A flatlay of books about disability, on a black background with colourful zig-zags

Image: Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

July is Disability Pride Month, a chance to celebrate all things disability, which equates to around a quarter of the UK’s population. Over the past 18 months we have heard a lot about representation and allyship; here is the ultimate list of books to begin educating yourself not just for July but beyond. We have encompassed a range of age ranges, as well as different disabilities and conditions. Remember, this list is not exhaustive – and not every disabled person is the same. 

I’m Only in it for the Parking by Lee Ridley (2021)

If you’re a fan of Britain’s Got Talent, you may remember Lost Voice Guy, also known as Lee Ridley. It’s something of a humorous memoir – one that acerbically plays on some of the worst stereotypes, such as being "in it for the parking"; people praying for you and your disability, and even gaining comparisons to Stephen Hawking. It’s funny, the kind of read some of us might need right now during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Neurotribes by Steve Silberman (2015)

Autism is gradually becoming more widely diagnosed, thanks to an update in dated diagnostic criteria. But are you aware of the full tapestry of the condition, as well as the history? Using his incredible eye for detail, Steve Silberman has constructed something of a tour de force in Neurotribes. The book encompasses different elements of Autism through history, as well the future of neurodiversity. It also touches on other neurodiverse conditions, too. No wonder it's been described as groundbreaking.

Crippled By Frances Ryan (2019)

As a journalist writing for the Guardian, Frances Ryan has often been applauded for her work covering disability. Crippled has recently been updated, and should be required disability history reading. This charters the impact of austerity, as well as the cuts to the welfare state – and the devastating toll that has taken over almost a decade. The prose is packed with detail, as well as unfolding the impact through the eyes of the people it hurt most. 

Coping with Multiple Sclerosis by Cynthia Benz and Richard Reynolds (2005)

Multiple Sclerosis (also known informally as MS) is a condition that impacts the central nervous system. This book may initially seem a little bit daunting, due to its medical textbook-like appearance. But it comprehensively includes almost everything you would like to know, as well as, crucially, vital practical information on dealing with the condition on a day-to-day basis. For those who live with the condition, or care or parent those who do, Benz and Reynolds' guide is a must-read.

Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8 by Naoki Higashida (2017)

The Reason I Jump became something of an overnight international sensation a few years ago and the film of the same name was released this month. However, Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8 is the follow-up to the original bestseller. Autism is so often portrayed as lacking imagination or empathy for other human beings – but this tome should put that stereotype to rest, at long last. 

Halfway home by Ronan Tynan (2003)

Limb difference is not often talked about societally – which makes this memoir all the more needed. Tynan was a member of the Irish Tenors, and would later go on to win several medals at the Paralympic Games. Even more remarkable was Tynan's next career move, from competitive sport to medicine, which he then switched up to become a professional singer. As a Tenor, Tynan won awards and landed a Top Five album.  A real rags to riches story, this is an inspiring read. 

Dyslexia Is My Superpower (Most Of The Time) by Margaret Rooke (2017)

In this book children and young adults discuss their experiences with Dyslexia. What is particularly good about this book is that useful strategies are also included. Rather than just going with the expectation of "just coping with it" – which can unfortunately happen with disabilities/conditions – this book really tackles the problem. Rooke has conducted more than 100 interviews with people living with dyslexlia, and there's additional information for professionals, too. 

Permanent Present Tense by Suzanne Corkin (2014)

Amnesia is often thought about in "movie terms", films such as 50 First Dates and Amnesiac have twisted popular understanding of the condition. But Corkin's  book encompasses an important, and rarely told story about Henry Molaison, a 27-year-old man who was left trapped in the present moment after damage during brain surgery. Corkin studied Molaison for nearly 50 years. In the process, she explains in this extraordinary book, she shows how his amnesia revolutionised our understanding of the brain. 

Go Your Crohn Way by Kathleen Nicholls (2016)

Crohn’s Disease doesn't always win the mainstream awareness it deserves, especially when it comes to other conditions and disabilities. Kathleen Nicholls has constructed something of a guide to coping with the condition, as well as detailing some of her own experiences. As the witty title might suggest, Nicholls' book lends a human side to a medical condition; Go Your Crohn Way is written from her own lived perspective, reminding us that there is a person beneath every medical label. 

Can I Tell You About Epilepsy? By Kate Lambert (2012)

How do you explain a disability or a condition to a child, and what it may potentially mean for them? This illustrated book is specifically aimed at younger children but includes relevant information for parents and professionals and friends. Disability is so often typecast as something gloomy and to be pitied, so this book's positive tone is all the more welcome.

Endometriosis by Andrew Horne and Carol Pearson (2018)

Too often dismissed as a "woman’s issue" or existing only in the sufferer's mind,  Endometriosis started to break out of the GP's office and into mainstream conversations lately. What we've learned is that diagnosis can takes almost a decade, in spite of the condition being debilitating even at a surface level. So far, no cure has been found for Endometriosis but Horne and Pearson's comprehensive guide offers in-depth information on symptoms and treatment, from women who have lived through it. 

Disability Visibility edited by Alice Wong (2020)

Activist Alice Wong brings together this urgent and timely anthology of essays from people living with many facets of disability with the important result of giving a glimpse of what life for others can be like. This book was released in time for the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, yet some research suggests many US citizens do not know what this important piece of legislation is. Make sure it’s on your reading list. 

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