I’ll be honest—what with the constant availability of the internet, I don’t go to books for information nearly as much as I used to. However, I’ve found that a few kinds of information are still just not readily available in an organized form outside of specialty books. Body Trauma by David Page is one of the best I’ve found, although I wouldn’t call it a primary reference, but more of companion source.
I have a long-standing (but completely non-sadistic) fascination with bodily harm. When I was in the ninth grade, everyone had to take health, and my particular section was taught by a mildly crazy man with an armed forces background who felt that self-esteem and personal hygiene were profoundly uninteresting and that if he was going to be teaching a class, it should be one that prepared us to survive in the world.
His version of preparation involved showing us color slides of exceptionally gruesome injuries, explaining how to administer first-aid in the given situation, and then making us practice on each other. I won’t go into too much detail here, but some of the scenarios involved garbage disposals, lawnmower blades, impaled eyeballs, severed digits, and once, oddly, napalm. When a boy at the table behind me passed out during the compound fracture unit, we got to treat him for shock.
Body Trauma isn’t nearly so explicit, but it works in conjunction with what I learned in health class. It covers what I would call the logistics of injury—the degree of pain an average person can withstand while still being able to function, what physical tasks they’re likely to be capable of performing and how long they’ll maintain that capability before shock or blood-loss sets in. It explains the gravity of a given situation and underlines the fact that no one is indestructible, even when taking adrenaline into account. Mostly, I figure that it keeps me honest, which is important, even in fiction.