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8 Great Books to Buy Someone with Cancer

8 Great Books to Buy Someone with Cancer



Shenell Malloy

There’s a mountain of books out there about cancer, healthy living, and overall wellness. Finding a book with the right tone and the right amount of advice (without being overwhelming) can be tricky. Here are a few book suggestions for those in cancer treatment, depending on who you’re buying it for, where they are in their journey, and what they’re interested in. 

First - think: Audible

Many people in cancer treatment find reading incredibly draining. Some are even unable to read because cancer treatment can impact the eyes’ ability to focus. Gifting an Audible subscription or sending books via Audible is an amazing gesture. This way, they can listen to books chapter by chapter as they walk, relax, or are in their medical appointments. You can gift an entire Audible subscription here, or if they already have Audible, you can gift specific books by selecting the “Give as a Gift” icon on each book’s product page (examples here).

Here are a few ideas (and almost all are on Audible!):

1. The ultimate book on surviving cancer with proven mental, emotional and lifestyle changes:

Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds, by Kelly Turner

  • Good for: everyone. 
  • Themes: hope against the odds, inspiration, actionable plans, proof points.

A must-have for anyone in treatment! Kelly Turner, PhD, a researcher and counselor in Integrative Oncology, was shocked to discover that no one was studying episodes of radical remission, when people recover against all odds. She spent eight years traveling through 10 countries to learn what factors that people experiencing this phenomenon encountered. Her evidence presents nine factors that she believes can help even terminal patients turn their lives around. Every chapter includes an inspiring story of journeys back to wellness shared by people from all walks of life, and from all over the world. 

2. A research-based look at lifestyle changes that fight cancer:

Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life, by David Servan-Schreiber

  • Good for: everyone. 
  • Themes: actionable plans, science-backed lifestyle changes 

A long-running international best seller, the latest edition draws on new clinical studies and offers more tips on how people living with cancer can fight it and how healthy people can prevent it. The book covers anticancer foods, strengthening the immune system, food contaminants, stress reduction, how relationships help healing, and more. The author shares evidence on how lifestyle modification dramatically reduces mortality rates for some cancers. 

3. A historical look at cancer, its history, and how humans have changed its outcome: 

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

  • Good for: those who want to deeply understand cancer, history buffs
  • Themes: historical, human persistence, hope

This is a Pulitzer Prize winning “biography of cancer.” The author goes back in time to the first human accounts of cancer, and shares how treatment and the disease itself has changed over time. It’s beautifully written and inspires those fighting the disease with how much human perseverance, loss, and advances have brought cancer treatment to where it is today. 

4. A book about a young, successful man reflecting on his life with a terminal diagnosis: 

Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived, by Laurence Shames. 

  • Good for: men
  • Themes: reflecting on life, emotions and men

This book follows Peter Barton who was successful, happily married, and the father of three children and was diagnosed with stomach cancer. With unflinching candor and even surprising humor, Not Fade Away finds meaning and solace in Peter's confrontation with mortality. Celebrating life as it dares to stare down death, Peter's story addresses universal hopes and fears, and redefines the quietly heroic tasks of seeking clarity in the midst of pain, of breaking through to personal faith, and of achieving peace after bold and sincere questioning.

5. A coffee table picture book with short, inspiring stories:

Picture Your Life After Cancer, The New York Times and Karen Barrow

  • Good for: anyone
  • Themes: hope stories, shared experiences

The New York Times asked cancer survivors to answer the question, “How is your life different after cancer?” and the resulting photos and essays are displayed in this book. The words that complement the images contain very honest stories of hope, trepidation, concern, and renewal, as well as sage advice on living a normal life after cancer. This moving look at life after cancer will help other survivors and patients realize that they are not alone.

6. A book that helps patients and caregivers accurately share what they’re going through:

Atlas of the Heart, by Brené Brown

  • Good for: anyone
  • Themes: uncovering emotions, sharing, healing

This book is all about building meaningful connections. In life’s happiest – and hardest – times, without connection we can feel lost and unheard. Studies prove that emotional and social connection during cancer treatment improves outcomes. In this book, Brown maps the necessary skills and an actionable framework for meaningful connection, she gives us the language and tools to access a universe of new choices and second chances - a universe where we can share and steward the stories of our bravest and most heartbreaking moments with one another in a way that builds connection.

7. For someone ready to use cancer to change their life positively:

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, By Michael Singer

  • Good for: anyone
  • Themes: entering a new life phase, freedom, happiness, consciousness 

This bestseller is a guide through a transformative period in one’s life. Singer emphasizes the present and how to let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness. The Untethered Soul begins by walking through the relationship between thoughts and emotions. It then delves into what you can do to free yourself from the habitual thoughts, emotions, and energy patterns that limit you. The goal of the book is to bring clarity for freedom in happiness in your next chapter of life.

8. Someone looking to change their diet and use food as complementary medicine:

This is Your Brain on Food, by Uma Naidoo MD

  • Good for: anyone
  • Themes: diet, wellness, prevention, health 

We know that what we eat affects our bodies, but it also affects our brains. This book outlines how studies have shown that diet can have a profound impact on mental health conditions – particularly those like depression and anxiety that come with cancer. The book guides you through how a sound diet can help treat and prevent a wide range of health issues. Packed with fascinating science, actionable nutritional recommendations, and delicious, brain-healthy recipes, This Is Your Brain on Food is the go-to guide to optimizing your mental health with food.

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