5 incredible summer reads about long-term health conditions
Summer is a great time to pick up a book, especially if you’ve got a relaxing holiday planned, so we’ve picked out a handful of incredible summer reads, which really capture the essence of living with a long-term health condition, that we recommend you take with you on your travels.
To help you to decide which books to buy this summer we’ve compiled a list of summer reads with a difference. Not only have these books been enjoyed by many, they have also been celebrated for the way they tell the personal stories behind different health conditions and bring awareness of these to the foreground. With a selection of memoirs and fiction, these summer reads are brought to life by their authors who all have personal experience with the conditions they touch upon, as well as a great talent for writing.
Our top 5 must-buy summer reads
Somebody I Used to Know by Wendy Mitchell
Wendy’s memoir, Somebody I Used to Know, offers an account of her life since her diagnosis with Young Onset Dementia in 2014 and, as summer reads go, this one is a definite page-turner. Wendy worked with journalist Anna Wharton to create this first-of-its-kind memoir, which was inspired by Wendy’s blog, Which me am I today?, where she writes about her memory loss and other personal experiences with dementia. Wendy often addresses her younger self and touches on the differences before and after her diagnosis, but she always remains positive and determined about confronting her condition.
Although Wendy is retired she still does lots of work across the country to raise awareness of dementia. She is now a speaker and ambassador for Alzheimer’s society and has worked with other charities, including Age UK and Alzheimer’s Research. Wendy continues to live independently and keeps her blog updated regularly.
The Reason I Jump: one boy’s voice from the silence of autism by Naoki Higashida
The Reason I Jump was originally written in Japanese by Naoki Higashida when he was just 13 years old and has since been translated into English by KA Yoshida and author, David Mitchell. Naoki was diagnosed with severe autism at a young age and had difficulty with verbal communication and expression. However, he learnt to communicate with written language using an alphabet grid that his mother had made him and later used this grid to help him compose short stories, poems and his book, The Reason I Jump.
The Reason I Jump is an insightful look into the inner voice and feelings of a young boy with autism and it has resonated with many carers, parents and families of children who are living with autism around the world. Naoki addresses questions that he knows many people want to ask him, including, “why do you ask the same questions over and over?” By sharing his own feelings and experiences he encourages the reader to understand why a child with autism might act the way they do. As well as the Q&A layout, the book also includes a story written by Naoki where he displays his talent for creative writing. If you’re interested in thought-provoking summers reads, this is the one for you.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Reasons to Stay Alive is a memoir in which Haig addresses mental health and depression in the 21st century. He tells the story of overcoming his own depression with a series of honest thoughts and reflections on how it feels to live with such an isolating condition. The book is intertwined with other insights, encouragements and, ultimately, reasons to stay alive that Haig wishes he had heard and recognised when he was living with depression.
When Reasons to Stay Alive was released in 2015 it had an outpour of positive reviews and today, four years after its original publication, it remains a popular and important book that is still celebrated for creating honest conversations about a subject that has been kept behind closed doors for far too long.
Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Piano by Andrea Avery
If you’re searching for inspiring summer reads, then look no further than this unexpectedly uplifting book from Andrea Avery. From a young age, Avery showed incredible talent as a pianist and was passionate about music, but at the age of twelve she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a life-long auto immune condition that causes pain and stiffness in the joints, including Avery’s hands and fingers. Avery’s memoir confronts her battles against RA, her efforts to hold onto music and shows her sheer determination throughout all aspects of her life.
Music is both the backdrop and soundtrack of her story, as she introduces the lives of classical musicians that she turned to for inspiration, including Franz Schubert and one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein, and interweaves her musical vocabulary throughout the book. Although it is a memoir about pain, it is also an uplifting and articulate story of how she has continued to live a determined and positive life with arthritis and how her experiences with music and RA cultivated her talent for writing. Andrea Avery is a now a writer and English teacher in Arizona, USA.
Please Read this Leaflet Carefully by Karen Havelin
Please Read this Leaflet Carefully is Havelin’s debut novel that follows the life of the protagonist, Laura, as she reflects on her life with endometriosis.
Reaching from 2016 all the way back to 1995, we visit Laura at various stages of her life where her feelings and experiences with her chronic illness fluctuate. Havelin addresses the reality of what it can be like to live with a long-term health condition and doesn’t shy away from including the truth about the pain that can accompany it. However, by telling the story in reverse and beginning the novel with Laura’s older self, who is a mother and someone that her younger self would be proud of, a wave of optimism and determination is carried throughout the book.
These summer reads with a difference are all fantastic page-turners which we’re sure will provoke some deep and enlightening thoughts as you make the most of the warm weather this year, and we hope you manage to add at least one of them to your reading list!
If you’ve got any suggestions for some great summer reads, based on long-term health conditions or disabilities, please feel free to add them to our comments section below.
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