Books About End of Life

There are many great resources out there, and this is just a sampling.  If there’s a book you’d like us to share, be sure to let us know at info@endoflifeoptionsnm.org or Contact Us through the website.

featured:

Prepare to Die!!! And Other Stuff Nobody Told You

A practical guide for dealing with the inevitable — A best-selling DIY workbook.

by Peter Callan

This is a straight forward, simple yet comprehensive guide that deals with end-of-life issues in a clear and understandable way. Written by an experienced paralegal, the topics include power of attorney for healthcare, living wills, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, death certificate copies, and even advice for pet owners to make sure their four-legged companions are taken care of after they pass away. All the bases are covered! With a list of resources, suggested readings, estate planning forms (like last will and testament and living will, among others) and even some fun facts about death, the book a must read for everyone.

Order online.

In Passing: Stories of Medical Aid in Dying

Oral histories supplemented with science. The personal and the process.

by Twana Sparks MD

As of 2024, it is legal in ten of the United States and the District of Columbia for providers to prescribe medications for medical aid in dying for the terminally ill. The touching stories of many of those accessing this new law are recounted compassionately, with discussion of laws in New Mexico elsewhere and the philosophy of allowing people to end their suffering. Families contributed stories as well.

The author neither encourages nor promotes medical aid in dying, formerly called dying with dignity. This is only information regarding the process and experience. Family members and healthcare providers contributed.

Order on Amazon or from your local bookseller

Advice for Future Corpses
(and Those Who Love Them)

A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying

by Sallie Tisdale

Beautifully written and compulsively readable, Advice for Future Corpses offers the resources and reassurance that we all need for planning the ends of our lives, and is essential reading for future corpses everywhere. Read our Book Review.

Find it at your library or local booksellers.

The VSED Handbook

A Practical Guide to Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking

Author: Kate Christie

A combination instructional manual/personal memoir, The VSED Handbook provides detailed instructions for planning and carrying out VSED while offering glimpses into one family’s experiences with the process. Nancy Simmers, co-founder and current Coordinator of VSED Resources Northwest, wrote the foreword for the book, which she describes as “a worthy guidebook for contemplating your own end-of-life choices.”

To order a copy of The VSED Handbook, visit the VRNW Reading ListFind it at your library or local booksellers.

Medical Aid In Dying
A Guide For Patients and Their Supporters

By: Lonny Shavelson, MD, American Clinicians Academy on Medical Aid in Dying

Medical Aid in Dying: A Guide for Patients and Their Supporters, originated from the questions, interests, and needs of dying patients, their families, their loved ones, and the many others who support them. Its goal is to demystify and facilitate the process of medical aid in dying.

Available through Amazon for Kindle or as a Paperback.

For PDF (not formatted for home printing, but can be read online or downloaded), click here.
(For bulk orders, contact the Academy at ACAMAID@ACAMAID.org

Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking

A Compassionate, Widely Available Option for Hastening Death
Edited by  Timothy E. Quill, Paul T. Menzel, Thaddeus Pope, and Judith K. Schwarz Presents a detailed and highly accessible discussion of VSED, including eight real cases, that will appeal to the public as well as to medical, legal, and bioethics scholars Find it at your library or for more information and to order it online.

Endnotes

Live Well, Age Well, Die Well
by The Peaceful Presence Project This beautiful and helpful booklet was designed by a group out of Oregon that does end-of-life counseling, The Peaceful Presence Project.  It provides a roadmap and a heartfelt keepsake for the survivors left behind by a death. For more information and to order it online.

Choosing to Die

A Personal Story

by Phyllis Shacter

Phyllis Shacter courageously shares the first personal story ever written about VSED (voluntarily stopping eating and drinking). This memoir and guidebook follows the journey she took with her husband, Alan, once he decided to VSED so he didn’t have to live into the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  Please also visit The VSED Choice for more information about his journey.

Find more information about the book here.

When My Time Comes

Conversations about whether those who are dying should have the right to determine when life should end

by Diane Rehm

From Diane Rehm, renowned radio host–one of the most trusted voices in the nation–and best-selling author: a book of candor and compassion, addressing the urgent, hotly contested cause of the Right-to-Die movement, of which she is one of our most inspiring champions. Read our book review here.

Find it at your library, local bookseller, or listen to her interview on WAMU.

Choosing to Live, Choosing to Die

The Complexities of Assisted Dying

by Nikki Tate

With many jurisdictions considering whether or not to implement new assisted-death legislation, Choosing to Live, Choosing to Die is a timely look at the subject for teen readers who may not yet have had much experience with death and dying. 

Find it at your library or order it online.

That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour

by Sunita Puri

That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour describes how we step into this intersection gracefully.  The author, Dr. Sunita Puri, is an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California and the medical director of palliative medicine at Keck Hospital and the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Los Angeles.  This book is the story of Dr. Puri’s journey to palliative medicine; she takes us along.

