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An Alzheimer's Reading List

Photograph by Maja Daniels

One of the most frustrating things about dementia and Alzheimer's disease—to say nothing of the scariest—is how difficult it is for the unafflicted to imagine what it's like to live with the condition. And unimaginable things, things we can't easily picture—they're the easiest things to ignore or overlook. To that end, I wrote "We Are Entering the Age of Alzheimer's" as a kind of synthesized, concentrated narrative inviting readers into the story of dementia, which is a story that statistics say might one day become all of ours.

Rather than present a straight, reported story, I chose to blend fact and fiction, research, reporting, and personal experience in hopes of crafting an immersive narrative. I wanted to encourage readers to see dementia in a new, perhaps more understanding and compassionate light.

Owing to the choice of this unconventional narrative format, I was unable to break stride and reference, acknowledge, or praise the many works of art, research, memoir, and philosophy that influenced and inspired the story. There is such a great range of work relating to our epidemic of forgetting. Below are some of the very best examples of it, well worth the time of anyone who wishes to better understand—and love—a person touched directly or indirectly by dementia. I wish to express my gratitude to these authors and artists, especially: John Swinton, for his exhaustive treatise on dementia and the idea of personhood; David Shenk, for his definitive yet approachable handbook on Alzheimer's; and Janelle S. Taylor, for her wrenching and hard-won insights into the popular (mis)conceptions surrounding dementia sufferers and caregivers. Without these works, a piece like "We Are Entering the Age of Alzheimer's" would have been impossible. May more such works follow:

by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins
by Janelle S. Taylor
by John Swinton