100 books like Being Mortal

By Atul Gawande,

Here are 100 books that Being Mortal fans have personally recommended if you like Being Mortal. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot

Martha W. Murphy Author Of CRU Oyster Bar Nantucket Cookbook: Savoring Four Seasons of the Good Life

From my list on the eclectic reader of nonfiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a narrative nonfiction writer interested in a broad range of topics, including but not limited to: food and the people who bring it to us; travel and life in faraway places; human health and the role of medicine; memoir as one person’s story yet illustrative of the human spirit; and the unique and remarkable role dogs play in our lives. I am the same kind of reader: I read across a range of topics, mostly nonfiction. The bookshelves in my house and the record of titles I’ve checked out from my local library show an eclectic taste, as do the books I’m recommending here. I hope you’ll enjoy them!

Martha's book list on the eclectic reader of nonfiction

Martha W. Murphy Why did Martha love this book?

I expected a book of insider stories about the hidden world of commercial airline travel from the people who make it possible, but instead I found a beautifully written, lyrical, and awestruck look at what it means to travel high above the Earth’s surface day after day, zooming between cities on opposite sides of the world.

I have never had the physics of flight, gravitational pull, wind, storms, and clouds explained so clearly and compellingly. I frequently reread passages for their beauty and emotion and completely unique fresh perspective. I knew flying was a sophisticated skill, but this book made it clear how truly complex a pilot’s job is.

The author’s love of his hard-won occupation is enthralling, making this a book to share with aspiring aviators in your life.  

By Mark Vanhoenacker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Skyfaring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Sunday Times Bestseller**
**Book of the Week on Radio 4**

'One of the most constantly fascinating, but consistently under-appreciated aspects of modern life is the business of flying. Mark Vanhoenacker has written the ideal book on the subject: a description of what it's like to fly by a commercial pilot who is also a master prose stylist and a deeply sensitive human being. This is a man who is at once a technical expert - he flies 747s across continents - and a poet of the skies. This couldn't be more highly recommended.' Alain de Botton

Think back to when…

Book cover of Unbroken

Mel Laytner Author Of What They Didn't Burn: Uncovering My Father's Holocaust Secrets

From my list on resilience and surviving the horrors of World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a foreign correspondent seven time zones from home when my father died of a sudden heart attack. My grief mixed with guilt for never having sat down with him to unravel his vague vignettes about life and loss in the Holocaust. I wondered, how did he survive when so many perished? How much depended on resilience, smarts, or dumb luck? As reporters do, I started digging. I uncovered a Nazi paper trial that tracked his life from home, through ghettos, slave labor, concentration camps, death marches, and more. The tattered documents revealed a man very different from the quiet, quintessential Type-B Dad I knew…or thought I knew. 

Mel's book list on resilience and surviving the horrors of World War II

Mel Laytner Why did Mel love this book?

If I didn’t know this was a true story, I would have dismissed Unbroken as some overblown Rambo novel. But it is true, and enthralling, and that’s what kept me turning pages.

Louis Zamperini, a 1936 American Olympian turned World War II Air Corp navigator, was shot down and captured by the Japanese. Because of his fame, Japanese guards singled him out for especially harsh treatment. Zamperini’s torment made me angry; his tenacity made me proud. Post-war trauma drove him to the bottle, as with so many veterans. That he overcame spiraling alcoholism through his renewed Christian faith makes for an inspiring story and gives fresh meaning to the very word “survivor.”

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Unbroken as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the bestselling and much-loved Seabiscuit, an unforgettable story of one man's journey into extremity. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood,…

Book cover of Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Lynda Allen Author Of Grace Reflected

From my list on life-changing world-rocking books.

Why am I passionate about this?

I think of myself as a listener and life in progress. As a poet and author, I’m always listening to the words that move through my heart. I’m also a spiritual seeker, always looking for the Divine in the world around me and almost always surprised by the ways it shows up when I’m paying attention. Yet, there’s another part of me that is a Jersey girl through and through, looking for humor or irreverence in the face of life’s challenges. All these aspects come together in an unusual harmony, creating an openness to being changed by the things that come into my life. Hence, a list of life-changing books.

Lynda's book list on life-changing world-rocking books

Lynda Allen Why did Lynda love this book?

Reading this book helped me change my life for the better. Putting Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings into practice in my daily life helped me live a more mindful, more peaceful life at a time of great transition in my personal life.

One of the things I love the most about this book is how simple it is to incorporate its practices into daily life. There are sections on how to be mindful about washing dishes or answering the phone! There are also sections that went much deeper, which dealt with how to be mindful of my emotions, which I have found so valuable in dealing with anxiety, difficult situations, and fear.

