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Sick: A Memoir

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  2,810 ratings  ·  403 reviews
In the tradition of Brain on Fire and Darkness Visible, an honest, beautifully rendered memoir of chronic illness, misdiagnosis, addiction, and the myth of full recovery that details author Porochista Khakpour's struggles with late-stage Lyme disease.

For as long as writer Porochista Khakpour can remember, she has been sick. For most of that time, she didn't know why. All o
ebook, 272 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Harper Perennial
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Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
This might be my biggest reading disappointment of the year so far. I have been looking forward to this book for ages and when it finally arrived I jumped straight into reading it. I find the story Porochista Khakpour tells - of illness that went years without a diagnosis, about racism and sexism in medicine, about addiction and losing oneself - so very very important and relevant, but the execution just did not work for me. I found the structure of the book unhelpful, the jumping back and forth ...more
Julie Ehlers
Given that an official diagnosis doesn't come until 40 pages from the end, Sick is less a memoir about having Lyme disease than a memoir about having a mysterious illness that baffles doctors, results in a lot of inappropriate (and expensive) treatments, and is routinely viewed as purely psychological (an infuriatingly common scenario for women). For that reason alone, this book is valuable. Indeed, because of my interest in the topic, I broke my new resolution to avoid current memoirs in order ...more
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
I think that books about chronic illness and the experiences of women of colour accessing healthcare are essential, but I did not like this book. Here’s the thing. I think that explorations of trauma and illness, of gender and illness, of race and illness, are all so important. I think exploring women’s illness, and illnesses such as Lyme, and calling out how they are often characterized as psychiatric is needed. I think that avoiding narratives of sick then well, of triumph over what is in fact ...more
Dec 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
I'm only giving this 1 star because there isn't the option of giving it zero stars.

This book is....ugh. It promotes so many dangerous ideas that are gaining hold within the chronic illness/disability community and the fact that it's been on so many "must read" lists gives it an air of legitimacy. The kind of quackery the author is selling is so insidious and harmful (and literally kills chronically ill and disabled people), and reading her ideas about how "glamorous" she thinks certain aspects o
Carrie Poppy
Mar 09, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 16, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir
A hot mess of cluster-b melodrama and pseudoscientific word salad.

(Read Lying: a metaphorical memoir by Lauren Slater instead.)
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“I sometimes wonder if I would have been less sick if I had a home.”
Canadian Reader
”the deal with so many chronic illnesses is that most people don’t want to believe you. They will tell you that you look great, that it might be in your head, that it is likely stress, that everything will be okay. None of these are the right thing to say to someone whose entire existence is a fairly consistent torture of the body and mind. They say it because they are well-intentioned usually, because they wish you the best, but they also say it because you make them uncomfortable. Your existen ...more
Lauren Halster
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Anyone interested in this book absolutely has to read this review in the New York Review of books by an actual doctor.
While this memoir might be interesting, it's an exercise in delusion, and it might well do more damage than good in the world. As this review puts it, "to insist beyond all plausibility that one’s suffering is related to a tick bite is not feminist; it’s absurd. And to prey on suffering people who crave that certainty, offering them expens
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I do not have cohesive thoughts about this book. I cannot, and I may never. I can't decide if I want to give it 4 or 5 stars, or whether I loved it or hated it or thought it was good or bad writing or why I consistently want to treat life in binary or why any of this matters in the end.

I know two things:
1. I could not read this for more than small stretches at a time. Once, it sent me into a hot and prickly panic attack, after which I fell asleep and dreamt half-concocted nightmares of relapse.
Zia Bird
Jul 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
This reads exactly like a Livejournal: the writing is flimsy, self-obsessed, and incredibly shallow. Besides her many illnesses, (and yes that does sound hellish, I certainly have empathy for her there), she goes on and on about this person and that person having a trust fund (coming from someone that attends an Ivy League college no less), the various outfits she wore in 2006, all the drugs she took between the years 1999-2015, etc, etc. Any person she encounters is barely detailed and they wei ...more
Maura Muller
I was really looking forward to this book. My husband battled late stage Lyme for 5 years and I had it for one and a half agonizing years. Most everyone I know (I live in a rural, Upstate, NY) has had it.
I think it is crucial to share the difficulties and problems in getting treated for such a mysterious disease - especially for women. I was told it was "only menopause". Women's health issues have been dismissed for ages, so I really wanted to love this book. I hated it. It was a jumbled, repeti
Marcy Dermansky
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have fascinated with Porochista Khakpour for years. It was so wonderful to actually meet the real Porochista in real life and sort of fall in love with the actual person. Reading her memoir, SICK, was a fascinating entry into the actual life woman behind the tweets -- so much of the stories in this book was already familiar in a strange way -- and FB posts and the essays and novels. It felt almost like a privilege, to read her actual story.

