12 Books to Read for Nurse Appreciation Week

By Emily Pullen, Manager, Reader Services and Engagement
May 5, 2020
Captain Mary L. Petty, Chief Nurse

Captain Mary L. Petty, Chief Nurse. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID; 1260347

Nurses have always been amazing unsung heroes deserving of recognition, but this year more than ever before we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the nurses at hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. So during Nurse Appreciation Week, we would like to honor them the best way we know how: book lists! Here are some fiction and non-fiction books that highlight nurses’ hard work and dedication.


Nonfiction about nurses

The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives by Theresa Brown
A day-in-the-life narrative that relates the experience of nurses and patients, from the small moments of connection to the life-altering decisions and sweeping trends in medicine. 

The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson
A moving and lyrical memoir from novelist Watson, who also was a nurse in many different kinds of wards, including neonatal, cancer, mental health, emergency room, and geriatric.

The Nurses by Alexandra Robbins
A journalist follows the lives of four nurses for a year and lays out the behind-the-scenes experience of the individuals, as well as the ins and out of the healthcare system. 

Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers by Barbara Ehrenreich
A more scholarly examination of the suppression or diminishing of women’s roles as healers throughout history. 

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink
Hard-hitting investigative journalism that examines the harrowing experiences and heart-rending decisions made by healthcare professionals at one hospital during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. 

Drum Taps by Walt Whitman
A collection of powerful poetry of witness that was written while Whitman was a battlefield nurse during the Civil War. 

Fiction featuring nurses


The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
A nurse who worked with Florence Nightingale is hired to care for an 11-year-old girl with a mysterious ailment  in a small Irish village. 

Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough
A sweeping family saga of two sets of twins, all trained as nurses, coming of age in 1920s and 1930s Australia.  

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Four lives—a nurse, her dying patient, a thief, and a soldier—become intertwined in an isolated Italian villa at the close of World War II.  

Window on the Bay by Debbie Macomber
Some folks may be surprised to learn that there is a robust selection of nurse-centered romance novels. Macomber’s is a gentle contemporary romance where the main character is an intensive care nurse who falls for her mother’s orthopedic surgeon. And as a bonus, her best friend is a librarian!

The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason
A medical student finds himself ill-prepared for the ravages of wartime medicine during World War I, but a nurse/nun at the field hospital teaches him everything he needs to know. 

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
On a fateful night, a father decides to send away a baby born with Downs Syndrome. Instead of taking her to an institution, the nurse runs away and raises the baby herself.


Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!