100 books like The Ones with Purpose

By Nozizwe Cynthia Jele,

Here are 100 books that The Ones with Purpose fans have personally recommended if you like The Ones with Purpose. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life

Katharine Esty Author Of Eightysomethings: A Practical Guide to Letting Go, Aging Well, and Finding Unexpected Happiness

From my list on aging well and flourishing as you age.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I turned 80, I was in a bit of a funk until I began interviewing people in their eighties for my book. I was astonished to find how happy the vast majority of them were and what active and exciting their lives were leading. I realized that life after 70 and 80 was not the same today as in the past. As a psychotherapist, a social psychologist, a writer, a mother of four, and a grandmother of 10, I realized I was the perfect person to write about this good news. And for the last 8 years my mission has been to spread the word about aging today.

Katharine's book list on aging well and flourishing as you age

Katharine Esty Why did Katharine love this book?

Louise Aronson was a practicing physician who worked primarily with older patients before becoming a social critic. Now she focuses on ageism in our medical institutions and well as society in general. Her book, Elderhood, is a penetrating analysis of what it means to be older in the US and a critique of the anti-aging culture we live in. Her book is filled with her own observations and stories that show the reader what needs to change in our culture and institutions. Her model of the three stages of life—childhood, adulthood, and elderhood intrigued me.

By Louise Aronson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
Winner of the WSU AOS Bonner Book Award

The New York Times bestseller from physician and award-winning writer Louise Aronson--an essential, empathetic look at a vital but often disparaged stage of life, as revelatory as Atul Gawande's Being Mortal.

For more than 5,000 years, "old" has been defined as beginning between the ages of 60 and 70. That means most people alive today will spend more years in elderhood than in childhood, and many will be elders for 40 years or more.…


Book cover of The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor

Karen Laura Thornber Author Of Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care

From my list on aging and end-of-life decisions and care.

Why am I passionate about this?

Karen Thornber is Harry Tuchman Levin Professor in Literature and Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard. Her work brings humanistic insights to global challenges.  Thornber is the author of the award-winning scholarly books Empire of Texts in Motion and Ecoambiguity as well as most recently Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care. Current projects include books on gender justice in Asia, mental health, inequality/injustice, sustainability/climate change, and indigeneity.

Karen's book list on aging and end-of-life decisions and care

Karen Laura Thornber Why did Karen love this book?

Professor and psychiatrist Arthur Kleinman’s The Soul of Care movingly explicates the practical, emotional, and moral aspects of caregiving. Based on Kleinman’s experiences as the primary caregiver for his late wife Joan after she developed early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, this book skillfully reveals caregiving – however grueling, however much about enduring the unendurable – as resonating with emotional, moral, and, for many, religious meaning, and ultimately enabling us to realize our humanity most fully. Moreover, inspired by the work of Anne-Marie Slaughter, Kleinman poignantly argues for the importance of recognizing care as a basic human right.

By Arthur Kleinman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A moving memoir and an extraordinary love story that shows how an expert physician became a family caregiver and learned why care is so central to all our lives and yet is at risk in today's world.

When Dr. Arthur Kleinman, an eminent Harvard psychiatrist and social anthropologist, began caring for his wife, Joan, after she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, he found just how far the act of caregiving extended beyond the boundaries of medicine. In The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor, Kleinman delivers a deeply humane and inspiring story of…


Book cover of Inheritance from Mother

Karen Laura Thornber Author Of Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care

From my list on aging and end-of-life decisions and care.

Why am I passionate about this?

Karen Thornber is Harry Tuchman Levin Professor in Literature and Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard. Her work brings humanistic insights to global challenges.  Thornber is the author of the award-winning scholarly books Empire of Texts in Motion and Ecoambiguity as well as most recently Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care. Current projects include books on gender justice in Asia, mental health, inequality/injustice, sustainability/climate change, and indigeneity.

Karen's book list on aging and end-of-life decisions and care

Karen Laura Thornber Why did Karen love this book?

