My name is Mason Ellis. During my senior year of high school, I was seriously injured in a car accident. I’ve been a C5 through C7 quadriplegic since then. However, after recovering from my accident, I started my own YouTube channel about my experience of living with a spinal cord injury as well as some helpful tips. I also write blog posts for 180 Medical.
Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of daily inspiration from books written by other people living with disabilities. I’d like to share a list of my favorite inspiring books to read after a spinal cord injury.
My Top 10 Picks for Inspiring Books to Read After a Spinal Cord Injury
Here are my top ten favorite books. I’ll include a brief description of each one along with why I like them. You can find all these books on Amazon or by searching online to find a local bookshop.
1. How I Roll: Life, Love, and Work after a Spinal Cord Injury by J. Bryant Neville, Jr.
Bryant Neville, Jr is a Virginia country boy who became a quadriplegic after a vehicle accident. He was determined to accomplish more than doctors told him he could do.
In his book, he shares about all the things he has been able to accomplish since his spinal cord injury, including earning college degrees, getting a job as a banking executive, and becoming a husband and father.
Bryant’s story is seriously inspiring, and it may provide a sense of hope to anyone facing a physical challenge or a new spinal cord injury. Life is not over.
This was the very first book that I read after my spinal cord injury in 2015. I was still at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana a month after my accident. It was crazy how similar both of our situations were. We both became quadriplegic at the age of 17 in a car accident out in the country, and we both injured the same three vertebrae. Plus, he got a degree in Information Technology, which is my current major in college.
When I read this book, I was still reeling from the news of my injury. I thought it would be impossible to drive a vehicle, go to college, get a job, start a family, and so many other things that he talked about doing. However, now I am accomplishing those very things that seemed impossible following my injury.
2. Hope, Love, and Me: My Journey of Choices and Second Chances by Melissa Ann
A night of underage drinking caused a single-car accident that unfortunately had life-changing consequences. Melissa Ann, the driver of the vehicle, was just a teenager when she was forced to face life in a new body, paralyzed from the neck down.
Melissa candidly shares about her bad decisions as a teenager and the challenges she has faced since then. Today, she uses her experience to let others know about the dangers of drinking and driving.
While reading this book, I could relate to many of the events that happened, emotions that were felt, and thoughts that came to mind. I like to read and listen to other people’s stories that are similar to mine because so many aspects are relatable, even though each story is unique. This book was well written and very relatable.
3. Rise Above: How One Man’s Search for Mobility Helped the World Get Moving by Ralph W. Braun
Ralph Braun was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of 6 and was told he wouldn’t live long.
Despite his challenges and setbacks, Ralph stayed determined to live. He also created a motorized scooter called the Tri-Wheeler and rode it to/from his day job as a Quality Control Manager for a nearby manufacturer. The facility moved several miles away, so he equipped an old mail carrier Jeep with hand controls and a hydraulic tailgate lift to drive his Tri-Wheeler in and out of the vehicle unassisted.
When Dodge introduced the first full-sized, front-engine van, Braun retrofitted it with a lift and called his invention the “Lift-A-Way” wheelchair lift. Word spread about his invention and from his parent’s garage, he assembled a team to help fill orders across the nation.
His company later became known as BraunAbility, which has locations across the globe to help the world get moving.
Ralph used his disability to improve America’s attitude toward the disabled community by designing a wheelchair lift that allows them to drive a vehicle. His company’s vehicle conversions are the most popular wheelchair-accessible vehicle conversions today.
He took what changed his life to change the lives of others for the better. His book tells the story of how he relied on himself and refused to accept the status quo of people with disabilities, which led him to success in business and life.
4. Up: Getting Up is the Key to Life by Brian P. Swift
Brian Swift broke his neck at the age of seventeen while playing football with his friends on the day after Christmas in 1979.
However, he not only recovered. He also graduated from high school and college, coached football, got a job as a lawyer, got married, and became a father of three. Plus, Brian found his purpose, which is to achieve more than expected and to aspire to be the best he can be.
The strategy of success that he developed is CIA: Commitment, Integrity, and Attitude. His style of writing is engaging and easy to read.
This book is written by someone who became injured at the same age as me and also at the same level. His story will leave you revitalized to face your own struggles with hope, faith, and purpose.
5. Inside My Outside: An Independent Mind in a Dependent Body by Sara Pyszka
The writer of this book, Sara Pyszka, is a young woman with cerebral palsy. She cannot walk or talk but uses an electronic device for communication.
This memoir covers three full days, morning to night, in Sara’s life. She discusses past relationships, friendships, and schooling. She also shares stories about the challenges of hiring, firing, and working with personal care assistants, which many people with disabilities are all too familiar with.
A unique aspect of this book is that Sara occasionally compares her current life to the way she imagines life might be without her disability.
I met the author when I attended Camp PossAbility and found out that she was writing this book, which I knew I wanted to read once it was published.
Although Sara has cerebral palsy and uses an electronic device for communication, I could still relate to many of the encounters, frustrations, and thoughts that she writes about.
This book made me realize the abilities that I still take for granted even after my accident and advanced my perspective on disabilities as a whole.