Find it at your library or for more information and to order it online.

A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death

by BJ Miller, MD and Shoshana Berger

This is a practical, compassionate, and comprehensive guide to dying—and living fully until you do.

“There is nothing wrong with you for dying,” palliative care doctor B.J. Miller and 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.”

NPR Interview  or for more information and to order online

Dying Unafraid

by Fran Moreland Johns

Dying Unafraid tells inspired stories of individuals who faced death without fear, offering hope and encouragement to those about them. It is written for the lay reader by a veteran storyteller/reporter who herself has long experience working with the terminally ill. Tough questions of the day such as the issues of self-deliverance and physician-hastened death, as well as what rights individuals have in retaining control over their own lives when those lives are ending are addressed through the stories of individuals who have confronted those issues.  Learn more about the author.

Find it at your library or local bookseller.

The Art of Dying Well – A practical Guide to a Good End of Life

by Katy Butler

From goodreads:  “This down-to-earth manual for living, aging, and dying with meaning and even joy is based on Butler’s own experience caring for aging parents, as well as hundreds of interviews with people who have successfully navigated a fragmented health system and helped their loved ones have good deaths. It also draws on interviews with nationally recognized experts in family medicine, palliative care, geriatrics, oncology, hospice, and other medical specialties. Inspired by the medieval death manual Ars Moriendi, or the Art of DyingThe Art of Dying Well is the definitive update for our modern age, and illuminates the path to a better end of life.”

How to order it online.

The Four Things That Matter Most – A Book About Living

by Ira Byock

Four simple phrases that carry enormous power, especially at the end of life.

Find it at your library or local bookseller.

Can’t We Talk About Something More PLEASANT?

by Roz Chast

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging 

Find it at your library. To learn more about the author or to order it online.

A Better Way of Dying – How to Make the Best Choices at the End of Life

by Jeanne & Eileen Fitzpatrick

Advanced directives and living wills have improved our ability to dictate end-of-life care, but even these cannot guaran­tee that we will be allowed the dignity of a natural death. Designed by two sisters-one a doctor, one a lawyer-and drawing on their decades of experience, the five-step Compassion Protocol outlined in A Better Way of Dying offers a simple and effective framework for leaving caretakers concrete, unambiguous, and legally binding instructions about your wishes for your last days.

Find it at your library or for more information or to order online.

Being Mortal – Medicine and What Matters in the End

by Atul Gawande, MD, MPH
Addresses the current state of care about age-related frailty, serious illness, and impending death. Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Gawande reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced. Nursing homes, devoted above all to safety, battle with residents over the food they are allowed to eat and the choices they are allowed to make. Doctors, uncomfortable discussing patients’ anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them.

Find it at your library or local bookseller.

Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

by Stephen Jenkinson

Die Wise does not offer seven steps for coping with death. It does not suggest ways to make dying easier. It pours no honey to make the medicine go down. Instead, with lyrical prose, deep wisdom, and stories from his two decades of working with dying people and their families, Stephen Jenkinson places death at the center of the page and asks us to behold it in all its painful beauty. Die Wise teaches the skills of dying, skills that have to be learned in the course of living deeply and well. Die Wise is for those who will fail to live forever.

Find it at your library or local bookstore.

When Breath Becomes Air

by Paul Kalanathi

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • This inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

A memoir of life and illness, battling stage IV metastasized lung cancer.  Published posthumously. Foreword by Abraham Verghese

Find it at your library or local bookstore.

Finish Strong – Putting Your Priorities First at Life’s End

by Barbara Coombs Lee

The guide to achieving the positive end-of-life experience you want and deserve, this second edition of Finish Strong by Barbara Coombs Lee the President Emerita/Senior Adviser of Compassion & Choices, features valuable new material, including a new chapter called “Race and Culture Matter;” an Afterword by Kim Callinan, the President/CEO of Compassion & Choices; and a detailed index for the book.

Find it at your library or For more information and to order it online.

Talking About Death

by Virginia Morris

Even in this candidly confessional age, we’ve been conditioned to avoid discussions of death. Our youth-worshipping culture does everything to deny death, which is why, when the end nears, most of us are inadequately prepared to deal with it. And the cost of that is great: many are haunted by memories of how inappropriately or painfully or uncomfortably their parents and grandparents died. Many of us avoid even considering the options, in all their complexity, that we will most likely face one day, given our new longevity and the profound advances in medicine. With its wise and very compelling argument that all of us, at any age, can and should face death before it faces us, Talking About Death addresses the cultural, personal, medical, and legal concerns that are necessary for us–as individuals and as a society–to prepare for a good death, a death where the dying are in control and not, as is too often the case, caught in a downward spiral of medical intervention and misunderstood intentions.

Find it at your library or local bookstore.

How we Die – Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter

by Sherwin Nuland

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.

Find it at your library or For more information and to order it online.