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10 Books About Disease and Disabilty to Add to Your Reading List

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Last week, we asked our readers on Facebook to tell us about some of their favorite books pertaining to disease or disability. We received many wonderful responses and did a bit of literary research, too.

Here are some of the titles you shared, along with some of our own favorites.


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Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck

Expecting Adam is Beck’s moving memoir of her and her husband, John, and their decision to carry to term their child with Down syndrome. Once Adam is born, he becomes an impetus for a significant change in perspective for the Becks.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 5.29.36 PMIdo in Autismland: Climbing Out of Autism’s Silent Prison by Ido Kedar

Kedar, who has nonverbal autism, was just 16 years old when he published this compelling collection of autobiographical essays. Intended to defy common misconceptions about his disorder, Ido in Autismland demonstrates Kedar’s fiercely brilliant mind and provides readers with incredible insight into the world of autism. A must-read if you or a loved one has nonverbal autism.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 5.41.08 PMA Smile as Big as the Moon: A Special Education Teacher, His Class, and Their Inspiring Journey Through U.S. Space Camp by Mike Kersjes

When one of his students mentions that he dreams of becoming an astronaut, Kersjes decides to take his special education class to space camp. Turns out, this is easier said than done. Kersjes must clear innumerable hurdles before taking the trip, including preparing his students, whose disabilities range from Down syndrome to Tourette syndrome to dyslexia, to spend six days living and training like astronauts.


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The Boy Who Loved Tornadoes by Randi Davenport

When Davenport’s son turned 15, he began demonstrating signs of a serious psychiatric disorder: he developed horrifying hallucinations, became violent and sometimes didn’t recognize his own family members. Doctors were never able to pinpoint a diagnosis. This beautifully written and profound memoir is an important commentary on the state of the mental healthcare system in the United States.



Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 2.19.53 PMThe Elephant in the Playroom: Ordinary Parents Write Intimately and Honestly About the Extraordinary Highs and Heartbreaking Lows of Raising Kids with Special Needs by Denise Brodey

After Brodey’s 4-year-old son was diagnosed with disabilities, she found solace confiding in other parents going through the same thing. This collection of honest, personal essays written by moms and dads of children with disabilities addresses topics that will resonate deeply with parents going through similar experiences.


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Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot by John Callahan

This late cartoonist was known for incorporating difficult topics into his controversial, darkly funny works. In Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, Callahan describes with candor his life after becoming a quadriplegic, his recovering alcoholism and how he continued to find comedy in bleak situations.



On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s by Greg Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 3.58.09 PMO’Brien 

O’Brien, an award-winning journalist, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 59. As a coping mechanism and to keep his mind sharp, O’Brien began meticulously detailing the daily hardships of the disease, chronicling what was happening to him day-by-day for six years. He later turned his notes into this insightful autobiography.


Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 3.55.28 PMFICTION

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

This science-fiction novel takes place in a futuristic society, where disease and disorders are a thing of the past. Protagonist Lou Arrendale was among the last to be born with autism before the condition was eradicated, and now, he’s faced with the chance to undergo an experimental treatment which could “cure” his autism. But will losing his condition completely change who he is as a person and how he views the world?

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 5.47.53 PMWonder by R.J. Palacio

This bestselling children’s book tells the fictional tale of Auggie, a fifth-grader with a severe facial deformity, who wants nothing more than to be treated like an ordinary kid. The book begins with Auggie’s perspective and later includes that of his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend and others, to create a portrait of a community learning to accept peoples’ differences.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

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This mystery novel centers on Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old boy who knows all the countries in the world and their capitals, as well as every prime number up to 7,057. He also abhors being touched and cannot stand when the different foods on his plate meet. When the neighbor’s dog, Wellington, turns up dead, Christopher must work past his difficulties with people and in interpreting the world around him to uncover the person responsible.

Originally published: January 20, 2015
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