100 books like Sudden Death and the Myth of CPR

By Stefan Timmermans,

Here are 100 books that Sudden Death and the Myth of CPR fans have personally recommended if you like Sudden Death and the Myth of CPR. 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 The American Way of Death Revisited

Madison Davis Author Of The Loved Ones: Essays to Bury the Dead

From my list on honest portrayals of death, grief, and mourning.

Why am I passionate about this?

Before I turned twenty-five, I lost my father to illness, my brother to a car accident, and a cousin to murder. Experiencing this string of tragedies so young profoundly changed me. As a writer, I’ve often worried that my naked grief on the page would come across as soft, cloyingly sentimental, and wholly without bite. Over the years, I have looked to examples of books that deal with death, grief, and mourning with a kind of brutal honesty. I sought out writing that conveyed the reality of loss in all its messiness. Reading these beautiful, honest accounts of grief have always made me feel less alone in mine.

Madison's book list on honest portrayals of death, grief, and mourning

Madison Davis Why did Madison love this book?

This book is a classic for a reason. It’s a sobering (and deeply entertaining) look at the industry of death.

With so few universal truths, one would imagine that humanity’s shared capacity to understand our own mortality would be a source of connection. Instead, it feels like the mechanics of death and everything surrounding it, get shoved under the carpet in our desperation to avoid the topic.

As Mitford lifts the veil on the funeral industry, it becomes apparent how important it is to shine a light on the things we’re most afraid of.

By Jessica Mitford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Only the scathing wit and searching intelligence of Jessica Mitford could turn an exposé of the American funeral industry into a book that is at once deadly serious and side-splittingly funny. When first published in 1963, this landmark of investigative journalism became a runaway bestseller and resulted in legislation to protect grieving families from the unscrupulous sales practices of those in "the dismal trade."

Just before her death in 1996, Mitford thoroughly revised and updated her classic study. The American Way of Death Revisited confronts new trends, including the success of the profession's lobbyists in Washington, inflated cremation costs, the…


Book cover of Passing on: The Social Organization of Dying

Barbara Katz Rothman Author Of A Bun in the Oven: How the Food and Birth Movements Resist Industrialization

From my list on death and dying.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing about birth for decades – how it became a medical process, managed by a surgical specialty in a factory-like setting. I’ve worked with contemporary midwives who are trying to reclaim birth, to move it back home, back to physiological and loving care. And over and over again, I see the similarities to the other gate of life – how death and dying also left home and went into the hospital, where people die, as they birth, pretty much alone – with perhaps a ‘visitor’ allowed. Covid made it worse – but in birth and death, it allowed the hospitals to return to what medicine considered essential: medical procedures, not human connections. 

Barbara's book list on death and dying

Barbara Katz Rothman Why did Barbara love this book?

Sudnow is maybe the most-assigned book I use in teaching. I start every medical sociology course with Sudnow – if you can get students to understand that death itself is not just “real” and self-evident but socially constructed, then you can calm them down enough to listen to how birth or cancer or Attention Deficit Disorder is socially constructed. This short book – just 176 pages – was based on Sudnow’s dissertation (thus also good to share with anyone struggling through writing a dissertation!) The short message is that ‘social value’ affected attempts to revive people, to rescue them from death. The longer message is taking what I call the ‘watchwords of my faith’ as a sociologist, that ‘situations defined as real are real in their consequences,’ and putting them to work.  

We can’t credit Sudnow with starting the Sociology of Death as an area but for me, he solidified…

By David Sudnow,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Passing on: The Social Organization of Dying [Jun 01, 1967] Sudnow, David


Book cover of Last Laughs: Cartoons About Aging, Retirement ... and the Great Beyond

Barbara Katz Rothman Author Of A Bun in the Oven: How the Food and Birth Movements Resist Industrialization

From my list on death and dying.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing about birth for decades – how it became a medical process, managed by a surgical specialty in a factory-like setting. I’ve worked with contemporary midwives who are trying to reclaim birth, to move it back home, back to physiological and loving care. And over and over again, I see the similarities to the other gate of life – how death and dying also left home and went into the hospital, where people die, as they birth, pretty much alone – with perhaps a ‘visitor’ allowed. Covid made it worse – but in birth and death, it allowed the hospitals to return to what medicine considered essential: medical procedures, not human connections. 

