11 Top Chronic Illness Books You May Want to Read

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Having a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as I do, adds a unique challenge and perspective to your life. Adapting to this and finding a way to live your life to the fullest requires support and information from many different places. Some of the best resources are books written by others who live with RA and other chronic illnesses. These authors provide information and inspiration that we can use to help with our own journey, no matter the condition we live with. Even better, they make us feel part of a community — rejoicing in the “me too” moments and sharing both tears and laughter. Here are some of the best chronic illness books to help you get started.

Wisdom Publications, ©2010

How to be sick

This is where you start. “How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers” by Toni Bernhard is a warm and inspiring guide to life with a chronic condition. It will help you learn to respect your body and connect to what is happening in the now, moving on from grieving about your healthy self in the past and worrying about the future. In so doing, “How to Be Sick” will carry you gently toward acceptance and peacefully coexisting with your chronic illness.

Conari Press, ©2013

Resilience in the face of stress

Chronic illness adds a unique stress to your life and it can be very hard to adjust. In “Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Tools for Women Coping with the Stress of Illness,” Danea Horn has created a blueprint for coping. The book is filled with practical suggestions and interviews with amazing women who live with chronic conditions. Journal exercises help you apply Horn’s tips to reduce stress in your own life. This is a great book for women with chronic illness and anyone else with coping with stress.

Changing Outlook LLC, ©2010

Learning empowerment

When Dave deBronkart was diagnosed with lung cancer, he discovered the ePatient movement. He shares his experience and everything you need to know about embracing empowerment in “Laugh, Sing and Eat like a Pig: How an Empowered Patient Beat Stage IV Cancer (and What Healthcare Can Learn from It).” Working collaborative with your healthcare team is a crucial part of this approach to living with chronic illness. DeBronkart’s book is essential reading for anyone with a chronic condition.

DeCapo Press, ©2008

Losing weight with diabetes

David Mendosa changed his life after being diagnosed with diabetes. His book “Losing Weight With Your Diabetes Medication: How Byetta and Other Drugs Can Help You Lose More Weight Than You Ever Thought Possible” is an exhaustive and informative guide to managing weight with diabetes through medication. Prior to his death in 2017, he was the community leader for HealthCentral’s diabetes site and shared his own experience and in-depth knowledge about all the aspects of living with diabetes.


Mindfulness and chronic illness

Finding a way to become happy with chronic illness is possible. And one of the best ways to get there is to practice mindfulness, adapted from Buddhist practice by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It’s an effective way for people with chronic or serious health conditions to disconnect from worry and build joyful lives. “Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment and Your Life” is a package deal of both the book and a CD that teaches you mindfulness meditation. It’s my go-to teacher and comfort during times of difficulty.

Two North Books, ©2016

Do less, enjoy more

I wrote “Chronic Christmas: Surviving the Holidays with a Chronic Illness” to help you enjoy the holidays by sharing tips for how you can do less so you can save enough energy to actually enjoy the whole event. Each chapter includes a tip for you and another to guide the people who love you to help in a way that’s fun for you both. Although the book focuses on Christmas, the suggestions can easily be adapted to help you get through any large celebration or event with your health and sanity intact.

Cleis Press, ©2007

Embracing your sexual self

Having a chronic illness or disability doesn’t mean that you stop being a sexual being (although it can sometimes feel that way). “The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: Full of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness” helps you discover how chronic illness affects your sex life. And then it shows you how to transcend any barriers you may experience. This is essential reading for anyone with a disability or chronic condition who is not satisfied by putting intimacy “on the shelf.”

Inner Traditions International and Bear & Company, ©2010

Treating complex conditions

Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain: The Mind-Body Connection” gives an in-depth orientation to these conditions and how to live with them. The authors achieve the perfect balance, making this a valuable book for people who have these types of chronic illness and the medical professionals who treat them. Celeste Cooper, who writes for our chronic pain site, is both a nurse and a patient, bringing a unique understanding to a complicated topic.

Dutton Books for Young Readers, ©2017

Anxious thought spirals

John Green’s new novel Turtles All the Way Down gives you an inside look into obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. It provides a way for those who live with these conditions to feel connected to a community, while brilliantly explaining what the conditions feel like for loved ones. It’s a book for young adults that is readable at any age. Green doesn’t hand out easy answers, but he does give us a fantastic and compelling story. This is also available in audiobook with a terrific narrator.

AMACOM, ©2002

Finding work with chronic illness

Work is important. Not only does it pay the bills, but it also gives us a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem. But when you have a chronic illness, working can be a challenge for many who may end up out of a job. In “I’d Rather Be Working: A Step-by-Step Guide to Financial Self-Support for People With Chronic Illness,Gayle Backstrom shares tips on how to find work and even how to create your own job. The book can be hard to find, but is worth the effort.

Hazelden Publishing, ©2016

Getting happy

Most of us have an inner voice that is critical of everything we do (and don’t do). This can be really hard when you have a chronic illness and there’s a lot you can’t do. The self-judgment can make your life very difficult. Wouldn’t it be amazing to rewire that? “What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now” by HealthCentral writer Eileen Bailey will help you do just that. Learn how to silence that inner voice so you feel better and can take positive action to improve your life.