The Books That Made Me With Sophie Morgan



In this episode of 'The Books That Made Me', Ben Keene (Co-founder of Rebel Book Club) talks to Sophie Morgan about 3 nonfiction books that have had a massive impact on her to date. Sophie describes one book as a catalyst for a huge adventure and another that has such deep resonance with her, 'it feels like coming home'.

Sophie⁠ also shares with us her activism around ⁠Rights on Flights + why she feels bookshops should be curating disabled writers within their own section in bookstores. Watch this space for a Rebel Book Club backed campaign on that one...



Sophie Morgan⁠ is one of the first female TV presenters in the world with a physical disability. Best known for presenting the Paralympics, Sophie also reports on hard-hitting documentaries, live-event broadcasting and most recently, fronting her prime-time travel series whilst appearing as a regular panelist on a popular daytime talk show. She is one of the first female wheelchair users to become a T.V. personality in the U.K. and the world.

Sophie is co-founder of Rights on Flights, a campaign & member organisation which provides educational resources for the airline industry and empowers disabled travellers. Global Ambassador for Can-Am, Airbnb and PADI, Sophie is an avid traveler and writes about inclusive travel in her brand-new monthly column for Condé Nast Traveler⁠.

Her first book, a bestselling memoir, “Driving Forwards”, was published in 2023 by Little Brown.




Sophie's choices were: 

1. ⁠Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around the World⁠ by Elspeth Beard (Michael O'Mara | 2017)

2. ⁠Big Magic: How to Live a Creative Life, and Let Go of Your Fear⁠ by Elizabeth Gilbert (Bloomsbury Publishing | 2015)

3. ⁠Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body⁠ by Rebekah Taussig (HarperOne | 2020)


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[00:00:00] I literally read it and was so like, I need to do what she's done. I have to find a way to follow suit, and it was like this catalyst for me that I wanted to just go and explore the world in the most extraordinary way and do it in a way that I suppose would also be like a middle finger up to people that said, ‘You couldn't possibly do something like that’.


[00:00:27] “Of all the things I'd lost, I knew that not being able to walk would matter to me the least”.

At 18, Sophie had the world at her feet, but in a freedom chasing moment, she suffers a life-changing injury. Total paralysis below the chest. Sophie shares in painful and raw detail the journey of her two lives. Before and after the crash.

Sophie's writing is both blunt and poetic and gives you a close up view of the unbelievable challenges a person and their family faces when the body is forever changed.

In the 20 years since the crash, Sophie has fallen forward into life, she says. And through her media career and activism has played an increasingly important part in improving physical and social access for those with disabilities.

Her book is one of the most heart thumping human stories I have ever read, and I don't say that lightly.

Today, we are really excited to welcome Sophie to our podcast and hear about the books that changed and shaped her as a remarkable human.

You're gonna love this.

Sophie Morgan, welcome to Rebel Book Club


[00:01:40] Thank you very much for having me. How are you doing?


[00:01:42] I'm doing really well. Now when I sort of was just, I follow you, uh, a lot online, which is, you are hard to avoid these day, but I was just reflecting for the last five minutes on what you've been up to recently, here's a little list.

Just to play it back at you. So you obviously hosted, co-hosted Crufts - The biggest dog show in the world. You've got a new series out in Channel 4 called Living Wild, which is getting a lot of love. You are campaigning around accessibility in tourism and inclusive travel. You've been in the States. Rights on Flights has become this huge campaign in the last few weeks.

You've even taken that to number 10, where you pointed out that the only, uh, only thing with decent access is the cat. Um, And, and yet, in amongst all this, you're taking a lot of shit.

Your blue badge was stolen from your car. You're dealing with trolls. Um, and by the way, you've just got your paper back ‘Driving Forwards’ that into the world.

How the hell are you doing all this? Sophie Morgan


[00:02:40] God, when you listed like that, I don't have the answer. I don't know cuz I try and compartmentalize. I think a number of things are happening all at the same time. Some deliberately orchestrated and… some wonderful and some not so wonderful and you know, such as life.

But I think the good, the good makes me tolerate the bad, you know? So like as you said, I've got this great Channel 4 series out, my paperback’s out. Um, I've been traveling a lot.

And then on the dark side of things, I've got, yeah. My car got broken into, my blue badge got stolen - my car got broken into for someone to steal my blue badge I should add, which is just in itself really frustrating.