This expertly translated novel draws from the prolific Japanese writer Mizumura Minae’s experiences caring for her aging parents and eloquently exposes the vulnerability of women whose elderly family members require substantial care. To be sure, financial security mitigates precarity as does having professional caregivers who respect the family’s wishes concerning the medical treatment of their ailing loved ones. At the same time, Inheritance emphasizes that with so many younger individuals already overextended – whether because of their own health concerns, spousal conflicts, childcare responsibilities, employment challenges, and other factors – there are few reserves with which to compassionately care for others.

By Minae Mizumura, Juliet Winters Carpenter (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inheritance from Mother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now in paperback, this Osaragi Jiro Award-winning novel demystifies the notion of the selfless Japanese mother and the adult daughter honor-bound to care for her.

Mitsuki Katsura, a Japanese woman in her mid-fifties, is a French-language instructor at a private university in Tokyo. Her husband, whom she met in Paris, is a professor at another private university. He is having an affair with a much younger woman.

In addition to her husband's infidelity, Mitsuki must deal with her ailing eighty-something mother, a demanding, self-absorbed woman who is far from the image of the patient, self-sacrificing Japanese matriarch. Mitsuki finds herself…


Book cover of Longevity Park

Karen Laura Thornber Author Of Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care

From my list on aging and end-of-life decisions and care.

Why am I passionate about this?

Karen Thornber is Harry Tuchman Levin Professor in Literature and Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard. Her work brings humanistic insights to global challenges.  Thornber is the author of the award-winning scholarly books Empire of Texts in Motion and Ecoambiguity as well as most recently Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care. Current projects include books on gender justice in Asia, mental health, inequality/injustice, sustainability/climate change, and indigeneity.

Karen's book list on aging and end-of-life decisions and care

Karen Laura Thornber Why did Karen love this book?

This expertly translated Chinese novel tells the compelling story of a family in Beijing with an aging patriarch. Narrated largely from the perspective of the rural nurse hired to care for him, Longevity Park reveals the many difficulties facing Chinese individuals as they age as well as the difficulties facing Chinese families with an aging loved one. These challenges resonate with those of individuals and families globally, including pervasive stigmas against the elderly, particularly those who are not as agile mentally or physically as they once were; and the particular hurdles facing family members with their own mental health and other concerns. Zhou’s novel also eloquently describes the many hurdles facing healthcare providers.

By Zhou Daxin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

China is ageing. Its shrinking households, overworked and overstretched, struggle to carry the burden of care for their elderly. Retired Beijing judge Uncle Xiao is one among millions of old\-timers who face a hopeless choice: accept a lonely decline, or chase dubious miracle cures. Then into his life steps Miss Zhong, a young rural nurse with her own share of problems. The two have little in common, but as time delivers tragedies they learn that family can take many forms. Will this unlikely pair weather lifes storms together, and will Xiao find warmth in his sunset years?


Book cover of Where the Forest Meets the Stars

J. Martain Author Of Forgetting the Lost

From my list on uncanny children.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an uncanny child myself, I always gravitated toward reading about the strange—whether in historical accounts or fiction—and as a passably normal adult, I often write from the perspective of “the other.” I never intentionally mix science fiction and paranormal elements into my work…they just happen to be my characters’ truths! So much of what we humans know about our world is filtered through our collective reality, and I love following the connecting threads and plucking at the flaws. 

J.'s book list on uncanny children

J. Martain Why did J. love this book?

Vanderah’s novel is an outlier on my list, because it’s actually a beautiful tale of found family—but that makes it a poignant counter to the others. 

Has Ursa, the uncanny child, merely assumed her “otherness” as a protective guise? Even by the end of the book, I found myself wondering whether the neatly wrapped up (and satisfying) story would have ended differently had the child been the narrator.  

More literary fiction than speculative, I recommend this novel for the lingering “what-ifs” that brought me back for a second read.

By Glendy Vanderah,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Where the Forest Meets the Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Amazon Charts, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post bestseller, and a Goodreads Choice Award finalist.

In this gorgeously stunning debut, a mysterious child teaches two strangers how to love and trust again.

