100 books like The Art of Dying Well

By Katy Butler,

Here are 100 books that The Art of Dying Well fans have personally recommended if you like The Art of Dying Well. 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 Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the 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?

The author, Dr. Zitter, is described as an expert on the medical experience of death and dying. Her specialties of pulmonary/critical care and palliative care brought to life the spectrum between a comfortable, natural death versus a "keep alive at all costs" mentality. This book was thoughtful and presented many sides of difficult dying experiences. I found it incredibly valuable to understand typical trajectories that might occur at the end of life from illness, organ failure, frailty, or dementia. It helped me gain clarity on my own wishes, and I encourage others to read the book and then discuss it with loved ones. Rather than it being a depressing subject matter, it has the potential to be a gift if the reader can move into a place of communicating and documenting wishes for end-of-life.

By Jessica Nutik Zitter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For readers of Being Mortal and Modern Death, an ICU and Palliative Care specialist offers a framework for a better way to exit life that will change our medical culture at the deepest level


In medical school, no one teaches you how to let a patient die.

Jessica Zitter became a doctor because she wanted to be a hero. She elected to specialize in critical care—to become an ICU physician—and imagined herself swooping in to rescue patients from the brink of death. But then during her first code she found herself cracking the ribs of a patient so old and…


Book cover of A Beginner's Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death

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?

My mom and I are competing to see who can give away more copies of this book; we love it that much. Both of us have been bedside caregivers for dying relatives and have seen firsthand how beautiful that process can be if people are prepared.

I love how the book is designed with nice, large print, lovely illustrations, and little snacks of insight sprinkled throughout in boxes and “fast facts.” This book is the essential What to Expect When You’re Expecting–but for death.

By Bj Miller, Shoshana Berger,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Beginner's Guide to the End as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A gentle, knowledgeable guide to a fate we all share” (The Washington Post): the first and only all-encompassing action plan for the end of life.

“There is nothing wrong with you for dying,” hospice physician B.J. Miller and journalist and caregiver Shoshana Berger write in A Beginner’s Guide to the End. “Our ultimate purpose here isn’t so much to help you die as it is to free up as much life as possible until you do.”

Theirs is a clear-eyed and big-hearted action plan for approaching the end of life, written to help readers feel more in control of an…


Book cover of That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour

Sylvester J. Schieber Author Of Healthcare USA: American Exceptionalism Run Amok

From my list on why healthcare is a cancer on the American Dream.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent nearly 30 years consulting with employers about the design and operation of the health insurance and retirement benefits they provided their workers. In my work, I was familiar with economic studies showing that workers’ wages and salaries have been increasingly skewed toward higher earners and was convinced the results were less pronounced for workers' total rewards.. In developing my analysis I came to understand that the cost of employees’ health insurance was consuming a large share of workers’ growing rewards. This led me to explore how the US health system was imposing much higher costs on workers than any other segment of society and how we might address the problem.

Sylvester's book list on why healthcare is a cancer on the American Dream

Sylvester J. Schieber Why did Sylvester love this book?

Dr. Puri is a specialist in palliative care for patients with terminal conditions.

She describes the challenges she has encountered during her medical training and practice in dealing with a medical establishment committed to intensive care even in the face of insurmountable odds that such care will improve patients’ health or quality of life.

She also describes encounters with patients’ families who demand intensive medical treatment and are unwilling to allow patients to transition peacefully through the end of life. Often the demand for intensive care is made without the desires of the patient being considered.

This is a poignant set of stories showing that intensive care in what is often the most expensive medical cases exact a price far higher than the dollars involved in the transaction.

By Sunita Puri,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A profound exploration of what it means for all of us to live-and to die-with dignity and purpose." -People

"Visceral and lyrical." -The Atlantic

As the American born daughter of immigrants, Dr. Sunita Puri knew from a young age that the gulf between her parents' experiences and her own was impossible to bridge, save for two elements: medicine and spirituality. Between days spent waiting for her mother, an anesthesiologist, to exit the OR, and evenings spent in conversation with her parents about their faith, Puri witnessed the tension between medicine's impulse to preserve life at all costs and a spiritual…


Book cover of Talking About the End Is Only the Beginning: Conversations Every Child Must Have With Their Aging Parents

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?

A fast read (just 100 pages) about an important concept of having conversations with your elderly parents sooner than later. The author talks about why we avoid uncomfortable conversations and why you should have them anyway. Denial that everything is fine is not helpful as your parent's age. When you are under duress or grief stricken, the opportunity to talk may have passed. Marcus suggests that sometimes your parents might just be waiting for someone to ask them questions. 

