About Toni

Our lives can take an unexpected turn at any moment. Mine did in 2001: I got sick with what the doctors initially diagnosed as an acute viral infection—but have yet to recover. I was a law professor for 22 years at the University of California—Davis until the illness forced me to retire. During those 22 years, I served six years as the law school’s dean of students. I had a longstanding Buddhist practice and co-led a weekly meditation group with my husband (who’s also named Tony!).


I never expected to become an author but, faced with learning to live a new life, I wrote  How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers. Truth be told, I began it as a manual for myself, but when I shared parts of it with others, they encouraged me to turn it into a book. And so I did. To my surprise and delight, it has garnered a worldwide following and has won two Nautilus Book Awards: a Gold Medal in Self-Help/Psychology and a Silver Medal in Memoir. It was also named one of the Best Books of 2010 by Spirituality and Practice. And in 2018, How to be Sick was released in a revised and updated edition. I didn't realize how much work it would be, but I'm glad I did it. In addition to rewriting some chapters and editing all the others, I added over a dozen new practices to the book.

My second book is the critically acclaimed, How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for Navigating Joy and Sorrow. It offers my understanding of the Buddha’s path to peace and well-being in the midst of life's ups and downs. This is a path that all of us can follow regardless of our backgrounds or circumstances. How to Wake Up is being widely-used as an introduction to Buddhism.

My third book is called How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide. Chronic illness—which includes chronic pain—brings with it so many challenges that I wanted to write a book that addresses a broad range of topics. This one does while, at the same time, focusing on how the practices of mindfulness, equanimity, and self-compassion can make life as good and joyful as possible in the face of difficulties that can be so overwhelming that I sometimes refer to chronic pain and illness as “a life upside down.”

My fourth book is called How to Be Sick: Your Pocket Companion. It started out as a pocket edition of How to Be Sick but turned into a stand alone book. In other words, it's for people who've read How to Be Sick and for those who haven't. I had no idea how much work it would be to write a pocket guide that would limit me to only about 100 words per page. I am incredibly excited about this new book and love the fact it easily fits into a bag or even a pocket.

I’m active on several social media sites and enjoy maintaining personal relationships with people from all over the world despite my illness. My blog, “Turning Straw Into Gold,” is hosted by Psychology Today online.

I live in Davis, California, with Tony, and our endearing, if goofy gray lab, Scout.