100 books like Death Is But a Dream

By Christopher Kerr, Carine Mardorossian,

Here are 100 books that Death Is But a Dream fans have personally recommended if you like Death Is But a Dream. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death

Ashby Kinch Author Of A Cultural History of Death

From my list on re-imagining death, dying, and grief.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a literary and cultural historian who has been studying death for three decades. But I am, first and foremost, a human who has suffered the loss of loved ones and grief and found my immediate culture an inhospitable place to experience, transform, and share those emotions. We have an urgent need to “re-imagine” the way we prepare for our own deaths, as well as experience the deaths of others. I hope my work, both as a scholar and a public citizen, will inspire people to form communities of conversation and action that will reshape the way we think about death, dying, and grief.

Ashby's book list on re-imagining death, dying, and grief

Ashby Kinch Why did Ashby love this book?

I am so impressed with Caitlin’s work on demystifying funeral practices (The Smoke Gets in Your Eyes) and opening up our eyes to new possibilities through her writing and her Order of the Good Death. With this book, I was so engaged with the sheer variety of the death and funeral practices that she details.

We need this kind of writing: engaging, funny, and grounded while teaching us that we are not as bound as we might think we are. I left this book more resolved than ever that we can die differently, and especially if we can use our imaginations better to explore alternatives. The world is wide and beautiful: this book teaches us that we can see that beauty even in—maybe especially in—death. 

By Caitlin Doughty,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked From Here to Eternity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fascinated by our pervasive fear of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty embarks on a global expedition to discover how other cultures care for the dead. From Zoroastrian sky burials to wish-granting Bolivian skulls, she investigates the world's funerary customs and expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with dignity. Her account questions the rituals of the American funeral industry-especially chemical embalming-and suggests that the most effective traditions are those that allow mourners to personally attend to the body of the deceased. Exquisitely illustrated by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity is an adventure into the…


Book cover of Reimagining Death: Stories and Practical Wisdom for Home Funerals and Green Burials

Ashby Kinch Author Of A Cultural History of Death

From my list on re-imagining death, dying, and grief.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a literary and cultural historian who has been studying death for three decades. But I am, first and foremost, a human who has suffered the loss of loved ones and grief and found my immediate culture an inhospitable place to experience, transform, and share those emotions. We have an urgent need to “re-imagine” the way we prepare for our own deaths, as well as experience the deaths of others. I hope my work, both as a scholar and a public citizen, will inspire people to form communities of conversation and action that will reshape the way we think about death, dying, and grief.

Ashby's book list on re-imagining death, dying, and grief

Ashby Kinch Why did Ashby love this book?

I am so humbled and grateful for the death professionals of all stripes who help families with the transition of their loved one, whether it’s the hospice care doctors, nurses, and staff who think about the right cues and context or, as explored in this book, the folks re-thinking funerals and burial practices.

I have been to several in the last few years—a home funeral and a green burial stand out in particular—that have really deepened my sense of what we can do better. Reading this book opened up my imagination of what is possible for this crucial community experience. It triggered deep emotions from my personal experience, but in a way that helped me imagine a new path forward. 

By Lucinda Herring,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Honor your loved ones and the earth by choosing practical, spiritual, and eco-friendly after-death care

Natural, legal, and innovative after-death care options are transforming the paradigm of the existing funeral industry, helping families and communities recover their instinctive capacity to care for a loved one after death and do so in creative and healing ways. Reimagining Death offers stories and guidance for home funeral vigils, advance after-death care directives, green burials, and conscious dying. When we bring art and beauty, meaningful ritual, and joy to ease our loss and sorrow, we are greening the gateway of death and returning home…


Book cover of The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss

Ashby Kinch Author Of A Cultural History of Death

From my list on re-imagining death, dying, and grief.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a literary and cultural historian who has been studying death for three decades. But I am, first and foremost, a human who has suffered the loss of loved ones and grief and found my immediate culture an inhospitable place to experience, transform, and share those emotions. We have an urgent need to “re-imagine” the way we prepare for our own deaths, as well as experience the deaths of others. I hope my work, both as a scholar and a public citizen, will inspire people to form communities of conversation and action that will reshape the way we think about death, dying, and grief.

Ashby's book list on re-imagining death, dying, and grief

Ashby Kinch Why did Ashby love this book?

I love books that see ways to bridge domains of experience and understanding normally kept apart, and this book does that brilliantly. I was so touched by the author’s personal story of grief and its relationship to her experience of art in the rural community in which she was raised.

