10 books like The Art of Dying Well

By Katy Butler,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Art of Dying Well. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Extreme Measures

By Jessica Nutik Zitter,

Book cover of Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life

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.

Extreme Measures

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…


A Beginner's Guide to the End

By Bj Miller, Shoshana Berger,

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

Mainly written for patients who decided to end treatment and want to prepare for death, this is a enlightening read for caregivers as well. It is a newer publication and will walk you through all the things you need to consider and talk about with the person as you plan ahead. Talking about these matters openly is uncomfortable and will bring up sadness. The gentle tone of this book will help you along the way. It will also help you prepare for your own death.

A Beginner's Guide to the End

By Bj Miller, Shoshana Berger,

Why should I read it?

2 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…


That Good Night

By Sunita Puri,

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

Author and doctor Sunita Puri offers a look at palliative medicine from many angles. In a non-judgmental way, she shares stories of patients to highlight difficult scenarios at the end of life. Readers can then derive their own meaning by seeing different sides of challenging situations. 

She also shares stories of her own personal journey as well as conversations she has with her parents to learn their wishes as they age and face end-of-life issues. Her well-written book dispels myths and brings light to the benefits of palliative medicine. This field is often misunderstood or avoided, and I hope this book brings more doctors to this specialty and increased awareness of the benefits of palliative care to readers. 

That Good Night

By Sunita Puri,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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…


Talking About the End Is Only the Beginning

By Erin Marcus,

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

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…

Talking About the End Is Only the Beginning

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…


Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them)

By Sallie Tisdale,

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

I turned to this book as a meditation on death and dying, which was written by an award-winning author who’s spent more than a decade working in palliative care and as a nurse. The first page of the book asks us to imagine our own death—and the details that follow. I appreciated the focus on preparing a death plan, much like a birth plan for a new mother, as well as advance directives. She helped me think about the question: What makes a good death and to what extent can we plan for it? 

Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them)

By Sallie Tisdale,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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.
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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…


Being with Dying

By Joan Halifax,

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

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. 

Being with Dying

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…


How We Die

By Sherwin B. Nuland,

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

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.

How We Die

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…


Being Mortal

By Atul Gawande,

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

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

Being Mortal

By Atul Gawande,

Why should I read it?

7 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…


Awake at the Bedside

By Koshin Paley Ellison, Matt Weingast,

Book cover of Awake at the Bedside: Contemplative Teachings on Palliative and End-Of-Life Care

If you are looking for a ‘quick fix' or 'how to’ read, this book may at first glance not be the most obvious choice. Awake at the Bedside is not your traditional guidebook. It is a moving and insightful collection of essays written by clinicians, chaplains, caregivers, pioneers in end-of-life care, contemplative teachers, and poets. Each essay sheds light on the different facets of what it means to show up at the bedside and the opportunity to wake up to each moment. I contributed a chapter on spiritual care, but that’s not why I recommend this volume. I recommend it because it is written by caregivers for caregivers—honest, reflective, compassionate, inspirational, and practical. A human and compassionate vision for end-of-life care. 

Awake at the Bedside

By Koshin Paley Ellison, Matt Weingast,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Awake at the Bedside as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book isn’t about dying. It’s about life and what life has to teach us. It’s about caring and what giving care really means. 

In Awake at the Bedside, pioneers of palliative and end-of-life care as well as doctors, chaplains, caregivers and even poets offer wisdom that will challenge, uplift, comfort—and change the way we think about death. 

Equal parts instruction manual and spiritual testimony, it includes specific instructions and personal accounts to inspire, counsel, and teach. An indispensable resource for anyone involved in hospice work or caregiving of any kind.

Contributors include Anyen Rinpoche, Coleman Barks, Craig D. Blinderman,…


When My Time Comes

By Diane Rehm,

Book cover of When My Time Comes: Conversations about Whether Those Who Are Dying Should Have the Right to Determine When Life Should End

Diane is the curious and savvy public radio journalist who educated even as she entertained so many Americans, presenting conversations on every aspect of life in arts, science, and politics. I came to know Diane when I appeared on her show and was transfixed by watching her expertly navigate advanced broadcast technology even as she sized up her guests, crafted questions from her own astute observations, and coaxed her guests to reveal things they perhaps did not intend. In this book, she shares her most personal side as she considers options at the end of a life well-lived. Her wisdom is gleaned from personal history plus thousands of interviews, and she generously shares it with us. 

When My Time Comes

By Diane Rehm,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When My Time Comes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The renowned radio host and one of the most trusted voices in the nation candidly and compassionately addresses the hotly contested right-to-die movement, of which she is one of our most inspiring champions. The basis for the acclaimed PBS series.

Through interviews with terminally ill patients and their relatives, as well as physicians, ethicists, religious leaders, and representatives of both those who support and vigorously oppose this urgent movement, Rehm gives voice to a broad range of people personally linked to the realities of medical aid in dying. With characteristic evenhandedness, she provides the full context for this highly divisive…


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