The Two Kinds of Decay: A Memoir (FSG, 2008)

  • The London Independent Best Books of 2011
  • The New York Post Required Reading
  • The New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
  • NPR Nevada Public Radio Favorite Books of 2015
  • Readings (Australia) Best Books of 2008
  • San Francisco Chronicle 100 Best Books of 2008
  • The Telegraph Best Books of 2011
  • Time Out Chicago Top 10 Books of 2008
  • Short-listed for 2011 Wellcome Trust Book Prize (UK)
  • Long-listed for 2012 Royal Society Winton Prize (UK)
  • Read an excerpt
  • Download the reading guide

About the book

At twenty-one, just as she was starting to comprehend the puzzles of adulthood, Sarah Manguso was faced with another: a wildly unpredictable autoimmune disease that appeared suddenly and tore through her twenties, paralyzing her for weeks at a time, programming her first to expect nothing from life and then, furiously, to expect everything. In this captivating story, Manguso recalls her struggle: arduous blood cleansings, collapsed veins, multiple chest catheters, depression, the deaths of friends and strangers, addiction, and, worst of all for a writer, the trite metaphors that accompany prolonged illness. A book of tremendous grace, The Two Kinds of Decay transcends the very notion of what an illness story can and should be.


“A remarkable, clear-eyed account that turns horror into something humane and beautiful.” (The New York Times Book Review)… “A beautiful book.” (The Los Angeles Times)… “Revelatory.” (The Washington Post Book World)… “Sharp, vivid, funny.” (The Wall Street Journal)… “A rare and remarkable book.” (The London Times)… “Unusually piercing.” (The London Independent) “Lightning-quick and extraordinary.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)