Whether you’re a patient, caregiver, or clinician looking for a great read for yourself, to recommend to a loved one or client, or to add to your book club’s list, our list of the best books about people living with and recovering from brain injury and other neurological issues is sure to inspire you.
Looking for insight about what’s it’s like to live with brain injury and related communication disorders? Or to put yourself into the shoes of a caregiver? Maybe you want to catch up on the latest developments in neuroscience? This list has it all. What books would you add to the list?
Books about what it’s like to live with brain injury, stroke, aphasia, or dementia
- Identity Theft: Rediscovering Ourselves After Stroke by Debra Meyerson
Stanford professor Debra Meyerson documents her own journey to recover from a severe stroke that initially left her physically incapacitated and unable to talk. She also writes about the emotional side of recovery, discussing questions like “Who am I now?” and “How do I rebuild a meaningful and rewarding life?” In the author’s own words, “I sincerely hope Identity Theft becomes an important resource to help people recovering from stroke, navigating a changing identity for other reasons, or supporting those who are.”
- Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
Author and neuroscientist, Lisa Genova, tells the story of Sarah Nickerson, who experienced a brain injury in a car crash that steals her awareness of everything on her left side, and how she subsequently retrained her mind to perceive the world as a whole again. Does an excellent job describing how injuries on the left or right side of our brains impact the opposite side.
- Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Another excellent read by neuroscientist Lisa Genova that was made into an Academy Award-winning movie of the same name. This book sensitively and insightfully describes the journey into early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease by a 50-year-old Harvard professor, and how she and her family cope with the increasing levels of deterioration in her brain.
- Over My Head: A Doctor’s Own Story of Head Injury from the Inside Looking Out by Claudia Osborn
Physician Claudia Osborn suffered a TBI when hit by a car while riding her bike one night. Her book describes her rehabilitation process using a mix of her memories, passages taken from her personal notebook, as well as her friends’ journals. Her medical background allows her to combine objective medical knowledge with her own emotions in an enlightening tale of recovery.
Books that help us understand what it’s like to be a caregiver
- Where is the Mango Princess? A Journey Back from Brain Injury by Cathy Crimmins
This is a personal, heartbreaking, and sometimes even humorous account of the effects of traumatic brain injury (as a result of a boating accident) on the author’s husband Alan – on herself as his caregiver – learning to accept the “new” Alan and on their family.
- The Man Who Lost His Language: A Case of Aphasia by Sheila Hale
When Sir John Hale suffered a stroke that left him unable to walk, write or speak, his wife Sheila researched everything about his condition that she could get her hands-on, in an attempt to restore his old life. Her book tells the story of Hale’s stroke and their experience the UK’s National Health Service, as well as what Sheila learned about aphasia treatment.
- In an Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing by Lee Woodruff
Reporter and co-anchor for ABC, Bob Woodruff, was embedded with the military in Iraq when an IED went off near the tank in which he was riding. He and his cameraman were hit, and Bob suffered a TBI that nearly killed him. His wife Lee writes about their journey to recovery. The book also explores issues of care within the VA system for the hundreds of thousands of vets diagnosed with TBI since 2001.
Books about how our brains work
- The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge
Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge provides an excellent overview of the science of neuroplasticity and the people whose lives have been transformed by our present understanding of the ways in which our brain “rewires” itself after injury.
- Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman
A New York Times bestseller that seeks to reframe autism and other spectrum disorders as potentially a ‘naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius rather than as disabilities. Wired reporter Steve Silberman digs into the history of autism and finds answers to the question of why the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years.
- Reading The Brain: The New Science Of How We Read by Stanislas Dehaene
Cognitive neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene diagrams the neural processes that translate “marks on paper” into language, sound, and meaning, including an in-depth exploration of dyslexia.
- The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John McWhorter
Linguistics professor John McWhorter tells the amazing story of how language and communication evolved biologically and geographically in human beings – going back to a single original source. The author reminds us that language is not fixed but is a living, dynamic entity that adapts itself to the ever-changing human environment.
- Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas
The riveting story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the pathologist who first identified CTE in professional football players – a disease caused by blows to the head that can affect everyone playing the game. It became the controversial truth the NFL wanted to ignore. Made into a 2015 movie of the same name.
Thank you for the list! What about:
I HAD BRAIN SURGERY. WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE? by Suzy Parker
STROKE OF INSIGHT by Jill Bolte Taylor
Thank you for your suggestions.
AWAY FROM HER by Alice Munro
JAN’S STORY by Barry Peterson
MY TWO ELAINE’S by former Wisconsin Governor Martin Schreiber
“One Hundred Names for Love” by Diane Ackerman is a beautiful account of her husband’s struggles with aphasia.