The best books about getting through life’s challenges

Who am I?

At the age of fifty-three, I was suddenly thrust into the role of primary caregiver for my disabled twin sister who was unable to sit, stand, feed herself, eat solid foods, or communicate. Up to that point, that role had been my mother’s with the help of home-attendants; but my mother was aging and the care provided by the ever-changing attendants was wanting. I was forced to place Judy in a nursing home. The challenge left me overwhelmed with the responsibility of overseeing her care and there were days I wondered if I could go on. With the support of family and friends, I was able to make it through.


I wrote...

We Used to Dance: Loving Judy, My Disabled Twin

By Debbie Chein Morris,

Book cover of We Used to Dance: Loving Judy, My Disabled Twin

What is my book about?

My twin sister Judy was born with cerebral palsy. She was severely impaired, unable to use her arms or legs, unable to speak, dependent on others for her survival. When we were fifty-three years old, our father had been deceased for many years and our mother was ninety-one. Judy’s doctor, feeling that Judy was not receiving proper care at home, declared the need for placement in a nursing facility – and, if we didn’t do it, he would contact Adult Protective Services and they would place her. My memoir tells the story of Judy’s placement, intermingled with anecdotes from our childhood and growing-up years, and my emotional turmoil in dealing with that placement. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Emma's Laugh: The Gift of Second Chances

Debbie Chein Morris Why did I love this book?

As soon as I began reading Emma’s Gift, I was hooked.

Though the author’s relationship to Emma – mother-to-child – is different from my relationship to my twin sister, having a family member with a disability made the connection. The challenges of the situation and the difficult decisions that Kuperschmit had to make resonated with my own.

The honesty and bearing of emotions were necessary for both of us to tell our story. I could hardly put the book down, awed by Kuperschmit’s beautiful and eloquent descriptions of what she was going through.

We shared an understanding that there is a real person underneath the disability and I was thankful throughout for Kuperschmit’s skill in showing her readers that, even with an “atypical” child, there is the ability to love and be loved.

By Diana Kupershmit,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Emma's Laugh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As Diana surveyed her newborn baby's face, languid body, and absent cry, she knew something was wrong. Then the doctors delivered devastating news: her first child, Emma, had been born with a rare genetic disorder that would leave her profoundly physically and intellectually disabled.

Diana imagined life with a child with disabilities as a dark and insular one-a life in which she would be forced to exist in the periphery alongside her daughter. Convinced of her inability to love her "imperfect" child and give her the best care and life she deserved, Diana gave Emma up for adoption. But as…


Book cover of Once More We Saw Stars: A Memoir

Debbie Chein Morris Why did I love this book?

In May of 2015, two-year-old Greta Greene was hit in the head by bricks falling from a nearby building while sitting on a bench with her grandmother. She died shortly after.

I remember hearing of it on the news and wondering how the parents and grandmother could survive such a trauma. Jayson Greene’s book tells us how. For me, it was a reminder that, even when the worst happens and we find ourselves in the dark of the tunnel, the light can shine again.

Reading this book I realized that this family made it through the same way I got through my own trauma: one step at a time, one day at a time; sometimes even just one small moment at a time.

By Jayson Greene,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A gripping and beautiful book about the power of love in the face of unimaginable loss'
Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

'Extraordinary . . . both heartbreaking and life-affirming . . . you will find your heart magically expanded'
Mail on Sunday

'Unimaginably poetic . . . I learned a lot reading this book and have passed it on to others'
Jessie Cave, Red Magazine

'Greene's account of his loss is remarkably uplifting. It's hard-won proof that love can survive our worst fears and our darkest, most desperate emotions'
Daily Mail

'This minutely observed memoir will surely be helpful to…


Book cover of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Debbie Chein Morris Why did I love this book?

I first read this book shortly after it was published in 1981. I was looking for the answer to the question of why bad things happen in this world.

Kushner did not have an answer to that question, but insights into how we might face the challenges that life can present when those “bad things” happen. He, himself, went through a significant trauma: hearing that his young son had a progressive disease that would not allow him to live into adulthood. Yet Kushner found a way to survive and to move forward.

