Reading List: 5 Must-Read Optometry Books for Students

As I'm sure all optometry students would attest, the studying never seems to stop. Weekdays, weeknights, weekends, holidays, vacations — it doesn’t matter the day, it’s all precious study time. I vividly remember at least one summer vacation spent sitting on the beach, intensively reading optometry magazines and books, while everyone else was leisurely reading books on literally anything else. What I realized was a good study guide and reference book made all the difference when it came to preparing for exams and excelling in clinic — which is what I’ll be sharing with you in this post!

This reading list is directed towards students simply because I utilized all of these books while in optometry school and out on clinical rotations. They also served useful while preparing for National Boards and my state licensing board examination. Despite this post’s title, even seasoned clinicians would benefit from keeping these books on the shelf for quick reference — and a refresher — on more complex and/or rare cases.

Here's a list of my top five favorite optometry books to read and have handy:

+ no. 01: The Wills Eye Manual: Office and Emergency Room Diagnosis and Treatment of Eye Disease, 7th Edition

by Nika Bagheri MD, Brynn Wajda MD, Charles Calvo MD, Alia Durrani MD

If I had to choose only one book to get, this would be it! I consider The Wills Eye Manual to be THE ultimate reference guide for eye care professionals. It is both comprehensive and yet easily portable, fitting in a purse or backpack for quick reference while you're on-the-go. I received this manual in my first year of optometry school and used it more often than any other book. My first copy was so well-loved and marked up, that I ended up buying a second copy (in a newer edition) so I now have one at home and one in the office. The print edition now comes with an interactive eBook edition, which can be downloaded to a digital device or accessed online.

+ no. 02: Clinical Anatomy and Physiology of the Visual System, 3rd Edition

by Lee Ann Remington OD MS FAAO, Denise Goodwin

This book was required for an advanced anatomy course, but in hindsight, it would’ve proved valuable to have even in the first year of optometry school, when you start out learning the basics of ocular anatomy. As a visual learner, this book made everything “click” for me. Having a solid knowledge of eye anatomy is critical to understanding where — and why — an ocular condition occurs and how each treatment method works. Chapters are organized by anatomical structure of the eye, its adnexa, and visual pathways, as well as contain information on histology, physiology, and clinical correlates. This book is a great resource to use while preparing for Part 1 of the National Boards.

Tip: Put your mark on it!

I am typically not one to tamper with a pristine, new book, but I consider these books to be comprehensive study guides — the more information, the better. As a student, I enhanced their content with my own notes and flair. Here are some ways you can customize your book to better fit your needs:

+ Highlight key points with colored pens (*best for glossy pages) or highlighters.

+ Write extra notes in the margins.

+ Use post-it notes when more info needs to be added.

+ Add sticky tabs to the page edges for faster searching by chapter or topic.

+ no. 03: Clinical Procedures for Ocular Examination, 4th Edition

by Nancy B. Carlson, Daniel Kurtz

This textbook covers every major clinical eye examination procedure and is an essential resource for optometry students as they are learning and developing their clinical skills. It features detailed, step-by-step guidance on how to confidently perform all major examination techniques, which are further described by purpose and indication. Each procedure also includes details on equipment needed, how to set-up, recording techniques, and case examples.

+ no. 04: Kanski's Clinical Ophthalmology: A Systematic Approach, 8th Edition

by Jack J. Kanski MD MS FRCS FRCOphth, Brad Bowling FRCSEd(Ophth) FRCOphth FRANZCO

I purchased this book during my fourth year rotations, based on recommendations from my preceptors and other clinicians who used it to prepare for the National Boards and the North Carolina state licensing board exam. In NC, the process for obtaining licensure to practice in-state includes a case-based oral exam, for which I found this textbook to be an invaluable resource.

The comprehensive chapters contain bulleted lists, tables, and visual aids to highlight important points. It includes 2,600 illustrations and images, including ultra wide-field imaging, fundus autofluorescence, and high-resolution OCT scans. Again, this is a book I wish I had in the beginning of optometry school, as it would’ve been useful to refer to while learning about each ocular condition. The Expert Consult eBook version is included with purchase, which was convenient for studying on-the-go as the book is quite large and heavy to carry.

+ no. 05: Atlas of Retinal OCT: Optical Coherence Tomography, 1st Edition

by Jay S. Duker MD, Nadia K Waheed MD MPH, Darin Goldman MD

While out on rotations, one of my preceptors showed me this book as a tool to help with the interpretation of OCT scans. Unlike the other books on this reading list, this handbook is targeted towards a specific clinical test procedure and is more practical later on in optometry school, once you learn about and start performing OCTs on patients in clinic. This book features more than 1,000 illustrations of retinal diseases using OCT scans, supported by clinical photos and ancillary imaging technologies.

If you’re currently an optometry student or preparing to matriculate into an optometry school in the near future, I recommend getting at least one of the aforementioned books right away. If you're looking for one to start out with, I highly recommend getting The Will's Eye Manual first and working your way down the list. As you progress through your courses and learn about each of the conditions in the book(s), go through and make additional notes, as needed. This way, when it's time to study for your exams or the National Boards, begin to see patients in clinic, or go on rotations, you'll have THE ultimate reference guide ready-to-go!

Fellow optometrists and optometry students, what are your must-have eye care books? Share your favorites in the comment section below!