We've collected some of the best writing about end of life issues. Browse the list below and see what looks interesting.



The Fault in Our Starsby John Green – “The Fault in Our Stars brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.”

Gileadby Marilynne Robinson – Gilead is an intimate tale of three generations, from the Civil War to the 20th century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart.

All the Living: A Novel, by C.E. Morgan – All the Living has the timeless quality of a parable, but is also a perfect evocation of a time and place, a portrait of both age-old conflicts and modern life. It is an ode to the starve-acre Southern farm, the mountain landscape, and difficult love.

The Sense of an Endingby Julian Barnes – Tony Webster is presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider a variety of things he thought he’d understood all along, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.

The Rest of Life: Three Novellasby Mary Gordon –  This book comprises three masterful tales of women in the grips of complicated and dangerous loves.

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Newspaper and magazine articles

Stories Have the Power to Transform End-of-Life Care - writings and reflections from palliative care physician Jessica Zitter, M.D. An internationally-known author, speaker, and activist, Dr. Zitter has been published in the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, and more.

Closing Accounts – As money runs out, hard choices in elder care.

Hoping for a Good Death – “The biggest lesson I have learned is that every family should not only discuss end-of-life wishes but should act on them by filling out an advance directive. If my father had completed one, his end might have played out differently.”

How Do You Want to Die – A mission to make death part of popular conversation

Planning for a Beautiful Death – An article with details on needed documents, caregiver resources, and lots of helpful information for having the conversations with your family and friends about your end of life wishes written by Consumer Reports in their December 2014 issue as part of its ongoing effort to provide consumers with unbiased and useful information for living.

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Biographies and memoirs

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage–and a life, in good times and bad–that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.

Blue Nights by Joan Didion – Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old.

Nothing to Be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes – An atheist at twenty and an agnostic at sixty, Barnes looks into the various arguments for, against, and with God, and at his own bloodline, which has become, following his parents’ death, another realm of mystery.

A Very Easy Death by Simone De Beauvoir – Powerful, touching, and sometimes shocking, this is an end-of-life account that no reader is likely to forget.

Life After Death and Other Stories by Susan Compo – The cutting edge of the post-punk Los Angeles scene is captured in a collection of sixteen stories and a novella that chronicle the interconnected, alienated lives of a dozen young members of that scene.

In Search of the Good: A Life in Bioethics by Daniel Callahan, Ph.D. – In this memoir, he questions the idea of endless medical “progress” and interventionist end-of-life care that seems to blur the boundary between living and dying. It is the role of bioethics, he argues, to be a loyal dissenter in the onward march of medical progress.

Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital by Eric Manheimer, M.D. – A memoir from the Medical Director of Bellevue Hospital, Twelve Patients uses the plights of twelve very different patients…to illustrate larger societal issues.

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Nonfiction books

Narrative Nonfiction

Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Deathby Katy Butler – “…award-winning journalist Katy Butler ponders her parents’ desires for “Good Deaths” and the forces within medicine that stood in the way.”

Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life, by Ira Byock, M.D. – From Ira Byock, prominent palliative care physician and expert in end of life decisions, a lesson in Dying Well.

Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dyingby Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley – Authors and hospice nurses Callanan and Kelley share their intimate experiences with patients at the end of life, drawn from more than twenty years’ experience tending the terminally ill.

What Dying People Want: Practical Wisdom for the End of Life, by David Kuhl – In What Dying People Want, Dr. David Kuhl [addresses] end-of-life realities–practical and emotional–through his own experiences as a doctor and through the words and experiences of people who knew that they were dying.

A Grief Observedby C.S. Lewis – A Grief Observed is an unflinchingly truthful account of how loss can lead even a stalwart believer to lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and the inspirational tale of how he can possibly regain his bearings.

Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Healby Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. – Dr. Remen “has gathered stories … of owning, having and losing; stories of power, pain, courage and hope. These stories let us look at our wounds and provide us with tools to begin healing them.”

The End of Your Life Book Clubby Will Schwalbe – This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close.


Peaceful Journey: A Hospice Chaplain’s Guide to End of Life, by Matthew P. Binkewicz – Peaceful Journey examines the spiritual issues facing terminally ill patients and their families. Each chapter introduces the reader to a person with a spiritual issue that needs immediate attention.

