The best books about leprosy

4 authors have picked their favorite books about leprosy and why they recommend each book.

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On Sledge and Horseback to Outcast Siberian Lepers

By Kate Marsden,

Book cover of On Sledge and Horseback to Outcast Siberian Lepers

Also published in 1893, the same year as Chekhov’s Sakhalin Island. Marsden, a London-born nurse, found her vocation tending to sick and abandoned Russians. The book offers a remarkable portrait of the remotest reaches of the Russian Empire, as well as the author’s indomitable spirit.

Who am I?

Sara Wheeler is a prize-winning non-fiction author. Sara is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Contributing Editor of The Literary Review, a Trustee of The London Library, and former chair of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year award. She contributes to a wide range of publications in the UK and US and broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio. Her five-part series, ‘To Strive, To Seek’,  went out on Radio 4, and her book Cherry was made into a television film. 

I wrote...

Mud and Stars: Travels in Russia with Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Other Geniuses of the Golden Age

By Sara Wheeler,

Book cover of Mud and Stars: Travels in Russia with Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Other Geniuses of the Golden Age

What is my book about?

With the writers of the Golden Age as her guides – Pushkin, Tolstoy, Gogol and Turgenev, among others – Wheeler travels across eight time zones, from rinsed north-western beetroot fields and far-eastern Arctic tundra to the cauldron of ethnic soup that is the Caucasus. She follows nineteenth-century footsteps to make connections between then and now: between the places where flashing-epauletted Lermontov died in the aromatic air of Pyatigorsk, and sheaves of corn still stand like soldiers on a blazing afternoon, just like in Gogol’s stories. On the Trans-Siberian railway in winter she crunches across snowy platforms to buy dried fish from babushki, and in summer she sails the Black Sea where dolphins leapt in front of violet Abkhazian peaks. She also spends months in fourth-floor 1950s apartments, watching television with her hosts, her new friends bent over devices and moaning about Ukraine.

Lord Foul's Bane

By Stephen R. Donaldson,

Book cover of Lord Foul's Bane

Oddly, this is a book I both love and hate at different stages of the story. It was the first title I brought from a book club, and the first I read after Tolkien. Obviously, there are similarities, but I loved the idea that someone from our world could be drawn into a fantasy world. Donaldson’s main character, Covenant, is not easy to like following that controversial scene early in the book. But Donaldson’s style kept me engaged—even when Covenant became extremely annoying and I found myself yelling at him to ‘stop your whining and get on with it!’ But the excellent world-building, a clever magic system, and intriguing supporting characters make this book very readable and one I have read a number of times. But while I’m still not 100% sure about it, I wouldn’t be parted from my old copy.

Who am I?

From as early as I can remember, I've been fascinated by science and the supernatural. I guess it was the bookcases of my parents and relatives that stoked my imagination as a child. From books about mysteries of the universe, to stories of fairies, nymphs and banshees, all asked questions that I longed to know the answers to. It’s a habit I've maintained throughout my life, always investigating, always challenging my beliefs. I like to think this has given me the skills to write a good, fantasy story. While I create worlds, characters, and rules of magic based on a logic that’s believable, as the world my characters live in is very real to them.

I wrote...

Song of Echoes

By R.E. Palmer,

Book cover of Song of Echoes

What is my book about?

It's a traditional epic fantasy with a mystery element. Yes, there is the good verses evil, a magic system that can be as dangerous to those who wield the power as those it's used against, but not all is what it seems. And when a shocking discovery is made following a tragic act of treachery, old loyalties and beliefs are challenged, bringing the Five Realms to the brink of defeat.

The Crystal World

By J.G. Ballard,

Book cover of The Crystal World

A tropical forest in Africa is the epicentre of a bizarre and very troubling phenomenon. Through a sort of “leak” in space-time, everything is slowly turning to crystal, and this “disease” will eventually seep out into the rest of the world. An English doctor goes on an Apocalypse Now-style journey into the forest to try and understand. Ballard’s sci-fi classic is as weird and thought-provoking as always, and the forest itself is a palpable presence throughout. 

Who am I?

