Reading to Enhance Mental Health and Well–Being

By Audrey Demmitt, R.N. and VisionAware Peer Advisor

Reading As a Healing Experience

Most of us become readers at an early age and discover the wonders of a good story. We learn to interact with books in order to learn and grow. Characters come alive to us as we relate to their experiences. Sometimes reading is for pleasure or escape, and other times it is for the disciplined acquisition of information. No matter what, our engagement with literature and the written word has the potential to change us, calm us, inform us, inspire us, and heal us. In its simplest form, this is known as bibliotherapy.

The National Library Service Talking Book digital player

Exposure to books, poetry, writing, and even film and videos can be therapeutic and beneficial in helping us process our own life experiences. In other words, literature can be used to help us figure life out, heal emotional traumas, and change thoughts and behaviors. Reading can be a healing experience and, fortunately, there are many ways that you can access books today, including the talking book program through the National Library Service.

Reading Books About Blindness

As I was learning to adjust to vision loss, I was drawn to read books about blindness and books written by authors who were blind. I found it very helpful and motivating to enter the narratives of others who were sharing their own stories of vision loss. Some books were informational, some humorous, and others deeply moving.

I realized that the cumulative effect was that I understood more about blindness, and my feelings about it were changing. Reading books on blindness, memoirs, and biographies of blind writers have had a very positive influence on my ability to adjust and cope with vision loss. It has long been understood that literature "heals the soul." The use of bibliotherapy has evolved and become quite complex as it is applied to psychiatry and healthcare. Consider a bit of reading therapy for yourself as a way to deal with vision loss.

picture of accessible mp3 player

Here at VisionAware, the Peer Advisors have put together a reading list of books for this purpose. It is not exhaustive by any means, but it is meant to get you started. Most of these titles are available through the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in audio or braille formats. Newer titles are not yet available through the NLS. Many are available on e-book formats through your favorite booksellers (Kindle, Nook, etc.). Another way to find such books on blindness is to search the NLS collection using “blindness” as a keyword. Whether you are using your eyes, ears, or fingers to read, may it be a rewarding and therapeutic experience.