One of my favorite experiences related to this book was guiding a group of middle school-age kids through a discussion inspired by the “Tangerine Meditation.” Instead of a tangerine, we considered a piece of paper and talked about the…

By Thich Nhat Hanh,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Peace Is Every Step as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'This is a very worthwhile book. It can change individual lives and the life of our society.' The Dalai Lama

Lucidly and beautifully written, Peace is Every Step contains commentaries and meditations, personal anecdotes and stories from Nhat Hanh's experiences as a peace activist, teacher, and community leader. It begins where the reader already is - in the kitchen, office, driving a car, walking in a park - and shows how deep meditative presence is available now. Nhat Hanh provides exercises to increase our awareness of our own body and mind through conscious breathing, which can bring immediate joy and…

Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

By Edward Benzel,

Book cover of Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

Edward Benzel Author Of Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Coming from the perspective of a neurosurgeon, I have witnessed many successes and failures over more than four decades. I recognized decades ago that communication with patients at a level that involves emotions is a necessary part of being a complete physician. This involves being empathetic and, henceforth, digging deep to find the strength to be transparent, vulnerable, compassionate, understanding, and, when needed, forceful (some would call this paternalism). Although the five books I have chosen to highlight vary widely in content, they have one common theme – finding within us the will and wherewithal to succeed.

Edward's book list on awakening of the strengths that are hidden deep inside each of us

What is my book about?

My book is a collection of monthly Editor-in-Chief letters to the readership of World Neurosurgery, a journal that I edit. Each essay is short and sweet. The letters were written for neurosurgeons but have been re-edited so that they apply to all human beings. They cover topics such as leadership, empathy, vulnerability, stress, burnout, and on and on…. These essays are relevant for all who strive to craft a better version of themselves.

Life lessons learned by the author during his 40+ year neurosurgery career are shared and translated into real-life scenarios. Between the covers are many lessons that are derived from the experiences of the author and then applied to all humans. The mastering of these lessons should translate into a sense of pride and satisfaction. In keeping with the theme of the book, this process should culminate in the feeling at the end of the day that ‘Today was, indeed, a good day.’

Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

By Edward Benzel,

What is this book about?

About the Book
Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon features many topics that pertain to how neurosurgeons interact with others and how each of us can use introspection to modify how we are using tools and strategies such as empathy, respect, stress management, and much more.
This book provides some insights into leadership, effective communication, and fulfillment from the perspective of a neurosurgeon, and it causes the reader to think about and consider many, many attributes of a leader.
We all want to have a good day. This book provides strategies…

Book cover of The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Lynne Malcolm Author Of All In The Mind: Fascinating, inspiring and transformative stories from the forefront of brain science

From my list on psychology of the human experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a science journalist and broadcaster with a degree in Psychology and a deep passion and fascination for people, their behavior, and the workings of the human mind.  For nine years, I produced and presented the popular Australian ABC radio program and podcast, All in the Mind, in which I explored a range of topics, including neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology, cognitive science, mental health, and human behavior. I’ve received numerous media awards and contributed to media award judging panels. All in the Mind - fascinating, inspiring, and transformative stories from the forefront of brain science is my first book. I continue to write and communicate about the topics I am inspired by. 

Lynne's book list on psychology of the human experience

Lynne Malcolm Why did Lynne love this book?

I found this book inspiring because it takes a different perspective on treating trauma, which is the basis of so many mental health problems. The author draws on his decades of experience treating people who are haunted by their stressful experiences. I love his clear explanation that when people are deeply traumatized by war, disaster, or abuse, their reality is distinctly different from those around them, and it’s like they live on another planet.

He uses stories and case studies to explain his view that the most powerful way to treat psychological trauma is not through the mind but through the body. I love his compassionate stories about how he has successfully helped children and adults heal, not through triggering talk therapy but by using play, yoga, and other physical therapies. His approach may be unconventional, but I admire his dedication and passion for healing deep trauma. 

By Bessel Van Der Kolk,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Body Keeps the Score as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times bestseller

"Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding and treating traumatic stress and the scope of its impact on society." -Alexander McFarlane, Director of the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies

A pioneering researcher transforms our understanding of trauma and offers a bold new paradigm for healing in this New York Times bestseller

Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der…

Book cover of The House of God

Cassandra Arnold Author Of Beyond Borders: Reflections from the Humanitarian Frontline

From my list on becoming the doctor your patients need you to be.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a doctor who is lucky enough to have worked in many countries with many people. I wanted to do this ever since I read Albert Sweitzer’s biography when I was about thirteen. I enrolled in medicine as a single parent in my thirties, then built up experience in emergency departments, pediatrics, obstetrics, remote area locum work, and a year in a hospice before beginning my career overseas. Being a doctor was, at one and the same time, exhilarating and terrifying, heartbreaking and absolutely filled with joy. The more I was able to connect to my patients, the more I loved every moment of my work. I hope the books on this list will give that same gift to you.

