The best medical memoirs with an inspirational female narrator

Why am I passionate about this?

At age 36, I was juggling work as a family doctor and clinic director for people without insurance while raising two young daughters. It was exhausting and often demoralizing, but at least I had my health. Until I didn’t. I woke up dizzy one morning, and then developed double vision and taste changes. It was multiple sclerosis, a leading cause of disability in young adults. As I started to process my new “life sentence” with MS, I turned to medical memoirs, as sources of inspiration and validation. I then started to share my own story – part of my healing – in articles, blogs, and now a book, Up the Down Escalator.    

I wrote...

Up the Down Escalator: Medicine, Motherhood, and Multiple Sclerosis

By Lisa Doggett,

Book cover of Up the Down Escalator: Medicine, Motherhood, and Multiple Sclerosis

What is my book about?

Up the Down Escalator is a story of triumph in the face of a terrifying diagnosis. A memoir of before and after, Lisa Doggett recounts her shift from doctor to patient with multiple sclerosis while directing a clinic for people without insurance. She battles insurance companies and experiments with odd diets and therapies. Forever furious with the dysfunctional and inequitable health care system, she also renews her commitment to advocate for her underserved patients.

This memoir is a bitter, front-line critique of U.S. health care. But it is also a story of hope, as Doggett learns to soften her inner drill sergeant and push past her limits. This book inspires those with chronic disease—and all readers—to seek wisdom and meaning in life’s challenges.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal

Lisa Doggett Why did I love this book?

When I was first diagnosed with MS, Dr. Remen’s beautiful book was the first one my husband and I turned to for comfort and support.

Kitchen Table Wisdom is not a traditional memoir, but a collection of stories Dr. Remen has collected over her career as a physician and healer – and as a patient herself with Crohn’s disease. She has worked with and counseled thousands of patients facing illness and grief, and she helps them to harness their own life force and find ways to thrive. Her words are inspiring and soothing for anyone facing a challenge or trying to live their best life.

This is my go-to book on difficult days, especially when I’m facing a health issue or an existential crisis.  

By Rachel Naomi Remen,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Kitchen Table Wisdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"I recommend this book highly to everyone." --Deepak Chopra, M.D.

This special updated version of the New York Times-bestseller, Kitchen Table Wisdom, addresses the same spiritual issues that made the original a bestseller: suffering, meaning, love, faith, and miracles.

"Despite the awesome powers of technology, many of us still do not live very well," says Dr. Rachel Remen. "We may need to listen to one another's stories again." Dr. Remen, whose unique perspective on healing comes from her background as a physician, a professor of medicine, a therapist, and a long-term survivor of chronic illness, invites us to listen from…

Book cover of Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted

Lisa Doggett Why did I love this book?

Suleika Jaouad’s heartbreaking memoir chronicles her battle with cancer as a young adult, right out of college, followed by her challenge to put her life back together after she achieves remission.

She is a talented storyteller, and she’s not afraid to share intimate details of her very tough journey back to health. I admire her courage. And I appreciated that her story doesn’t end when the cancer goes away. It continues as she travels across the U.S. in search of a path forward and to connect with the people who supported her during her illness.

By Suleika Jaouad,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Between Two Kingdoms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A searing, deeply moving memoir of illness and recovery that traces one young woman’s journey from diagnosis to remission to re-entry into “normal” life—from the author of the Life, Interrupted column in The New York Times

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, The Rumpus, She Reads, Library Journal, Booklist • “I was immersed for the whole ride and would follow Jaouad anywhere. . . . Her writing restores the moon, lights the way as we learn to endure the unknown.”—Chanel Miller, The New…

Book cover of The Beauty In Breaking: A Memoir

Lisa Doggett Why did I love this book?

In this New York Times bestselling memoir, emergency medicine physician Michele Harper weaves together captivating patient accounts with her personal story as a young doctor of color.

Harper is insightful and vulnerable, as she writes of her divorce early in her career and grapples with her own history of abuse as a child. The stories of her patient encounters resonated with me as a fellow physician who has been similarly frustrated by the inequities of our healthcare system.

Harper draws life lessons from those in her care, as she navigates her own path – I’m grateful she has shared them with the world.

