Books on Death and Dying.
How we approach the topic of death and dying has been shaped by many minds. These are all popular books on the topic — many have online excerpts or video clips. The descriptions of each are generic descriptions and not my own.
Barnes, Julian. Nothing to be Frightened Of (2008). "Julian Barnes' new book is, among many things, a family memoir, an exchange with his brother (a philosopher), a meditation on mortality and the fear of death, a celebration of art, an argument with and about God, and a homage to the French writer Jules Renard.
Butler, Katy. Knocking on Heaven’s Door (2013). "A mix of personal narrative and hard-nosed reporting that captures just how flawed care at the end of life has become". This bestselling memoir--hailed a "triumph" by The New York Times--ponders the "Good Death" and the forces within medicine that stand in its way.
Butler, Katy. The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life.The Art of Dying Well is about living as well as possible for as long as possible and adapting successfully to change. Packed with extraordinarily helpful insights and inspiring true stories, award-winning journalist and prominent end-of-life speaker Katy Butler shows how to thrive in later life (even when coping with a chronic medical condition), how to get the best from our health system, and how to make your own “good death” more likely. This handbook of step by step preparations—practical, communal, physical, and sometimes spiritual—will help you make the most of your remaining time, be it decades, years, or months. (Josephine's Note: If you are really into studying death and dying, all the books on this list are important. But if you want to know what to do, when, and how, this is a great choice. Very helpful).
Callanan, Maggie, Patricia Kelley. Final Gifts: Understanding and Helping the Dying (1992). For everyone who has been or ever will be close to someone who is dying, this book is aimed at helping them to understand not only what the experience of death is like, but also how to interpret the symbolic messages by which the dying attempt to communicate their needs to us.
Chast, Roz. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (2014). Graphic memoir of American cartoonist and author Roz Chast. The book is about Chast's parents in their final years. Her father, George, died at the age of 95 and her mother, Elizabeth, who worked as an assistant elementary school principal, died at the age of 97.
Chen, Pauline. Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality (2007). Written by surgeon and liver specialist Pauline Chen. The Los Angeles Times described the main goal of the book as "to hold herself and fellow physicians accountable for providing better end-of-life care."
Didion, Joan. The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), by Joan Didion (b. 1934), is an account of the year following the death of the author's husband John Gregory Dunne (1932–2003). Published by Knopf in October 2005, The Year of Magical Thinking was immediately acclaimed as a classic book about mourning.
Gawande, Atul. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (2014). Addresses hospice care and the current state of care in regard to age-related frailty, serious illness and impending death. Gawande's reflections are interspersed with personal stories.
Kalanithi, Paul. When Breath Becomes Air (2016). Paul Sudhir Arul Kalanithi was an Indian-American neurosurgeon and writer. His book When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir about his life and illness battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer. It was posthumously published by Random House in January 2016.
Lynn, Joanne, MD, Janice Lynch Schuster, and Joan Harrold, MD. Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Facing Serious Illness (1999). Handbook for Mortals is warmly addressed to all those who wish to approach the final years of life with greater awareness of what to expect and greater confidence about how to make the end of our lives a time for growth, comfort, and meaningful reflection.
Miller, B.J. and Shoshana Berger. A Beginner's Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death (2019). (Josephine's Note: If you are really into studying death and dying, all the books on this list are important. But if you want to know what to do, when, and how, this is a great choice. Very helpful). An honest, surprising, and detailed-oriented guide to the most universal of all experiences, A Beginner's Guide to the End is the one book that everyone needs. The first ever practical, compassionate, and comprehensive guide to dying--and living fully until you do.
Rehm, Diane. On My Own (2016). In a deeply personal and moving book, the beloved NPR radio host speaks out about the long drawn-out death (from Parkinson’s) of her husband of fifty-four years, and of her struggle to reconstruct her life without him.
Tisdale, Sallie. Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying (2018). Award-winning writer and nurse Sallie Tisdale offers a lyrical, thought-provoking yet practical perspective on death and dying in this frank, direct and compassionate meditation on the inevitable.