Friday, August 12, 2011

Read Alike: "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova

Lisa Genova has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University, who found success in the publishing world with her moving and thoughtful first novel, Still Alice. Her second, and more hopeful novel, Left Neglected, debuted on the bestseller lists in January of 2011.

Still Alice is told from the perspective of a brilliant and successful Harvard professor who is struck with Alzheimer's while she is still in her fifties. Dr. Genova found inspiration for her novel from her own grandmother's experience with Alzheimer’s. In the process of researching the experiences of people diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, she became involved in several national support organizations.

You can read more about Lisa Genova's experiences and writing on her blog, her website, and her publisher profile. Two of the organizations that she is active with are The Alzheimer's Association, and the Dementia Advocacy and Support Network International.

Over the years, several other authors have explored the effects of Alzheimer's on individuals, families, and communities. A selection of their works is presented below:

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
Marina Buriakov switches between a present, where she is preparing for the wedding of her granddaughter, and WWII, where she shelters in the Hermitage during the siege of Leningrad. The novel's second narrator is Marina's daughter, who is reluctantly coming to recognize her mother's struggle with Alzheimer's.

Turn of Mind by Alice La Plante
Once a highly successful Chicago surgeon, Jennifer White is now suffering from the effects of Alzheimer's. When her friend and neighbor is murdered, Dr. White is a suspect, but she can't remember if she was involved or not. A heartbreaking debut novel that combines the family drama of aging with a compelling mystery.

The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block
Seth is a bright teenager who is trying to understand his mother's diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer's. Abel is a lonely seventy-something hermit left with only his memories. The two are drawn together by the shared story of Isidora, a mythical land where memory loss is not a curse.

Once a Spy by Keith Thomson
Charlie's father, Drummond, lived an average life before his diagnosis with Alzheimer's. An assumption that is blown to pieces, along with his house, one night by assassins. This spy-thriller is a lighter and more action-packed look at the effects of Alzheimer's on a former CIA-operative. A sequel, Twice a Spy, was published earlier this year.

Bill Warrington's Last Chance by James King
Bill Warrington lives with his divorced daughter and teenage granddaughter, April. The reality of Alzheimer's causes Bill to take action in the hopes of reuniting his estranged family, and so Bill and April set off on a cross-country road trip.

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
While this Pulitizer Prize winning adaption of Shakespeare's "King Lear" to the farmlands of Iowa doesn't expressly include Alzheimer's, it's still a worthwhile, if bleak, read.

There are also a number of non-fiction accounts available:

The Alzheimer's Project (DVD 616.831 ALZ)
This four-part documentary by HBO and the National Institute on Aging provides a comprehensive exploration of what it means to have Alzheimer's in the United States.

Losing my mind: an intimate look at life with Alzheimer's by Thomas DeBaggio (616.831 DEB)
A journalist, Thomas DeBaggio, writes his autobiography after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 57. Alzheimer's from the inside out (616.831 TAY) offers a similar insider's perspective on the disease.

Jan's story: love lost to the long goodbye of Alzheimer's by Barry Petersen (616.831 PET)
Barry Petersen writes about how his wife's diagnosis of Alzheimer's at age 55

Elegy for Iris by John Bayley (Biog Murdoch)
After author Iris Murdoch was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, her husband wrote this and other books about her life.

The Sioux City Public Library has also put together a great list of reading suggestions for Still Alice.

Carnegie-Stout has several guides for caretakers of Alzheimer's patients:
Mom's OK, She Just Forgets (616.831 MCL)
A Caregiver's Guide to Alzheimer's Disease: 300 tips for making life easier (618.97 CAR)
Inside Alzheimer's: How to hear and honor connections with a person who has dementia (616.831 PEA)
The Alzheimer's Advisor: a caregiver's guide to dealing with the tough legal and practical issues (616.831 JAM)

Please stop by the Recommendations Desk on the first floor, check out NoveList Plus on the library's website, or visit W. 11th & Bluff next week for more reading suggestions. Or submit a Personal Recommendations request, and we'll create a reading list just for you!

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