The best breast cancer books

16 authors have picked their favorite books about breast cancer and why they recommend each book.

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The Ones with Purpose

By Nozizwe Cynthia Jele,

Book cover of The Ones with Purpose

South African writer Nozizwe Cynthia Jele’s exceptional novel The Ones with Purpose features a family grappling with the death from breast cancer of their oldest sister, eldest daughter, wife, and mother Fikile. The novel depicts caring health professionals who plead with the family to take Fikile home where she can die peacefully, without further intervention. Fikile too begs her loved ones to let her go. But her mother cannot accept that her eldest daughter is dying. Jele’s novel depicts a caring family torn apart by cancer and highlights the importance of making certain that a family’s desperation does not augment the suffering of their dying loved one.

The Ones with Purpose

By Nozizwe Cynthia Jele,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With her sister, Fikile, dead from breast cancer, her father long gone, her mother emerging from years of slumber, and her younger brother, Mbuso, consumed with rage that refuses to settle, Anele Mbuza has no choice but to collect herself and grow up. Or does she? Because, if truth be told, she has not signed up to be her family's caretaker. Surely her dreams are valid? The Ones with Purpose is a remarkable story of family, disappointment, sacrifice, forgiveness, and love.


Who am I?

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.

I wrote...

Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care

By Karen Laura Thornber,

Book cover of Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care

What is my book about?

Global Healing reveals just how much of the suffering experienced by individuals with adverse health conditions comes not from the health conditions themselves but instead from how people are treated by society, medical and health professionals, and even friends and family members. Far from being integrated into communities of care where they are treated respectfully and in ways that promote healing and enable wellbeing, individuals with adverse health conditions are all too frequently stigmatized, dehumanized, and silenced. This is particularly true of people who are already subjected to structural violence because of their age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexuality, or other factors. Global Healing is especially relevant as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Book cover of Where the Forest Meets the Stars

I love offbeat stories that surprise me! We meet Jo as she arrives at a cabin out in the woods for a scientific bird study, and of course, she arrives with a lot of emotional baggage. She soon meets a little girl who comes out of the woods like she’s homeless. Jo gets a neighbor involved, although not through her choosing. The neighbor doesn’t seem to like people or want to be bothered, but soon they both find themselves responsible for this lost little girl. This story has mystery and intrigue, and a slowly developing romance and family dynamic that I love. The setup is new and fresh, and the writing is amazing. It’s hard to tell you how much I loved this story! 

Where the Forest Meets the Stars

By Glendy Vanderah,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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…


Who am I?

I really enjoy coming up with fresh, unique storylines. I have to applaud books that have a new approach and surprise us—it’s not easy for authors to do! The perfect story, to me, is romantic drama and family life all entwined. Family is everything, whether it’s the family we’re born into, one created by marriage, or one by random circumstances. I enjoy reading and writing romance in the context of family drama because it’s the core of who we are. The best stories have romance and also tell about a family coming together. 


I wrote...

More Than Memories

By Kristen James,

Book cover of More Than Memories

What is my book about?

Molly Anderson returns “home” to a town she doesn’t remember, hoping it will spark a memory. She meets Trent Williams, a Ridge City police detective, and something else sparks. Trent takes on her case and promises to do everything he can to solve it.

Trent has his own secrets, but they have a mystery to solve. Molly quickly realizes her relationship with Trent went deeper than memories. How could she have forgotten her lifelong friend and love? Has he really been waiting for her for the last four years? Can she love him again if she doesn’t remember him? There’s also the possibility that she did something awful, and maybe that’s why she’s afraid to remember her old life.

A Breast Cancer Alphabet

By Madhulika Sikka,

Book cover of A Breast Cancer Alphabet

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.

A Breast Cancer Alphabet

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…


Who am I?

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.



I wrote...

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

By Devesh Dahale,

Book cover of The 5000th Baby: A Parent's Perspective and Journey through the First Year of Life

What is my book about?

A story of the first year of life of a baby who was born with a rare birth defect which occurs with a frequency of one in approximately 5000 babies born. A vivid description of the journey of a family that was shocked and overwhelmed by the fear of the unknown, and the perils of the surgeries and treatments that would follow. The story is a detailed account of the medical aspects (surgeries, recoveries, complications, infections, and treatment regimens) while often encountering a “not so friendly” medical system at times as well as dealing with psycho-social aspects of life.

The book provides valuable tips and suggestions so that others may benefit from the author’s experience. Learn about the journey with its trials and tribulations as experienced through the patient / parent’s perspective and appreciate the blessing of a normally functioning healthy human body.

Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book

By Susan M. Love, Karen Lindsey, Elizabeth Love

Book cover of Dr. Susan Love's Breast 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. 

Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book

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…


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Healing: When a Nurse Becomes a Patient

By Theresa Brown,

Book cover of Healing: When a Nurse Becomes a Patient

What is my book about?

When an oncology nurse is diagnosed with cancer, she has to confront the most critical, terrified, and angry patient she’s ever encountered: herself.

