The best books on chronic illness

2 authors have picked their favorite books about chronic illness and why they recommend each book.

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Discovering Hope

By Cindee Snider Re,

Book cover of Discovering Hope: Beginning the Journey Toward Hope in Chronic Illness

As part of the Chronic Joy Thrive Series, President and Co-founder of Chronic Joy Ministry Cindee Snider Re offers a very useful book that consists of part devotional and part workbook. This is not a book to be simply read and passively absorbed; it is a book in which you will fill in the blanks on Bible verses, journal your thoughts, and answer reflection questions as they relate to your chronic illness and walk with Christ. Whether you use this alone or in a group setting, I found it comforting that Cindee walks alongside you, sharing experiences, scriptural insights, and pointing you to whom you can trust. No doubt this will strengthen your faith while dealing with the challenge of chronic illness.  

Discovering Hope

By Cindee Snider Re,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Discovering Hope is a 10-chapter study inviting you to embrace a new perspective, celebrate the small victories, wrestle with difficult questions, and learn to laugh again. Often.No matter how dark the days, how wild the storm, how deep the valley or how long with winter, there is hope. There is always hope.


Who am I?

I am a school psychologist and Christian who has lived with multiple debilitating chronic illnesses for 25 years. As a result, I am all too familiar with how disruptive and life-changing they can be to our daily lives. Yet few books exist that offer practical guidance for living with chronic illness. And even fewer of these books are for Christian readers. Written with different areas of expertise and angles, my book and the books below fill this gap. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!


I wrote...

Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

By Christopher Martin,

Book cover of Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

What is my book about?

Finding Joy presents a comprehensive, practical guide for living your best life with chronic illness. This psychology self-help book integrates personal and professional insights to give you tools for handling various aspects of living with a chronic illness. There is also a chapter specifically for the loved ones and caregivers of the chronically ill. While this book is designed for anyone with a chronic illness, the spiritual content early in the book suggests the value of sticking to your faith and offers several Bible references.

Book cover of Laughter for the Sick and Tired

As noted in the final chapter of my own book, laughing is something I need to do more. Chronic illness is debilitating as it can (and does) drain my energy and zap my mood. As part of the Sick and Tired series, I thoroughly enjoyed Laughter for the Sick and Tired as it is lighthearted, the humor is clean, the author is a great storyteller, and reading this resulted in several belly laughs.   

Laughter for the Sick and Tired

By Kimberly Rae,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Laughter for the Sick and Tired as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Amazon Bestselling author Kimberly Rae, who lives with five annoying (and sometimes serious) health conditions, shares her medical mishaps and just plain weird experiences, such as:

*When her blood tests were lost at the hospital and she almost got treated for a random stranger’s liver problem.
*When the doctor’s Central IV went up to her jugular instead of down, and he told her he’d fix it tomorrow!
*Strange medical adventures from countries around the world.

Along with jokes, fun facts, and stories from other chronically ill friends, Laughter for the Sick & Tired may be just the dose of medicine…


Who am I?

I am a school psychologist and Christian who has lived with multiple debilitating chronic illnesses for 25 years. As a result, I am all too familiar with how disruptive and life-changing they can be to our daily lives. Yet few books exist that offer practical guidance for living with chronic illness. And even fewer of these books are for Christian readers. Written with different areas of expertise and angles, my book and the books below fill this gap. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!


I wrote...

Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

By Christopher Martin,

Book cover of Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

What is my book about?

Finding Joy presents a comprehensive, practical guide for living your best life with chronic illness. This psychology self-help book integrates personal and professional insights to give you tools for handling various aspects of living with a chronic illness. There is also a chapter specifically for the loved ones and caregivers of the chronically ill. While this book is designed for anyone with a chronic illness, the spiritual content early in the book suggests the value of sticking to your faith and offers several Bible references.

How to Be Sick

By Toni Bernhard,

Book cover of How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers

How to Be Sick is a soothing and strengthening book that offers tools that are useful for any creature living a life with a human body and heart. It contains many Buddhist-inspired mindfulness techniques that I use daily, such as ways to adjust one’s thoughts and approach, ways to work with acceptance and grief, and ways to find pleasure and joy when they are hard to come by.