And then, yeah, I've been running a campaign to try and make air travel more accessible. Cause unfortunately it might be 2022-23, but we're still dealing, like, it's just, it's so backwards where, uh, the way that disabled travellers are treated. So I've got a lot of work to do there.

As you said, I've taken a campaign letter to number 10 last week, which ironically had steps going into it. So Yep. Larry the cat can access that building far more easily than anyone who uses a wheelchair, which I thought was kind of funny. Oh, it's a lot. But it's all good. You know, it's, it's life and I don't think I'd have it any other way. Well may maybe a bit less drama and just a bit more fun, but you know.

Who gets to choose these things?


[00:03:57] Well, you are brilliant at the fun and the campaigning. Just tell us briefly before we get into the book, Sophie, what is it like diving into these political campaigns? What have you learned in the last few weeks? Because you've, you're leading the charge and I can see the responses online.

There's so many people that are galvanized by this, who've been, who've been suffering or trying to make it happen. And then you are like, you're right there waving the flag. But, uh, like, what's it, like, what's the reality?


[00:04:21] I think there's two things I've learned from this experience. One is that when something difficult happens to you as a, as a disabled person with a profile, I should add, I think it's almost a responsibility to, to draw attention to it because there's so few disabled people in the public eye, um, that I think it comes with a responsibility.

So I advocate deliberately. It's not easy, but I don't feel I have a choice not to, because ultimately what's happening to me is happening to countless others.

So if somebody's gonna listen when I complain about it, hopefully it makes a difference. Right? That's one thing I've learned.

The other, well, I didn't realize how much of a voice I had until recently. Um, it's been really interesting for me to see how I've been complaining about these things for decades, and yet suddenly, recently people are listening.

So, there's a lot to take from that for me. Um, the other thing I've learned, to be honest with you, Ben, is that age old thing that you hear people talk about, which is that we all actually have the power to make change in this world. Even just one person has the power to make change. And I've always found that extraordinary.

You know, you kind of understand it and, and you look at people that have, and, and you go, wow, that's an amazing thing that they've achieved. But I couldn't do anything like that.

And I have learned in the last two months that the, the noise that I have made, the fuss that I've created, the campaign I've started, it's started by me, one person, and it''s making a difference, and that just is really hopeful. Makes me feel very, uh, yeah. Motivated.


[00:05:53] I can see the energy in you filling up as you're talking about all this. Just tell us briefly about the campaigns that you're working on as the Rights to Flights and obviously inclusive travel amongst many other things. But what, what specifically are you trying to achieve and how can people support?


[00:06:08] Oh, thank you for asking. So what we're trying to achieve is basically equal access to air travel, the same as anybody else really at the moment.

As it stands, if you have a disability and you want to try and access air travel, um, there's a number of barriers that will get in your way and they'll be different for each type of different disability. But ultimately, what we're calling on is systemic change. So unfortunately, I'd love to be able to say there's something that you can do if want to support, ‘please, this is what you can do’, you know, ‘head to this website’ and ‘sign this thing’.

But, uh, we're, we're actually working more with the industry. So unless you are listening to this and you work in the airline industry, in which case I'd love to hear from you. But ultimately, it's about working with them. The airline industry, really all the different airlines and all the different parties involved in trying to provide a better service.

I mean, my dream, Ben, if I'm really audacious, is to say, one day I'd like to see a space created on an airplane the same as you see a space, um, for a wheelchair user on a train or on a bus, or. On the tube, for example. I'd love to see something like that on an airplane. And I have been told that that ambition is shared by lots of others.

So I, I know it sounds kind of like I said, audacious and almost perhaps a little bit impossible. Apparently not. Apparently it's just about getting to the right people and, and ultimately breaking down the attitude of barriers that are stopping us from doing things like this. So, we'll see. We'll see. It's a long way to go, but there's smaller steps along the journey that we're taking every single day towards trying to make change.

So writing an open letter to the Prime Minister last week. Which we've got loads of MPs to sign, asking them to give greater powers to the regulators to fine airlines and stuff when they do let us down. But, you know, that's just one punitive step in the, in many steps that we can take to make changes.

So yeah, lots to do.


[00:07:58] Lots to do, but you're, you're making it happen. And, and it's great because it really reflects your, story that you, of course you published last year.

What's it been like since you shared your - it's incredibly open and honest and raw and vulnerable and all those other words that people have used in their reviews - positive reviews of your book. What's it been like? How's your life shifted since you put the story out into the world?


