Books and suggested articles related to end-of-life issues and conversations
Caring for others and ourselves in view of today’s medical system
A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents—an Ourselves, Jane Gross (2012)—Gross, a health journalist, weaves the story of her mother’s final years and days into a moving account of the toll caregiving takes on her life and the life of her brother. Includes practical, hand-to-access, vitally useful information. An emotionally touching story and indispensable handbook for anyone facing the prospect of caring for an aged and/or dying parent.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, Katy Butler (2014)—A thoroughly researched and compelling mix of personal narrative and hard-nosed reporting. Sharing her journey with her parents, Butler conveys the strain on caregivers, feelings of guild and grief, and the confusion between saving a life and prolonging a death. Hard to put down, the book captures how flawed end-of-life care has become.
The Art of Dying Well, A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life, Katy Butler (2019)—”Truth, wisdom and gorgeous stories—some heartbreaking, some life-giving, some both at the same time. Butler is an amazing and generous writer.” ~Anne Lamotte, author of Almost Everything.
Advice for Future Corpses and the People Who Love Them: A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying, Sallie Tisdale (2019)—An excellent, practical guide on being a friend to or caring for a person who is dying in the near future, within days to months. Tisdale is an experienced palliative care nurse and a practicing Buddhist.
A Beginner’s Guide to the End, Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death, BJ Miller MD and Shoshana Berger (2019) —“When it comes to the final journey, we are all beginners. Navigating the complexities of serious illness requires grace and grit. With elegant simplicity and tender, earthy honesty, this beginner’s guide explains how to prepare, what possible routes you might take, mis-turns to avoid, and the beauty you might see along the way.” Ira Byock, MD, Founder and Chied Medical Director, Institute for Human Caring.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande (2014)—Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. He offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months can be rich and dignified.
Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life, Jessica Nutik Zitter, MD (2017)—Describes life and death in the ICU and argues for early palliative interventions for seriously or terminally ill patients.
Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer, Barbara Ehrenreich (2019)—Drawing on varied sources, from personal experience and sociological trends to pop culture and current scientific literature, Natural Causes, examines the ways in which we obsess over death, our bodies, and our health. Both funny and caustic, Ehrenreich then tackles the seemingly unsolvable problem of how we might better prepare ourselves for the end—while still reveling in the lives that remain to us.
Benediction: A Novel, Kent Haruf (2013)—Set high in the Colorado Plains, Benediction is moving and profound story about one man dying, and the grace that lies within us all.