How to Be Sick

By Toni Bernhard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Be Sick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brand-new edition of the best-selling classic with added and updated practices.

In 2001, Toni Bernhard got sick and, to her and her partner’s bewilderment, stayed that way. As they faced the confusion, frustration, and despair of a life with sudden limitations—a life that was vastly different from the one they’d thought they’d have together—Toni had to learn how to be sick. In spite of her many physical and energetic restrictions (and sometimes, because of them), Toni learned how to live a life of equanimity, compassion, and joy. This book reminds us that our own inner freedom is limitless, regardless…


Who am I?

Like my main character, I’m a Norwegian writer with ties to the US, who grew up with various chronic illnesses. I discovered the reason for much of my trouble when I was diagnosed with endometriosis. Isolated and in pain, I have always turned to books. I craved seeing my life reflected. Since Please Read This Leaflet Carefully came out, I’ve heard from many readers. I hope that it can help people who haven’t seen themselves in art before. This list addresses the needs of a life with chronic illness and pain: guidance, darkness, humor, comfort, and poetry. I hope these books will help you as much as they did me. 


I wrote...

Please Read This Leaflet Carefully: Keep This Leaflet. You May Need to Read It Again.

By Karen Havelin,

Book cover of Please Read This Leaflet Carefully: Keep This Leaflet. You May Need to Read It Again.

What is my book about?

Please Read This Leaflet Carefully is a life told in reverse and a subversion of what we expect from stories of illness. Having been diagnosed with endometriosis in her twenties, we follow Laura Fjellstad in her struggle to live a normal life across New York, Paris, and Oslo, fueled by her belief that to survive her chronic illness she must be completely self-reliant.

Moving backwards through time from 2016 to 1995, we meet Laura’s younger selves: her healthier selves. Laura as a daughter, a figure skater, a lover, and a mother. To be devoured intensely in one sitting, Please Read This Leaflet Carefully is a remarkable debut novel with bracing emotional insights and piercing descriptions of pain that linger in one’s mind long after the last page. 

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

By Elisabeth Tova Bailey,

Book cover of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

Bailey’s book is about a friendship (one-sided perhaps) between a woman and a snail. She describes her growing affection for a woodland snail who is trapped inside with her during a long illness. Although Bailey isn’t offering commentary on pet-keeping, her book suggests a compelling alternative to loving animals—especially creatures we bring in from the wild—by making them into our pets. She shows us how to encounter another creature with curiosity, wonder, and respect.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

By Elisabeth Tova Bailey,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

While an illness keeps her bedridden, Elisabeth Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence in a terrarium alongside her bed. She enters the rhythm of life of this mysterious creature, and comes to a greater understanding of her own confined place in the world. In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, she shares the inspiring and intimate story of her close encounter with Neohelix albolabris - a common woodland snail.

Intrigued by the snail's world - from its strange anatomy to its mysterious courtship activities - she becomes a fascinated and amused…


Who am I?

What does it mean to live a good life in a world shared with a multitude of other beings? I’ve spent my career exploring this question, in both my personal and my professional life. In my work as a bioethicist, I’ve researched and written about how to integrate environmental values into health care and medical research; how to think through (and survive) caring for a companion animal who is nearing the end of life; and why keeping pets is ethically problematic. My most current project—in collaboration with my canine companion Bella—is about ethics in human-dog relationships.  


I wrote...

The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives

By Jessica Pierce,

Book cover of The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives

What is my book about?

With The Last Walk, Jessica Pierce makes a case that our pets, and the love we bear them, deserve better. Drawing on the moving story of the last year of the life of her own treasured dog, Ody, she presents an in-depth exploration of the practical, medical, and moral issues that trouble pet owners confronted with the decline and death of their companion animals. Pierce combines heart-wrenching personal stories, interviews, and scientific research to consider a wide range of questions about animal aging, end-of-life care, and death. She tackles such questions as whether animals are aware of death, whether they're feeling pain, and if and when euthanasia is appropriate. How should we best honor the lives of our pets, both while they live and after they have left us?  