But I also learned immensely about how this talented neuropsychologist channeled that experience into studies that helped me understand the neurological components of grief, including how to diminish their amplitude through thoughtful practice.

For me, it provided a new conceptual framework for “learning to die,” a new sense of the ancient maxim of philosophy. 

By Mary-Frances O'Connor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NPR SciFri Book Club Pick

Next Big Idea Club's "Top 21 Psychology Books of 2022"

Behavioral Scientist Notable Books of 2022

A renowned grief expert and neuroscientist shares groundbreaking discoveries about what happens in our brain when we grieve, providing a new paradigm for understanding love, loss, and learning.

In The Grieving Brain, neuroscientist and psychologist Mary-Frances O'Connor, PhD, gives us a fascinating new window into one of the hallmark experiences of being human. O'Connor has devoted decades to researching the effects of grief on the brain, and in this book, she makes cutting-edge neuroscience accessible through her contagious enthusiasm,…


Book cover of Dear Darkness: Poems

Ashby Kinch Author Of A Cultural History of Death

From my list on re-imagining death, dying, and grief.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a literary and cultural historian who has been studying death for three decades. But I am, first and foremost, a human who has suffered the loss of loved ones and grief and found my immediate culture an inhospitable place to experience, transform, and share those emotions. We have an urgent need to “re-imagine” the way we prepare for our own deaths, as well as experience the deaths of others. I hope my work, both as a scholar and a public citizen, will inspire people to form communities of conversation and action that will reshape the way we think about death, dying, and grief.

Ashby's book list on re-imagining death, dying, and grief

Ashby Kinch Why did Ashby love this book?

I am in absolute awe of this essential American writer. This book made me cry, laugh, and shout in pleasure at the same time. I could hear, taste, and feel myself present in this book of poems, which explore loss and grief, but also tradition and legacy, our connection to the beloved dead through traditions.

Black food, music, and religious traditions are strongly present, but so is Wilco and Gram Parsons’ “Grievous Angel,” and we are immersed in one human’s attempt to sort out his place. Along with Heather Cahoon’s Horsefly Dress, which explores grief in the context of a Montana tribe, this book taught me how to think both beyond and more deeply within my own sense of “legacy.” 

By Kevin Young,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Delivered in Young’s classic bluesy tone, this powerful collection of poems about the American family, smoky Southern food, and the losses that time inevitably brings “bristles with life, nerve and, best of all, wit” (San Francisco Chronicle).


Book cover of With the End in Mind: Dying, Death, and Wisdom in an Age of Denial

Nancy Peach Author Of Love Life

From my list on on death and dying (without being terminally depressing).

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a doctor working in the NHS and for a national cancer charity. I’m particularly interested in the care of the terminally ill. I‘ve worked closely with hospice teams, feeling enormously privileged to be with patients considering their options at the end of life. I’ve noticed how often people die without having even mentioned their wishes to loved ones, they are reluctant to speak of their fears, and as a result, these discussions never occur. I believe we need to open up the conversation about dying by bringing it into the public domain, dragging it into popular culture, and making it a feature of our films, television, and books.

Nancy's book list on on death and dying (without being terminally depressing)

Nancy Peach Why did Nancy love this book?

Mannix is a retired Palliative Care Consultant, and this wonderful book takes case studies from her long career and presents them as vignettes designed to reassure a readership who may be anxious about the process of dying. She relates each story with candour and humility, acknowledging how much she has learnt from her patients and their families whilst glossing over the enormous impact that she has evidently had on their care.

This is an incredibly useful book for those working with people at the end of life, but it is also a really lovely read for anyone fearful of death, anyone who has felt the impact of a family bereavement, and anyone who will one day face death themselves, i.e., every single one of us. 

By Kathryn Mannix,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked With the End in Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

'Impossible to read with dry eyes or an unaltered mindset' Sunday Times

'Illuminating and beautiful' Cathy Rentzenbrink

What if everything you thought you knew about death was wrong?

How should we prepare for the facts of dying and saying our goodbyes?

And what if understanding death improved your life?

By turns touching and tragic, funny and wise, With the End in Mind brings together Kathryn Mannix ' s lifetime of medical experience to tell powerful stories of life and death.