The author then goes on to discuss how to have tough conversations. I appreciated her advice of injecting some humor to help mitigate the fear. Other great ideas were to bring in a third party to neutralize challenging family dynamics, starting with easier topics first and then gradually adding on subjects over time, and using someone else's life as an example. The author then wraps up with what you should talk…

By Erin Marcus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Talking About the End Is Only the Beginning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is it time to have a CONVERSATION with your aging parent? Nobody likes having difficult conversations. In fact, most of us avoid them. If you are faced with having a conversation about aging with your parents, this book is for you. Avoiding the conversation and not planning for the future of your aging parents will only cost them (and you) more in the long-run. The financial and emotional expense of waiting to discuss and develop a plan of action can take a heavy toll on bank accounts and family relationships. This book can help you: • understand the importance of…


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 Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death

Anne-Marie Keppel Author Of Death Nesting: Ancient & Modern Death Doula Techniques, Mindfulness Practices and Herbal Care

From my list on love through deathcare.

Why am I passionate about this?

To care for the dying is not only strenuous physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but it is a challenge in self-care and a constant call to remain non-judgmental. As someone who struggled financially as a single mother for many years, I discovered that compassion and empathy were needed not only for my children but also myself—indeed self-love was at the core of all. Working with the elderly in residential care, in hospice, and with individuals and families I now teach community deathcare with an edge of social activism to help the vulnerable feel safe while living and while dying.

Anne-Marie's book list on love through deathcare

Anne-Marie Keppel Why did Anne-Marie love this book?

This book rattled and awakened me in a place that seemed taboo to tickle. Studying death and dying can be driven by ego (what are you going to wear at your funeral? Do you have your music picked out?) Not to say there is not some good in the ego-driven work-- contemplating that can be done no matter what angle you study. However, Being With Dying cuts to the chase. If you feel ready to dismantle your illusion of living forever (or, if think that you’ll only die on your own terms, but only when you’re ready) this book is for you. 

By Joan Halifax,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Buddhist teacher draws from her years of experience in caring for the dying to provide inspiring lessons on how to face death with courage and compassion
 
The Buddhist approach to death can be of great benefit to people of all backgrounds—as has been demonstrated by Joan Halifax’s decades of work with the dying and their caregivers. A Zen priest and a world-renowned pioneer in care of the dying, Halifax has helped countless people face death with courage and trained caregivers in compassioante end-of-life care.

In this book, Halifax offers lessons from dying people and caregivers, as well as guided…


Book cover of And a Time to Die: How American Hospitals Shape the End of Life

Ed Cohen Author Of On Learning to Heal: or, What Medicine Doesn't Know

From my list on learning to heal.

Why am I passionate about this?

I earned a Ph.D. in Modern Thought from Stanford and have been an award-winning professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies for over three decades. I've also lived with Crohn’s Disease for more than 50 years. At the intersection of these two experiences, I developed a therapeutic practice oriented towards those with chronic and life-threatening illnesses called Healing Counsel. As both a teacher and a counsellor, I ask people to reconsider the ways they make sense of their experiences. I try to assist people to open up new possibilities for healing, not only as individuals, but also as societies, maybe even as a species, or perhaps even as planetary beings.

Ed's book list on learning to heal

Ed Cohen Why did Ed love this book?

Many people imagine that healing and dying are antithetical. However, this is not necessarily so. Sometimes, in the right circumstances, death can be healing not just for the person whose life is ending but for those who love them. 

Unfortunately, American hospital care does not usually facilitate such graceful transitions.  Kaufman, a medical anthropologist, compiles case histories of end-of-life care in medical facilities in order to help us understand the complexities that face us in these contexts. Since most Americans now die in some kind of medical institution, this book should be required reading for everyone—before it happens to us.

By Sharon R. Kaufman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked And a Time to Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over the past thirty years, the way Americans experience death has been dramatically altered. The advent of medical technology capable of sustaining life without restoring health has changed where, when, and how we die. In this revelatory study, medical anthropologist Sharon R. Kaufman examines the powerful center of those changes: the hospital, where most Americans die today. She deftly links the experiences of patients and families, the work of hospital staff, and the ramifications of institutional bureaucracy to show the invisible power of the hospital system in shaping death and our individual experience of it. In doing so, Kaufman also…


Book cover of How We Die: Reflections of Life's Final Chapter

Jennie Dear Author Of What Does It Feel Like to Die?: Inspiring New Insights Into the Experience of Dying

From my list on the experience of dying.

