The best disability books

11 authors have picked their favorite books about disability and why they recommend each book.

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Our Diversity Makes Us Stronger

By Elizabeth Cole, Julia Kamenshikova (illustrator),

Book cover of Our Diversity Makes Us Stronger: Social Emotional Book for Kids about Diversity and Kindness

This story is told in bouncy rhyme and teaches children an important message of self-love and acceptance of others. Most importantly, the message of the book is genuinely charming and heartwarming. The rich and engaging illustrations in this book are a joy to look at and perfectly fit with the theme of this book. I especially appreciate the variety of characters shown in the book: every gender, ethnicity, and body type is showcased beautifully. 

Our Diversity Makes Us Stronger

By Elizabeth Cole, Julia Kamenshikova (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Our Diversity Makes Us Stronger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I’m a British author who specializes in writing about diversity and inclusion. I’ve always been a firm believer in equality for all, and I think diversity is such a vital subject for children to learn. It’s so important to teach children to love themselves and treat others how they would want to be treated, even if they are different than you. I believe a little bit of love goes a long way. I hope you enjoy my list of children’s books about diversity and share in my passion for children’s books that champion love and acceptance for everyone.


I wrote...

Family Means...

By Matthew Ralph,

Book cover of Family Means...

What is my book about?

Family Means… is a charming and heartwarming children’s picture book about family, diversity, inclusion, and the joy of everyday life. Every family is special, and this book celebrates all forms of living together: no one is left out. The types of families represented include nuclear/traditional families, adoption families, blended families, multiracial families, stepfamilies, single-parent families as well as LGBT families.

Each page starts with the words Family means… and shows different types of families in various everyday situations.

The War That Saved My Life

By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley,

Book cover of The War That Saved My Life

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s brilliant storytelling brought me into Ada’s world and made me root for her right from the start. I could feel the excruciating physical and emotional pain she experienced both at the hands of her abusive mother and from her clubfoot. She was prevented from ever leaving her apartment and interacting with anyone besides her younger brother Jamie. I cheered Ada on when she secretly taught herself to walk so she could escape London, and her mother, with Jamie as children were being evacuated by train to the English countryside to get away from the dangers of World War II. However, it was Ada’s relationship with Susan, the woman who is forced to take her and Jamie in when they arrive in the countryside and have nowhere to stay, that I found most powerful and moving. It showed that with patience, trust and mutual respect a bond can…

The War That Saved My Life

By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The War That Saved My Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

An act of kindness from a stranger when you’re having a bad day can totally change your mindset, it can even change your life. I believe there are few things more important than trust, friendship, and making genuine human connections. Those are some of the main themes of my novel Which Way is Home? and themes that appear in each of the books on my list. You never know when someone is going to come into your life and change it for the better. I always want to be open to those experiences in my life and reflect them in my writing. Reading these books has only reinforced that desire.


I wrote...

Which Way Is Home?

By Maria Kiely,

Book cover of Which Way Is Home?

What is my book about?

Anna’s father disappeared months ago. He had to flee the country because the cruel new Communist government wanted to arrest him. The Communists may have arrived like heroes at the end of World War II, saving Czechoslovakia from the Nazis–but since then, things have changed. Now Anna’s whole family feels threatened and doesn’t know whom to trust, so she and her mother and sister set out to escape, hoping to reunite with Papa. During their dangerous journey, they have to hide from the authorities and navigate through the wilderness, constantly relying on people they’ve never met for help. They have no way to contact Papa and they’re running out of options, so putting their lives in the hands of strangers might be their only hope of seeing him again.

The Right to Maim

By Jasbir K. Puar,

Book cover of The Right to Maim

I find Puar’s work to be very useful even if the theoretical framework she uses is different from, though adjacent to, mine. Usually I find the “biopolitical” analysis cloying and idealist, but Puar has developed her own materialist use of this framework that I have learned a lot from. In The Right to Maim Puar examines the liberal state’s use of maiming and debilitation as part of the reproduction of its hegemony. Not only does she examine the way a liberal disability discourse functions to exclude marginalized and targeted populations—proposing a vector of disability, debility, and capacity—she also interrogates how maiming functions in capitalist, colonial, and imperialist state policing. Moreover, her case study of Palestine, based on her own fieldwork, makes the more abstract aspects of her theory concrete.  

The Right to Maim

By Jasbir K. Puar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Right to Maim Jasbir K. Puar brings her pathbreaking work on the liberal state, sexuality, and biopolitics to bear on our understanding of disability. Drawing on a stunning array of theoretical and methodological frameworks, Puar uses the concept of "debility"-bodily injury and social exclusion brought on by economic and political factors-to disrupt the category of disability. She shows how debility, disability, and capacity together constitute an assemblage that states use to control populations. Puar's analysis culminates in an interrogation of Israel's policies toward Palestine, in which she outlines how Israel brings Palestinians into biopolitical being by designating them…

Who am I?

