15 Book Recommendations for People Living with Chronic Illness

According to a 2018 study on chronic illness, 45% (or 133 million) of Americans suffer from chronic illnesses. A chronic illness is a type of disease or condition with long-lasting effects. Some examples include heart disease, cancer, pancreatitis, and diabetes. Receiving a chronic illness diagnosis can sometimes be isolating and overwhelming, and some chronic illnesses are rare and have fewer resources available. 

However, you are not alone in your journey with chronic illness. Millions of others have embarked on their own journeys with chronic illness and pain, and many have shared their experiences in the hope to spread chronic illness awareness and support. Connecting with others who share similar experiences, like joining support groups, participating in online forums, or reading books, can be a helpful way to learn about how people handle living with a chronic illness. It can both motivate you and teach you different ways to approach life with your condition.

Books are a great way to find comfort when it comes to chronic conditions. A 2016 study by the University of Liverpool showed that when people read together and talked about what they read in a supportive group, it made them feel happier and reduced their pain after only 2 days. They even suggested that this shared reading may be a helpful treatment for people with chronic pain.

In this blog, we have compiled a list of 15 book recommendations for those living with a chronic illness and their family and caregivers. Their styles include personal memoirs, self-care practices, children’s books, and more. We hope that these books will offer comfort, hope, camaraderie, and valuable insights into life with a chronic illness. So, grab a cup of tea or coffee and dive into these reads! 

These recommendations do not contain any affiliate links or paid promotions.

1. Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope into Action by David Fajgenbaum

Chasing My Cure is a powerful memoir that follows the author’s journey to save his own life and revolutionize the way we approach medical research. Fajgenbaum’s story is one of hope, resilience, and the transformative power of community.

2. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a beautiful meditation on the small wonders of life, as the author learns to appreciate the company of a tiny snail while bedridden with a mysterious illness. Bailey’s story is a testament to the healing power of nature and the importance of finding joy in the little things.

3. The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O’Rourke

Author Meghan O’Rourke traces the history of Western definitions of illness, and reveals how inherited ideas of cause, diagnosis, and treatment have led us to ignore a host of hard-to-understand medical conditions, ones that resist easy description or simple cures. The Invisible Kingdom offers hope for the sick, solace and insight for their loved ones, and a radical new understanding of our bodies and our health.

4. Never Pay the First Bill by Marshall Allen

Never Pay the First Bill is a practical guide to navigating the complex world of medical billing and insurance. Allen’s book offers valuable tips and insights for anyone dealing with the financial burdens of chronic illness and empowers patients to take charge of their own healthcare.

5. The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

The Comfort Book is a collection of essays, stories, and insights that offer solace, inspiration, and perspective on the challenges of life. Haig’s book is a warm and friendly companion for anyone seeking comfort and connection in difficult times.

6. The Yoga Prescription: A Chronic Illness Survival Guide by Cory Martin

The Yoga Prescription is not just a yoga book – it’s an inspirational combination of author Cory Martin’s journey with two chronic illnesses and a guide for how yoga can be used as a therapy for chronic illness. Follow Martin’s journey as she shares how yoga philosophies can be used to better listen and understand your body.

7. Chronic Affirmations: 365 Daily Affirmations for Chronic Illness and Pain Suffering by Judith Cooper

Chronic Affirmations is a set of uplifting messages designed to be read once a day, one page at a time. It is an easy and accessible way to build resilience and cultivate a positive mindset when living with chronic illness.

8. Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer’s Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn’t Understand by Julie Rehmeyer

In her personal memoir on life with a chronic illness, Julie Rehmeyer details her response to being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that has no treatments and few research studies. Going against her scientific background, Rehmeyer turns to pseudoscience and finds herself alone in Death Valley to test the theory that toxic mold is causing her chronic fatigue. On this trip, Rehmeyer rediscovers what medicine and health truly mean to her and confronts years of scientific neglect and bias in the field of chronic illness.

9. Part of You, Not All of You: Shared Wisdom and Guided Journaling for Life with Chronic Illness by Jenneh Rishe

Part of You, Not All of You is a guided journal for those with chronic illness. It includes positive affirmations, journaling activities, personal reflections from others with chronic illness, and more. This book offers a good starting place to begin self-care journaling.

10. Tiger Livy by Erin Garcia and Betsy Miller, illustrated by Ivreese Tong

Tiger Livy is an inspirational children’s book that follows the story of 6-year-old Livy and her healing journey with chronic illness. This novel is written for children diagnosed with a chronic illness but is also a great book for all children. Livy’s courage can inspire children to be empathetic and caring towards all those who are sick, including those with invisible illnesses.

11. What Doesn’t Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness by Tessa Miller

In What Doesn’t Kill You, Tessa Miller shares her personal struggle with being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a devastating condition that causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Miller learns to challenge the social stigma and isolation of living with a chronic illness, while offering her own wisdom and insight.

12. Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System by Sonya Huber

Pain Woman Takes Your Keys is a collection of essays, poetry, and prose all centered around chronic pain. These essays approach the complex nature of pain from all different angles and explore gender bias in healthcare, the difficulty of articulating chronic pain, and the issues that can arise from using pain scales.

13. Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz

Sick Kids in Love is a young adult (YA) novel featuring two protagonists, both with chronic illnesses. As they learn to balance their chronic illnesses with the social pressures that come with growing up, they navigate complex issues like identity, disability, and the stigma surrounding invisible illness. This novel features relatable characters and provides much-needed representation for teenagers with chronic illness. 

Advisory: Ages 14 and up, mild profanity and implied sexual references

14. Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine by Michele Lent Hirsch

Invisible by Michele Lent Hirsch amplifies the inequalities faced by young women, especially women of color and trans women, with chronic illnesses in healthcare. The author delves not only into her own experiences, but shares several other women’s stories as they balance stigma in the workplace, gender norms, and the illnesses they face in their own bodies.

15. You Don’t Look Sick!: Living Well with Invisible Chronic Illness by Joy Selak and Steven Overman

In You Don’t Look Sick, Joy Selak and Dr. Steven Overman address the practical concerns of living with a chronic illness, such as choosing the right physician, managing chronic pain, and how to handle health and disability insurance. The book is split into 4 sections: Getting Sick, Being Sick, Grief and Acceptance, and Living Well, and is a perfect read for anyone no matter what stage they are in.

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