Book Recommendations for the Chronically Ill, but Good Reads for Anyone!
I am finally getting around to the third installment of book recommendations, specially dedicated to my fellow chronic illness friends! Not all of these books are solely about health and illness; we need a break from these topics sometimes, don’t we?! But they are more or less related to humanity, the human body, and the art and science that goes along with them. Have a look and let me know which your favourites are!
*Note: This post contains affiliate links. It will cost you nothing to click on them. I will get a small referral fee from purchases you make, which helps with the maintenance of this blog. I also want to thank Kathryn Trueblood for kindly sponsoring this post. All opinions expressed in these book reviews are my own.
Table of Contents
If You’re Feeling…Scattered
Take Daily as Needed
By: Kathryn Trueblood
There is so much going on in this book, which is really reflective of the chaos of life itself. Throw chronic and mental illnesses, divorce and teenage troubles, death and a myriad of impossible characters, and you get a boiling, sticky stew of life’s downsides. It is told from a first-person perspective as a mother, wife and daughter. Her thoughts are scattered with bits of random knowledge that we accumulate throughout our lifetime. They brim with worry and anxiety, despair, hope, faith and love. Her writing style does a great job of illustrating and capturing the 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts we have per day. It dips and rises, just like the human spirit, and is a great read about life and family.
If You’re Feeling…Morbid
From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death
By: Caitlin Doughty
This was the first book I bought and loaded onto my Kindle Paperwhite. Mortality is a topic that fascinates me, having come face to face with death a few times. It’s one aspect of humanity that’s often avoided and shushed, even though it’s just part of the process.
Caitlin is a mortician with a morbid sense of humour and a flair for words. It was interesting to learn about how different cultures bury, celebrate or mourn their dead. From rural communities in the USA, to the rituals of Barcelona, the concept of suicide in Japan, and more. Life takes on fresh perspective with each death, which goes to show that ‘normal’ doesn’t exist. Life is much larger than that.
She has another book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, which I’ve downloaded for reading, too. The first few pages are already hilarious – something to do with being a teenage apprentice, a pink razor, and cleaning up a dead man in the morgue.
If You’re Feeling…Spiritual
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
By: Eckhart Tolle
A classic book on mindfulness, and the power of being in the present moment. Yes I’m late to the peace party 🙂 Am going through this one slowly, because I don’t think it’s a book that should be gobbled up. Filled with gems of wisdom and food for thought on every page, it’s a great way to start or end your day with. Whilst it touches on some religious concepts, I’d say that the life lessons are universal ones.
If You’re Feeling…Academic
The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell
By: Luca Turin
I love perfumes, but it’s an expensive hobby that I could only afford back when I was working full-time. I would order sample vials online, and sniff all the bottles in perfume stores. From the premium booths of Guerlain, to the general stores of Sephora and the airport’s DFS. From the imported potions along Arab Street, to pure essential oil mixtures. My first gift to my ex was a bottle of Green Irish Tweed by Creed, and my first splurge was on Guerlain’s Rose Barbare from their L’Art et la Manière series.
Anyway sorry for the diversion :p This book is a look into the science behind scent and our sense of smell. To create perfumes is all about chemistry – one of my worst subjects back in school, ironically. It must be an amazing job, inventing molecules for new fragrances in the labs. The possibilities in chemistry are endless at such a minuscule level.
It’s a bit of a science-y and technical read, but the kind of technicality that’s sensual and sexy. It was also interesting to know that our sense of smell is still quite the mystery. Luca presents his theory as a biophysicist on how it functions in our bodies, known as the ‘vibration theory of olfaction’. This is based on a ‘swipe card’ model, as compared to traditional shape theories.
If You’re Feeling…Mortal
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death
By: Maggie O’Farrell
A light and easy memoir to read, which I know sounds ironic given the title. The author shares 17 experiences she’s had with death – serious, accidental, and incidental ones. The results of wannabe teenage heroism, health problems, encounters with murderers, and more. A good, entertaining read for when your head is clouded with brain fog and you can’t concentrate on much else.
If You’re Feeling…Compassionate
The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story
By: Christie Watson
A memoir by a lady who got into the nursing field by happenstance, because she didn’t know what else to choose for her studies. Funny where life leads you to, and a pretty common problem for many of us, I think! It touches on a bit of everything that goes on in the hospital. The frenzy in the emergency room, the intenseness of a surgery, the high-stress and heartbreaks in the NICU, stolen drugs by doctors, interactions with patients, and much more. But it all ties back to her perspective as a nurse, who’s had more than 20 years of experience in the field. She also shares some thoughts and insights into other nursing specialisations. Each requires a different set of skills and personality type!
What’s on My Wish List
I have a collection called ‘Self Reward List’ on my Kindle. It’s essentially an excuse to buy a new book, and motivation to finish reading the ones in my ‘Am Reading’ collection. Currently there are 30 books in it *ahem*, and that excludes ones that I’ve already bought for my tsundoku pile. Terrible, I know. But thought I should spread the indulgence around, since it isn’t deadly. Check them out:
The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
By: Deborah Blum
It must have been an exciting time to be alive, during the jazz age of New York. There are so many different types of poisons, each with their own distinct lethalness. Each chapter features one poison, its history, how it was mostly used, and the trace of clues they leave behind.
A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind
By: Shoukei Matsumoto
Monks and homes? Sounds like an interesting combination to me. This book views cleaning in a different light, and touches on the Japanese concept of ‘cultivating the mind’. Topics revolve around garbage, insects, cleaning tasks, and objects such as hand towels. As opposed to a typical ‘what’ and ‘how’ stance common in Western society, it seems to deal with the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ behind the ‘why’. If that makes sense. Hopefully reading this will inspire me to curate the perfect space for my mind and body!
This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor
By: Adam Kay
To be honest, I thought the title sounded a little boring. I mean, people like me have hospitals for second homes, so what insight can we really gain from a junior doctor? But this book review by Carol of ‘Invisibly Me’ convinced me that it’s one to add to the list! Apparently she doesn’t get amused easily, yet this doctor managed to make her laugh with every page. And anything that makes you laugh is good, right?
Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors
By: Susan Sontag
I’ve never read any of Susan Sontag’s books, but she is a much revered author and thinker. She was a cancer patient herself when she wrote this book, and her aim was to destigmatise illness. It’s interesting to read about chronic illness from the perspective of a patient and essayist rolled into one.
It shows how the words and the language we use matter. They can influence how society approaches disease, and how doctors treat them. I’ve always believed in the immense, enlightening power of metaphors (it’s even in my About page!), so this should make for an interesting read.
You Can Do All Things: Drawings, Affirmations and Mindfulness to Help With Anxiety and Depression
By: Kate Allan
If you need a little motivation or inspiration, these drawings and affirmations will do the job! You might already be familiar with the author, Kate Allan, on Instagram. With over 100k followers, her art resonates with many who live with mental health issues. This book is a compilation of her wonderful drawings, so you can pick it up for an instant perk-me-up!
Note: This list is just a rough guide, and nothing should be taken as medical advice. Always be sure to check with your healthcare team before you start on any new treatments or protocols.
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