6. We Carry Kevan by Kevan Chandler
Kevan Chandler has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair. In 2016, Kevan and his friends traveled to Europe, purposefully left his wheelchair at the airport, and his friends carried him in a backpack for three weeks. Kevan and his team started a non-profit in 2016 called We Carry Kevan, with the mission of believing in the inherent value of all people and mobilizing individuals with disabilities by redefining accessibility as a cooperative effort.
I heard Kevan Chandler tell his story at Camp PossAbility in 2018 and it was really interesting. This book tells a story that is impossible without teamwork. The bond of the friendships allows Kevan to feel like he is no different. The journey they go on shows them the curiosity and beauty of strangers and would be impossible without teamwork. I enjoyed reading his book and recommend checking it out!
7. “Fractured Not Broken: A Memoir” by Kelly Schaefer and Michelle Weidenbenner
Kelly Craig became a quadriplegic in a vehicle accident after being hit by a drunk driver. She started traveling to schools to share her story, which was once featured on ESPN and a guy named Shawn Schaefer saw her story. Kelly graduated college and became an elementary school teacher. Years later, Shawn went to the town where Kelly lived and eventually asked her to marry him and she became Kelly Schaefer. Kelly and Shawn adopted two kids from Africa.
Kelly grew up in a similar part of Indiana as me. Her story showed me that love and growing a family was still possible as a quadriplegic. She found her way back to living life through faith and pain, her community, her family, and a man’s love that she prayed for. Being that her injury was from a vehicle accident in Southern Indiana, it really resonated with me.
8. “226: How I Became the First Blind Person to Kayak the Grand Canyon” by Lonnie Bedwell
Lonnie Bedwell is a veteran who was involved in a hunting accident that left him blind. Despite this major change, he became the first blind person to kayak the entire 226 miles of dangerous whitewater river flowing through the Grand Canyon in a solo kayak. He undertook this adventure to raise awareness of the dilemma of disabled veterans, and to show veterans what they can accomplish by taking advantage of adaptive sports programs like those offered by volunteer vets organization Team River Runner.
Lonnie is from where my family grew up and is a great man. He does just about everything that a person with eyesight can do, including building barns and mowing. I’m a quadriplegic and believe being blind would be much worse. This book is a great story of someone turning what most would consider a major setback into making a major historic achievement.
9. “I’m Not Missing Anything” by Brett Eastburn
Brett Eastburn is a man that was born without most of his limbs. He is an internationally known motivational speaker and “Stand Up” comedian. He does so many activities that many people who are not missing limbs don’t do, including driving and wrestling. This book tells his story and gives problem-solving tools to assist you in achieving a successful and fulfilled life.
I met Brett Eastburn at Camp PossAbility in 2016 where he did some motivational speaking and comedy, which is when I got this book of his. When I was having difficulty coping with my spinal cord injury a year after it happened, I found videos of Nick Vujicic who doesn’t have any limbs and was living life to the fullest – just like Brett Eastburn. This made me wonder why I was having such a difficult time and let me see how challenging others’ obstacles were compared to mine. Little did I know that I would be meeting Brett Eastburn, whose disability is similar to Nick’s, six months later.
This book is a great story that tells what you can do despite all of your challenges if you put your mind to it.
10. “Faith 911” by G. L. Woods
G.L. Woods became a quadriplegic at the age of 39 when he was ejected headfirst over the handlebars of his motorcycle while riding the rugged mountain trails of West Virginia. He was given almost no chance of recovering and faced the possibility of spending the rest of his life as a quadriplegic.
However, by God’s gift, he went from being confined to a wheelchair to walking again. He now spreads the message that God still performs miracles and forgives even when we don’t deserve it. His testimony has been aired on TV and radio throughout the Midwest. His speaking engagements have been heard by thousands at conferences, churches, and universities.
This book was written by someone who has similar injuries as myself and is about his journey of second chances after he sustained his injury. We actually did rehab at the same rehabilitation hospital, the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana.
Two More Inspiring Books I Recommend Reading After Spinal Cord Injury
Okay, it’s hard to stop with just ten when there are so many inspiring books about living with a disability or a spinal cord injury. Here are two more books I highly recommend!
“From Tragedy to Triumph: A Journey” by Ryan Krafft
Ryan Kraft was involved in a vehicle accident at the age of 19 in 1998 that almost cost him his life when he decided to drive home after a night of drinking and doing drugs. He thought he was invincible and never thought about the consequences of his choices. He had to learn the hard way but wrote this book so you can learn from his mistakes.
Ryan reveals the difficult testing of a faith born out of tragedy and takes you along with him on a journey of spiritual discovery. He points to the need for a Savior and draws an insightful parallel between his experience and the condition of mankind. Ryan writes with a passion for and a conviction of the Truth as revealed in the Holy Bible.
“Always Climb Higher” by Jeff Pagels
Jeff Pagels sustained a spinal cord injury in 1984 and this is the story of his comeback. He became the fastest USA Nordic Disabled Skier in the world and then abandoned competition to compete with himself by climbing mountains and other extreme outdoor pursuits. This was a great book about the outdoors, setting goals, and challenging yourself.
What are your most inspiring or favorite books that you have read, and why did you like them?
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only. This is not a paid advertisement or recommendation by our company. External product references or links do not constitute a formal endorsement.