The best books on the psychology of organ donation

Why am I passionate about this?

I am both a psychologist and a novelist, with each of my professions influencing and shaping the other. Not surprisingly, I am fascinated by people- how they tick, why they do what they do- and am particularly interested in how people behave at times of medical and/or psychological crisis. The topic of organ donation had always interested me in this aspect, but particularly so after the tragic death of my brother at only 39. When the recipient of one of his kidneys reached out to my family three years later we were grateful and gratified… and the idea for I’ll Leave You With This was ignited. 


I wrote...

Book cover of I'll Leave You With This

What is my book about?

The O’Shea sisters find themselves driven further apart when the one thing that held them together, their beloved brother Daniel, is suddenly killed. Allison is an overworked obstetrician, torn between her job and her young family. Bridie is a languishing film director, whose once glittering career is eclipsed by her husband’s rising stardom. Clare is obsessed by having a baby, so much so it drives a wedge between her and her wife, while Emma has turned to religion to appease her deep loneliness. Then, on the third anniversary of Daniel's death, Clare proposes an idea: they should trace the many recipients saved by his donated organs. Perhaps their brother's gift of life can bring them back together again?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Heart

Kylie Ladd Why did I love this book?

Long-listed for the Man Booker International Prize in 2016, this French novel focuses on the 24 hours following the death of teenage Simon in a car accident and the subsequent transplantation of his heart to a terminally-ill young woman.

I loved that this story was told from the points of view of all involved: Simon’s grieving family and girlfriend, the doctor who must pronounce him dead, the transplant co-ordinator dealing with both families involved, the recipient ecstatic at her good fortune, but knowing that it comes at the cost of untold grief elsewhere.

Moving, informative, evocative, and terribly – perhaps ironically heart-breaking. 

By Maylis De Kerangal, Sam Taylor (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of Bill Gates' "Five Best Summer Reads"

The basis for the critically-acclaimed film, Heal the Living, directed by Katell Quillévéré and starring Tahar Rahim and Emmanuelle Seigner

Albertine Prize Finalist

Winner of the Wellcome Book Prize and the French-American Foundation Translation Prize

Just before dawn on a Sunday morning, three teenage boys go surfing. While driving home exhausted, the boys are involved in a fatal car accident on a deserted road. Two of the boys are wearing seat belts; one goes through the windshield. The doctors declare him brain-dead shortly after arriving at the hospital, but his heart is…


Book cover of My Sister's Keeper

Kylie Ladd Why did I love this book?

Possibly the best-known book revolving around organ donation, My Sister’s Keeper focusses on the ethics of living donations, and specifically whether thirteen-year-old Anna should be compelled to donate a kidney to her dying sister, Kate.

The courtroom drama and family dynamics may not be to everybody’s taste, but the central question – who gets to live, and at what cost – is a fascinating and important one.

Warning: the film version of this bestseller commits the most heinous of sins and changes the ending. 

By Jodi Picoult,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked My Sister's Keeper as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sara and Brian Fitzgerald's life with their young son and their two-year-old daughter, Kate, is forever altered when they learn that Kate has leukemia. The parents' only hope is to conceive another child, specifically intended to save Kate's life. For some, such genetic engineering would raise both moral and ethical questions; for the Fitzgeralds, Sara in particular, there is no choice but to do whatever it takes to keep Kate alive. And what it takes is Anna. Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) and Anna (Abigail Breslin) share a bond closer than most sisters: though Kate is older, she relies on her little…


Book cover of Tin Heart

Kylie Ladd Why did I love this book?

I adored this Young Adult novel, which follows 17-year-old Marlowe adjusting to life – adjusting the fact that she will, indeed, have a life – following a heart transplant.

Born with a congenital defect, Marlowe has spent many years preparing to die; now she must learn how to live, including returning to school, negotiating friendships and romance, and visualising a future for herself. I was particularly moved by Marlowe’s efforts to find the family of her donor, who in turn want nothing to do with her.

Happy endings can be messy too, and this short, sweet novel encompasses a huge gamut of emotions. 

By Shivaun Plozza,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tin Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Bestselling author of All the Bright Places Jennifer Niven calls emerging talent Shivaun Plozza’s charming and romantic second YA novel, Tin Heart, “from cover to cover swoon-worthy, moving, deep, and funny”!

When Marlowe gets a heart transplant and a second chance at life, all she wants to do is to thank her donor’s family. Maybe then she can move on. Maybe then she’ll discover who she is if she’s no longer The Dying Girl.

But with a little brother who dresses like every day is Halloween, a vegan warrior for a mother, and an all-out war with the hot butcher’s…


Book cover of Never Let Me Go

Kylie Ladd Why did I love this book?

Spoiler alert: this is not a novel about conventional organ donation.

Rather, it’s a rumination on humanity, morality, science, memory, and power. Following three friends as they come of age at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school, then have to face the truth of what they’re really being nurtured for.

It’s also a dystopian love story and scarily prescient science fiction, and if you don’t end the book with a lump in your throat so large that you almost can’t breathe you’re made of stronger stuff than I am. 

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Never Let Me Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most acclaimed novels of the 21st Century, from the Nobel Prize-winning author

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewed version of contemporary England. Narrated by Kathy, now thirty-one, Never Let Me Go dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense…


Book cover of All My Tomorrows: A Story of Tragedy, Transplant and Hope

Kylie Ladd Why did I love this book?

This is my only non-fiction choice amongst my recommendations, and one that I found extremely helpful after the death of my own brother, Piers.

The author’s teenage son, Chris, dies unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm, as did Piers, and his organs are subsequently transplanted into five recipients as were Piers’.

Chris’ father chronicles this process and the healing that his family attained from meeting some of Chris’ recipients in this poignant memoir, which is suffused with both grief and hope. Have tissues handy. 

By Eric Gregory,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All My Tomorrows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story that is now a major motion picture: 2 Hearts

No experience is worse than being a parent who has suffered the death of a child. It’s so horrible that the English language doesn’t have a word for it.

Chris Gregory, a nineteen-year-old Freshman at Loyola University New Orleans, had a girlfriend. He was rushing a fraternity and although he had had a rough first semester, he told his parents he was certain he was finally getting “this college thing right.”

One night during a casual after-dinner conversation about driver’s licenses, Chris’s parents learned that he had opted to…


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A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of A Beggar's Bargain

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Avid reader Lover of Music Astral Traveler Tarot Reader Grandmother

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Historical Fiction Post WW2.

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.
Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger. If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

What is this book about?

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father's dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time-a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an…


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