Cassandra's book list on becoming the doctor your patients need you to be

Cassandra Arnold Why did Cassandra love this book?

Reading this novel as a junior doctor was like eating chocolate-coated, barbed wire. I was shocked, appalled, and outraged. I laughed. I cried. I wanted to stop and throw it away across the room. And yet, I remember it decades later. A book I will never forget.

Since then, there have been blogs and websites and many more recent similar stories of life as a recent graduate, but this one covers the same message that I needed so much. It is about caring as much as diagnosis. Being a doctor means relating to people first and illness second.

By Samuel Shem,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The House of God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By turns heartbreaking, hilarious, and utterly human, The House of God is a mesmerizing and provocative novel about what it really takes to become a doctor.

"The raunchy, troubling, and hilarious novel that turned into a cult phenomenon. Singularly compelling...brutally honest."-The New York Times

Struggling with grueling hours and sudden life-and-death responsibilities, Basch and his colleagues, under the leadership of their rule-breaking senior resident known only as the Fat Man, must learn not only how to be fine doctors but, eventually, good human beings.

A phenomenon ever since it was published, The House of God was the first unvarnished, unglorified,…

Book cover of When Breath Becomes Air

Elias Aboujaoude Author Of A Leader's Destiny: Why Psychology, Personality, and Character Make All the Difference

From my list on the psychological quest for meaning.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a psychiatry professor, researcher, and author at Stanford University. Besides OCD, my research has focused on the interface between technology and psychology, both in its negative manifestations (e.g., video game addiction, online narcissism, cyberbullying) and positive applications (e.g., telemedicine, virtual reality therapy, AI digital therapeutics). My reading tastes and non-scientific writing topics reflect the same interests—deep and highly personal psychological explorations of individuals on a quest for meaning or facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, symptoms, or character tests.  

Elias' book list on the psychological quest for meaning

Elias Aboujaoude Why did Elias love this book?

It is unfortunately routine for a thirty-five-year-old neurosurgeon to encounter the death of a patient from an aggressive brain tumor, but it is utterly unexpected for him to have to confront it in the mirror after being diagnosed with disseminated lung cancer himself at an impossibly young age.

Written on borrowed time and in the shadow of his impending demise, this memoir is a profound reflection on life, loss, the meaning of things, and what really matters in the end.

By Paul Kalanithi,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked When Breath Becomes Air as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Rattling. Heartbreaking. Beautiful.' Atul Gawande, bestselling author of Being Mortal

What makes life worth living in the face of death?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade's training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity - the brain - and…

Book cover of When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress

Laura K. Connell Author Of It's Not Your Fault: The Subconscious Reasons We Self-Sabotage and How to Stop

From my list on healing childhood trauma and self-sabotage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a home with severe emotional abuse and neglect. Scoring 6 on the ACEs (adverse childhood events) test became a wake-up call; according to the test, my life span had been shortened by 20 years and I was determined to get them back. I stopped protecting my abusive family and got honest about what I had been through. This drew an audience who said I helped them feel seen and heard (and they did the same for me). I’ve spent the last decade on a healing journey from addiction and self-sabotage, the culmination of which is my new book and trauma-informed coaching practice that transforms lives.

Laura's book list on healing childhood trauma and self-sabotage

Laura K. Connell Why did Laura love this book?

In this book, a medical doctor makes the connection between suppressed emotions, especially anger and rage, and disease in the body.

When we live inauthentic lives, our bodies manifest this self-abandonment through auto-immune issues (literally the body turning against itself). He notes that women especially have the tendency to abandon themselves to serve others which creates repressed resentments that come out as disease in the body. It helped explain my painful bout with shingles which became a turning point for me in committing to living for myself instead of others.

By Gabor Maté,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked When the Body Says No as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can a person literally die of loneliness? Is there a connection between the ability to express emotions and Alzheimer's disease? Is there such a thing as a 'cancer personality'?

Drawing on deep scientific research and Dr Gabor Mate's acclaimed clinical work, When the Body Says No provides the answers to critical questions about the mind-body link - and the role that stress and our emotional makeup play in an array of common diseases.