Book cover of Dying Well

Kirsten DeLeo Author Of Present Through the End: A Caring Companion's Guide for Accompanying the Dying

From my list on how to support a dying person.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have accompanied dying people for more than twenty-five years—as a counsellor, volunteer chaplain, and companion. I feel passionate about changing the perception of dying and death, the way we care for people during their most vulnerable moments, and how we support families through this painful time. Since my twenties I have been immersed in Buddhist practise which inspires and informs my life and work. Together with other clinicians and mindfulness practitioners, we created one of the first contemplative-based training in end-of-life care for caregivers called “Authentic Presence”. Daring to be present might be the hardest thing you may have done in your life, and, you may come to discover, one of the most intimate, beautiful, and rewarding.

Kirsten's book list on how to support a dying person

Kirsten DeLeo Why did Kirsten love this book?

Dr. Ira Byock is a well-known authority in palliative care and hospice and a wonderful storyteller. In his stories, he talks about the physical realities of the dying process, the emotional despair we may witness, or how to handle family dynamics. He doesn't shy away from reflecting on his personal growth doing this work, which makes this book deeply human and relatable. Dying Well was published several years ago. It is still an informative and insightful read, especially if you are a family caregiver and care for a loved one. Please also check out his other books, Four Things That Matter Most and The Best Care Possible.

By Ira Byock,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Ira Byock, prominent palliative care physician and expert in end of life decisions, a lesson in Dying Well.

Nobody should have to die in pain. Nobody should have to die alone.

This is Ira Byock's dream, and he is dedicating his life to making it come true. Dying Well brings us to the homes and bedsides of families with whom Dr. Byock has worked, telling stories of love and reconciliation in the face of tragedy, pain, medical drama, and conflict. Through the true stories of patients, he shows us that a lot of important emotional work can be accomplished…


Book cover of Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying

Elizabeth Anne Wood Author Of Bound: A Daughter, a Domme, and an End-of-Life Story

From my list on coping with the fact that we’re all going to die.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a little bit morbid since childhood. My father died when I was not quite 10 years old, and my mother was a huge fan of horror novels and scary movies. But I became seriously interested in death and dying when my mother got cancer and was facing the end of her own life. I acted as her medical advocate and participated in many aspects of her care. I'm also a sociologist who studies taboo elements of culture and I'm invested in creating a consciousness shift so that the United States is less death-phobic, allowing us all to live our lives more fully by addressing our mortality head-on!

Elizabeth's book list on coping with the fact that we’re all going to die

Elizabeth Anne Wood Why did Elizabeth love this book?

I read this book for the first time about five years ago, and my first thought when I finished it was, “Everyone who is going to die needs this book.” This is the best thing I’ve read on the personal choices around dying and supporting someone who is dying.

I love the clear, level-headed, plain-spoken, simple, and elegant text and the way that Tisdale uses personal storytelling and philosophical reflection to help us address what we might otherwise avoid. I will return to this book over and over as I support sick or dying friends, and you can bet it will be on my bedside table if I am ever diagnosed with a terminal illness.

By Sallie Tisdale,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning writer and nurse Sallie Tisdale offers a lyrical, thought-provoking yet practical perspective on death and dying in this frank, direct and compassionate meditation on the inevitable.
_______________________________________

From the sublime to the ridiculous, Tisdale leads the reader through the peaks and troughs of death with a calm, wise and humorous hand. More than a how-to manual or a spiritual bible, this is a graceful compilation of honest and intimate anecdotes based on the deaths Tisdale has witnessed in her work and life, as well as stories from cultures, traditions and literature around the world.

As Tisdale explores all the…


Book cover of The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life

Lisa J. Shultz Author Of A Chance to Say Goodbye: Reflections on Losing a Parent

From my list on end-of-life planning.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an advocate for end-of-life planning. When my dad entered his eighties, and while still raising my own children, I found myself unprepared for my father’s steady health decline. Suddenly, I was thrust into the role of overseeing his care and making hard decisions. Our difficulties were exacerbated by a western medical system that fell short to prepare us for the end of his life. After my dad’s death, I began researching end-of-life issues to educate myself and plan for my own senior years. I have a goal to support others who face losing a parent and to facilitate healing for those who have already lost one. I also strive to inform and inspire the next generation to learn and plan early to guide themselves and their families to minimize avoidable problems and enhance quality elder years.


Lisa's book list on end-of-life planning

Lisa J. Shultz Why did Lisa love this book?