Determined

By Mark K. Fry,

Book cover of Determined: Encouragement for Living Your Best Life with a Chronic Illness

Being a “glass is half-full” person myself, I enjoy reading inspiring, actionable books that encourage me to look on the bright side and stretch myself to be the best version of myself.  

In Determined, multiple sclerosis sufferer Mark Fry provides a direct, no-nonsense, forward-looking, Christian approach to living well with a chronic illness.  In each chapter, Fry offers a Bible verse with sage advice such as smile; do things for others to take the focus off yourself and become happier in the process; and use your illness as a means to rely on and glorify God.  I also enjoyed the 21-day devotional at the end of the book.   

Determined

By Mark K. Fry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fry, a Nashville native, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis over 20 years ago and used his experiences living with a chronic illness to write "Determined." In the book, Fry incorporates his Christian faith to offer biblically-based encouragement and a roadmap for others to help them live life with a more positive outlook. It provides suggestions, reassurance and inspiration for those looking for answers post-diagnosis and how to live a more positive and encouraging life for God in the face of their new challenge. The book also has a bonus section with devotionals and links to encouraging songs that will help…


Who am I?

I am a school psychologist and Christian who has lived with multiple debilitating chronic illnesses for 25 years. As a result, I am all too familiar with how disruptive and life-changing they can be to our daily lives. Yet few books exist that offer practical guidance for living with chronic illness. And even fewer of these books are for Christian readers. Written with different areas of expertise and angles, my book and the books below fill this gap. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!


I wrote...

Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

By Christopher Martin,

Book cover of Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

What is my book about?

Finding Joy presents a comprehensive, practical guide for living your best life with chronic illness. This psychology self-help book integrates personal and professional insights to give you tools for handling various aspects of living with a chronic illness. There is also a chapter specifically for the loved ones and caregivers of the chronically ill. While this book is designed for anyone with a chronic illness, the spiritual content early in the book suggests the value of sticking to your faith and offers several Bible references.

Lessons in Taxidermy

By Bee Lavender,

Book cover of Lessons in Taxidermy: A Compendium of Safety and Danger

This is the first book where I read about experiences of childhood illness similar to my own. Reading it was both shocking and deeply cathartic in a way that felt almost dangerous. It is also a cold hard look at class, age, and intergenerational trauma in relation to health and healthcare in the US. It exists in its own category in my mind. All I can say is read it, just not on a bad pain day. 

Lessons in Taxidermy

By Bee Lavender,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Diagnosed with cancer at age twelve and perilously pregnant at eighteen, surviving surgeries and violent accidents: sometimes you can't believe Bee Lavender is still alive; sometimes you think nothing could kill her. Bee Lavender holds nothing back as she recounts her life spent in and out of hospitals and her subsequent dissociation from her own body and emotions. She struggles with health problems from birth, which are compounded by her surroundings, including frequent encounters with street fights, domestic violence and poverty. Her voice is as strong as the front she puts up for the multitude of doctors she sees, and…


Who am I?

Like my main character, I’m a Norwegian writer with ties to the US, who grew up with various chronic illnesses. I discovered the reason for much of my trouble when I was diagnosed with endometriosis. Isolated and in pain, I have always turned to books. I craved seeing my life reflected. Since Please Read This Leaflet Carefully came out, I’ve heard from many readers. I hope that it can help people who haven’t seen themselves in art before. This list addresses the needs of a life with chronic illness and pain: guidance, darkness, humor, comfort, and poetry. I hope these books will help you as much as they did me. 


I wrote...

Please Read This Leaflet Carefully: Keep This Leaflet. You May Need to Read It Again.

By Karen Havelin,

Book cover of Please Read This Leaflet Carefully: Keep This Leaflet. You May Need to Read It Again.

What is my book about?

Please Read This Leaflet Carefully is a life told in reverse and a subversion of what we expect from stories of illness. Having been diagnosed with endometriosis in her twenties, we follow Laura Fjellstad in her struggle to live a normal life across New York, Paris, and Oslo, fueled by her belief that to survive her chronic illness she must be completely self-reliant.

Moving backwards through time from 2016 to 1995, we meet Laura’s younger selves: her healthier selves. Laura as a daughter, a figure skater, a lover, and a mother. To be devoured intensely in one sitting, Please Read This Leaflet Carefully is a remarkable debut novel with bracing emotional insights and piercing descriptions of pain that linger in one’s mind long after the last page. 

