10 Great Books for People Dealing With Illness

shelved under Self-Help and Health & Medicine

I grew up as a well-sibling and caregiver — my sister and brother both had cystic fibrosis. I promised my sister I would die with her, but instead she taught me how to live. While I was writing a book about my perspective on that experience — Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister’s Memoir — these books were on my reading list. Whether you are a patient or a caregiver, I hope they will be a light and a comfort to you, as they have been to me.


To Begin Again: The Journey Toward Comfort, Strength, and Faith in Difficult Times

by Naomi Levy

This book became a bible of sorts for both my mother and me. When Rabbi Levy was a teenager, her father was murdered. Her spiritual journey from that point on has become bread for our own, whether it is illness, loss or any other difficulty we face. She really does reach out to us with comfort, faith and strength through this book.


Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life

by Philip Simmons

Poetic and practical, this journal of a man dealing with the ever increasing limitations of Lou Gehrig’s disease is a road map for our own spiritual and emotional freedom.


Close to the Bone: Life Threatening Illness and the Search for Meaning

by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.

Enlightenment is power. The compassionate yet straightforward approach to illness (especially cancer) by this Jungian psychologist is both enlightening and powerful.


Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair

by Miriam Greenspan

Whether patient or caregiver, the "dark emotions" are huge part of any illness. We're often overwhelmed by and ashamed of those feelings. Miriam Greenspan helps us use the dark to see the light.


God Is at Eye Level: Photography as a Healing Art

by Jan Phillips

You may be surprised to see this book on this list, but as a tool for the despairing soul, the act and art of photography, and the way Jan teaches us to use it, can be powerfully healing.


Spirituality, Suffering, and Illness: Ideas for Healing

by Lorraine M. Wright, Ph.D.

This holistic assessment tool is an in-depth, step-by-step, practical guide to starting conversations about spirituality with patients and their families in order to encourage healing and alleviate (or diminish) emotional, physical, and/or spiritual suffering.


A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last

by Stephen Levine

Helps you to find or re-establish your commitment to life, even in the midst of turmoil, illness or dying.


Man's Search For Meaning

by Viktor E. Frankl

My sister’s template for how she lived the last years of her young life was taken from this book. Although it’s the story of Frankl's years in a Nazi concentration camp, it’s ultimately about finding your power in a situation where you appear to be powerless. A mighty metaphor for those dealing with a life-threatening illness.


When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

by Pema Chodron

Really helps you to re-frame your experience. Lots of food for thought; a very compassionate book. A Buddhist perspective on coping that’s approachable from any spiritual background.


Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion

by Pema Chodron

If there are two must-haves when facing serious illness, they're fearlessness and compassion. Pema gets you there with 108 short lessons that you can read again and again, in any order. A book to carry around in your handbag!