The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness

Finalist, National Book Awards 2022 for Nonfiction

book cover for Meghan O’Rourke, The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness
ISBN 9781594633799
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House
author photo of Megan-ORourke. (Photo credit: David Surowiecki)
Meghan O’Rourke

Meghan O’Rourke is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness and The Long Goodbye, as well as the poetry collections Sun In Days, Once, and Halflife. More about this author >

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From the publisher:

A landmark exploration of one of the most consequential and mysterious issues of our time: the rise of chronic illness and autoimmune diseases.

A silent epidemic of chronic illnesses afflicts tens of millions of Americans: these are diseases that are poorly understood, frequently marginalized, and can go undiagnosed and unrecognized altogether. Renowned writer Meghan O’Rourke delivers a revelatory investigation into this elusive category of “invisible” illness that encompasses autoimmune diseases, post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, and now long COVID, synthesizing the personal and the universal to help all of us through this new frontier.

Drawing on her own medical experiences as well as a decade of interviews with doctors, patients, researchers, and public health experts, O’Rourke traces the history of Western definitions of illness, and reveals how inherited ideas of cause, diagnosis, and treatment have led us to ignore a host of hard-to-understand medical conditions, ones that resist easy description or simple cures. And as America faces this health crisis of extraordinary proportions, the populations most likely to be neglected by our institutions include women, the working class, and people of color.

Blending lyricism and erudition, candor and empathy, O’Rourke brings together her deep and disparate talents and roles as critic, journalist, poet, teacher, and patient, synthesizing the personal and universal into one monumental project arguing for a seismic shift in our approach to disease. The Invisible Kingdom offers hope for the sick, solace and insight for their loved ones, and a radical new understanding of our bodies and our health.

Judges Citation

Meghan O’Rourke has written a riveting account of chronic illness and an incisive critique of a medical system that fails to see patients holistically and, therefore, humanely. The product of years of rigorous investigation and reflection, this lucid and lyrically precise book has been called timely—as drastically increasing numbers of people now suffer with “invisible” illnesses—and yet The Invisible Kingdom is testament that such a work has long been needed.


Meghan O’Rourke at the 2022 National Book Awards Finalist Reading