One of my long-standing interests, as a political philosopher, has been to examine the deployment of state power and the state forms (what I call states of affairs) the capitalist mode of production takes in order to preserve its economic order. Since I completed my doctorate, which was on the articulation of settler-colonial power in relationship to remaining settler states, I have largely been invested in thinking politics: how dominant politics maintain the current order, how counter-hegemonic politics disrupt this order. 


I wrote...

Austerity Apparatus

By J. Moufawad-Paul,

Book cover of Austerity Apparatus

What is my book about?

An excavation of the ideology of austerity and its relationship to the mechanisms of capitalism, Austerity Apparatus is a philosophical excursus on a variety of concepts surrounding capitalist crisis, class struggle, and the capitalist state machine. Written as a series of interconnected meditations on the problem of austerity, Austerity Apparatus is a creative intervention designed to force reflectin on the ways in which contemporary capitalism conditions its subjects to accept its limits.

The Disability Studies Reader

By Lennard J. Davis,

Book cover of The Disability Studies Reader

I was absolutely stunned when I read "Unspeakable Conversations" by Harriet McBryde Johnson, one of the many brilliant pieces included in this reader. My edition is from 2010, but new and updated editions have come out since. It explores questions of interdependency and independence, gender, the body, sexuality, biases in science and medicine, and physical disabilities, and investigates issues around pain, mental disability, and invisible disabilities.

Becoming familiar with some disability theories has been invaluable to me. My capacity to read myself as disabled has grown and still fluctuates. To know that sharp minds have been working on this and that it isn’t only a private issue but a political and theoretical one, one that can be marked by joy and humor as well as grief, struggle, and hardship, is immensely helpful. 

The Disability Studies Reader

By Lennard J. Davis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The fifth edition of The Disability Studies Reader addresses the post-identity theoretical landscape by emphasizing questions of interdependency and independence, the human-animal relationship, and issues around the construction or materiality of gender, the body, and sexuality. Selections explore the underlying biases of medical and scientific experiments and explode the binary of the sound and the diseased mind. The collection addresses physical disabilities, but as always investigates issues around pain, mental disability, and invisible disabilities as well. Featuring a new generation of scholars who are dealing with the most current issues, the fifth edition continues the Reader's tradition of remaining timely,…


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 Black Disability Politics

Black Disability Politics also just came out in early Fall 2022, and I was very excited to receive my print copy. The book shows how Black people have long engaged with disability as a political issue tightly tied to race and racism. This, however, has not been the story told in disability studies or in mainstream histories of the Disability Rights movement. Schalk deeply explores archives (for instance those of the Black Panther Party) and layers these findings across interviews with contemporary Black disabled community organizers, to recognize the richness and power of Black disability politics. This book is full of surprises, memorable archival anecdotes, and powerful conversations between Schalk and others. You should read this book! If a goal within ableist and white supremacist society is liberation, Schalk shows how essential it is to engage in antiracist, feminist, and anti-ableist political and cultural coalition.

Black Disability Politics

By Sami Schalk,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Black Disability Politics Sami Schalk explores how issues of disability have been and continue to be central to Black activism from the 1970s to the present. Schalk shows how Black people have long engaged with disability as a political issue deeply tied to race and racism. She points out that this work has not been recognized as part of the legacy of disability justice and liberation because Black disability politics differ in language and approach from the mainstream white-dominant disability rights movement. Drawing on the archives of the Black Panther Party and the National Black Women's Health Project alongside…

Who am I?

I grew up in the Disability Rights movement in Canada, fighting for my brother’s right to go to school, to receive medical care, and to be part of our community. For decades, disabled people were institutionalized away from their families and communities, warehoused instead of schooled. My uncle Robert died of neglect in one of these terrible places as a child. My family has been involved in supporting a class action lawsuit against the Ontario government for its responsibility. Since then, the right to education has been better established, and the institutions were closed. But I continue to fight for inclusion and against ableism in education, healthcare, and across our culture.


I wrote...

Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education

By Jay Timothy Dolmage,

Book cover of Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education

What is my book about?

Academic Ableism brings together disability studies and institutional critique to recognize the ways that disability is composed in and by higher education, and rewrites the spaces, times, and economies of disability in higher education to place disability front and center. For too long, argues Jay Timothy Dolmage, disability has been constructed as the antithesis or opposite of higher education, often positioned as a distraction, a drain, a problem to be solved. The ethic of higher education encourages students and teachers alike to accentuate ability, valorize perfection, and stigmatize anything that hints at intellectual, mental, or physical weakness, even as we gesture toward the value of diversity and innovation. Dolmage argues that disability is central to higher education, and that building more inclusive schools allows better education for all.

