End of Life Books

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

by Atul Gawande, MD

Through interviews with doctors, stories from and about health care providers (such as the woman who pioneered the notion of “assisted living” for the elderly)—and eventually, by way of the story of his own father’s dying, Gawande examines the cracks in the system of health care to the aged (i.e. 97 percent of medical students take no course in geriatrics) and to the seriously ill who might have different needs and expectations than the ones family members predict. Yes, “death is the enemy,” he writes. “But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee… someone who knows how to fight for territory that can be won and how to surrender it when it can’t.” In his compassionate, learned way, Gawande shows all of us—doctors included—how mortality must be faced, with both heart and mind.

Dying Well

by Ira Byock, MD

Byock, president elect of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care, is a gifted storyteller. Beginning with his own father’s terminal illness, he details without scientific cant the process of decline that awaits most of us. The case studies, which form the humanistic soul of this work, never devolve into the maudlin or saccharine. Life on the edge of the great crossing is explored in all its sadness and pathos, but Byock also makes room for wisdom, hope and even the joy of final understanding.

How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter

by Sherwin B Nuland, MD

An international bestseller, Sherwin B. Nuland’s How We Die has come to be regarded as the definitive book about the most universal human concern: death. The ebook edition includes the author’s afterword to the paperback edition examining the current state of health care, and our relationship with life as it approaches its end. Nuland’s masterful How We Die has become a modern classic on how to take control of our own final days.

“Powerfully eloquent…. How We Die is a relentlessly frank and graphic description…. surprisingly absorbing.” — The New York Times; “Unforgettable.” — Kirkus Reviews; “Thought provoking and humane.” — Booklist; “The story comes from a sensitive observer…who has seen much, taken much thought, and written it all down with a superior gift for descriptive narrative.” — Washington Post Book World.

When Breath Becomes Air

by Paul Kalanithi, MD

“I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option. . . . Part of this book’s tremendous impact comes from the obvious fact that its author was such a brilliant polymath. And part comes from the way he conveys what happened to him—passionately working and striving, deferring gratification, waiting to live, learning to die—so well. None of it is maudlin. Nothing is exaggerated. As he wrote to a friend: ‘It’s just tragic enough and just imaginable enough.’ And just important enough to be unmissable.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Paul Kalanithi’s memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, written as he faced a terminal cancer diagnosis, is inherently sad. But it’s an emotional investment well worth making: a moving and thoughtful memoir of family, medicine and literature. It is, despite its grim undertone, accidentally inspiring.”The Washington Post

What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying

By Karen M. Wyatt, MD

In this book of stories gleaned from her work as a hospice physician, Dr. Karen Wyatt shares the life lessons and spiritual transformations experienced by her patients and their loved ones at the end-of-life. Through poignant tales of love, forgiveness and surrender she chronicles her own spiritual growth as she learns to cope with grief and transforms the way she lives her life. These lessons from the dying contain timeless wisdom for anyone searching for deeper meaning and purpose in life and form a map for non-religious spiritual growth in contemporary society. Readers will learn a step-by-step path to enlightened living, the secret to transforming adversity to opportunity, the keys to living fully in each and every moment, and a strategy for overcoming fear and finding unlimited joy within.