By Michele Harper,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Beauty In Breaking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A New York Times Notable Book

“Riveting, heartbreaking, sometimes difficult, always inspiring.” —The New York Times Book Review

“An incredibly moving memoir about what it means to be a doctor.” —Ellen Pompeo

As seen/heard on Fresh Air, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, Weekend Edition, and more

An emergency room physician explores how a life of service to others taught her how to heal herself.

Michele Harper is a female, African American emergency room physician in a profession that is overwhelmingly male and white. Brought up in Washington, D.C., in a…

Book cover of In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope

Lisa Doggett Why did I love this book?

Dr. Rana Awdish, a critical care physician, describes the sudden and catastrophic illness that causes a miscarriage and lands her in the ICU, in multi-organ failure, at the hospital where she works.

Her arduous recovery is nothing short of a miracle. I appreciated her perspective as a physician, trying to advocate for herself, even while she is seriously ill. She draws on stories of her patients and shares her well-founded frustrations with our healthcare system.

This powerful story will be appreciated by those who have experienced a serious illness and anyone who works in health care. 

By Rana Awdish,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Tense, powerful and gripping... her writing style is often nothing short of beautiful - evocative and emotional.' Adam Kay, Observer

At seven months pregnant, intensive care doctor Rana Awdish suffered a catastrophic medical event, haemorrhaging nearly all of her blood volume and losing her first child. She spent months fighting for her life in her own hospital, enduring a series of organ failures and multiple major surgeries.

Every step of the way, Awdish was faced with something even more unexpected and shocking than her battle to survive: her fellow doctors' inability to see and acknowledge the pain of loss and…

Book cover of Lightning Flowers: My Journey to Uncover the Cost of Saving a Life

Lisa Doggett Why did I love this book?

The discovery that she has a rare heart condition known as long QT syndrome upends Katherine Standefer’s outdoorsy Wyoming lifestyle and strains her relationships. After receiving an implanted cardioverter defibrillator, Standefer travels to the mines of Madagascar and Rwanda to discover the human and environmental cost of creating the device.

Her search to understand the injustices that allow her to access top specialists and treatments resonated with me as a fellow patient and recipient of world-class medical care, even while I served a low-income population that was often denied access to the care they needed.  

By Katherine E. Standefer,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Lightning Flowers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What if a lifesaving medical device causes loss of life along its supply chain? That's the question Katherine E. Standefer finds herself asking one night after being suddenly shocked by her implanted cardiac defibrillator.

In this gripping, intimate memoir about health, illness, and the invisible reverberating effects of our medical system, Standefer recounts the astonishing true story of the rare diagnosis that upended her rugged life in the mountains of Wyoming and sent her tumbling into a fraught maze of cardiology units, dramatic surgeries, and slow, painful recoveries. As her life increasingly comes to revolve around the internal defibrillator freshly…

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Book cover of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

Michael Bungay Stanier Author Of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

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Why am I passionate about this?

Coaching is a wonderful technology that can help people be a force for change… and is often wrapped up in mystic and woo-woo and privilege that makes it inaccessible and/or unattractive to too many. I want being more coach-like—by which I mean staying curious a little longer, and rushing to action and advice-giving—to be an everyday way of being with one another. Driven by this, I’ve written the best-selling book on coaching this century (The Coaching Habit) and have created training that’s been used around the world by more than a quarter of a million people. I’m on a mission to unweird coaching.

Michael's book list on unexpectedly useful books about coaching

What is my book about?

The coaching book that's for all of us, not just coaches.

It's the best-selling book on coaching this century, with 15k+ online reviews. Brené Brown calls it "a classic". Dan Pink said it was "essential".

It is practical, funny, and short, and "unweirds" coaching. Whether you're a parent, a teacher, a leader, or even a coach, you can stay curious longer.

By Michael Bungay Stanier,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Coaching Habit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Look for Michael's new book, The Advice Trap, which focuses on taming your Advice Monster so you can stay curious a little longer and change the way you lead forever.

In Michael Bungay Stanier's The Coaching Habit, coaching becomes a regular, informal part of your day so managers and their teams can work less hard and have more impact.

Drawing on years of experience training more than 10,000 busy managers from around the globe in practical, everyday coaching skills, Bungay Stanier reveals how to unlock your peoples' potential. He unpacks seven essential coaching questions to demonstrate how-by saying less and…

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