New York Times bestselling author Theresa Brown tells a poignant, powerful, and intensely personal story about breast cancer in Healing. She brings us along with her from the mammogram that would change her life through her diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Despite her training and years of experience as an oncology and hospice nurse, she finds herself continually surprised by the lack of compassion in the medical maze—just as so many of us have. 

The Story You Need to Tell

By Sandra Marinella,

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

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.

The Story You Need to Tell

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…


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Living and Leaving My Legacy, Vol. 1

By Merle R. Saferstein,

Book cover of Living and Leaving My Legacy, Vol. 1

What is my book about?

Imagine having a written record of your life—your thoughts, feelings, lessons learned, conversations, encounters, memories, dreams, travel adventures, and more. In Living and Leaving My Legacy, Vol. 1, Merle R. Saferstein shares carefully curated excerpts from over 40 years of her journaling. Each is a sampling of her life: the good and bad, the easy and difficult, the challenges and breakthroughs. Saferstein has organized these excerpts by the major experiences of life as a woman, wife, mother, educator, and more. Chapters conclude with thought-provoking journal prompts meant to inspire readers and deepen their life journey. In reading this legacy journal, the reader will better understand that how we live our lives becomes our legacy.

A Monster Calls

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

Book cover of A Monster Calls

This dark fantasy book had me sobbing more than once, thanks to some great writing and the personal resonance it had for me at the time of reading. It’s marketed as YA fiction, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s only for young adults—it’s for everyone, especially if they’re struggling with grief. Siobhan Dowd came up with the story while fighting cancer and sadly died before it could be written, but Patrick Ness has created something beautiful, melancholy, and strangely uplifting from her original idea, in which the young Connor befriends a monster who tells him three stories before forcing Connor to tell one of his own. It explores the complexities of grief with honesty and sensitivity. It’s also beautifully illustrated by Jim Kay.

A Monster Calls

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

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked A Monster Calls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

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…


Who am I?

I’ve been a fan of horror stories since I was a child. It was never about the shock or the gore, but the sense of dread and unease such stories could build, and how they challenged society’s norms in a variety of ways. The driving force in a lot of horror is often the threat—or even the result—of some sort of loss, and that’s what I tend to explore in my own work. Whether it’s the loss of life, of love or loved ones, the loss of sanity, of reality, horror allows us to discover and/or face our fears while providing a means by which to manage them.


I wrote...

All That's Lost

By Ray Cluley,

Book cover of All That's Lost

What is my book about?

All That’s Lost is the second collection from award-winning writer Ray Cluley, bringing together 17 stories exploring the haunted, the strange, and the uncanny. You’ll encounter ghosts, and monsters, and final girls (amongst other things) but be warned: you might lose yourself in the darkness here…

The Cancer Journals

By Audre Lorde,

Book cover of The Cancer Journals

Like everything Audre Lorde wrote, this slim book is powerful and revolutionary. Lorde refuses to see her breast cancer as just a personal problem, and instead, as a Black lesbian feminist, traces its origins to larger economic, industrial, and political forces, including food additives and air pollution. Her activist research is impressive, but it is her fierce, bold critiques that I find most inspiring. She calls out the medical establishment, “We live in a profit economy and there is no profit in the prevention of cancer; there is only profit in the treatment of cancer.” She condemns psychological “causes” of cancer, “It is easier to demand happiness than clean up the environment.” Lorde calls us to understand ourselves within a matrix of social and environmental forces and to make change.

The Cancer Journals

By Audre Lorde,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Moving between journal entry, memoir, and exposition, Audre Lorde fuses the personal and political as she reflects on her experience coping with breast cancer and a radical mastectomy.

A Penguin Classic

First published over forty years ago, The Cancer Journals is a startling, powerful account of Audre Lorde's experience with breast cancer and mastectomy. Long before narratives explored the silences around illness and women's pain, Lorde questioned the rules of conformity for women's body images and supported the need to confront physical loss not hidden by prosthesis. Living as a "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet," Lorde heals and re-envisions herself…


Who am I?

I’ve been passionate about animals, the environment, and social justice since I was a child. As an adult I have been frustrated—even enragedthat so many products and practices are considered safe and “normal” even though they harm wildlife, pets, and people. I think it's bizarre that people imagine themselves as separate from the chemicals they spray in their homes and their yards, even as they breathe in the toxins. I hope that the concept of “transcorporeality,” which urges us to see our own bodies as literally part of the environment, will convince people that environmentalism isn’t optional but is a vital part of human health and social justice.


I wrote...

Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self

By Stacy Alaimo,

Book cover of Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self

What is my book about?

What does it mean to understand your own body as “nature,” that is, as physically interconnected with the material world? How does understanding ourselves as part of the environment transform ethics, politics, and daily practices? Focusing on feminist, environmentalist, and new materialist theory as well as environmental health and environmental justice movements, this book analyzes a broad range of memoirs, activism, film, art, and philosophy in order to propose the concept of trans-corporeality, which calls us to think of ourselves as the very stuff of the wider world. While Western culture has divided body and mind, nature and culture, science and daily life, this book calls each of us to understand environmental issues in new paradigms in which human beings are intermeshed with the world.

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