After the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer, Joanna Teale returns to her graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois, determined to prove that her recent hardships have not broken her. She throws herself into her work from dusk to dawn, until her solitary routine is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious child who shows up at her cabin barefoot…


Book cover of A Breast Cancer Alphabet

Devesh Dahale Author Of The 5000th Baby: A Parent's Perspective and Journey through the First Year of Life

From my list on patient/family experience in healthcare.

Why am I passionate about this?

Life caught me by surprise when our youngest son was born with a birth defect that launched our family into the world of surgeries, and treatments. After experiencing the management of chronic care for our child firsthand, I realized how important it is to share personal stories and experiences. It enables empathy and a deeper understanding and appreciation of what patients and families go through. Autobiographical accounts of patients and families are still very limited. We need more people to come forward and share their own patient/family experiences in order to promote the betterment of healthcare and healing through relating with others and learning from others’ experiences.


Devesh's book list on patient/family experience in healthcare

Devesh Dahale Why did Devesh love this book?

Breast cancer has become ubiquitously one of the most common and dreaded cancers among women. Through this book, the author authentically and innovatively advocates for patients like her, who are diagnosed with breast cancer. She describes her journey in detail in an attempt to guide and advise others on how to deal with and manage life in the face of such a deadly diagnosis. While patients may be overwhelmed by the medical management aspects of the disease, the author reminds us to keep the human and psychological aspects in mind as a patient is after all a human being with emotions at the core.

By Madhulika Sikka,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Breast Cancer Alphabet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A definitive and approachable guide to life during, and after, breast cancer
 
The biggest risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman.  Madhulika Sikka's A Breast Cancer Alphabet offers a new way to live with and plan past the hardest diagnosis that most women will ever receive: a personal, practical, and deeply informative look at the road from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.

What Madhulika Sikka didn't foresee when initially diagnosed, and what this book brings to life so vividly, are the unexpected and minute challenges that make navigating the world of breast cancer all the trickier.  A…


Book cover of Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book

Theresa Brown Author Of Healing: When a Nurse Becomes a Patient

From my list on having cancer.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an expert on being a cancer patient because I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2017. I am also a former oncology and hospice nurse. A cancer diagnosis always feels like a calamity and my work with very sick cancer patients showed me how serious the disease can be. I also thought that our health care system would react to cancer with compassion, but I was wrong. I felt on my own as a patient, and that experience led me to reflect on my nursing work. Healing alternates between me being a nurse and a patient. The alteration shows the failings of our health care system, and how to make it more caring.

Theresa's book list on having cancer

Theresa Brown Why did Theresa love this book?

After being diagnosed with breast cancer I sampled outside information about breast cancer sparingly and this was the only book that made the cut. I dipped into it when I had a question and otherwise left it alone, but afterward I was usually glad I checked to see what Susan Love had to say and appreciated the big picture context that the book offers. If you can afford it, get the most recent edition since it will be the most accurate about treatment plans and ongoing research. 

By Susan M. Love, Karen Lindsey, Elizabeth Love

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For a woman faced with a diagnosis of breast cancer, the information available today is vast, uneven, and confusing. For more than two decades, readers have relied on Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book to guide them through this frightening thicket of research and opinion to find the best possible options for their particular situations. This sixth edition explains exciting advances in targeted treatments, hormonal therapies, safer chemotherapy, and immunologic approaches as well as new forms of surgery and radiation. There is extensive guidance for the increasing number of women living for years with metastatic breast cancer. With Dr. Love's warm…


Book cover of The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness, or Loss

Merle R. Saferstein Author Of Living and Leaving My Legacy, Vol. 1

From my list on legacy and legacy projects.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my 26 years as a Holocaust educator, I worked closely with hundreds of Holocaust survivors helping them to pass along their legacy of remembrance to thousands of students and teachers. When I retired, I developed and began teaching a course entitled Living and Leaving Your Legacy®. Since 2012, I have taught 64 classes and have spoken to audiences locally, nationally, and internationally. My goal is to help people understand that how we live our lives becomes our legacy. I have worked with individuals at the end of their lives helping them to do sacred legacy work and have trained hospice staffs and volunteers to do the same.