[00:08:19] I think a number of things, really.

It was such a cathartic process. I mean, we hear that all the time, don't we? From, from people who have had trauma and who write a book about it. There's lots of, there is lots of catharsis, there's lots of healing done. But it did open a can of worms for me at the same time.

I think it really made me recognize areas where I hadn't done the work on myself, where I still had work to do, where, you know, I was certainly… I made great strides and moved forward as, as the book suggests, you know, in lots of areas of my life. But there were some areas that I had yet to, to really delve into, and I think the book opened me up to the fact that, it taught me that I hadn't really addressed some of my, some, some issues.

And then the experience of putting it into the world and having other people respond to it, I don't think anything can prepare you for that. I had no idea what that would be like.

How even now a year on. So, the hardback came out a year ago, and as you said, the paperback just came out. I still, I'm shaken every time someone reads it, every time someone messages me to say, just finished your book and, and this, this, this, I, I find it so is the greatest compliment, almost bigger than any other compliment I could receive for someone to spend the time with me and to, to give me that, you know, that it's such a privilege.

It feels so, I, I still feel it's like the greatest thing I ever did, and it's the greatest achievement I've ever, I've made, I think, uh, because for those reasons, for the output. And then the input you get back is just amazing.


[00:09:55] Yeah. But it's your input in the first place. And I think it's lovely to hear that. Your reflection on like the, um, yeah, the feeling that it gives you, because people have put in time, which is what we know with reading or any, any long term media project. It's this huge effort from the creator.

In this case the personal storytelling. Now it's in paperback, what does that mean? Does it mean you're reaching in a bigger audience or a different audience?


[00:10:19] Absolutely both. And, I so recognize that sentiment. There's something I think when you work in TV and you're so used to… Yes, you can spend, what, four or five months making this project that's only gonna be out, you know, on television for an hour for so, for example.

This is this kind of the, the way in which people digest what you create for them, it’s just so, it's so quick. It's, it's so quick.

Obviously you hope it to be as impactful, but it's still, it's so, so quick. I've made documentaries where, you know, I've been away traveling for six months and the, it's only for a 20 minute documentary.

And then, then, yes. Okay. It did take me a couple of years to write this book and, and yes, the input feels longer for sure, but I think there's something about the way that people have to sit with it and, and they have to, you know, they don't read it all in a one-er. Some people do, with my book, some people have read in it one sitting, I've been told. But others, you know, you come back to it.

And you know, and it's that feeling of like, oh, someone's gracefully given me that opportunity to like sit by their bed and, and, and then come back to me and, and, and, and read before they fall asleep. And, you know, whenever you find your time to read your books, that's just such a privilege to think someone's carried you around in their life for a bit of time and, and, and shared that with you.

But you don't get to meet them, you know, you don't get to. So it's, I dunno, I just find it a really magical process. Um, yeah. And, and having the paperback out there, I think even more so, cuz I've just had so many messages from people and I can't believe it's reached the people it has.


[00:11:50] And it's going to keep going…

You're seeing in front, of course, like all good video calls in the 21st century. A beautiful bookshelf, as well as a world map. I can see the background's a nice sort of backdrop to your, to, to your life and your curiosity.

Tell us a little bit about your own reading and um, yeah, three books. We are looking for three books that have had a big impact on your life. So what have you got to hand? What came to mind when you were asked that question?


[00:12:15] Okay, so the first book, um, it was a no-brainer. This is always the first book I go to if anyone ever says, you know, what's a book that changed your life or what's one of your favorite books? Um, I'm a non-fiction reader primarily. When I was younger, I've read a lot of fiction, but I seem to gravitate much more to non-fiction these days.

I really struggle with fiction actually. Um, so the first book is called The Lone Rider, and it's funny that you pointed out the map of the world, Ben, because when I read this book - which tells the story of the first British woman to motorcycle around the world - I was so inspired by her story.

Her name's Elspeth Beard. And she's an English woman - and she grew up in the seventies - and she goes biking around the world in the eighties. The story takes place quite a long time ago, but she was the first to do it.

And um, anyway, I read the, I read the story. And I was so inspired. I said, right, I wanna go ride my motorbike around the world. I didn't have a motorbike. I can't physically ride a motorbike. I literally read it and was so like, I need to do what she's done. I have to find a way to follow suit.

