Classics And Chronic Illness – How To Tackle Challenging Reads

Pippa stood up holding pile of books. Pippa is wearing long-sleeved navy blue dress with tiny white spots, with brown hair down. Books are all classics from Wordsworth Collector’s Editions in a rainbow spectrum of pastel colours and titles embroidered in gold. Books top to bottom are The Great Gatsby, The Secret Garden, The Wind In The Willows, Pride and prejudice, a Christmas Carol, withering heights, Jane Eyre, and black beauty.


[AD. This post is not sponsored, but links marked with * are affiliate links. This means that I earn a small commission from any purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you. Books pictured here are some of the gorgeous Collector’s Editions series*, previously gifted from Wordsworth Editions – my collection is one of my most prized possessions. You can also find more of my favourite reads here!*]

Before we get started, let me leave my more general Tips For Reading With A Chronic Illness post here. You can also find my own published books and eBooks here and say hello on Goodreads here, and just before I hit publish I finished listening to my pal Natasha Lipman’s wonderful podcast episode that explores chronic illness, reading and pacing in more depth. Highly, highly recommend!

For anybody dealing with adversity, reading can be a lifeline.

Whether you’re craving pure escapism in narratives far away from your own or you’re seeking solidarity in stories that mirror what you’re going through, there are books out there that can give you exactly what you need, right when you need it. And I can only speak for myself here, but I truly believe my love of reading has shaped the person I’ve become.

The problem, however, is that when you’re dealing with a chronic illness, immersing yourself in the world of reading isn’t always straightforward. Brain fog and cognitive impairment can make it difficult to concentrate, issues with memory can make it trickier to follow plotlines and narratives, and even the simple act of holding a physical book open can be demanding on painful muscles and joints.

As somebody who’s contended with all of the above issues in varying levels of severity over the years, I feel really fortunate that my lifelong love of reading hasn’t been completely jeopardised by my condition. There was only a small period of time where I wasn’t reading at all, but that alone made me realise how much of a privilege this very thing can be.

I usually indulge in books within my comfort zone, mostly contemporary fiction and YA reads. However, as I’ve grown older and wanted to challenge myself more, it’s been necessary to adapt my habits accordingly… and my biggest battle to-date has been with popular classic books*.

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