Merle's book list on legacy and legacy projects

Merle R. Saferstein Why did Merle love this book?

As a former college writing teacher, Sandra Marinella understands the value of writing one’s story. In The Story You Need to Tell, she recounts her personal journey with breast cancer and tells the stories of others who experienced their own illnesses and traumas. Throughout the book and with the help of writing prompts, Marinella guides and encourages readers to write their stories as an empowering way to heal. She demonstrates how this leads individuals to move toward a better and fuller self as well as to a new, hopeful, and resilient narrative. I recommend this book because it is an excellent guide to writing one’s story, which will eventually become part of that person’s legacy.

By Sandra Marinella,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Story You Need to Tell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A practical and inspiring guide to transformational personal storytelling, The Story You Need to Tell is the product of Sandra Marinella’s pioneering work with veterans and cancer patients, her years of teaching writing, and her research into its profound healing properties. Riveting true stories illustrate Marinella’s methods for understanding, telling, and editing personal stories in ways that foster resilience and renewal. She also shares her own experience of using journaling and expressive writing to navigate challenges including breast cancer and postpartum depression. Each of the techniques, prompts, and exercises she presents helps us “to unravel the knot inside and to…


Book cover of A Monster Calls

Sarah Allen Author Of The Nightmare House

From my list on where the monsters are more than monsters.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my high school creative writing class, my teacher once said that good writing was a bit like looking at a star. If you look directly at it, it gets a little fuzzy and hard to see. But if you look just off to the side, the star becomes vivid and clear. That, to me, is exactly the power of spooky stories for young readers. We all deal with monsters, to varying degrees, throughout our lives. Even kids. But if we look at it just off to the side, through the angle of a fun, spooky story, those monsters suddenly become much more comprehensible. More faceable. More beatable. 

Sarah's book list on where the monsters are more than monsters

Sarah Allen Why did Sarah love this book?

It’s been said by smarter people than me how writing horror for kids isn’t about scaring them, it’s about showing them how brave they are.

A Monster Calls is the perfect illustration of that. The scariness and the spookiness are a stand-in for the real-life horrors that this kid is facing. Kids deal with a lot, and this book is the perfect example of how to survive when the worst happens.

The artwork too—wow! I wish I could get some of this artwork to hang on my walls. Absolutely gorgeous book.

By Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Monster Calls 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?

The bestselling novel and major film about love, loss and hope from the twice Carnegie Medal-winning Patrick Ness.

Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It's ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking…


Book cover of Wildland

Laura Drake Author Of Amazing Gracie

From my list on women at the edge of change.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised in middle-class America by a strong woman and an alcoholic. I survived an abuser when I realized that I was the answer to my problems. I write about tough subjects but am an eternal optimist who believes a strong spirit will always ensure a happy ending.

Laura's book list on women at the edge of change

Laura Drake Why did Laura love this book?

About a woman who rents a remote cabin in the mountains to decide; her cancer is back, and she must either fight again, or let nature take its course. There is a forest fire, and she is pivotal in saving not only her life, but the lives of others.

I loved it because it’s about a woman who doesn’t know how strong she is until faced with a situation she can’t let herself walk away from. 

This resonates in mine, and I expect many other women’s lives.

By Rebecca Hodge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For fans of Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve comes an exhilarating debut novel of one woman's courage in the face of catastrophe.

She'll do anything to save them.
But what will she do to save herself?

When Kat Jamison retreats to the Blue Ridge Mountains, she's counting on peace and solitude to help her make a difficult decision. Her breast cancer has returned, but after the death of her husband, her will to fight is dampened. Now she has a choice to make: face yet another round of chemotherapy or surrender gracefully.

Self-reflection quickly proves impossible as her getaway is…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in breast cancer, South Africa, and assisted suicide?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about breast cancer, South Africa, and assisted suicide.

Breast Cancer Explore 11 books about breast cancer
South Africa Explore 120 books about South Africa
Assisted Suicide Explore 10 books about assisted suicide