So I basically, that began, that was like this catalyst for me that I wanted to just go and explore the world in the most extraordinary way and, and do it in a way that I suppose would also slightly put two, like a middle finger up to people that said you couldn't possibly do something like that - because that's what Elsbeth had.

So she was the first woman to, to even attempt to, to, when she first started talking about wanting to ride her, her motorbike around the world, she was laughed at, you know, she was completely ridiculed for her ambition.

And as a disabled woman who uses a wheelchair, I, you know, I'm a, I'm a paraplegic, um, I certainly, I remember when I read the book and I said to people, I wanna do what she's done.

They were like, ‘how could you do that?’, and I was so motivated by that sort of that incredulous like, ‘nah, you couldn't do that’, that I said, ‘Right! Now I've gotta do it’, cause I'm gonna find a way to find that a motorbike, surely I can adapt it. Like I've got… So I drive a car, um, and it's adapted with hand controls. I thought that there must be a way to adapt a motorbike, surely. And then I thought if, if she's done it and I can follow her route, then I could kind of almost follow in her footsteps and, and that could be a really nice, you know, almost like in her legacy.

So I got super excited and I bought the map of the world that you can see in the background. It's a wallpaper that I've put up in my flat. And I marked out the journey that she did and obviously had to tweak a few bits because, you know, for various reasons some of the journey that she took is, is not safe now.

Um, all these years later. Um, but yeah, so I, I set off on this, um, this goal with this, with this goal, and I pitched it, um, as a documentary series to Channel 4. And they said yes, they would follow me on this journey, right? Honestly, I thought I had won the lottery. I was the happiest I think I've ever been in my life.

The next challenge was I needed to go and find the actual vehicle to do it on, cuz I'd said I was gonna do this amazing adventure. But as I said, I physically cannot ride a motorbike. Technically don't have, didn't have at the time a motorbike. So I went to find various solutions. Um, ultimately, I, I found one, I found this three-wheeled bike, it's a Riker - that’s the name of the vehicle.

Um, it's not designed for disabled people. It's just perfect though, cuz it's, it balances itself cuz it's got three wheels, which is obviously as a paraplegic, uh, without the use of my legs riding a red bike with two wheels, I would fall off a lot cuz I haven't got the balance and I dunno, the legs just, you know, when you stop, that'd be a problem.

So, um, anyway, that was, that was the beginning of this amazing, uh, challenge that I set myself. And the, the, the camera started rolling. We found this amazing Ryker, got it sent over to the UK, I started learning to ride it, fell in love with it in instantly, thought it was the greatest thing that I'd I'd ever, ever done… Being on the back of it to this day. Um, we started filming, um, and then… Covid happened.

So the documentary series got cancelled, the show got, the whole adventure, got cancelled, and we went to lockdown, and that was the end of that. So it was, uh, unfortunately, like the greatest, it would've been the greatest. Um, but I haven't picked up where, where I left off for various reasons.

But yes, the book itself was monumental for me because I just love, I love empowered. Independent, strong-willed, tenacious women, and I love people that say… when other people say you can't do that, when they go, ‘Uh, why not?’ You know? And I think that's been a real thing for me since I was paralyzed all those years ago.

I've just, every time someone says, ‘oh, you couldn't do that’, I kind of go, ‘really? Could I not? Why not? How come? Maybe I need to go and find out if I can.’

Um, and she had that same attitude and I just loved it. It's such a great book and it's beautifully written as well for an adventure story. It really grips you from the beginning, as a love story within it as well.

So you really feel transported into her life and it's just, she's so brave. It's a brilliant book.


[00:17:23] What a brilliant answer, Sophie, to the question of a book that's had an impact on your life. I didn't realize it'd gone that far. So that's the Lone Rider and um, it's made me think of all these other amazing adventurers who've broken boundaries - and you've done that anyway, regardless of this film being made or not - and I hope it really does still happen. Cause that would be a, an epic adventure to follow.


[00:17:46] Thank you. I mean, there was also something in this book, something that really lit fire under me, particularly, there's a moment in the book where she's being chased by a group of men.

Um, how do I explain it? Biker gang, basically, of men. And she's being chased and she's in America and she's absolutely terrified, because basically if they get her, who knows what's gonna happen.

