The Cancer Book Club

Reading has always been one of my greatest pleasures. I started school already reading and haven’t looked back. Like my mother I am a very fast reader – this came in extremely handy for quickly reading Cabinet submissions (usually long winded despite desperate efforts to reign them in) at work.

For the first little while after my diagnosis I could not read. Even with the simplest of books, I found it impossible to follow storylines, characters became mixed up in my mind and I was easily annoyed by what seemed like trivial issues. It made me sad though, the loss of reading and seemed like one more thing cancer had taken.

BUT, somehow a month or so in, the desire to read came back. I eased back in with some true crime. As depressing as it sounds I found some comfort in the fact that if cancer killed me it would at least be in a nice hospital or my home, with caring nurses to care for me and hopefully some serious drugs, rather than raped and murdered in a field somewhere. Grim I know, but you take comfort where you can. The true crime obsession hasn’t abated but my reading matter has broadened some.


Prior to my diagnosis I’d read very little about cancer. However over recent months I’ve been reading cancer books like a mofo. The steroid induced hyperactivity has greatly assisted in this. The books I’ve listed below are ones that I’ve found the most interesting, insightful or helpful. I’ve read quite a few more than these but the majority have been truly dreadful! I’ve largely stayed away from memoirs as they can be a bit too close to home, although I am torn about reading When Breath Become Air, as the reviews are amazing. I will let you know if I end up being brave enough!

For those without cancer he most relevant and interesting books would be Gut, Improvising Medicine and the best book I’ve read on the topic, The Emperor of All Maladies.

The Royal Marsden Cookbook was given to me by my wonderful friend Christina. I’ve since cooked a number of recipes from it and they have all been simple and delicious. Radical Remission gave me a lot of hope as did Sophie Sabbage’s The Cancer Whisperer. I highly recommend these books for people with cancer. They are not scary, not depressing and are very empowering without slipping into the ridiculous.

The only other thing that I have to say on the topic of reading is that it fits firmly into the fairytale side of the cancer experience for me. I am constantly surprised how the joy of a good book remains a great pleasure despite illness, anxiety and grief.

Would love to hear any book recommendations you may have – they most definitely don’t need to be cancer related!

2 thoughts on “The Cancer Book Club

  1. I have heard great things about Gut. I just finished Kate Atkinson’s A God In Ruins and it was a real page turner. I have had a good spate of books lately. My Brilliant Friend had excellent reviews but I was ambivalent. I just read The Picnic Races by Dymphna Cusack and really liked it, just my taste.
    Franzen’s Purity was good. I also liked Rush Oh but probably more of an acquired taste for Aus Lit types.
    L xx


  2. I had cancer with a better prognosis and enjoyed When breath becomes Air. I also love all of the novels by Liane Moriarty, they start so simply and blandly then suddenly become serious and important. I recently read and enjoyed The Girl Before by JP Delaney. Finally Victoria by Julia Baird is a surprisingly pleasant and easy read, so much interesting information so easy to digest and thought provoking. It looks huge but is a quick read.

    Bets wishes and best of luck. Karen


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