Barbara's book list on death and dying

Barbara Katz Rothman Why did Barbara love this book?

There was a death in my family years back, and somehow after a long and wrenching day at the hospital, we were sitting around my dining room table at a late-night long-delayed dinner – and we were laughing. My brother came into the kitchen, worried about the children present: what were they learning? I answered: They’re learning how to bury us. Death, even death – and I am heavily grieving a loss right now – can be a moment for laughter, the sheer absurdity of life, the grief and sorrow expressed in crying and in laughing. There are other good books that do this, that take a more intellectual approach – but honestly, I admire the chutzpah of Greenberg editing a book of cartoons on death. 

The range is from the silly, the grim reaper at the door introducing the fat lady, ‘here to sing for you,' to ones that…

By Mort Gerberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A volume of previously unpublished cartoons by top industry names celebrates the wayward experiences of the baby boomer generation with contributions by such artists as Leo Cullum, Jack Ziegler, and Lee Lorenz. 50,000 first printing.


Book cover of Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer

Barbara Katz Rothman Author Of A Bun in the Oven: How the Food and Birth Movements Resist Industrialization

From my list on death and dying.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing about birth for decades – how it became a medical process, managed by a surgical specialty in a factory-like setting. I’ve worked with contemporary midwives who are trying to reclaim birth, to move it back home, back to physiological and loving care. And over and over again, I see the similarities to the other gate of life – how death and dying also left home and went into the hospital, where people die, as they birth, pretty much alone – with perhaps a ‘visitor’ allowed. Covid made it worse – but in birth and death, it allowed the hospitals to return to what medicine considered essential: medical procedures, not human connections. 

Barbara's book list on death and dying

Barbara Katz Rothman Why did Barbara love this book?

Sometimes I think people just don’t get smarter, or write smarter books, than Ehrenreich, so of course, in a 5 best list, I’m going to put one of hers up. The title of her book comes from obituaries – at a certain point, not entirely clear just when, a death does not have to be explained. When a 93-year-old dies, we don’t have to ask ‘of what?’ the way we do when a 47-year-old does. And yet – what about 73? We ask, and we blame: did they smoke? Not exercise?  Eat poorly? Not get screened early enough?  

While others have focused on the over-medicalization of dying, the repeated hospitalizations, the tubes, and wires, Ehrenreich is looking at the medicalization of living to be old – living from one wellness activity to the next, interspersed with medical testing.  In a world in which ‘health’ means medicine, health care means insurance…

By Barbara Ehrenreich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

We tend to believe we have agency over our bodies, our minds and even our deaths. Yet emerging science challenges our assumptions of mastery: at the microscopic level, the cells in our bodies facilitate tumours and attack other cells, with life-threatening consequences.

In this revelatory book, Barbara Ehrenreich argues that our bodies are a battleground over which we have little control, and lays bare the cultural charades that shield us from this knowledge. Challenging everything we think we know about life and death, she also offers hope - that we find our place in a natural world teeming with animation…


Book cover of Modern Death: How Medicine Changed the End of Life

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?

Before I read this book I hadn’t understood the many different ways that scientists have defined “death.” (Are you dead when your heart stops? When you stop breathing? When your brain function ends?)

Reading this gave me a much deeper understanding of the medical, legal, and ethical issues around declaring someone dead, while also helping me understand that the body is always dying even as it is healing itself and thriving.

I loved the historical view of death and the exploration of interventions like mechanical ventilation and CPR. I loved Warraich’s ability to make complicated medical or biological concepts understandable to me as a nonscientist and I loved that he wove in personal stories to bring the ideas to life. My copy has a ton of dog-eared pages!

