Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Month 11: Physical Disabilities or Mental Health Issues
Read a book about a character with a physical disability or struggling with mental health.
Beautiful Boy by
What had happened to my beautiful boy? To our family? What did I do wrong? Those are the wrenching questions that haunted every moment of David Sheff’s journey through his son Nic’s addiction to drugs and tentative steps toward recovery. Before Nic Sheff became addicted to crystal meth, he was a charming boy, joyous and funny, a varsity athlete and honor student adored by his two younger siblings. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who lied, stole, and lived on the streets. David Sheff traces the first subtle warning signs: the denial, the 3 A.M. phone calls (is it Nic? the police? the hospital?), the rehabs. His preoccupation with Nic became an addiction in itself, and the obsessive worry and stress took a tremendous toll. But as a journalist, he instinctively researched every avenue of treatment that might save his son and refused to give up on Nic. Beautiful Boy is a fiercely candid memoir that brings immediacy to the emotional rollercoaster of loving a child who seems beyond help.
The Soloist by
When Steve Lopez sees Nathaniel Ayers playing his heart out on a two-string violin on Los Angeles' Skid Row, he finds it impossible to walk away. At first, he is drawn by the opportunity to crank out another column for the Los Angeles Times, just one more item on an ever-growing to-do list: "Violin Man." But what Lopez begins to unearth about the mysterious street musician leaves an indelible impression.
More than thirty years earlier, Ayers had been a promising classical bass student at Juilliard - ambitious, charming, and one of the few African-Americans - until he gradually lost his ability to function, overcome by a mental breakdown. When Lopez finds him, Ayers is alone, suspicious of everyone, and deeply troubled, but glimmers of that brilliance are still there.
From an impromptu concert of Beethoven's Eighth in the Second Street tunnel to a performance of Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suites on Skid Row, the two men learn to communicate through Ayers's music. Lopez collects donated violins, a cello, even a stand-up bass and a piano with the hope that Ayers can be swayed to move off the streets, where every day his well-being is threatened. Their bond takes torturous turns as Lopez imagines he can change Ayers's life - finding him lodging, reconnecting him with his family, taking him to Disney Concert Hall to meet a former Juilliard classmate. For each triumph, there is a crashing disappointment, yet neither man gives up. And though it's Ayers he initially sets out to save, Lopez finds that his own life is profoundly changed. By turns gripping, moving, and inspiring, The Soloist is a story about unwavering commitment, artistic devotion, and the transformative magic of music.
The Bell Jar by
This extraordinary work chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, successful - but slowly going under, and maybe for the last time. Step by careful step, Sylvia Plath takes us with Esther through a painful month in New York as a contest-winning junior editor on a magazine, her increasingly strained relationships with her mother and the boy she dated in college, and eventually, devastatingly, into the madness itself. The reader is drawn into her breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies.
Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is rare in any novel. It points to the fact that The Bell Jar is a largely autobiographical work about Plath's own summer of 1953, when she was a guest editor at Mademoiselle and went through a breakdown. It reveals so much about the sources of Sylvia Plath's own tragedy that its publication was considered a landmark in literature.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by
Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor's dog and uncovers secret information about his mother.
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by
On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy. Yet when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down's Syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split-second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. But Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the infant. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this beautifully told story that unfolds over a quarter of a century in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that long-ago winter night. A brilliantly crafted, stunning debut, The Memory Keeper's Daughter explores the way life takes unexpected turns, and how the mysterious ties that hold a family together help us survive the heartache that occurs when long-buried secrets burst into the open.
Me Before You by
Taking a job as an assistant to extreme sports enthusiast Will, who is wheelchair bound after a motorcycle accident, Louisa struggles with her employer's acerbic moods and learns of his shocking plans before demonstrating to him that life is still worth living.
The Boy in the Moon by
Publication Date: 2011-04-26
Ian Brown's son, Walker, was born with a genetic mutation so rare that doctors call it an orphan syndrome: at most, three hundred people around the world live with it. At thirteen, Walker is still in diapers: he is globally delayed, he can't speak, and he has to wear cuffs on both arms so he won't constantly hit himself. He will require constant care for the rest of his life. The boy in the moon tells the story of one frail boy and the tiny constellation of people who love and care for him. From this intimate perspective, Ian Brown opens out a profound meditation on what life is worth, and what it means for all of us.
All the Light We Cannot See by
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure's reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum's most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure's converge.
Out of My Mind by
Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom—the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged, because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by
In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young childen, a 44-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem. After 20 days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking it, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly, over and over again. In the same way, he was able eventually to compose this extraordinary book. By turns wistful, mischievous, angry, and witty, Bauby bears witness to his determination to live as fully in his mind as he had been able to do in his body. He explains the joy, and deep sadness, of seeing his children and of hearing his aged father's voice on the phone. In magical sequences, he imagines traveling to other places and times and of lying next to the woman he loves. Fed only intravenously, he imagines preparing and tasting the full flavor of delectable dishes. Again and again he returns to an "inexhaustible reservoir of sensations," keeping in touch with himself and the life around him. Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after the French publication of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. This book is a lasting testament to his life.