The Troubled Dream of Life: In Search of a Peaceful Death, by Daniel Callahan, Ph.D. – He examines how we view death and the care of the critically ill or dying, and he suggests ways of understanding death that can lead to a peaceful acceptance.

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselvesby Stephen Grosz – The Examined Life distills more than 50,000 hours of conversation into pure psychological insight without the jargon. This extraordinary book is about one ordinary process: talking, listening, and understanding.

Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying, by Stephen and Ondrea Levine – This is the first book to show the reader how to open to the immensity of living with death, to participate fully in life as the perfect preparation for whatever may come next.

How We Die: Reflections of Life’s Final Chapter, by Sherwin Nuland, M.D. – “An international bestseller, Sherwin B. Nuland’s How We Die has come to be regarded as the definitive book about the most universal human concern: death.”

Death, by Geoffrey Scarre – Death draws upon a wide variety of philosophical and literary sources to offer an up-to-date and highly readable study of some major ethical and metaphysical riddles concerning death and dying.

The Long Lifeby Helen Small – Small argues that if we want to understand old age, we have to think more fundamentally about what it means to be a person, to have a life, to have (or lead) a good life, to be part of a just society.

Death and the Quest for Meaning, edited by Stephen Strack – Topics in this book include the role of the caregiver, the process of grief and bereavement, religious and spiritual perspectives, and how children and adolescents cope with death.


Facing Death: Images, Insights, and Interventionsby Sandra L. Bertman – Facing Death uses materials from the visual arts, excerpts from poetry, fiction, drama, and examples from popular culture to sensitize the reader to important, universal issues confronting the dying, and those responsible for their care.

In Praise of Mortalityby Rainer Maria Rilke – The Sonnets are imbued with the poet’s deep reverence for nature. He laments the industrial age, which deprives us of time, imagination, and community and gives us an illusion of control over our mortality. And the Elegies are meditations on our impermanence, which Rilke embraced as our link to all life and all time.

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourselfby Michael A. Singer – By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, author and spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.

Challenges in the Field

Setting Limits: Medical Goals in an Aging Societyby Daniel Callahan, Ph.D. – A provocative call to rethink America’s values in health care.

Taming the Beloved Beast: How Medical Technology Costs are Destroying Our Health Care Systemby Daniel Callahan, Ph.D. – Callahan weighs the ethical arguments for and against limiting the use of medical technologies, and he argues that reining in health care costs requires us to change entrenched values about progress and technological innovation.

False Hopes: Why America’s Quest for Perfect Health is a Recipe for Failure, by Daniel Callahan, Ph.D. – Callahan traces the root cause of America’s health-care crisis not to inefficient organization or waste, but rather to society’s and the medical community’s relentless quest for perfection.

What Kind of Life: The Limits of Medical Progressby Daniel Callahan, Ph.D. “A sober, bracing and important look at the realities of medicine and its costs.”―Los Angeles Times

A World Growing Old: The Coming Health Care ChallengesEdited by Daniel Callahan, Ruud H. J. Ter Meulen and Eva Topinkova – Essays focus on five general issues: the meaning of old age, the goals of medicine and health care for the elderly, the balance between the needs of the young and old, the pressures of other social priorities, and the role of families, especially the burden on women, in long-term care.

Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, M.D. – Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

Death in Contemporary Times

Fictional Death & The Modernist Enterpriseby Alan Warren Friedman, Ph.D. – “Friedman traces the semiotics of death and dying in twentieth-century fiction, history, and culture.”

Death’s Door: Modern Dying and the Ways We Grieveby Sandra M. Gilbert – Gilbert “examines both the changelessness of grief and the changing customs that mark contemporary mourning.”

Written by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy, and Their Own Families, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross – Through sample interviews and conversations, Kubler-Ross gives the reader a better understanding of how imminent death affects the patient, the professionals who serve that patient, and the patient’s family, bringing hope to all who are involved.

Children and Deathby Elisabeth Kubler-Ross – Based on a decade of working with dying children, this compassionate book offers the families of dead and dying children the help — and hope — they need to survive.

Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach us About the Mysteries of Life and Living, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler – “The tragedy is not that life is short but that we often see only in hindsight what really matters.”

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