I’m an Irish author who lives close to three very different forests: deciduous, planted coniferous, and the planned gardens of a former stately home that once welcomed WB Yeats and several other famous writers. I’ve always loved the woods – it often feels like stepping through a portal into some other, stranger parallel world – and drew huge inspiration from these places for Shiver the Whole Night Through. I wanted the forest to feel like a character, which was sentient and had agency. I incorporated several real-life locations into the fictional Shook Woods…and wrote a lot of the story in the forest, gazing into the dark trees, waiting for them to speak. 

I wrote...

Shiver The Whole Night Through

By Darragh McManus,

Book cover of Shiver The Whole Night Through

What is my book about?

Shiver the Whole Night Through is a YA novel, blending mystery and horror, about a bullied Irish youngster drawn into a dream world of magic, desire, hope, and revenge. After months of harassment and romantic heartbreak, seventeen-year-old Aidan Flood feels ready to end it all. 

But when he learns that local girl Sláine McAuley actually has, he discovers a new sense of purpose and becomes determined to find out what happened to her. Aidan isn’t sure if beautiful Sláine is a ghost, a demon, or the figment of his imagination. The weather is turning colder, an ancient evil has awoken – and it might just be the death of them all.

How to Escape from a Leper Colony

By Tiphanie Yanique,

Book cover of How to Escape from a Leper Colony: A Novella and Stories

I love the unexpected beauty and horror of this book which is a collection of stories and a novella. The title also made me wonder, how do you escape a leper colony? Author Tiphanie Yanique is a Caribbean writer whose stunningly poetic voice haunted me long after I finished reading her book. As I read it, I imagined the narrator's Caribbean accent soaking into every syllable. In the key short story, Yanique sets us down in a leper colony on a deserted island for the dying and yet manages to leave room for the miraculous as well. Describing one leper she says, "And when a man with no hands claims that he can fly, you listen."

Who am I?

A Chicago writer, I've always been drawn to quirky books. My first novel, The Prospect of My Arrival, was a finalist in Amazon's novel contest and centers on a human embryo that is allowed to preview the world. My current work-in-progress is nonfiction. The Invention of Fireflies is a memoir of the magical and monstrous moments of my life. Varied day jobs have included being a professional cuddler, web designer, and caregiver. Affirmative Entertainment represents me for possible movie/TV projects. My work was selected for inclusion in the HBO New Writers Project, The Norton Introduction to Literature, many textbooks, and anthologies.

I wrote...

The Hope Store

By Dwight Okita,

Book cover of The Hope Store

What is my book about?

Two Asian American men, Luke and Kazu, discover a bold new procedure to import hope into the hopeless. They vow to open the world's first Hope Store. Their slogan: "We don't just instill hope. We install it." The media descend. Customer Jada Upshaw arrives at the store with a hidden agenda, but what happens next no one could have predicted. Meanwhile, an activist group called The Natural Hopers emerges warning that hope installations are a risky, Frankenstein-like procedure and vow to shut down the store. Luke comes to care about Jada, and marvels at her Super-Responder status. But in dreams begin responsibilities, and unimaginable nightmares follow.

If science can't save Jada, can she save herself -- or will she wind up as collateral damage?

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

By Stephen Donaldson,

Book cover of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever : Lord Foul's Bane', 'Illearth War' and 'Power That Preserves

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever is a fantastic tale of two worlds. There is the Land, a mystical place of good versus evil, with inhabitants who use supernatural means to summon help against the darkness, and our world where the writer Thomas Covenant lives as an outcast to keep his leprosy in remission and to avoid his hostile neighbors. When he is magically transported to the Land and its people beg him to fight the evil for them, he refuses, believing it is a suicidal delusion that will reactivate his disease and kill him. The troubled hero Covenant could not be more compelling, or his dilemma better written, especially as the true-blue inhabitants of the Land struggle to understand why he can’t do the right thing.

Who am I?