This book was helpful for me to navigate the finale of my parent’s lives. But The Art of Dying Well isn't just about one's parents. Many baby boomers are unprepared for dealing with their own aging. I suggest reading it well before you need it. Knowledge is power, and Butler's book gave me the gift of learning more now, while things are relatively calm. A crisis visit to an ER isn't the time to cram in education and research. You may need to be an advocate for yourself or someone you love sooner than later. I have suggested the book to my siblings and friends, which will hopefully lead to meaningful conversation and planning to support each other through our elder years. I am grateful for Butler's practical guide, which is filled with wisdom and resources. I anticipate referring to it again and again as I age. 

By Katy Butler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This "comforting...thoughtful" (The Washington Post) guide to maintaining a high quality of life-from resilient old age to the first inklings of a serious illness to the final breath-by the New York Times bestselling author of Knocking on Heaven's Door is a "roadmap to the end that combines medical, practical, and spiritual guidance" (The Boston Globe).

"A common sense path to define what a 'good' death looks like" (USA TODAY), The Art of Dying Well is about living as well as possible for as long as possible and adapting successfully to change. Packed with extraordinarily helpful insights and inspiring true stories,…


Book cover of One Amazing Elephant

Uma Krishnaswami Author Of The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic

From my list on middle grade featuring elephants.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born and grew up in India and I’ve always been fascinated by elephants. When I wrote The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic, it felt natural to have Mini, the elephant, become part of its world. She’s not the main character, yet her presence raises questions about the place of these amazing animals in our world and in our hearts. I picked five titles in which elephants are secondary characters, raising similar questions for readers about who these extraordinary creatures are and why we should care. Curiously, I couldn’t find a single novel featuring African elephants. 

Uma's book list on middle grade featuring elephants

Uma Krishnaswami Why did Uma love this book?

Linda’s a graduate of the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I’ve taught since 2006. I love it when my reading mind seems to make a conversation out of the books I’ve read. For me, this novel seemed to be speaking to all the other books on this list—through the large, tender presence of the elephant, Queenie Grace, especially in the chapters written in her first-person voice; the growing affection between the child, Lily, and the elephant; the shifting family dynamics, so that blame and guilt give way to communication and empathy; all kinds of chains and ways to loosen them and be free. I even found a surprising little nugget of historical information in the author’s note. 

By Linda Oatman High,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Amazing Elephant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A poignant middle grade animal story from talented author Linda Oatman High that will appeal to fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. In this heartwarming novel, a girl and an elephant face the same devastating loss—and slowly realize that they share the same powerful love.

Twelve-year-old Lily Pruitt loves her grandparents, but she doesn’t love the circus—and the circus is their life. She’s perfectly happy to stay with her father, away from her neglectful mother and her grandfather’s beloved elephant, Queenie Grace.

Then Grandpa Bill dies, and both Lily and Queenie Grace are devastated. When Lily travels…


Book cover of We Can Never Leave This Place

Polly Hall Author Of Myrrh

From my list on capturing the experience of adoption.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was adopted as a baby, so I have first-hand experience of the emotions and challenges this presents. I am passionate about shining light on this often misunderstood and complex family trauma through my writing. My memoir Blood and Blood, an emotive exploration of the search for my birth relatives, was shortlisted for the Mslexia Prize. My research extends to fiction and non-fiction, where the psychological effects of adoption are referenced or highlighted. I am always keen to chat with fellow care-experienced people. I hope you find the books on this list helpful.

Polly's book list on capturing the experience of adoption

Polly Hall Why did Polly love this book?

If you haven’t already, READ ERIC LAROCCA NOW! I have devoured all his published work, and this one was so bleak, subversive, gothic, and intense… in fact, I’m sure a whole dictionary would never completely describe how it made me feel. 

He has a way of slicing through the viscera and injecting words into your bloodstream. Whenever I read any of his stories, I feel inspired as a horror writer to up my game and insert more gore into my own writing. Yet, he makes it look incredibly easy, almost as if he is writing poetry using his own bodily fluids. Perhaps he does!? Proceed with care…

By Eric Larocca,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Can Never Leave This Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"When you're given a gift, something else gets taken away."

A precocious young girl with an unusual imagination is sent on an odyssey into the depths of depravity. After her father dies violently, young Mara is surprised to find her mother welcoming a new guest into their home, claiming that he will protect them from the world of devastation and destruction outside their door.

A grotesque and thrilling dark fantasy, We Can Never Leave This Place is a harrowing portrait of inherited grief and familial trauma.


"We Can Never Leave This Place is the apocalyptic 21st century Grimm's fairy tale…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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