Anyway. Yeah. She, thankfully, she out-rides them. And she reflects at the end of the chapter, when she's recounting the story, that from then on, she's always gonna ride with her plat of hair tucked into her helmet, so that she will look basically like a man.

And no one would know because her clothing's quite androgynous and under her bike gear, you can't tell if she's a, you know, man or a woman. So she wouldn't invite so much, um, attention.

And I think that's such an interesting experience to be able to step into, you know, how, how often do we as women or, or anyone, any of us get to experience life through a different lens or, or, or, or kind of put a mask on and disguise ourselves and walk into the world in a, in a different body and, and therefore benefit from it. You know?

She was safer when she wasn't assumed to be a woman. So I loved that. I thought, wow, if I, if I get on a motorbike and you, and I leave my wheelchair behind, Do I suddenly not become disabled anymore? And do I suddenly get looked at differently and will people consider me differently? And you know, what does that look like?

Um, and certainly in the years since I've had my Ryker, every time I get off it and I'm reunited with my wheelchair, there's always this moment when I transform, I suppose, from being the girl on the bike, to being a girl in the wheelchair and nothing's happened other than I'm just sitting in a different device.

I'm just mobilizing in a different way. But instantly, one is like, wow, cool. And the other one's, “oh, you poor thing.” And it's just the connotation that goes with a wheelchair. The, you know, what do we, what do we see when we see a wheelchair? What do we see when we see a bike?

And I love embodying the latter, but certainly I have no choice about the former. So I've come to embrace it and be proud of it, but it, it's, it's so much other people's stigma that carries with it, you know, all these problems for me. So yeah, I find that really fun as well.


[00:20:05] That’s a fascinating thing to explore, like the, psychology behind that and trying to create that empathy in both directions.

Do you think there's a way of helping those who haven't, you know, had these automatic labels about wheelchairs shift their mindset towards, oh, mobility is just a, yeah - you know - it's a, it is another form of mobility.

And you've been so good at exploring all these technologies, both through fun and adventure, but also just to show what's on the, coming onto the market, right? Do you see that shifting as, as we make these advances?


[00:20:37] You know what? Well, to your first question about how do we shift people's attitudes, That's my lifelong ambition is how do we get people to just stop seeing a wheelchair and or any other disability and, and labelling us with all of those, um, ideas about, you know, what we can, and we can't be in that label, under that label, I should say.

And I find that a fascinating question, and I don't have the straight answer. If I did, I wouldn't be in the predicament I'm in.

But I think it's, it's, it's, it's really, it's a fun game to play. Like, how can I mess with that stereotype? How can I change it? How can I challenge it? How can I challenge it in you as well? How can I make you see it differently so that I really enjoy that game?

And, and to your second question about the advancements in technology. Wow. I mean, it's been 20 years I've been paralyzed and oh, well, if you had told me, you know, all those, all those years ago that I would be riding, for example, what a Ryker, you know, around, potentially around the world, I would've never believed you.

But that's because something out there's been invented and it works, you know, and so when, when you see the advancements - that wasn't designed for disabled people - but there are the gadgets and equipment and, you know, um, new inventions every day that facilitate change, that may now allow people like me to mobilize in much more efficient ways and, and in more fun ways.

And, and that is just like you feel sky's the limit. Cuz ultimately it means that your horizons expand. Uh, uh, and, and you know this, a wheelchair is a. wonderful thing to be able to have and use. There are millions of people in the world who wish they had one. So, I don't like the idea that it's sort of limiting device. It's very, very enabling actually.

But it is limited in itself. There are only certain places a wheelchair can go. So I don't want to be limited by its limits. So, I'm like, right, what can I get onto or into? Or you know, how do I do it? So that's why I've just learned to scuba dive, for example, I'm like, right if my wheelchair, you know, can only take me so far, I wanna explore what else I can do. And, and that's where it gets exciting cuz there's so much exploration to, to be done.


[00:22:45] There is, and I, watched a video of you earlier on the Camel and I was like, well, oh yeah, she's brave going up on one of those things.


[00:22:51] Sophie: That was hilarious.


[00:22:54] So it turns out you don't just need to be a published author to have had books change your life. We see this happen every month at Rebel Book Club, and we're also seeing our members reading habits shift as well towards listening to more books to fit around their busy digital lives on the move. So when we found out about a new audiobook service called xigxag, we were excited to give it a try.