When There Is No Cure

By Craig K. Svensson,

Book cover of When There Is No Cure: How to Thrive While Living with the Pain and Suffering of Chronic Illness

I was drawn to this meticulously written book in part because the author is a professor of pharmacy and my father is a retired pharmacist. I found myself thoroughly enjoying, underlining, and learning from the wealth of insight into living with chronic illness. The author offers excellent tips for navigating relationships, the medical field, and evaluating treatment options. 

While this book (like mine) is written for readers of all faiths, I appreciated and related to the testimony in the final chapter in which the author discusses the importance of his Christian faith and how it has helped him find meaning and purpose through suffering.   

When There Is No Cure

By Craig K. Svensson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When There Is No Cure as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How do you live well when the physical foundation of your life is crumbling? This is the challenge for millions who live with diseases for which there is no cure. These incurable ailments produce a life of constant pain, fatigue, numbness, dizziness, and other debilitating symptoms that create chronic suffering. Can you thrive in life while experiencing the suffering persistent sickness provokes? In When There Is No Cure, Dr. Craig Svensson guides readers to a path of thriving when life’s journey includes an incurable ailment. Drawing on his expertise as a pharmacist-scientist, as well as a fellow sufferer with several…


Who am I?

I am a school psychologist and Christian who has lived with multiple debilitating chronic illnesses for 25 years. As a result, I am all too familiar with how disruptive and life-changing they can be to our daily lives. Yet few books exist that offer practical guidance for living with chronic illness. And even fewer of these books are for Christian readers. Written with different areas of expertise and angles, my book and the books below fill this gap. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!


I wrote...

Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

By Christopher Martin,

Book cover of Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

What is my book about?

Finding Joy presents a comprehensive, practical guide for living your best life with chronic illness. This psychology self-help book integrates personal and professional insights to give you tools for handling various aspects of living with a chronic illness. There is also a chapter specifically for the loved ones and caregivers of the chronically ill. While this book is designed for anyone with a chronic illness, the spiritual content early in the book suggests the value of sticking to your faith and offers several Bible references.

Staying Alive

By Neil Astley,

Book cover of Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times

This collection, published by Bloodaxe Books, categorizes poems loosely by theme and contains a treasure trove of the best poems to help you keep on living when life is too hard. There is a wide range of themes, as well as some uplifting poems that explore everything beautiful about being alive.

Staying Alive

By Neil Astley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Staying Alive is an international anthology of 500 life-affirming poems fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when much in the world feels unreal, inhuman and hollow. These are poems of great personal force connecting our aspirations with our humanity, helping us stay alive to the world and stay true to ourselves. Many people turn to poetry only at unreal times, whether for consolation in loss or affirmation in love, or when facing other extremes and anxieties. Staying Alive includes many of the great modern love poems and elegies, but it also shows the power…


Who am I?

Like my main character, I’m a Norwegian writer with ties to the US, who grew up with various chronic illnesses. I discovered the reason for much of my trouble when I was diagnosed with endometriosis. Isolated and in pain, I have always turned to books. I craved seeing my life reflected. Since Please Read This Leaflet Carefully came out, I’ve heard from many readers. I hope that it can help people who haven’t seen themselves in art before. This list addresses the needs of a life with chronic illness and pain: guidance, darkness, humor, comfort, and poetry. I hope these books will help you as much as they did me. 


I wrote...

Please Read This Leaflet Carefully: Keep This Leaflet. You May Need to Read It Again.

By Karen Havelin,

Book cover of Please Read This Leaflet Carefully: Keep This Leaflet. You May Need to Read It Again.

What is my book about?

Please Read This Leaflet Carefully is a life told in reverse and a subversion of what we expect from stories of illness. Having been diagnosed with endometriosis in her twenties, we follow Laura Fjellstad in her struggle to live a normal life across New York, Paris, and Oslo, fueled by her belief that to survive her chronic illness she must be completely self-reliant.