I’ve read this book multiple times. It always reinforces for me the idea that the difficulties we face in life are just part of living and that even though we may suffer through hard times, life is, indeed, worth living. We can and we must go on.

By Harold S. Kushner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When Bad Things Happen to Good People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 bestselling inspirational classic from the nationally known spiritual leader; a source of solace and hope for over 4 million readers.

When Harold Kushner’s three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that meant the boy would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, Rabbi Kushner wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. In these pages, Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being. Often imitated but never superseded, When Bad…


Book cover of Educated: A Memoir

Debbie Chein Morris Why did I love this book?

I was amazed when I read Westover’s book, Educated; amazed that someone could go through such a deprived and abusive childhood and, not only survive but rise above and discover herself.

I was in awe over her self-determination. Though my childhood did not, in any way, resemble hers, reading her story gave me the courage to stand up to my own fears and feel confident in who I am. She reminded me that it is possible to overcome challenging obstacles and get through the seemingly impossible.

By Tara Westover,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked Educated as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE MULTI-MILLION COPY BESTSELLER

Selected as a book of the year by AMAZON, THE TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES, GUARDIAN, NEW YORK TIMES, ECONOMIST, NEW STATESMAN, VOGUE, IRISH TIMES, IRISH EXAMINER and RED MAGAZINE

'One of the best books I have ever read . . . unbelievably moving' Elizabeth Day
'An extraordinary story, beautifully told' Louise O'Neill
'A memoir to stand alongside the classics . . . compelling and joyous' Sunday Times

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the end of the world. She was never put in school, never taken to the doctor. She did not even have a birth certificate…


Book cover of Britt-Marie Was Here

Debbie Chein Morris Why did I love this book?

Britt-Marie Was Here is a book of fiction. Nonetheless, it speaks to me as an example of persevering to get through life’s challenges.

Backman is a master of character development and I easily connected with the protagonist. I, like Britt Marie, have found myself outside my comfort zone, slowly moving forward to figure out how to navigate my new position in life.

For Britt Marie, it was living on her own in a new place, with new people, after leaving her husband upon whom she depended for everything; for me it was becoming a primary caregiver and decision-maker for my disabled twin sister.

Very different positions and yet sharing the challenge of accepting our new situation in life. I didn’t want the book to end.

By Fredrik Backman,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Britt-Marie Was Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Anxious People captivates readers with this “warm and satisfying” (People) story “about a woman rediscovering herself after a personal crisis…fans of Backman will find another winner in these pages” (Publishers Weekly).

Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not…


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Book cover of The Romanov Heiress

Jennifer Laam Author Of The Romanov Heiress

New book alert!

Who am I?

A proud native of Stockton, CA, Jennifer Laam resides in California with a temperamental tabby cat named Jonesy. Her other works of historical fiction are The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, The Tsarina’s Legacy, and The Lost Season of Love and Snow. When not reading or writing, she enjoys planning cosplay for the next San Diego Comic-Con, experimenting with vegetarian recipes (to mixed results), cooing at Baby Yoda, or obsessing over House Targaryen. 

Jennifer's book list on the last Romanovs

What is my book about?

Four sisters in hiding. A grand duchess in disguise. Dark family secrets revealed. An alternate future for the Romanovs from Jennifer Laam, author of The Secret Daughter Of The Tsar.

With her parents and brother missing and presumed dead, former Grand Duchess Olga Romanova must keep her younger sisters safe. The Bolsheviks are determined to eliminate any remaining holdovers from the tsarist regime, hunting down the last Romanovs and putting them to death. Now living in England, the Romanov sisters remain hidden to protect their identities, even as isolation strains their relationships. But they can’t distance themselves from the world forever.

The Romanov Heiress

By Jennifer Laam,

What is this book about?

Four sisters in hiding. A grand duchess in disguise. Dark family secrets revealed...an alternate future for the Romanovs from Jennifer Laam, author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar and The Lost Season of Love and Snow.

With her parents and brother missing and presumed dead, Grand Duchess Olga Romanova must keep her younger sisters safe. The Bolsheviks are determined to eliminate any remaining holdovers from the tsarist regime, hunting down the last Romanovs and putting them to death. Now living in England, the Romanov sisters remain hidden to protect their identities, even as isolation strains their relationships.

But they…


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