Books on Blindness

  1. A Brush with Darkness: Learning to Paint After Losing My Sight by Lisa Fittipaldi - NLS
  2. A Guide Dog Goes to School by Elizabeth Simpson Smith - NLS
  3. A Matter of Dignity: Changing the Lives of the Disabled by Andrew Potok - NLS
  4. A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts - NLS
  5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  6. And There Was Light: Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, Blind Hero of the French Resistance by Jacques Lusseyran - NLS
  7. As I See It: From a Blind Man’s Perspective by Robert Branco - NLS
  8. Beyond the Bear: How I Learned to Live and Love Again After Being Blinded by a Bear by Dan Bigley - NLS
  9. Blind: A Memoir by Belo Cipriani - BARD
  10. Blind: A Novel by Rachel DeWoskin - NLS
  11. Blind Courage by Bill Irwin - NLS
  12. Blind Fate by Pierre Nubar - NLS
  13. Blind Justice by Floyd W. Matson - NLS
  14. Blind Sighted by Peter Moore - NLS
  15. Blind Tom by Geneva H. Southhall - NLS
  16. Blind Vision: The Neuroscience of Visual Impairment by Zaira Cattaneo - NLS
  17. Blindness by José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)
  18. Blindness: What It Is, What It Does, and How to Live with It by Thomas Carroll - NLS
  19. Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story by Ray Charles - NLS
  20. Cane Confessions: The Lighter Side to Mobility
  21. Cockeyed: A Memoir by Ryan Knighton - e-book, NLS
  22. Coping with Vision Loss: Maximizing What You Can See and Do by Bill Chapman - NLS
  23. Coping with Vision Loss: Understanding the Psychological, Social, and Spiritual Effects by Cheri Colby Langdell
  24. Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See by Robert Kurson - NLS
  25. Do You Dream in Color? by Laurie Rubin - NLS
  26. Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening by Stephen Kuusisto - NLS
  27. Focus by Ingrid Ricks - e-book
  28. For the Benefit of Those Who See: Dispatches from the World of the Blind by Rosemary Mahoney - NLS
  29. Going Blind: A Memoir by Mara Faulkner - NLS
  30. Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound by Beth Finke
  31. Harnessing Courage: Overcoming Adversity Through Grit and Gratitude by Laura Bratton
  32. How Do You Do It Blind? Answers from People with Blindness and Visual Impairment by Steven Obremski
  33. How Do You Kiss a Blind Girl by Sally Wagner - NLS
  34. If You Could See What I Hear by Tom Sullivan - NLS, available as DVD film
  35. In Dog We Trust: Independence, Thrills, and Dignity with My Seeing Eye Dogs by Sue W. Martin - Bookshare
  36. Lessons I Learned in the Dark by Jennifer Rothschildby - NLS
  37. Living on the Edge of Twilight by Doug Green - e-book
  38. Long Time, No See Memoir by Beth Finke - NLS
  39. Look Up, Move Forward: My Journey of Losing Vision and Finding Resilience by Becky Andrews
  40. Making Life More Livable by Maureen Duffy - new edition available through AFB Press; older edition on NLS
  41. Me and My RP by Dave Steele--Kindle and large print
  42. Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith by Amy Bovaird - e-book
  43. Not Fade Away by Rebecca Alexander
  44. Now I See You: A Memoir by Nicole C. Kear - e-book
  45. Only Bread, Only Light: Poems by Stephen Kuusisto - NLS
  46. Ordinary Daylight: Portrait of an Artist Going Blind by Andrew Potok - e-book, NLS cassette
  47. Out of Sight: Blind and Doing All Right by Art Schreiber - NLS
  48. Out of the Corner of My Eye: Living with Vision Loss in Later Life by Nicolette Pernot
  49. Out of the Whirlpool: A Memoir of Remorse and Reconciliation by Sue Martin - e-book, NLS
  50. Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto - NLS
  51. ROCKS: The Blind Guy at the Lake by Thomas P. Costello - Amazon print, The Carroll Center Books on Blindness
  52. Scattered Shadows: A Memoir of Blindness and Vision by John Howard Griffin - NLS
  53. Seeing Lessons: 14 Life Lessons I Have Learned Along the Way by Tom Sullivan - NLS
  54. Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness: The Process of Responding to Life’s Demands by Dean and Naomi Tuttle - NLS
  55. Shades of Darkness: A Black Soldier’s Journey Through Vietnam, Blindness and Back by George Brummell - NLS
  56. The Adversity Advantage by Erik Weihenmayer and Paul G. Stoltzby - e-book,NLS
  57. The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man's Fight for Justice and Freedom in China by Chen Guangcheng - NLS
  58. The Music of Silence: A Memoir by Andrea Bocelli - NLS
  59. The Unseen Minority: A Social History of Blindness in America by Frances A. Koestler - NLS
  60. The View from Under the Pew by Diane Winters Johnson, Margaret Freed (Illustrator)
  61. The Way We See It: A Fresh Look at Vision Loss - e-book available at Vision Loss Resources
  62. Thoughts on Blindness: One Spouse’s Perspective on Losing Vision and Living Life by Becky LeBlanc - The Carroll Center Books on Blindness
  63. Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero by Michael Hingson - NLS
  64. Together: A Story of Shared Vision by Tom Sullivan - NLS
  65. Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness by John Hull - NLS
  66. Touch the Top of the World by Erik Weihenmayer - e-book, NLS
  67. Undaunted by Blindness: Concise Biographies of 400 People Who Refused to Let Visual Impairment Define Them by Clifford Olstrom, Perkins School for the Blind - NLS
  68. Upwelling by Ann Chiappetta
  69. Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems by Lynda McKinney Lambert
  70. What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam - NLS
  71. Who Lost? The Autobiography of a Blind Man with Great Vision by Dale Sheldon - NLS

Note: New books will be added to this list periodically.

Personal Stories

  • Father James Warnke: Living a Well-Integrated Life
    Father Warnke, who was born with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and glaucoma, has had a very successful series of careers as mental health counselor and Episcopal priest, to name just a few of his accomplishments.

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