, then renting is the way to go. If you’re also taking stock of your physical and intellectual wealth, however, buying begins to look a lot more tantalizing.

Personally, I can say that I kept the vast majority of the books I was forced to buy as a student, from enormous, oversized collections like The Complete Works Of Shakespeare to drier tomes on psychology and astrophysics. And there isn’t one book among them that I haven’t gone back to for one reason or another in the years since I graduated. Is some of the information I went looking for available online? Maybe. But I knew exactly where to go on my bookshelf to immediately refresh my memory and enrich myself. That’s something you can’t put a price on.

A Brief History Of Human Anatomy

The earliest known evidence of the study of human anatomy dates back to an ancient Egyptian document known as the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus. This scroll goes into great detail about the functions of several organs, and even describes the connections of the blood vessels to the heart, as well as how to treat a variety of injuries and ailments.

Nearly 2,000 years later, the Greeks made numerous strides of their own. Quite possible the most recognizable among these works is the Hippocratic Corups, which contains the well-known Hippocratic Oath that is sworn by the vast majority of the world’s physicians upon their entering the field of western medicine. The Greeks began to differentiate between arteries and veins, to establish the brain as the seat of intelligence, and to perform dissections on executed criminals to further their knowledge.

For many centuries thereafter, medical science seemed content to avail itself of knowledge from textbooks, without many would-be doctors getting their hands dirty by dissecting human corpses. Thanks in large part to his artistic prowess, Leonardo da Vinci added incredible depth to the cannon of anatomical images, himself dissecting around 30 human corpses before being stopped by the Pope.

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, anatomical studies became more and more important to the medical fields, and surgical observation theaters were often packed to capacity for the latest experimental procedures. That spirit carried us into our modern age of anatomical research, an age marked by the advancement of cameras, computers, and imaging technology that makes cutting open a cadaver seem almost unnecessary.


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Last updated on April 26, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.


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