The Book of Cells: A Breviary of Cytopathology, by Richard Mac DeMay, MD is likely Dr. DeMay’s final publication in the world of cytopathology and his most elegant in my opinion. This whimsical publication is a hardcover book containing 576 pages (20 chapters) of mystical cytopathology secrets. It condenses the information contained within the four volume set of Art & Science of Cytology (2,000+ pages) into “a brief, everyday collection of the most needful things” or “quick guidebook/collection of secrets.”

After you purchase this book, the first thing you will notice is how beautiful the cover and all the pages are. The book’s title, being a play on words of the famous Book of Kells, also draws inspiration from this piece of Irish heritage by using brilliant illustrations (over 2,600 color photomicrographs) and ornate letter forms, which gives the book an overall medieval style. It truly blends the arts and sciences into a book that could be taken off the set of The Hobbit.

The content is in no way lacking either. The book starts by reviewing “The Pap Test” with the subsequent chapters predominantly organized by specimen type (thyroid, salivary gland, etc.). Additional summative chapters titled “Intro to FNA biopsy,” “Building Blocks” and “Bugs” are also included. Key cytologic features, differential diagnosis, cytopathology mimics, and general tips are placed in separate boxes or inserts to highlight the salient points in each paragraph. Like all of Dr. DeMay’s publications, there is such simple wisdom and practical knowledge shared within these pages, such as “if it’s big and it’s dark, it’s dysplasia” and “absence of proof is not proof of absence” (regarding fine needle aspiration). You feel like Dr. DeMay is sitting at the scope with you, telling it to you straight. These anecdotes and the conversational style by which he writes make learning cytology carefree and reading this book just plain enjoyable.

The best features of this book are the overall aesthetics including numerous high quality photomicrographs, illustrations and letterforms as well as the incredible high yield inserts spread throughout. This is a practical reference book for seasoned pathologists, wonderful resource for trainees and a stunning decorative coffee table book to show friends and family what an incredible field cytopathology truly is.

Shannon O’Brien, MD
Emory University Hospital
Atlanta, Georgia