Being Mortal

By Atul Gawande,

Book cover of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Book description




For most of human history, death was a common, ever-present possibility. It didn't matter whether you were five…

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Why read it?

10 authors picked Being Mortal as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This non-fiction book has been valuable to me as I consider my own aging. Thoughtfully written by a medical doctor, the book can prepare anyone for life choices in their own living and dying.

As Gawande writes about the experiences of his parents and patients, I recognize myself adjusting to physical and mental changes in my body, struggling with less independence, and accepting that my death will be a natural part of my life.

I like Gawande’s emphasis on developing skills to keep meaning in our lives and to accumulate and accomplish less while paying more attention to our connections…

I read Atul Gawande’s first book, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, soon after it was published. I loved his writing, and as someone who reads (and writes) about health, healthcare, and medicine, I went on to read every book he’s written since then.

Being Mortal crossed my path at the same time my beloved father was making his way out of this life to whatever lies beyond.

Gawande’s book—an examination of modern medicine’s reluctance to acknowledge the “inescapable realities of aging and death” to focus on “what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should…

From Martha's list on the eclectic reader of nonfiction.

You'll usually find this one in the science section of the bookstore but don't be put off, it is not at all dry and it is completely accessible and universal, I mean it's about being mortal, you don't get much more universal than that.

This book is wonderful because you get the expertise of a doctor mixed with the philosophical human questions of how we should best deal with the experience of living with dying.

The take home that palliative care, far from giving up, can sometimes extend life longer than painful treatment, will make you rethink your end-of-life decisions…

This book helped me as my husband was dying. In the US today we have come to see aging issues as primarily needing a medical solution. But as a psychologist, I know aging involves far more than that. To live well to our very last days we need lives with purpose and loving relationships as well as good healthcare and financial security. Gawande's research and riveting stories show how many doctors avoid confronting the realities of the end of life issues. He points the way to a more honest, courageous, and humane approach for professionals and families, too. Everyone should…

From Katharine's list on aging well and flourishing as you age.

Death is the exam we all have to take. And yet not only are we afraid of it, we are afraid to talk about it. Atul Gawande is a second-generation MD, gerontologist, and surprisingly graceful writer who takes us on a compassionate journey through all topics of aging, end-of-life care, and how we deny our own mortality. We often inappropriately extend the suffering of our loved ones with excessive medical intervention because we haven’t examined our own fears. I love this book and reread it when my own mortality or a close death gives me pause. It opens our hearts…

During your retirement, you may need to make difficult decisions about your health care or that of a loved one. This book is essential reading for anyone undergoing health challenges – or taking care of someone who is. It guides you to have the necessary conversations to ensure that dignity and personal control are part of health care decisions.

From Liisa's list on if you are thinking about retirement.

Atul Gawande manages to write compellingly about all manner of topics – even surgical check-lists – so when he decided to take on the hearty meat of life and death, there was no chance this book was not going to be outstanding. I recommend Being Mortal for all doctors, patients, parents, and children – yes, just about everyone. It’s the first book I’ve come across that so honestly advises, educates, and still entertains on the topic of some process we all have in common – the act of leaving this world. 

We fight death in America, insisting everyone battles to the bitter end, no matter how low quality of life drops. Gawande bravely challenges this notion, giving us permission to define what a “good life” means to us. Is it consciousness? Eating chocolate ice cream? Living at home? He encourages each of us to draw our line in the sand, a refreshing and clarifying exercise for readers at any stage of life.

From Emily's list on for contemplating mortality.

Atul Gawande is a surgeon, a staff writer for the New Yorker, who wrote this influential book inspired by both his work at the cutting edge of medicine and as a son with ailing parents. His work forces us to confront our mortality, and the health system designed to provide a false promise of immortality.

From Haider's list on death, medicine, and end of life care.

Gawande takes a compelling look at the medical profession, making the case that quality of life can take precedence over merely extending life by any medical means or invasive procedures that are available. He shares examples of ways our society can more responsibly care for its elderly, preserving dignity and a good life until death.

From Julie's list on death and dying, grief, and loss.

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