Fox’s hit series House has always been one of my favorite procedurals. Even putting aside the iconic characters and overarching drama, there’s something so fascinating about medical mysteries that stump even doctors and surgeons, the utmost authorities on the matter.

Surprisingly, there are nearly as many medical mysteries in real life as there are in House, some even going on to inspire episodes in the show. Thankfully, wonderful medical professionals of all varieties have made it their mission to document and study these mysteries so that those afflicted by them might eventually find comfort and treatment, and other professionals in the field might gain a better understanding and stand a better chance of helping their patients or even developing cures.

We’ve put together six books below that cover medical mysteries in all shapes in sizes, from misunderstood Gut-Brain Disorders to afflictions that toe the line between psychological and physiological.

Check them out below:

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

By Susannah Cahalan

A young woman opens her eyes and finds herself hospitalized with no clue how she got there. Also disturbing is the fact that she’s bound to the bed and can’t speak. Previously she’d been on the brink of what seemed like success, but medically, she was now on the brink of something horrific. She’s behaving violently and has been deemed mentally imbalanced. There’s a reason this has happened to her, but it’s not an easy one to find.

An instant New York Times bestseller and went on to receive awards and a motion-picture treatment, this memoir reads like a truly riveting mystery and has even acted as a catalyst in diagnosing Autoimmune Encephalitis in others. Says NPR, “on every level, it’s remarkable … Cahalan is nothing if not tenacious, and she perfectly tempers her brutal honesty with compassion and something like vulnerability.” On the other end of the spectrum, an Amazon reviewer professes that it “should be required reading for everyone in the healthcare profession — especially neurologists.” After all these testaments, it’s safe to label this as an important book, especially for those suffering from sudden-onset mental illness.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop

Sick: A Memoir

by Porochista Khakpour

I’d bore you if I listed the number of awards this book has garnered. In her deeply personal memoir of chronic illness, misdiagnosis, addiction and the myth of full recovery, Porochista Khakpour painstakingly details the confusing and tortuous years before receiving a diagnosis that explained why she was always sick. As it turns out, she had a serious case of Lyme disease, an affliction that causes long-term damage and hugely impacts daily life and the ability to handle the things that most people would call mundane.

Honesty is this book’s backbone. Khakpour didn’t paddle through calm waters as her illness progressed, and her final diagnosis doesn’t exactly provide a simple happy ending. Mental illness, drug addiction, objectively questionable choices made along the way, plus frequent moves all complicate her life and directly impact her tumultuous journey to knowledge and acceptance. In taking the reader along with her every step of the way, the author sheds light on not only her personal story but the myriad of holes in a health system that couldn’t give her what she needed.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop

Gut Feelings The Patient’s Story: Personal Accounts of the Illness Journey

By Douglas A. Drossman MD, Johannah Ruddy MEd

There is nothing quite as crushing as falling victim to an illness for which no test results seem to confirm a diagnosis. DGBIs (Disorders of Gut-Brain Interaction) fall into this category. Patients with DGBIs are frequently misdiagnosed or, what’s worse, dismissed entirely by doctors. Gut Feelings aims to change this.

Gut Feelings: The Patient’s Story: Personal Accounts of the Illness Journey presents the personal stories of eight patients to give us a full understanding of their disorders, their personal experiences of illness, and their relationship with the health care system. Readers will also be educated on the relationship between the gut and brain, as well as learn techniques to maximize the patient-doctor relationship in getting the care needed to manage these disorders.

This book is written for patients and their doctors by an internationally acclaimed gastroenterologist alongside a DGBI patient advocate. It contains up-to-date knowledge on the science, diagnosis and treatment of all the Disorders of Gut-Brain Interaction (formerly called Functional GI Disorders). It helps patients to understand and manage their GI symptoms and improve the care they receive, while helping doctors learn the pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment of all DGBIs and acquire communication skills to better connect with their patients.

Purchase Gut Feelings here.

Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis 

By Lisa Sanders (Harmony/Rodale)

A healthy young man suddenly loses his memory — making him unable to remember the events of each passing hour. Two patients diagnosed with Lyme disease improve after antibiotic treatment — only to have their symptoms mysteriously return. A young woman lies dying in the ICU — bleeding, jaundiced, incoherent — and none of her doctors know what is killing her. In Every Patient Tells a Story, Dr. Lisa Sanders takes us bedside to witness the process of solving these and other diagnostic dilemmas, providing a firsthand account of the expertise and intuition that lead a doctor to make the right diagnosis.

In the inspiration for the aforementioned series House, Sanders shows us that knowledge, while essential, is not sufficient to unravel the complexities of illness. She presents an unflinching look inside the detective story that marks nearly every illness, revealing the combination of uncertainty and intrigue that doctors face when confronting patients who are sick or dying. Through dramatic stories of patients with baffling symptoms, Sanders portrays the absolute necessity and surprising difficulties of getting the patient’s story, the challenges of the physical exam, the pitfalls of doctor-to-doctor communication, the vagaries of tests, and the near calamity of diagnostic errors. In Every Patient Tells a Story, Dr. Sanders chronicles the real-life drama of doctors solving these difficult medical mysteries that not only illustrates the art and science of diagnosis, but often saves patients’ lives.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop

Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy Reconsidered

By Eric G. Mart

A child comes into a pediatrician’s office over and over again with a baffling cluster of non-specific symptoms. Another one is clinically very ill, and every attempt to treat the child seems to worsen the child’s condition. In both cases, the child’s mother is both desperately worried and oddly knowledgeable about medical details. Medical mysteries or … something else entirely?

The macabre nature of Munchausen’s Syndrome, in which parents or other caretakers fabricate, exaggerate or induce symptoms of illness in their children to obtain unnecessary medical treatment, has attracted attention in scientific literature and popular news media. The number of cases of MSBP reported and prosecuted has steadily increased in recent years.

While several books and scholarly articles have proposed protocols for the careful evaluation of these complex cases, a review of the collected case materials shows that serious methodological errors, as well as problems in the conceptualization of the disorder and the steps needed to diagnose it, are more the rule than the exception in this area. Further, the doctors and mental health experts who pursue these cases are often haphazard and sloppy in their methods, despite the appalling harm inflicted on families when these professionals are mistaken in their conclusions. These variables have made the issue incredibly murky.

This book examines prevalent investigative and diagnostic techniques, as well as the literature and research on the disorder, according to the standards of empirical science, in an attempt to dispel some of the mystery surrounding this phenomenon as well.

Purchase Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy Reconsidered here.

Morgellons: The Legitimization of a Disease – A Factual Guide by the World’s Leading Clinical Expert

By Dr. Ginger Savely

Morgellons disease is the informal name of a self-diagnosed, scientifically unsubstantiated skin condition in which individuals have sores that they believe contain fibrous material. Morgellons is not well understood, but the general medical consensus up until now is that it is a form of delusion. Dr. Ginger Savely’s book argues otherwise.

Dr. Savely provides what just might be the long-awaited answers to the vital questions being posed by thousands of patients and clinicians about this bizarre disease.  Her poignant narrative strives to separate fact from myth and rumor from reality. This book is a valuable resource for Morgellons patients and their families and friends and will serve as a guide for health care providers who are open-minded and committed to the health of their patients. But also for those who are curious about the lingering medical question: Is Morgellons a real or fictitious disease? Read this book and decide for yourself.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop