The best books about disability awareness

Who am I?

I'm writer, educator, disability advocate, and mother of a teenage son with multiple disabilities. Since my son’s diagnosis with autism at age three, I've been on a quest to not only understand the way that his unique brain works, but also to advocate for a more just and equitable world for people with disabilities and their families. When researching my book The Little Gate-Crasher, I discovered how much my great-grandmother was a powerful advocate for her son Mace who was born with a form of dwarfism. Our society has evolved in the last one hundred years in terms of inclusion and accessibility—and yet, people with disabilities and their loved ones are often isolated.


I wrote...

The Little Gate-Crasher: The Life and Photos of Mace Bugen

By Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer,

Book cover of The Little Gate-Crasher: The Life and Photos of Mace Bugen

What is my book about?

Mace Bugen might have been an achondroplastic dwarf—forty-three inches tall with an average-sized head and a torso set on small, twisted legs—but that didn’t mean he was an idiot or a pushover. In truth, he was smarter than most; over the years, he learned to effectively turn what society in those days called a handicap into a powerful tool he could use to his advantage.

At a time before cell phones or Andy Warhol, you could say that Bugen was the world’s first practitioner of the celebrity selfie. Or maybe you could say more accurately that he was the world’s first selfie photobomber. Over a period of three decades, Mace engineered photos of himself with some of the biggest celebrities of his day.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer Why did I love this book?

As a parent of a child with multiple disabilities, I am grateful for the framework that this powerful book creates: that parenting a child with a disability or who is different in some way than the parent expected can be a profound and rewarding experience. Andrew Solomon’s writing is a profound gift.

By Andrew Solomon,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Far from the Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, a Books for a Better Life Award, and one of The New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of 2012, this masterpiece by the National Book Award–winning author of The Noonday Demon features stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children, but also find profound meaning in doing so—“a brave, beautiful book that will expand your humanity” (People).

Solomon’s startling proposition in Far from the Tree is that being exceptional is at the core of the human condition—that difference is what unites us. He writes about…


Book cover of Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer Why did I love this book?

Written with clear down-to-earth language, disability advocate Emily Ladau had written a guide that could revolutionize the way that people think about disability and how to interact with people who have disabilities. Because our society has kept people with disabilities separate for so long, this kind of book is essential in leading us towards inclusion.

By Emily Ladau,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Demystifying Disability as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An approachable guide to being a thoughtful, informed ally to disabled people, with actionable steps for what to say and do (and what not to do) and how you can help make the world a more inclusive place
 
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: NPR, Booklist • “A candid, accessible cheat sheet for anyone who wants to thoughtfully join the conversation . . . Emily makes the intimidating approachable and the complicated clear.”—Rebekah Taussig, author of Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary, Resilient, Disabled Body

People with disabilities are the world’s largest minority, an estimated 15 percent…


Book cover of From Longing to Belonging: A Practical Guide to Including People with Disabilities and Mental Health Conditions in Your Faith Community

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer Why did I love this book?

Faith communities can play an essential role in the life of people with disabilities—yet many clergy, educators, and lay leaders are still unsure about how to create inclusive and accessible congregations. Christensen, an expert in the faith inclusion world, shares the way to create communities of belonging for all people.

By Shelly Christensen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From Longing to Belonging as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inclusion is More Than Being––a House of Prayer for All Peoples



Everyone wants to belong—in their community at large and especially their faith-based community. Nearly 20 percent of people live with a disability or mental health condition, which means so many families—maybe even yours—are dealing with these issues for their loved one. The one place everyone should feel like they belong is their house of worship and other faith-based community organizations. From Longing to Belonging is a new approach to inclusion. Author Shelly Christensen, M.A., a leader in faith community disability inclusion, provides step-by-step guidance to any faith-based organization committed…


Book cover of Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer Why did I love this book?

Alice Wong is an incredible writer and self-advocate and has put together an anthology of writers who share first-person experiences through. Variety of formats, including essays and interviews. It is eye-opening for anyone who is not disabled and also presents all of the work that our society needs to do to create accessibility and disability justice.

By Alice Wong,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Disability Visibility as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Disability rights activist Alice Wong brings tough conversations to the forefront of society with this anthology. It sheds light on the experience of life as an individual with disabilities, as told by none other than authors with these life experiences. It's an eye-opening collection that readers will revisit time and time again.” —Chicago Tribune

One in five people in the United States lives with a disability. Some disabilities are visible, others less apparent—but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture. Activist Alice Wong brings together this urgent, galvanizing collection of contemporary essays by disabled people, just in time for…


Book cover of We Walk: Life with Severe Autism

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer Why did I love this book?

As a mother of a child with severe autism, I am grateful to Amy Lutz for writing a book that captures our family's unique challenges. Too often, media focuses on people with autism who need a lower level of support and it can feel like life with severe autism is being overlooked. Lutz’s beautiful writing gives you a window into a much-needed read.

By Amy S. F. Lutz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Walk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this collection of beautiful and raw essays, Amy S. F. Lutz writes openly about her experience-the positive and the negative-as a mother of a now twenty-one-year-old son with severe autism. Lutz's human emotion drives through each page and challenges commonly held ideas that define autism either as a disease or as neurodiversity. We Walk is inspired by her own questions: What is the place of intellectually and developmentally disabled people in society? What responsibilities do we, as citizens and human beings, have to one another? Who should decide for those who cannot decide for themselves? What is the meaning…


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The Finest Lies

By David J. Naiman,

Book cover of The Finest Lies

David J. Naiman Author Of The Finest Lies

New book alert!

Who am I?

Anyone with siblings knows the deal. Your sibling becomes your first best friend and closest confidant but also your first competitor and fiercest critic. Navigating that relationship as a teen is fraught with peril. If done poorly, it can leave deep scars. If successful, it can teach you the foundations of how to build healthy relationships for the rest of your life. This theme has everything a writer needs to craft an emotional narrative, and these books do it best.

David's book list on sibling rivalry that will inspire you to reconnect

What is my book about?

A mysterious stranger traps teen siblings in a precarious game where each must overcome their embittered past for the other to survive.

This suspenseful, yet winsome novel explores the power of family and forgiveness. But take heed. The truth can cut like shards of glass, especially for those who’d rather avoid it. Sometimes, only the finest lies will do.

The Finest Lies

By David J. Naiman,

What is this book about?

High schooler Nicole Hallett has just about had it with her brother Jay, so when a mysterious man appears with an offer to replace him with a better one, she doesn’t hesitate. Nicole has always been impulsive, but this time, she finds herself in predicament far worse than anything she’s experienced. Just like that, an average snow day—usually filled with hot cocoa and snowball fights—is commandeered by the stranger, who forces the siblings into a dangerous game.

Confronted by past reflections, tested by present complications, and threatened by future possibilities, Nicole has until the end of the day to disentangle…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in people with disabilities, disability, and ableism?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about people with disabilities, disability, and ableism.

People With Disabilities Explore 56 books about people with disabilities
Disability Explore 51 books about disability
Ableism Explore 12 books about ableism