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And the really exciting part for us, is that people join Rebel Book Club in 2023 get a free audiobook on xigxag to kickstart their non-fiction reading journey with us. The link to this fab offer is on the pod page and

The future of reading is multi-format and we are pumped to be teaming up with a brilliant indie audiobook startup. Now talking of books that change lives...


[00:24:11] So the, the Lone Rider - you set the bar very high with that one. What's number two on your list?


[00:24:19] Number two landed as I think this book always does at the right time. I have a feeling this book, um, anyone who comes across it and feels about it as strongly as I do will say, yes, it came, it found me at the time I needed it. And it's the Big Magic. Um, well, not the Big Magic. It's ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Um, so I've always had this fascination with Elizabeth Gilbert cause I've really enjoyed Eat Pray love. I know people have a mixed reviews about that book, but I, I, it again, landed for me at a really good time. And I really love her as a person. I think she's fascinating.

And I was writing my book and I was absolutely terrified, Ben. I could, I didn't know what I was doing cause I wasn't a writer. You know, I had, the reason I was writing a book was because when I was gonna be doing my round of world adventure, I had approached an agent and said, ‘look, I'm gonna be doing this adventure. Can I write a book about it? Would you help me try and sell that?’ And they said, ‘yeah, no brainer. It's gonna be a Channel 4 series. Absolutely.’

So I got this amazing agent. She read some of the stuff I had written, I had to submit stuff, and she, she said, you can write, we just need to get you the right, you know, um, we need to get you the right book format. We need to get you to get it sold. And so, that was the initial approach.

But when everything got cancelled, I said to her, ‘oh my gosh, I've lost the job. I've lost everything, but I'm gonna be sitting at home. Can I write a book about something? Help me?’ And she said, ‘well, have you ever thought about a memoir?’

I said, ‘no’. She said, ‘well, why don't we go start there?’ So that's what we sold and that's where my book came around. But I was riddled with anxiety. I was absolutely riddled with insecurity about not being good enough about not knowing what I wanted to write. You know? It was intense, absolutely intense.

Plus, we were in lockdown. Plus I was shielding at the time cuz no one knew how covid would impact my disability. There was a lot going on. Um, anyway, Big Magic arrived. How it arrived, I dunno whether I saw it online or whether someone sent it to me, I don't know. But I remember reading it and I've highlighted the bit that matters for me that I wanted to read out to today...

So it talks about motives when writing. I thought it was really powerful for me because somebody had said, when I was talking about my memoir as a book, they said, ‘well, you know, write it to help other people’. And, and I thought, gosh, that's such a huge pressure. How do I help other people? I dunno what to say to help other people. I was really, that really didn't help me saying that.

Some people write a book, a self-help book, or a how-to book or, you know, that's their agenda. But I was really crippled by that. I found it really like in uh, too, too scary. So there's a bit in this book about motives. And it's, and she says in it, you're not required to save the world with your creativity.

And I thought, that's so helpful. Cause I'm always trying to change the world and save it, because disabled people have such a difficult time and I thought, oh, my creativity isn't big enough. I just don't have the skill. So reading that really helped me. And she just said that she wrote ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ not to save other people, but to save herself.

And I loved that, that she, she needed to make sense of her own journey and her own emotional confusion. And you know what, that's what I did. I wrote a book to save myself and I had no other goal then other than just to make sure I did a good job for myself. And it really helped me get over my block, or whatever you wanna call it, that anxiety of like, I hope people like this. I hope people take something from it. I hope this changes them.

You know, all those things that you really wish your book to achieve. But, uh, I didn't go in there with that. After reading this, I just thought, it's okay. I don't need to help other people. If it helps them. Bonus. Ultimately, I just need to help myself.


[00:27:56] I love that. I love that clarity, Sophie. And obviously, uh, you know, Elizabeth Gilbert is world class at helping people make sense of these emotional complexities. Right? And uh, but it is such a great reminder that you just focus on the brilliance of the story. You are a storyteller, right? And you've been through this hellish, wonderful, wild story in your own life. Just tell the story and the hard work will be done.

Outside of that, I, we see it all the time in non-fiction, don't we? Where you are like, this is a great, this story's amazing. And then there's like, here's how to apply it to your life, and, and sometimes you're like, oh God, really? Let me take what I need to take from it.

Now, sometimes you pick a book because it's very much, this is a map of how to change from here to here. That's fine. That's a choice. But, um, absolutely. But my favorite non-fiction books are much more like the memoirs or the thrillers helping make sense of something without an instruction manual.