Why am I passionate about this?

When my mother enrolled in hospice after years of living with cancer, the nurse asked her: Do you want to know what will happen to your body as it starts shutting down? That was the first time anyone talked with us about the dying process. The question came as an immense relief, eventually inspiring this book. After witnessing the difficulties and surprising joys of my mother’s dying experience, I began hospice volunteering. Later, I spent three intensive stints volunteering at San Francisco’s Zen Hospice Project. And as a former journalist and associate professor of English, I began researching and interviewing experts. Their deep caring and knowledge inform this book.

Jennie's book list on the experience of dying

Jennie Dear Why did Jennie love this book?

Until I began researching death and dying, I hadn’t realized my quest was so literal-minded. Despite the satisfyingly large number of relevant books, most circle around the subject, focusing on areas such as grief, the importance of creating a living will, or funeral planning—all important topics, but I wanted to learn about dying itself.

Then I discovered Nuland’s book. Chapter by chapter, he describes what we know about the physical experience of dying, depending on the type of death: Heart attacks, murders, falls, Alzheimer’s, cancer. Nuland’s background is in surgery, and his descriptions are neither graphic nor gory, but he doesn’t flinch from providing details. Although his book was first published in 1993, no one has yet matched its straightforward, informative approach.

By Sherwin B. Nuland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The definitive resource on perhaps the single most universal human concern: death.

Even more relevant than when it was first published, this edition addresses contemporary issues in end-of-life care and includes an all-embracing and incisive afterword that examines the state of health care and our relationship with life as it approaches its terminus. How We Die also discusses how we can take control of our own final days and those of our loved ones.


"Nuland's work acknowledges, with unmatched clarity, the harsh realities of how life departs… There is compassion, and often…


Book cover of At Peace: Choosing a Good Death After a Long Life

Star Bradbury Author Of Successfully Navigating Your Parents' Senior Years: Critical Information to Maximize Their Independence and Make Sure They Get the Care They Need

From my list on helping you or your loved ones age successfully.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have worked in senior living for over 25 years. I was the administrative director of both an assisted living facility as well as a memory care facility and then I worked for over 18 years in one of the top national Life Care Communities in the country. During this time, I helped thousands of families navigate the complex and confusing world of senior living. I wrote my book to help families make educated and informed decisions and know what they could do before a crisis! It is not if your parents will need help, it is when! I am passionate about passing on the knowledge of my years in this field. 

Star's book list on helping you or your loved ones age successfully

Star Bradbury Why did Star love this book?

I found this book to be totally unique as it is informed by the many many years Dr. Harrington spent in a hospital ER, taking care of patients.

He goes into a great deal of information on the major diagnoses for seniors and at what point should you consider no longer treating a major illness. So many people do not want to spend their last days in a hospital or medical environment but sadly, many do.

If you want to opt out of pointless care, read this book to make an informed, educated decision!


By Samuel Harrington,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The authoritative, informative, and practical follow up to BEING MORTAL, on end-of-life care for patients over the age of 65.

Most people say they would like to die quietly at home. But overly aggressive medical advice, coupled with an unrealistic sense of invincibility, results in the majority of elderly patients misguidedly dying in institutions while undergoing painful procedures, instead of having the better and more peaceful death they desired.
At Peace outlines specific active and passive steps that older patients and their health care proxies can take to insure loved ones pass their last days comfortably at home and/or in…


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

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?

This book invited me to think about how we age and meet death in contemporary Western societies.

I have seen people close to me die. I watched as my grandma, then my grandpa, and then my father passed away. They each, in different ways, faced the brutal realities of growing old and they encountered a healthcare system that ultimately medicalized their death and the aging process–striving to ‘eek out’ more time, as though that was the only honorable thing to do.

Atul Gawande’s book really taught me to reflect critically on that.

By Atul Gawande,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Being Mortal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

'GAWANDE'S MOST POWERFUL, AND MOVING, BOOK' MALCOLM GLADWELL

'BEING MORTAL IS NOT ONLY WISE AND DEEPLY MOVING; IT IS AN ESSENTIAL AND INSIGHTFUL BOOK FOR OUR TIMES' OLIVER SACKS

For most of human history, death was a common, ever-present possibility. It didn't matter whether you were five or fifty - every day was a roll of the dice. But now, as medical advances push the boundaries of survival further each year, we have become increasingly detached from the reality of being mortal. So here is a book about the modern experience of mortality - about what it's…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in end of life care, death, and palliative care?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about end of life care, death, and palliative care.

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