Signs of Disability

By Stephanie L. Kerschbaum,

Book cover of Signs of Disability

I was lucky to get the opportunity to read an advance copy of Dr. Kerschbaum's latest monograph, Signs of Disability (in the press and available in both print and open access in Fall 2022). The book focuses on the signs of disability we can recognize everywhere around us: yellow diamond-shaped “deaf person in area” road signs, that wheelchair parking icon, the telltale shapes of hearing aids, or white-tipped canes sweeping across footpaths. But even though the signs are ubiquitous, Kerschbaum argues that disability may still not be perceived as anything but a token or an apparition. This engaging, accessible book builds on Kerschbaum’s already-award-winning scholarship on difference and discourse, constructing new research methods and approaches, but also building community on these pages. Drawing on a set of thirty-three research interviews, as well as written narratives by disabled people, this book builds a new system of signs and significance for disability.…

Signs of Disability

By Stephanie L. Kerschbaum,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How can we learn to notice the signs of disability?
We see indications of disability everywhere: yellow diamond-shaped "deaf person in area" road signs, the telltale shapes of hearing aids, or white-tipped canes sweeping across footpaths. But even though the signs are ubiquitous, Stephanie L. Kerschbaum argues that disability may still not be perceived due to a process she terms "dis-attention."
To tell better stories of disability, this multidisciplinary work turns to rhetoric, communications, sociology, and phenomenology to understand the processes by which the material world becomes sensory input that then passes through perceptual apparatuses to materialize phenomena-including disability. By…


Who am I?

I grew up in the Disability Rights movement in Canada, fighting for my brother’s right to go to school, to receive medical care, and to be part of our community. For decades, disabled people were institutionalized away from their families and communities, warehoused instead of schooled. My uncle Robert died of neglect in one of these terrible places as a child. My family has been involved in supporting a class action lawsuit against the Ontario government for its responsibility. Since then, the right to education has been better established, and the institutions were closed. But I continue to fight for inclusion and against ableism in education, healthcare, and across our culture.


I wrote...

Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education

By Jay Timothy Dolmage,

Book cover of Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education

What is my book about?

Academic Ableism brings together disability studies and institutional critique to recognize the ways that disability is composed in and by higher education, and rewrites the spaces, times, and economies of disability in higher education to place disability front and center. For too long, argues Jay Timothy Dolmage, disability has been constructed as the antithesis or opposite of higher education, often positioned as a distraction, a drain, a problem to be solved. The ethic of higher education encourages students and teachers alike to accentuate ability, valorize perfection, and stigmatize anything that hints at intellectual, mental, or physical weakness, even as we gesture toward the value of diversity and innovation. Dolmage argues that disability is central to higher education, and that building more inclusive schools allows better education for all.

Book cover of Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability

As a student at San Francisco State University, I took Paul Longmore’s HIST 490 “Disability in America” course and it quite simply changed how I interpret United States history. The autobiographical title essay in Why I Burned My Book presents foundational logic for understanding legal and cultural barriers impacting the disabled, and how capitalism impacts minority groups. Nobody speaks better on disability than the disabled. Longmore creates a model built upon the work of earlier disability scholars-activist in presenting “Catch-22” paradigms in oppressive laws related to race and gender impacting minority groups. When I read Longmore’s ideas, I can again look into his insightful eyes flashing sparks of humor, defiance, anger, and joy. My book about Helen Keller simply would not exist without Longmore’s passionate investment in students.

Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability

By Paul K. Longmore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Personal inclination made me a historian. Personal encounter with public policy made me an activist."

Who am I?

There have always been disabled people shaping my worldview and understanding, however, I am an expert only about my own disabilities. Disabled storytellers, including Helen Keller, sometimes utilize tactical silence to scream… I value that! However, barriers confronting the disabled require broad and sometimes loud collective action from many people in many communities and not just a marginalized few. Disability activism is a complex, tactical fight over time for self-determination that touches all of us at some point. COVID, world events, and experiencing some barriers disabled and marginalized groups face all the time have compelled me to share a few of my favorite reads related to disability and inclusion.


I wrote...

Helen Keller: A Life in American History

By Meredith Eliassen,

Book cover of Helen Keller: A Life in American History

What is my book about?

As a special collections librarian at San Francisco State University, I wrote this book as a library reference source for ABC-CLIO’s “Women Making History” series. Helen Keller never viewed herself as a “SuperCrip,” but she allowed herself to cast her as one who overcame obstacles to lobby for governmental disability support. This disability history chronicles Keller and other Deafblind people through tremendous change. I use this book to do reference, but I read it for the dramatic story arcs of Keller’s life moving through the world of ideas. Those closest to her were caught in the web of her struggles to be an independent and engaged citizen. The power dynamics of the Helen Keller-Anne Sullivan Macy relationship can be understood within emerging social reform movements.