[00:28:49] That's right. And I did think, I wanted to set out to write an instruction manual. I dunno why I thought that, but I thought it would be helpful for maybe for other people who'd had spinal injury as well.

You know, they could read it and go, oh, here's a map to getting to a good, a better place. But I realized I didn't have that map, and if I did, it certainly wasn't applicable. It was for me, it was my own map, you know?

So that was something that I really needed to hold onto when I was trying to just get through those stages of, oh my God, I can't do this.


[00:29:20] Right. Liz Gilbert, if you're listening.


I love you.


There you go. Uh, well, the last person we interviewed, Sophie, has almost sold as many books as you, Tim Marshall, ‘Prisoners of Geography’.

He's just got one out about, 2 million of these things he's sold, helping us make sense of politics in this model. The next one's about space and politics.

So yeah, he was like, ‘who are you interviewing next?’ And I said, ‘Sophie Morgan’. He's like, ‘oh, I haven't heard of Sophie Morgan’. And I was like, ‘here you go, this will shake up your, your political geography’.

We've had Big Magic. Now what about your third book?


[00:29:51] So the third book is called ‘Sitting Pretty’. And the um, subtitle is ‘The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body’. And it's by a woman called Rebekah Taussig. And on the cover there's a picture of her in her wheelchair and it's also illustrated as well.

Now this book, um, it completely changed me, I think, in ways I had not anticipated when I picked up the book. I didn't… I knew I was curious to read a book about another wheelchair user, especially another woman who was a wheelchair user, and she's got a similar disability to mine that in that she, she has a spinal injury.

She had it when she was very, very young. Um, literally before she could remember sort of thing. I think she was two almost, or one or two. Anyway, and, um, I, I went into it just with an open mind. And I was blown away. I was blown away. I, I had never read any words from anyone that had resonated so much.

And I think because there's such a, a lack of disabled writers, um, maybe perhaps even more female disabled writers, I just had never experienced what it's like to read a story that was so close to home and articulated so beautifully and just made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and made me cry and be proud.

And she explained things that I have been struggling to explain so beautifully, and in a way that I feel I, as a human being, as a writer, as a, as an advocate, um, I'm just learning. I always describe myself as a work in progress and I felt Rebekah was so much like a.. I'm like a disciple, you know? I'm like, right what can I learn from you? How do, how did you, how did you work that out?

So she was a teacher, um, and I think she, she spent a lot of her time in, in one of her chapters of her book, she spends a lot of time trying to explain ableism, uh, to her students. And honestly, Ben, when she unpacks it, I'm like, oh, there's the words. She unlocked this language for me. I was like, those are the words I've been needing to explain things, you know?

Uh, it was wonderful. I love, I love her book. I've never met, met her, but I messaged her just to say, every time I read your book, I feel like I'm coming home. It's just the best feeling. I love it.

So, yeah, and I, I just hope, my dream is that we're gonna see more disabled women writing.

Somebody messaged me the other day, say they went into Waterstones or another bookshop in the UK and they went in and they said, ‘have you got, where's your disabled section? You know how like you have other sections?’ And they said, ‘we don't have that?’

So, well, why not? There's enough of us, there's enough writers out there with a lived experience of disability, whether that be chronic illness or you know, any kind of other impairment. And it's like, why not?

And there's obviously, there’s fiction and non-fiction. There's enough of us, so start curating us and, and celebrating us and, and signposting to us because we have stories to tell too.

And honestly, Rebekah’s story… I feel like I wanna give it to everybody. In fact, I bought it for so many of my friends to say, look, you know me, but now you can know me better.

And also, you can know us as a community better.


[00:33:13] And pairs very well with Driving Forwards, I'm sure, because you've been inspired by it. That's great.

That's Sitting Pretty. And give us the author's name one more time. Sophie. Rebekah...


[00:33:22] Taussig


[00:33:25] And for those who, uh, you know, able-bodied people, when you're talking about a book that's focused on that lived journey, I mean, so many people, able-bodied people, have read Driving Forwards and said, this is, this has taught me so much and inspired me. Regardless of your particular journey.

So would you say that's the case also for Sitting Pretty? How has it been received beyond disabled community?