Moving backwards through time from 2016 to 1995, we meet Laura’s younger selves: her healthier selves. Laura as a daughter, a figure skater, a lover, and a mother. To be devoured intensely in one sitting, Please Read This Leaflet Carefully is a remarkable debut novel with bracing emotional insights and piercing descriptions of pain that linger in one’s mind long after the last page. 

Book cover of Undo It! How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases

Dean Ornish is a legend in the world of lifestyle medicine. He was the first to show you can reverse heart disease with diet and lifestyle, and his work has gone on to study many of the diseases we care about, from diabetes to prostate cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. Undo It is a wonderful synthesis of Dr. Ornish’s research, and it suggests a unifying hypothesis for disease. This book also is co-authored by Anne Ornish, who brings a holistic dimension to lifestyle medicine.

Undo It! How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases

By Dean Ornish, Anne Ornish,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Undo It! How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • By the pioneer of lifestyle medicine, a simple, scientifically program proven to often reverse the progression of the most common and costly chronic diseases and even begin reversing aging at a cellular level! Long rated “#1 for Heart Health” by U.S. News & World Report, Dr. Ornish’s Program is now covered by Medicare when offered virtually at home.

Dean Ornish, M.D., has directed revolutionary research proving, for the first time, that lifestyle changes can often reverse—undo!—the progression of many of the most common and costly chronic diseases and even begin reversing aging at a cellular level.

Medicare…


Who am I?

I'm a physician, scientist, and food as medicine researcher who has spent three decades studying how the body defends itself against disease to protect health. A major focus of this has been on how your body responds to what you feed it. I'm an internationally renowned physician, scientist and author of the New York Times bestseller Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself. My work has led to the development of more than 30 new medical treatments and impacts care for more than 70 diseases. My TED Talk, “Can We Eat to Starve Cancer?” has garnered more than 11 million views. 


I wrote...

Book cover of Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself

What is my book about?

Is your diet feeding or defeating disease? Forget everything you think you know about your body and food and discover the new science of how the body heals itself. Learn how to identify the strategies and dosages for using food to transform your resilience and health in Eat to Beat Disease.

Your body was designed to fight disease, and we have radically underestimated how foods can be used to amplify this hidden power. Pioneering physician-scientist Dr. William Li empowers readers by showing them the evidence behind over two hundred health-boosting foods that can stave off cancer, reduce your risk of dementia, and beat dozens of avoidable diseases.

Chronic Illness

By Esther Smith,

Book cover of Chronic Illness: Walking by Faith

Licensed Counselor Esther Smith masterfully offers an impressive Christian devotional for chronic illness sufferers that takes only a few minutes per day to read. I find myself referring back to it for strength, wisdom, and biblical insights. The chapter for each day includes a Bible verse pertaining to a topic, a faith-based discussion, reflection questions, and suggested actions.   

There is so much to love about this book: it is practical, relatable, quick and easy to read, and comforting. 

Chronic Illness

By Esther Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Is chronic illness taking over your heart as much as your body? Physical symptoms and limitations change all aspects of life, leading to losses and to unique challenges that are difficult to navigate. Writing from her own experience with these issues, Esther Smith focuses heavily on encouragement and practical application, showing you how to release guilt and shame, ask for help, balance work and rest, and get through days of difficult symptoms. Each day, you will be encouraged as you consider how God uses illness in sanctifying, kingdom-advancing ways to display his glory and work in your heart.

In the…


Who am I?

I am a school psychologist and Christian who has lived with multiple debilitating chronic illnesses for 25 years. As a result, I am all too familiar with how disruptive and life-changing they can be to our daily lives. Yet few books exist that offer practical guidance for living with chronic illness. And even fewer of these books are for Christian readers. Written with different areas of expertise and angles, my book and the books below fill this gap. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!


I wrote...

Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

By Christopher Martin,

Book cover of Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

What is my book about?

Finding Joy presents a comprehensive, practical guide for living your best life with chronic illness. This psychology self-help book integrates personal and professional insights to give you tools for handling various aspects of living with a chronic illness. There is also a chapter specifically for the loved ones and caregivers of the chronically ill. While this book is designed for anyone with a chronic illness, the spiritual content early in the book suggests the value of sticking to your faith and offers several Bible references.

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