I am in awe of how honest this book is. And well craf
Laura Peña
Mar 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Alright this review is so goddamn long it’s like i practically wrote my own memoir…… my apologies. This could have been 1,000 words longer so trust me I’m really sparing everyone. I also gave up on editing grammar bc this is goodreads where i read for fun and i was getting school flashbacks. Anyway enjoy.

It is very difficult to write a memoir that is not insufferable or embarrassing, and sadly this book did not escape those fates. I was excited to read this book as I am also a chronically ill
A finely wrought memoir of Khakpour’s battle with Lyme disease and, more broadly, how the early trauma and displacement of her childhood intertwines and muddies the challenge of “putting a name” to the cause of her symptoms. A personal fascination, for me, was the revelation that Khakpour and I are almost exactly the same age - she has lived so much more life than I have that I would have referred her to as one of the “older girls” had we been at the same school. Beautiful writing from the sente ...more
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Excerpt from review posted on my book blog,

Porochista Khakpour spends much of this book talking about relationships. Sometimes it’s her parents or girlfriends. But more often it’s the men in her life. I’ve seen reviewers bemoan this. But here’s what I think.

A single young woman, battling chronic, mostly unexplained, illness has a natural need for caregivers. As much as Khakpour these are romantic relationships, her writing about them centers more often on how the men interac
Porochista Khakpour can’t remember a time when she didn’t feel unwell and like she wanted to escape. “I had no idea what normal was. I never felt good,” she writes in her bracing memoir. Related to this sense of not being at home in her body was the feeling of not having a place where she fit in. Throughout Sick, Khakpour gives excellent descriptions of physical and mental symptoms. Her story is a powerful one of being mired in sickness and not getting the necessary help from medical professiona ...more
 Sarah Lumos
2.5/5 stars

I feel bad for not liking this book. However, like others have said, although this book’s content is important, the execution was poor. At first, I was excited to read this because when I saw the cover, I saw a part of myself. As an Asian woman who copes with a chronic illness, I felt connected to Khakpour even before reading her memoir.

I learned about Lyme disease through Avril Lavigne; she was diagnosed with it a few years ago. I remember watching her interview and feeling shocke
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
For obvious reasons, I tend to be drawn toward books about people living with chronic illness—particularly women. I was especially eager to read Sick, Khakpour's memoir, because I know a number of people affected by Lyme disease. Khakpour's story is a difficult one, full of not just a lifetime of illness, but a lifetime of struggle. At times I had to put it down and step away -- it can be difficult to read someone's story of illness when you live with an illness yourself. While I didn't relate t ...more
Sarah Ames-Foley
2.5 stars
This review can also be found on my blog.

It seems impossible to separate Khakpour’s life of illness from the remainder of her life. As she details, no one has been able to ascertain for certain when exactly she acquired Lyme. Some doctors have pointed to her health problems in childhood as symptoms, while others have indicated that college seemed like a likely bet. Having gone through one trauma after another, it’s also difficult to disentangle the symptoms of her Lyme from symptoms of
Amy M
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
while kind of interesting, it was self-indulgant and too focused on how 'odd' the author is. Its not really a story about Lyme, or even being sick really. I didn't feel the author showed how she was odd, she just kept saying it. I got pretty bored reading how weird she felt, but how normal she seemed. ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it liked it
My takeaway from this chaotic memoir is that Lyme disease is terrfiying (thanks for checking me for ticks at the Cape @cassadycadillac) and the American health system is brutal. My other takeaway is perhaps the jumpy approach is not the right one for a memoir of this kind.
Megan O'Hara
Jan 30, 2019 rated it did not like it
i wanted to give this 2 stars because 1 feels mean but this was really underwhelming and actively bad in a lot of ways. i feel like i could not tell you a single thing that happened in this book in any detail despite having just finished it. it was disjointed and shallow and narcissistic and basically just a slightly fleshed out list of events in her life. the two things that do stand out to me are not good: she's like my friend's a sex worker (though she says prostitute...) and that makes her m ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
I think I went in expecting too much. Khakpour is at her best when she describes the indifference of doctors, her struggles and confusion regarding Lyme and seeing how cities and lovers correspond to her illness.

