Anaesthesia: A Very Short Introduction provides those without a medical background with an insight into scientific, historical, technological and clinical aspects of anaesthesia. This book particularly appealed to me as a first-year medical student with an interest in the subject.

The book starts by exploring the concepts of anaesthesia, followed by a historical perspective that provides a groundwork on which the author can build and introduce more complex concepts. This approach helps the reader to understand the relevant pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics by showing drug developments over many years.

The author explains scientific theories clearly, simplifying them whilst ensuring that all key points and details are included. He clarifies most medical terms and gives a brief description of the drugs mentioned. The use of images and quotations throughout the book makes it easier to understand and relate to the concepts referred to, as well as breaking up the scientific information. These features add a light-hearted atmosphere, and kept me interested without losing track of the topic. The text regularly refers back to the experiments previously mentioned in the historical section of the book, as a reminder of the main discoveries and their relevance to modern techniques. Clear descriptions of major practical developments, such as tracheal tubes and laryngeal mask airways and their application to patients, ensure that the content of the book is relevant to clinical practice. I found these elements of the book particularly interesting and the detail not too overwhelming.

There were some parts of the book, however, where I felt there was too much detail and information to keep the target audience focused, for example when the potency of inhalation agents was discussed. I found the concept of MAC a complex one and I had to read the description several times in order to understand it.

The chapter ‘The different branches of anaesthesia’ was carefully placed towards the end of the book. This was extremely helpful, providing a summary of the topics discussed throughout the book, and again relating them to clinical practice.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Anaesthesia: A Very Short Introduction. I believe that it has presented me with an adequate basic understanding of the world of anaesthesia, whilst keeping me engaged and interested, and I would definitely recommend it to others interested in the subject.