The best books about legacy and legacy projects

Why am I passionate about this?

In my 26 years as a Holocaust educator, I worked closely with hundreds of Holocaust survivors helping them to pass along their legacy of remembrance to thousands of students and teachers. When I retired, I developed and began teaching a course entitled Living and Leaving Your Legacy®. Since 2012, I have taught 64 classes and have spoken to audiences locally, nationally, and internationally. My goal is to help people understand that how we live our lives becomes our legacy. I have worked with individuals at the end of their lives helping them to do sacred legacy work and have trained hospice staffs and volunteers to do the same.


I wrote...

Living and Leaving My Legacy, Vol. 1

By Merle R. Saferstein,

Book cover of Living and Leaving My Legacy, Vol. 1

What is my book about?

Imagine having a written record of your life—your thoughts, feelings, lessons learned, conversations, encounters, memories, dreams, travel adventures, and more. In Living and Leaving My Legacy, Vol. 1, Merle R. Saferstein shares carefully curated excerpts from over 40 years of her journaling. Each is a sampling of her life: the good and bad, the easy and difficult, the challenges and breakthroughs. Saferstein has organized these excerpts by the major experiences of life as a woman, wife, mother, educator, and more. Chapters conclude with thought-provoking journal prompts meant to inspire readers and deepen their life journey. In reading this legacy journal, the reader will better understand that how we live our lives becomes our legacy.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Legacy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Personal History

Merle R. Saferstein Why did I love this book?

In this book Linda Spence begins by explaining what our legacy is and how the story of one’s life is a priceless legacy which captures the individual’s essence. Spence answers the question of why write one’s life story and describes how doing so benefits both the recipients and writers themselves. She guides writers by providing a myriad of questions to answer which cover an entire life from childhood to old age. Pence encourages them to share reflections, wisdom, and experience, all the while writing from one’s heart. I have used this excellent guide for helping students write their legacies.

By Linda Spence,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Legacy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this practical guide to capturing those memories that have been stored away, Linda Spence provides the questions that are the keys to unlocking the memories that make up a life. Beyond the vital statistics are the personal stories that tell what it was like, what we did, and why we did it, how we feel about our choices, and what our circumstances were. Through encouraging coaching, shared memories, and open-ended questions, the process of producing a personal history becomes intriguing and engaging. With Legacy the possibilities expand: a personal record is preservedwith its myths, traditions, joys, pains, gains, and…


Book cover of Women's Lives, Women's Legacies: Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations

Merle R. Saferstein Why did I love this book?

When I first considered becoming a legacy educator, Women’s Lives, Women’s Legacies was the first book I read on the subject of legacy. This comprehensive book written by Rachel Freed presents women with the opportunity to explore their entire lives with the goal of creating something in writing that is a record of who they are and what has mattered in their lives. The book is divided into three sections: The past where readers examine family history and the legacies of feminine ancestors, the present where they explore who they are and where they came from, and the future where they put their legacy into words. Each chapter affords the reader the opportunity to reflect and create a legacy work to leave behind.

By Rachael Freed,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women's Lives, Women's Legacies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Women's Lives, Women's Legacies: Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future...


Book cover of So Grows the Tree: Creating an Ethical Will

Merle R. Saferstein Why did I love this book?

Jo Kline Cebuhar gives the reader the historical background of the age-old tradition of writing  an ethical will in So Grows the Tree: Creating an Ethical Will. She explains how ethical wills pass along life lessons, values and beliefs, and hopes and dreams for the future generations. The book serves as a step-by-step guide to creating an ethical will but also leaves room for the reader to write notes along the way. In addition to writing ethical wills, Cebuhar also offers other suggestions for creating a legacy project, such as an embellished photo album, scrapbook, genealogy, and cookbook as well as a video or audio recording or a PowerPoint slideshow. I found this book to be extremely helpful in illustrating to my students the variety of ways these legacy projects communicate important messages to loved ones.

