Please Share

Talking about “Top Books” is always a hard call for me. Remember, I’m the daughter of two people who, when they decided to move to the South Pacific, brought something in the area of 36 boxes of books… and two small suitcases for clothes. It’s harder still to choose books that truly help in understanding disability better.

The books I’m listing here are ones that personally helped me most in my learning and understanding disability – disability as a subject, as a matter of personal pride, as a movement, as an action and as an opportunity.

My Pick of Books to Help in Understanding Disability:

No Pity : People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement

This is really a must-read, I think. Powerful, engaging. Very well written, comprehensive. A basic primer for anyone who is an advocate – or interested.


The Ragged Edge: The Disability Experience from the Pages of the First Fifteen Years of The Disability Rag.

An intense collection of stories, personal narrative that captures and conveys the experience of being a person with a disability in America today.

Two books go together here:

The New Disability History: American Perspectives (History of Disability)
Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability (American Subjects)

These books packed the same type of WALLOP for me that ‘No Pity” did – “The New Disability History” is also a comprehensive history of disability – cross disability. “Why I Burned My Book” talks of the search for heroes, public policy and more. Again, comprehensive. Far reaching. Essential reading for advocates, people with disabilities and those involved in the disability field.

Nothing About Us Without Us: Disability Oppression and Empowerment

This book pushes the reader to “recast many assumptions we might hold about disability in relation to human rights” (- Lennard Davis). It’s broad, comprehensive, and on the international disability rights movement.

Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled

A memoir from one of my favorite authors. One of the first books about being a parent with a disability that I read. Beautifully written. Poignant. Candid. Lovely.



Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence

Another memoir that I loved by an outspoken, well spoken smart and funny professional journalist who is a paraplegic.

Make Them Go Away: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Reeve and the Case Against Disability Rights

“Everyone cares for disabled people, right? What they don’t care for are the genuine civil rights for disabled people…” (-William Greider). This book was an eye-opener for me in my early learning on what “disability rights” really means – and the complicated pieces that are involved.

Signs of Resistance: American Deaf Cultural History, 1900 to World War II (History of Disability)

I am deaf. I grew up mainstreamed. I can barely sign and I felt an intense shame for most of my life for the fact that I just can’t hear. It was exhilarating to chomp my teeth on deaf culture and history.

If You Could Hear What I See

A memoir from a Deaf comedienne. One of the first Deaf memoirs I read and enjoyed. On the lighter side.


The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait

This is another memoir of sorts. I liked the punch it pulls in terms of moving through life with colour and beauty – despite what else might be happening.

That’s inspiring to me.


The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public (The History of Disability)

This feels particularly relevant in the here and now in which we are fighting for IHSS, for healthcare, struggling against some pretty basic disability discrimination.

The Disability Studies Reader

I like comprehensive – I’m sure you’ve noticed that already! This is another comprehensive book – it’s really a comprehensive overview for disability studies, “the collection covers cultural studies, identity politics, literary criticism, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, the visual arts, gender and race studies, as well as memoir, poetry, fiction, and prose non-fiction.”

There you have it. Those are my Top 13 .What are yours?


You might be wondering where the Down syndrome books are?

I don’t honestly think that they have a place here on this list, as they are written by parents of people with Down syndrome – they are stories of the parents coming to terms with disability and the place that Down syndrome holds in their world. They are for a specific slice of disability but not necessarily for disability or written from the perspective of one who has walked the walk.

None the less, the books that I truly loved are in the “Book Resources” section here on this blog.



Please Share

Similar Posts


  1. What a GREAT list!  You are a disability studies scholar, for sure!  You should have a look at Susan Wendell's The Rejected Body:  Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability.  Very smart and readable.  Also Rosemarie Garland-Thomson's work is great–I like her Extraordinary Bodies the best.  One of my favorite memoirs is Harriet McBryde Johnson's Too Late to Die Young.

  2. Anne-Marie says:

    The Feel of Silence by Bonnie Poitras Tucker. It’s about a deaf woman who recounts her life from her very first memory as a 2-year-old. It’s my favorite book that features disability, her autlook on life is very similar to mine, even though I have CP. Read it first at 13 and felt like someone gets me 😀 The French film Inouchables is a great favorite as well.

  3. This is such a helpful list–I wonder if you might be able to recommend similar books (I love your description of books “disability as a subject, as a matter of personal pride, as a movement, as an action and as an opportunity”) that would be accessible to young adults? As a middle-grade teacher I would love to find such resources. Thanks so much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.