My favorite health book? (NHBPM 13)

I think it’s patently unfair to ask a reader what their favorite book is. It’s like saying, “Which finger is your favorite?” or “Which hair on your head is the very best one?”

You’re a different person with each book you read — and each time you read the same book — and there are simply too many books, too many possibilities, too many contexts. Choosing a favorite is like comparing apples to orangutans.

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The corollary is that I’m suspicious of anyone with a ready answer to the favorite book question. Partly because having an answer implies that the question is valid, and I’ve already posited it is not.

But I also have a shameful snobby reaction, where I can’t help but assume that anyone with a standout favorite book probably just hasn’t read very many books. De gustibus non est disputandum, of course, and I would never expect anyone to like the same books I do, or vice versa, or even to like books at all. But it seems ingenuous to have, or to be willing to share, a favorite book.

Have I set the stage to prove how worldly and snobby and literate and assy I am?


Now I can effuse about my favorite health book, because it is awesome!

My all-time favorite book for people with chronic illness is The Art of Getting Well by David Spero, RN.

But wait. Doesn’t the “chronic” in “chronic illness” mean you’ll never get well?

Well, yeah. And no.

Feeling suddenly less certain? A little confused? Perfect! That shifting you feel under your feet is the fertile ground of your new life.

The short answer: wellness is a state of mind, and the way to reach that state is through self-care.

Self-care is a foreign, revolutionary concept for most people, and for women especially. But there’s a reason all those pre-flight safety films tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first: if you are incapacitated  you will not be able to help anyone else. Your first responsibility must be to yourself.

The good news is that self-care is a combination of attitudes you can adopt, skills you can practice, and habits you can develop that will become second nature. And that’s a gift that anybody can get, as long as they give it to themselves.

It’s absolutely true that your disease may never go away, or even get better. This isn’t about denying the obvious, or the terrible. Far from it. But the (immense) power of self-care is such that you can stake a claim and intentionally build such high quality of life that your post-diagnosis life can be better than it was even before you got sick.

It happened to me. That’s how I know the “getting well” of the title sounds paradoxically impossible but is actually actual.

And you could not ask for a kinder, more knowledgeable, or wiser guide to living better than Spero, a nurse, journalist, health educator, and patient. I appreciated his deep experience and his gentle humor, evident even in the chapter titles:

Chapter 1: Studies Show Life is Hard

Chapter 5: Twenty-Four Reasons to Live

Chapter 7: Your Body–Love It or Leave It

The Art of Getting Well rocked my world, though like any true legend, its exact origins are shrouded in mystery. I can’t even remember how I ended up with it, other than it happened sometime after my diagnosis. But we were totally meant to be together, and that’s all that matters.

my health bookshelf. not shown: all the books I’ve borrowed or given away.

Living well is the best revenge. Start today.

Ready any good health books you’d recommend? Tell us about it!

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