When the Body Says No:

- Explores the role of the mind-body link in conditions and diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome…

Book cover of Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life

Katharine Esty Author Of Eightysomethings: A Practical Guide to Letting Go, Aging Well, and Finding Unexpected Happiness

From my list on aging well and flourishing as you age.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I turned 80, I was in a bit of a funk until I began interviewing people in their eighties for my book. I was astonished to find how happy the vast majority of them were and what active and exciting their lives were leading. I realized that life after 70 and 80 was not the same today as in the past. As a psychotherapist, a social psychologist, a writer, a mother of four, and a grandmother of 10, I realized I was the perfect person to write about this good news. And for the last 8 years my mission has been to spread the word about aging today.

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

Katharine Esty Why did Katharine love this book?

Louise Aronson was a practicing physician who worked primarily with older patients before becoming a social critic. Now she focuses on ageism in our medical institutions and well as society in general. Her book, Elderhood, is a penetrating analysis of what it means to be older in the US and a critique of the anti-aging culture we live in. Her book is filled with her own observations and stories that show the reader what needs to change in our culture and institutions. Her model of the three stages of life—childhood, adulthood, and elderhood intrigued me.

By Louise Aronson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Elderhood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
Winner of the WSU AOS Bonner Book Award

The New York Times bestseller from physician and award-winning writer Louise Aronson--an essential, empathetic look at a vital but often disparaged stage of life, as revelatory as Atul Gawande's Being Mortal.

For more than 5,000 years, "old" has been defined as beginning between the ages of 60 and 70. That means most people alive today will spend more years in elderhood than in childhood, and many will be elders for 40 years or more.…

Book cover of The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Mid-Life

Sam Carr Author Of All the Lonely People: Conversations on Loneliness

From my list on the psychological challenges of being human.

Why am I passionate about this?

I guess we all have a "calling." Mine has always been to explore the deeper, darker, less palatable aspects of being human. I’m a bit like a space explorer of the human psyche. I’m lucky in the sense that my day job permits me to research, teach, and better understand things like love, death, and loneliness. I’ve been researching and writing about them for many years now. I always treasure books that help me to shed light on these themes. They are like shiny pebbles or jewels that I pick up and keep in my pocket. I hope you enjoy and learn from some of the treasures in my personal collection!  

Sam's book list on the psychological challenges of being human

Sam Carr Why did Sam love this book?

I love the opening quote in this book. I’ve never, ever forgotten it since I turned the first page. It’s a quote from Dante’s Inferno: “Midway through life’s journey, I found myself lost in a dark wood, having lost the way.”

That’s exactly where I found myself when I started reading this book. Like millions of other people, I was lost when I found it. I was looking for someone or something–wiser than meto help me recognize that what I was going through in early midlife is actually a very normal, perhaps essential part of life’s journey.

By James Hollis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Middle Passage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Author James Hollis' eloquent reading provides the listener with an accessible and yet profound understanding of a universal condition - or what is commonly referred to as the mid-life crisis. The book shows how we may travel this Middle Passage consciously, thereby rendering our lives more meaningful and the second half of life immeasurably richer.

Book cover of Journey's End: Part 1 Heartfelt Stories of Death and Dying

Julie Saeger Nierenberg Author Of Daddy, This Is It: Being-with My Dying Dad

From my list on death and dying, grief, and loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since 2012, when I was fortunate to be a companion to my dying father, I have gained a deep appreciation for the topics of death, dying, grief and bereavement. Being with him during his final moments was a vitally transformative event in my life, and subsequent developments led me to become a writer and curator of content in this field. I am now an end-of-life educator and preparedness facilitator, whose role it is to assist others to prepare for their inevitable, eventual death. Being prepared, by making informed choices and documenting them, can be one of the greatest gifts we give to our loved ones. I coach my End-of-Life Matters clients to do just that.

Julie's book list on death and dying, grief, and loss

Julie Saeger Nierenberg Why did Julie love this book?

This book is an anthology of over 50 perspectives on death and dying, grief, and bereavement shared by professionals who work in supporting the dying and bereaved and by those who have lived their own unique experiences of loss. It is a comprehensive cross-section of this topic and one which can be a valuable resource to anyone going through their own such experience or those who are preparing to support others in grief.

By Victoria Brewster, Julie Saeger Nierenberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Journey's End, many and varied collaborators write about death, dying, and the end of life. We attempt to describe real life issues and circumstances, and we discuss ways to proactively deal with them. Useful training, resource, and reference material is also included.

Death, dying, and end of life are topics many prefer to avoid. This book suggests that we benefit from having frank discussions, living life to the fullest, and planning for our own journey's end, whenever that may be. Everyone who is born eventually will die, whether or not we want to embrace that fact.


Though few…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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