At several times, I felt the prose could have been tightened. It was often descriptive where it could have been insightful. Khakpour notes in her acknowledgements that she stripped the book of everything else but her ego. When I think of Meghan Rourke's The Long Goodbye, I think perhaps
Grace Sutherlin
Jun 18, 2018 rated it liked it
As a woman who suffers from four chronic illnesses I was most interested in reading this book as I wanted to see how another woman approached coping with chronic illness and the revolving door of medical specialists involved in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic illness. I have my own chronic illness manuscript and when I saw that a writer actually landed a literary agent for this kind of book and an acquiring publisher, I was simply astounded. (By the way, as far as I know I do not have Lym ...more
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
all the people who had petty, bad reviews are crazy. this is a well-written and really interesting memoir about being chronically ill and navigating the unknowns of that illness. furthermore, it's hard to write about chronic illness, especially when you're actually suffering from it, so to do all that while being sick is impressive. i thought it was stylistically written well and different segments that didn't seem to be related were strung together nicely in the end. you don't need to like some ...more
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting and thoughtful, but the random arrangement of essays didn't work for me. I needed a bit more linear structure--I kept trying to figure out where we were in time and if she knew yet that she had Lyme disease. But I find medical memoirs fascinating, and she did an astonishing job at how she was treated by health practitioners who didn't know what to do with her or even didn't believe that Lyme disease exists. ...more
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Theories that diseases are caused by mental states and can be cured by will power are always an index of how much is not understood about the physical terrain of a disease."
~Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors

First of all thank you Harper Perennial for sending me this Arc. I am a big fan of Memoirs so I was really excited to read this one.
A journey of illness that reads more like a detective novel.
Porochista has late-stage lyme disease, but it took years for her to ge
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a difficult, frustrating read -- an an immensely brave one. I applaud Porochista's honesty and openness about her battle with Lyme disease and the horrific chain of events that has followed the onset of her illness. It is infuriating, but sadly not surprising, to see all of the ways she has been mistreated and misdiagnosed by the myriad medical professionals she has seen throughout her life. For anyone who struggles with constant, undiagnosed pain, for anyone who doesn't understand what ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Iranian American novelist Khakpour describes in excruciating detail her fight against an unknown disease, which turned out to be late stage Lyme disease. Much of her battle was in getting the correct diagnoses and disregarding the Dr's who told her that her pain was psychological. For readers who enjoyed "Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved" by Kate Bowler.

I read an advance copy and was not compensated.
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Porochista Khakpour is the author of the memoir Sick (Harper Perennial, June 2018)—a “Most Anticipated Book of 2018,” according to HuffPost, Bustle, Bitch, Nylon, Volume1 Brooklyn, The Rumpus, and more. She also authored the novels The Last Illusion (Bloomsbury, 2014)—a 2014 "Best Book of the Year" according to NPR, Kirkus, Buzzfeed, Popmatters, Electric Literature, and more — and Sons and Other F ...more

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“And the deal with so many chronic illnesses is that most people won't want to believe you. They will tell you that you look great, that it might be in your head only, that it is likely stress, that everything is okay. None of these are the right things to say to someone whose entire existence is a fairly consistent torture of the body and mind. They say it because they are well-intentioned usually, because they wish you the best, but they also say it because you make them uncomfortable. Your existence is evidence of death. . . .” 14 likes
“It is no coincidence then that doctors and patients and the entire Lyme community report—anecdotally, of course, as there is still a frustrating scarcity of good data on anything Lyme-related—that women suffer the most from Lyme. They tend to advance into chronic and late-stage forms of the illness most because often it's checked for last, as doctors often treat them as psychiatric cases first. The nebulous symptoms plus the fracturing of articulacy and cognitive fog can cause any Lyme patient to simply appear mentally ill and mentally ill only. This is why we hear that young women—again, anecdotally—are dying of Lyme the fastest. This is also why we hear that chronic illness is a women's burden. Women simply aren't allowed to be physically sick until they are mentally sick, too, and then it is by some miracle or accident that the two can be separated for proper diagnosis. In the end, every Lyme patient has some psychiatric diagnosis, too, if anything because of the hell it takes getting to a diagnosis.” 6 likes
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