By Haider Warraich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Warraich's elegant and poignant book takes us on an unforgettable journey....He succeeds in humanizing a complex topic." ―Siddhartha Mukherjee, New York Times bestselling author of The Gene

There is no more universal truth in life than death. No matter who you are, it is certain that one day you will die, but the mechanics and understanding of that experience will differ greatly in today’s modern age. Dr. Haider Warraich is a young and brilliant new voice in the conversation about death and dying. Dr. Warraich takes a broader look at how we die today, from the cellular level up to…


Book cover of Josie's Story: A Mother's Inspiring Crusade to Make Medical Care Safe

Susannah Fox Author Of Rebel Health: A Field Guide to the Patient-Led Revolution in Medical Care

From my list on defend yourself U.S. health care system.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m not a clinician, but friends often ask for my advice when they get sick or need help caring for a loved one. I’ve spent nearly 25 years mapping the terrain created by innovative patients, survivors, and caregivers, the rebels of medical care. I’m also a caregiver to elders. Along the way, I’ve collected books to loan when someone facing a health challenge asks me, “What do I do now?” Each of these five books was written for when you find yourself in the healthcare maze and need to borrow courage, sharpen your senses, and navigate as best you can.

Susannah's book list on defend yourself U.S. health care system

Susannah Fox Why did Susannah love this book?

Speak up. Ask questions. Be the squeaky wheel. Your life or the life of someone you love may depend on it. That’s the message of Josie’s Story. I could not put this book down even as I had to steel myself to turn the page sometimes, knowing that a tragedy caused by a medical error was at the heart of it.

Grief, the unreleased love for a child, compelled the author to demand–and accomplish–systemic change that has saved lives. Read it, weep, and know that you, too, have the power to shift the axis of medical care.

By Sorrel King,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ninety-eight thousand people die every year from medical errors, making it a leading cause of death in the United States, but the subject has long been taboo. All that changed with Josie. Sorrel King's eighteen-month-old daughter was badly burned by a faulty water heater in the family's new home, but was taken to the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she made a remarkable recovery. But as she was preparing to leave, the hospital's system of communication broke down and Josie was given a fatal shot of methadone, sending her into cardiac arrest. Within forty-eight hours, the King family went from…


Book cover of The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor

Karen Laura Thornber Author Of Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care

From my list on aging and end-of-life decisions and care.

Why am I passionate about this?

Karen Thornber is Harry Tuchman Levin Professor in Literature and Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard. Her work brings humanistic insights to global challenges.  Thornber is the author of the award-winning scholarly books Empire of Texts in Motion and Ecoambiguity as well as most recently Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care. Current projects include books on gender justice in Asia, mental health, inequality/injustice, sustainability/climate change, and indigeneity.

Karen's book list on aging and end-of-life decisions and care

Karen Laura Thornber Why did Karen love this book?

Professor and psychiatrist Arthur Kleinman’s The Soul of Care movingly explicates the practical, emotional, and moral aspects of caregiving. Based on Kleinman’s experiences as the primary caregiver for his late wife Joan after she developed early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, this book skillfully reveals caregiving – however grueling, however much about enduring the unendurable – as resonating with emotional, moral, and, for many, religious meaning, and ultimately enabling us to realize our humanity most fully. Moreover, inspired by the work of Anne-Marie Slaughter, Kleinman poignantly argues for the importance of recognizing care as a basic human right.

By Arthur Kleinman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A moving memoir and an extraordinary love story that shows how an expert physician became a family caregiver and learned why care is so central to all our lives and yet is at risk in today's world.

When Dr. Arthur Kleinman, an eminent Harvard psychiatrist and social anthropologist, began caring for his wife, Joan, after she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, he found just how far the act of caregiving extended beyond the boundaries of medicine. In The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor, Kleinman delivers a deeply humane and inspiring story of…


Book cover of The Social Transformation of American Medicine: The Rise of a Sovereign Profession and the Making of a Vast Industry

Joseph P. Newhouse Author Of Pricing the Priceless: A Health Care Conundrum

From my list on the economics and history of American health insurance.

Why am I passionate about this?

My mother wanted me to be a physician, but as a child I was very squeamish about human biology and knew that wasn't for me. In college I was exposed to economics and found it, and the policy debates about national health insurance, fascinating. So, maybe with my mother’s wishes in the back of my mind, I became a health economist. I was privileged to direct a large randomized trial called the RAND Health Insurance Experiment, which varied the cost of medical care to families. This project lasted more than a decade and got me so deep into the economics of health and medical care that I became a professor of health policy and management.


Joseph's book list on the economics and history of American health insurance

Joseph P. Newhouse Why did Joseph love this book?