By Jo Kline Cebuhar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked So Grows the Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Your wisdom didn't come easy. It's taken a lifetime to validate your beliefs and values, to reflect on your life lessons and to envision your hopes for the future. In SO GROWS THE TREE, Jo Kline Cebuhar shows you how to create and share an Ethical Will, the unique expression of what you stand for.


Book cover of The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe for Those We Love

Merle R. Saferstein Why did I love this book?

While the art of letter writing has become a thing of the past, in The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe for Those We Love Rabbi Elana Zaiman shows the reader how sharing insights and beliefs can have a profound effect on one’s family. She tells personal stories as well as those from others in the hopes of inspiring readers to transmit their life lessons and who they are in a forever  letter—something that can be passed down through generations of loved ones. Rabbi Zaiman suggests that the readers share their values in a letter so that it becomes a gift for both the writer and the receiver. After reading this book, I wrote a forever letter to my children and have encouraged my students to do the same for their loved ones.

By Elana Zaiman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Forever Letter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Connect with your family and friends in a meaningful way through the forever letter, a message to impart your values, articulate your feelings, and deepen relationships. Elana Zaiman transforms the little known Jewish tradition of writing an ethical will into an important tool for anyone to use. This simple and engaging book shows you not only the origins of this tradition, but also gives specific, practical guidance and encouragement on writing your own letter. You ll discover the author s personal stories; examples from her forever letter workshops; and related wisdom from literature, philosophy, and psychology. This book will lead…


Book cover of The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness, or Loss

Merle R. Saferstein Why did I love this book?

As a former college writing teacher, Sandra Marinella understands the value of writing one’s story. In The Story You Need to Tell, she recounts her personal journey with breast cancer and tells the stories of others who experienced their own illnesses and traumas. Throughout the book and with the help of writing prompts, Marinella guides and encourages readers to write their stories as an empowering way to heal. She demonstrates how this leads individuals to move toward a better and fuller self as well as to a new, hopeful, and resilient narrative. I recommend this book because it is an excellent guide to writing one’s story, which will eventually become part of that person’s legacy.

By Sandra Marinella,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Story You Need to Tell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A practical and inspiring guide to transformational personal storytelling, The Story You Need to Tell is the product of Sandra Marinella’s pioneering work with veterans and cancer patients, her years of teaching writing, and her research into its profound healing properties. Riveting true stories illustrate Marinella’s methods for understanding, telling, and editing personal stories in ways that foster resilience and renewal. She also shares her own experience of using journaling and expressive writing to navigate challenges including breast cancer and postpartum depression. Each of the techniques, prompts, and exercises she presents helps us “to unravel the knot inside and to…


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Book cover of Leora's Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II

Joy Neal Kidney Author Of What Leora Never Knew: A Granddaughter's Quest for Answers

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm the oldest granddaughter of Leora, who lost three sons during WWII. To learn what happened to them, I studied casualty and missing aircraft reports, missions reports, and read unit histories. I’ve corresponded with veterans who knew one of the brothers, who witnessed the bomber hit the water off New Guinea, and who accompanied one brother’s body home. I’m still in contact with the family members of two crew members on the bomber. The companion book, Leora’s Letters, is the family story of the five Wilson brothers who served, but only two came home.

Joy's book list on research of World War II casualties

What is my book about?

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one; all five sons were serving their country in the military–two in the Navy and three as Army Air Force pilots.

Only two sons came home.

Leora’s Letters is the compelling true account of a woman whose most tender hopes were disrupted by great losses. Yet she lived out four…

By Joy Neal Kidney, Robin Grunder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leora's Letters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one, all five sons were serving their country in the military. The oldest son re-enlisted in the Navy. The younger three became U.S. Army Air Force pilots. As the family optimist, Leora wrote hundreds of letters, among all her regular chores, dispensing news and keeping up the morale of the…


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