I’ve had a thing for antiheroes since my early days that were dominated by stereotypical “true-blue” protagonists in straightforward “good versus evil” narratives. Comic books, novels, and television shows were stunted by this unrealistic division that was intended to shelter the reader from provocative ideas and philosophies in favor of presenting a stable worldview. This distortion was most obvious in entertainment intended for young Canadian minds, so it wasn’t until I was old enough to make my own library selections and book purchases that I began to seek out the dark characters populating the gray area that is fiction and life. This ongoing exploration is reflected in my books.

I wrote...

The Variant Effect: Skin Eaters

By G. Wells Taylor,

Book cover of The Variant Effect: Skin Eaters

What is my book about?

The old building in a rundown part of Metro was a perfect place to find a body, but they wouldn't have dragged Joe Borland out of retirement if it still had its skin. It's been twenty years since he battled the Variant Effect, and twenty since he let his partner get skinned alive. Now both of them are ordered back into action to meet a terrifying new threat.

Sometimes when you need a hero, you get Joe Borland.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

By Dr. Paul Brand, Philip Yancey,

Book cover of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

This is one of my all-time favorite books! Raised in India by missionary parents, Dr. Brand saw firsthand the effects of leprosy on the body. He trained as a doctor in England and returned to India where he pioneered the concept of the “gift of pain”—the idea that lepers’ “rotting” extremities resulted from the loss of sensation and subsequent infection, not the disease itself. A renowned surgeon, he was the first in the world to use reconstructive surgery on lepers, techniques he later applied to diabetics.

The book goes through the body, system by system, relating the physical body to the body of Christ. My favorite parts are Dr. Brand’s vivid stories of treating the “outcasts” society shuns but God does not.

Who am I?

Having practically grown up at the hospital where my dad worked as a medical photographer, I wanted to be a nurse from the age of ten. I worked in ICU for five years and then retired to become a stay-at-home mom and later a homeschool mother. But once a nurse, always a nurse. I continued to care for friends and family, including my one-hundred-year-old mother-in-law, through health crises and long-term illnesses. My book and the others listed here tell stories of God’s healing—physically, mentally, and spiritually—a theme I’m passionate about and hope you are, too!

I wrote...

Health, Healing, and Wholeness: Devotions of Hope in the Midst of Illness

By Tracy Crump,

Book cover of Health, Healing, and Wholeness: Devotions of Hope in the Midst of Illness

What is my book about?

Are you facing a health crisis or battling chronic illness? Do you need a dose of hope? Through her work as an intensive care nurse, Tracy Crump witnessed lifesaving miracles when everyone involved had given up—everyone except God.

Crafted with unique examples of God's miraculous power and saving grace, Health, Healing, and Wholeness blends Scripture-rich meditations with biblical principles highlighting God's mercy in times of medical need. Moving stories of a mother's sacrifice, children overcoming catastrophic accidents, and joy despite traumatic brain injury instill hope. Whether you are experiencing a medical crisis, walking alongside someone who is, or caring for a loved one, these thirty devotions will bring comfort and peace.

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England

By Ian Mortimer,

Book cover of The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century

Ian’s book was spot on. Everything you imagine the middle ages to be is brought to life through this brilliant and sometimes amusing read. Ian dives into the dreadful living conditions of the time and gives you an uncanny look at the middle ages. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in how people lived during the middle ages!

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by the history of medicine, particularly the more macabre details. While researching my family lineage, I became especially interested in medieval medicine and the lives of English monarchs. I was honored to be asked to write a book on medicine in the middle ages, and I dove into the research head first. I have been lucky enough to write for several other publications, and I have self-published on Amazon. I enjoy writing historical fiction and my novel, Sleeping with the Impaler, was a book I truly enjoyed writing. I hope the books I recommended spark your interest as they will stay with me forever.

I wrote...

Medicine in the Middle Ages: Surviving the Times

By Juliana Cummings,

Book cover of Medicine in the Middle Ages: Surviving the Times

What is my book about?

Medicine in the Middle Ages is a fascinating walk through time to the beginnings of European medicine. Learn how the four humors were the concept that medicine revolved around and why bloodletting and purging were common treatments. Get firsthand accounts of the gruesome ordeal of childbirth and the devastation the Black Death had on the world’s population.

Medicine in the Middle Ages is not only a book rich with details of the practice of medicine, but it is a history book that comes alive.

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