[00:33:50] That’s a really good question, because I only found out about this book through the disabled community. It's not like I found it when I went into bookshops browsing, and that's kind of to my point before, I wish that I could go to a section and just like I go to a section about Black History or Feminism or, cause I want to learn a bit more… I wanna open my, that's what books are for, to open your eyes into a whole other community or world that you'd never get into otherwise.

So I don't know how it's been received outside of our community. I don't know many non-disabled people who… uh, she's also American, so I dunno if it's come across here as much as it, I dunno, how it did in the US basically.

But I, I would say the thing that I just love about stories, um, like Rebekah's and like a couple of other, um, women's books, or actually people's books I've read. Ed Jackson, for example, he wrote a great book about his experience with spinal injury… is that actually the themes transcend the disabled narrative.

They, they, they move into all of the things that we are looking for when you look for a great book, you know, great stories of overcoming the adversity and all of those wonderful things that, that we are so drawn to as humans.

It's, it's that narrative that we, that we love. The arc, the story arc, all of that that, you know, makes us compelled to know more about somebody's story. Is that what happened? What's the end? And I think the, the thing about disabled writers is, it's just so refreshing cuz we just don't read enough about them. You know, and that's where it gets so juicy.

It's such a world of exploration again, of, I've used that word, that phrase earlier. It's that what could we learn here? We boldly go where no one's gone before. So it's really great to kind of delve into disabled writers and, and learn more about their worlds. And, you know, how they're impacted.

For example, Rebekah was, as I said, paralyzed from a very young age. I was paralyzed when I was a lot older, so it was very different lived experience. It's almost completely different to my story. Completely different. But there was just so much about it that resonated for me.

And I just, again, it's like, uh, I would say to anyone who's non-disabled, who, who just loves great storytelling, there's so much to be got from that, to be found in, in books like that, but also - you know - learn more, open your eyes.

And actually Ben, there you go… You know, when you said, what is the answer to learning how to shift people's perceptions around disability? How do you, you know, how do we change people's stereotypes and stigmas around disability? This is how. Reading books like that.


[00:36:23] Yeah. Reading books like, Rebekah's and reading books like yours.

What a great trio. I know there are about a hundred more that you'd love to talk about, Sophie, I'm sure. Like, like all good authors and curious minds. There's a lot of books to, to share with the world, but those are three absolute brilliant ones.

My final question for you today for our crowd is, are you writing, are you still writing off the back of Driving Forwards?

I know your life is so full as we've described, but are you, have you got thoughts for the future writing projects?


[00:36:52] I do have thoughts of a future writing project. I'm still licking the wounds a little bit from before, so I'm dipping my toe in column writing and article writing and writing about things that I really love.

So, for example, travel writing, I'm absolutely adoring doing that. I write for Conde Nast Traveller and I've been, I’ve had the privilege of writing for some other newspapers. I just... That for me is just wonderful - to be able to talk about inclusive travel, and not go through the agony of working out how to write a book about it all.

[But I think there is… there are ideas for sure, just not yet.


[00:37:27] And the point that you made to me so brilliantly last year when we were on the stage Ideas Fest was that - as with Crufts and, uh, you know, Living Wild - is making media projects, whether they're film or, or, books, about your interests and skills that aren't tied to your disability.

Right? Like seeing people, presenting, talking, writing about different issues that aren't related to their race, their disability, whatever it is. And so that's something that, that is a big thing for you, right?


[00:37:56] I think it must be the next thing I do. You know, Ben. Cause I think, cuz I unpacked my whole life story in - so far - into this book. I feel like now wherever I go next needs to be something different.

It needs to be about something that's, you know, touches on disability, but that's kind of almost incidental. Yeah. It needs to be about travel and perhaps it is the time that I pick up that dream that I once had about driving around the world.

I am start thinking about maybe doing that. Maybe write that as a story. Who knows? I'm not there yet, but until that time comes, I'm just gonna keep writing my, you know, columns and various things.


[00:38:32] The Lone Rider Returns.


[00:38:34] Oh yeah. I need to meet Elsbeth and ask her if she would, if she would mind… She would mind me doing that.


[00:38:40] She would not mind. She'd be there. She’d be your first cheerleader. That'd be amazing.

All right, Sophie Morgan, The Books That Made You, thank you so much!


[00:38:50] Thank you so much. That was really fun.

Hosted by

Ben Keene, who is the Co-Founder of Rebel Book Club and curious about people’s life-changing books.

produced by

In-house by Emily Goddard on the Rebel Book Club team.


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