What to read… when living with long-term illness

Rebecca Stack, Associate Editor for Books, chips in with the first in a new series.

When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi (2016, Bodley Head)
A poignant memoir by the late Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with widespread cancer. This was an moving book to read and I was touched by the personal journey the author shared from his diagnosis, to starting a family and eventually finding meaning. The book challenges readers to consider the role of professional vs. patient and the impact that a transition from health to illness has upon
one’s personal identity.
Making Sense of Illness: The Social Psychology of Health and Disease – Alan Radley (2009, Sage)
A must for those interested in the social construction of health and illness. Over the years I’ve continually come back to this thought-provoking book which challenges me to view illness as a lived and personal experience for the individual. Books like this are vitally important as the biomedical model still dominates many approaches and interventions in the field of health and illness. Books like Making Sense of Illness help us to remember and champion the contributions of health psychology, medial anthropology and medical sociology to our understanding of the interaction between society, psychology and illness.
The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better for Everyone – Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett (2009, Penguin)
This well-known book calls for us not to just explore individual predictors of illness and mortality, but to examine the impact of inequality on factors such as health and illness. Essentially this book illustrates that cultivating equality can be beneficial to all of us.

Developing Resilience: A Cognitive Behavioural Approach – Michael Neenan (2009, Routledge)
Interweaves practical techniques for developing personal resilience with a strong academic underpinning. When I first read this book, I was studying cognitive behaviour therapy and was very surprised at the engaging style and tone of this text. This book has remained on my shelf for both a personal and academic perspective.

Still Alice – Lisa Genova (2009, Simon & Schuster)
Still Alice is the fictional story of a highly successful woman a diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist at Harvard University, who has used her insight into Alzheimer’s to skilfully inject realism and depth. You only need to look at the reviews of this book (and the subsequent film) to see how the book’s portrayal of Alzheimer’s resonates with those living with the condition and their families.

- By Rebecca Stack, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University, and one of two new Associate Editors for this section. Rebecca’s teaching and research seek to understand psychological processes that occur between people, medicine, health and illness. She also teaches and conducts research into psychological wellbeing and resilience in people diagnosed with long-term illnesses.

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