Let's Talk! Going to the Zoo

By Lisa Jacovsky, Blueberry Illustrations (illustrator),

Book cover of Let's Talk! Going to the Zoo

A fantastic story about two best friends where one has autism and although other children mock her for flapping her arms, they learn about autism and about being themselves no matter what others think. A wonderful book showing kids that it's ok to laugh with others but not at them.

Let's Talk! Going to the Zoo

By Lisa Jacovsky, Blueberry Illustrations (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Let's Talk! Going to the Zoo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I have seen a huge shift in the way others look at me and treat me since losing complete vision in one eye. I’m now labeled. It’s not fun, it’s disturbing and sad, and even though my appearance has slightly changed, I have not. “my disability does not define who I am” I may smile, but it doesn’t mean I don’t struggle and we can all use some kind words and encouragement and not be so judgmental.


I wrote...

The Adventures of Bentley Hippo: Inspiring Children to Accept Each Other

By Argyro Graphy,

Book cover of The Adventures of Bentley Hippo: Inspiring Children to Accept Each Other

What is my book about?

Bentley is about to board a rocket for the trip of a lifetime. His friends however are not allowed to join him as they are "different". 

This book teaches children about diversity and inclusion. We should all celebrate individuality and embrace our differences. Children will see themselves through the diverse characters known to Bentley as 'his friends'. This is a great conversation starter for parents, teachers, and educators. Inspiring Children to Accept Each Other reinforces the importance of being different, and that we all matter, and we all belong.

Book cover of Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally

Written with clear down-to-earth language, disability advocate Emily Ladau had written a guide that could revolutionize the way that people think about disability and how to interact with people who have disabilities. Because our society has kept people with disabilities separate for so long, this kind of book is essential in leading us towards inclusion.

Demystifying Disability

By Emily Ladau,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I'm writer, educator, disability advocate, and mother of a teenage son with multiple disabilities. Since my son’s diagnosis with autism at age three, I've been on a quest to not only understand the way that his unique brain works, but also to advocate for a more just and equitable world for people with disabilities and their families. When researching my book The Little Gate-Crasher, I discovered how much my great-grandmother was a powerful advocate for her son Mace who was born with a form of dwarfism. Our society has evolved in the last one hundred years in terms of inclusion and accessibility—and yet, people with disabilities and their loved ones are often isolated.


I wrote...

The Little Gate-Crasher: The Life and Photos of Mace Bugen

By Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer,

Book cover of The Little Gate-Crasher: The Life and Photos of Mace Bugen

What is my book about?

Mace Bugen might have been an achondroplastic dwarf—forty-three inches tall with an average-sized head and a torso set on small, twisted legs—but that didn’t mean he was an idiot or a pushover. In truth, he was smarter than most; over the years, he learned to effectively turn what society in those days called a handicap into a powerful tool he could use to his advantage.

At a time before cell phones or Andy Warhol, you could say that Bugen was the world’s first practitioner of the celebrity selfie. Or maybe you could say more accurately that he was the world’s first selfie photobomber. Over a period of three decades, Mace engineered photos of himself with some of the biggest celebrities of his day.

Slow Dance

By Bonnie S. Klein,

Book cover of Slow Dance: A Story of Stroke, Love and Disability

This memoir touched on all the feelings and struggles young stroke survivors experience and how love made the journey endurable. I related to much of her story, but I was more thankful than her. She writes about the inaccessibility of structures, and the ignorance society has about the disabled. All of this is true, but I was so grateful to be alive and free from being locked in; inaccessibility issues had no place in my memoir.

Slow Dance

By Bonnie S. Klein,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

The five recommended nonfiction books on my list profoundly affected my life in my time of need. I struggled when a minor accident led to a brainstem stroke and being locked in at 45. How would I find happiness now? How can I go on? These five books gave me the strength to work hard, accept what couldn’t be improved, and be grateful for each day of good health. I hope the recommended books will help you prepare for the day your life will change...and it will.


I wrote...

Locked In Locked Out: Surviving a Brainstem Stroke

By Shawn Jennings,

Book cover of Locked In Locked Out: Surviving a Brainstem Stroke

What is my book about?

After Dr. Shawn Jennings, a busy family physician suffered a brainstem stroke on May 13, 1999, he woke from a coma locked inside his body, aware and alert but unable to communicate or move. Once he regained limited movement in his left arm, he began typing his story, using one hand and much patience. 

With unexpected humour and tender honesty, Shawn shares his experiences in his struggle for recovery and acceptance of his life after the stroke. He affirms that life is still worth it even without achieving a full recovery.

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