Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

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Originally published in: 2014

What it’s about: Award-winning surgeon Gawande looks at how medicine approaches death and dying and some new ideas that might provide a more holistic end-of-life experience.

What made me pick it up: I’m curious about medical everything, and already had a place on my death Goodreads shelf to add this. I think anyone who has seen a loved one waste away in a nursing home or hospital has a sense that maybe we aren’t focusing on the right things at the end of life. I really like how much he recognizes the great work of hospice.

My favorite things: I liked how the author recognized that the drive to fix patients comes at the expense of quality of life sometimes in both general medical practice as well as his own professional experience. I also liked his emphasis on how we need to have hard conversations before it’s too late so our wishes can be documented and our loved ones can know what we want. This will make you reconsider how you might want your life to taper and move you to support alternatives in elder care that are just emerging. More than anything it will help you realize that there is more to life than medical sustainability at the end.

Who it’s great for: Adults of any age who are facing or will face end-of-life situations (so, that’s…. let’s see… all of us). It’s never too early to think, plan, and share our wishes.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Get this book from your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

On Living by Kerry Egan

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Hospice chaplain Egan explains her job to those who are unfamiliar and shares stories of her patients. These stories teach us how to live better, and not wait til the end of our lives to do or say anything of importance.

What made me pick it up: I don’t remember. I feel like I read a review of it, or a tweet about it, and that was it. Hospice, nonfiction, life lessons, clean simple cover. It had a lot of the things I usually pick up.

My favorite things: This was such a candid, humorous book full of anecdotes and inspiring quotes about living that Egan has witnessed, learned from, and been told by dying patients. I like how she balanced her own experiences and beliefs with theirs and encouraged open mindedness while explaining them.

Who it’s great for: Anyone who has or ever had a loved one in hospice. Those who feel like they have something they need to change/accept/say to someone.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: As a medical resident Kalanithi discovers he’s got terminal cancer, and details the decisions he makes as a result and all the thoughts that come with that diagnosis.

What made me pick it up: It was short. And I’d heard it was powerful.

My favorite things: This book is stunning. It will make your heart break into pieces. Every time I thought it was done I’d turn the page and get hit with another scene so heart-wrenching I could hardly bear it. But you do because the story is so gripping. Kalanithi writes as he’s dying – writes about medicine, which is his life’s passion; writes about his wife, who is his great love; writes about meaning. His writing was hard enough but the end was the even more difficult. The final third of the book isn’t written by him. It’s written by his wife, after he’s gone. The bittersweetness of it all will stay with you. This book will haunt you in the best way.

Who it’s great for: Teens. Adults. Anyone who has witnessed a family member slowly fade from terminal illness. Those who like happy/sad books.

Erica’s rating: five-shells