Another classic book that describes the history of American medicine and organized medicine’s interactions with the political process. 

It is necessary background to understand the predominance of employment-based health insurance and why the 2010 Affordable Care Act was such a breakthrough. Starr is a Princeton sociologist who participated in the 1990s debate on the failed Clinton health insurance plan.

By Paul Starr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Social Transformation of American Medicine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize in American History, The Social Transformation of American Medicine is a landmark history of the American health care system, examining how the roles of doctors, hospitals, health plans, and government programs has evolved over the last two centuries. Beginning in 1730 and coming up to the present day, renowned sociologist Paul Starr traces the transformation of our national health care system into a private corporate medical institution that dominates the field and threatens the sovereignty of the medical profession. In this new and revised edition, Paul Starr will bring his research…


Book cover of Framing Disease: Studies in Cultural History

Carol R. Byerly Author Of Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army During World War I

From my list on how diseases shape society.

Why am I passionate about this?

Carol R. Byerly is a historian specializing in the history of military medicine. She has taught American history and the history of medicine history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, was a contract historian for the U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General, Office of History, and has also worked for the U.S. Congress and the American Red Cross. Byerly’s publications include Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I and Good Tuberculosis Men: The Army Medical Department’s Struggle with Tuberculosis. She is currently working on a biography of Army medical officer William C. Gorgas, (1854-1920), whose public health measures, including clearing yellow fever from Panama, enabled the United States to construct the canal across the Isthmus.

Carol's book list on how diseases shape society

Carol R. Byerly Why did Carol love this book?

One of the editors of this volume is a pioneer in the history of medicine, Charles Rosenberg, who theorizes that diseases are powerful “actors” in society. The book uses fourteen case studies to demonstrate how diseases can “frame” people in various ways, defining their lives with pain, disability, or stigma. Diseases also give rise to various institutions such as sanitariums, research laboratories and stimulate the development of medical specialties. As our scientific and social understanding of individual diseases changes over time, how a society responds to or “frames” those diseases changes as well.

By Charles E. Rosenberg, Janet Golden (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In some ways disease does not exist until we have agreed that it does, by perceiving, naming, and responding to it, "" writes Charles E. Rosenberg in his introduction to this stimulating set of essays. Disease is both a biological event and a social phenomenon. Patient, doctor, family, and social institutions-including employers, government, and insurance companies-all find ways to frame the biological event in terms that make sense to them and serve their own ends. Many diseases discussed here-endstage renal disease, rheumatic fever, parasitic infectious diseases, coronary thrombosis-came to be defined, redefined, and renamed over the course of several centuries.…


Book cover of Folklore, Gender, and AIDS in Malawi: No Secret Under the Sun

Andrea Kitta Author Of The Kiss of Death: Contagion, Contamination, and Folklore

From my list on reads before the next pandemic.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been interested in medicine and how stories influence the decisions that people make for as long as I can remember. Watching family and friends make choices about their own healthcare was always fascinated to me and I was always curious as to why some narratives had more staying power than others. After getting my BA in history, I was lucky enough to talk to someone who suggested that I study folklore. I ended up with both a MA and PhD in folklore and became a professor who studies the intersection of folklore and how it affects the medical decisions we all make in our own lives and the lives of others. 

Andrea's book list on reads before the next pandemic

Andrea Kitta Why did Andrea love this book?

Women’s voices are often trivialized in healthcare and I’m willing to bet that most women have experienced some form of medicalized sexism while receiving healthcare (I know I have).

Anika Wilson does an amazing job of listening to women’s voices and their experiences in this book, highlighting how important rumors, legend, and gossip are to healthcare. 

By A. Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Folklore, Gender, and AIDS in Malawi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Informal folk narrative genres such as gossip, advice, rumor, and urban legends provide a unique lens through which to discern popular formations of gender conflict and AIDS beliefs. This is the first book on AIDS and gender in Africa to draw primarily on such narratives. By exploring tales of love medicine, gossip about romantic rivalries, rumors of mysterious new diseases, marital advice, and stories of rape, among others, it provides rich, personally grounded insights into the everyday struggles of people living in an era marked by social upheaval.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in death, mourning, and murder?

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