Books and articles that have helped me think differently about the journey.


Aging with Grace - by David Snowdon

This book chronicles the landmark 'Nun Study', examining possible causes of, and contributors to, dementia and Alzheimer's in old age.  Fascinating and exceptionally easy to read.

At Home It's Just So Much Easier to be Yourself - by Damien Stones & Judith Gullifer

Published in the journal of Ageing and Society, this article looks at what it means to the very old to remain independent and at home, through personal interviews with multiple subjects. A fascinating look at why remaining in their own homes matters so very much. If you want insights straight from the source (the elderly), this is the article for you.  

Being Mortal - by Atul Gawande 

The best book I've read to date about how to maintain life, purpose, and meaning, even at the very ends of life, as our options are shrinking.  AMAZING.

Still Alice - by Lisa Genova

Fictional but factual, Alice provides a harrowing portrait of early onset Alzheimer's that only a Harvard neuroscientist could accurately paint.  Powerful, poignant, sobering.


Anticipating Annihilation - by Mikel Burley 

A philosophical exploration of the fear of death.  The author makes a compelling case for why our fears are unfounded, whether we're humanists or believers.  

Being Mortal - by Atul Gawande 

So good, I've included it twice.  Being Mortal is the best book I've read to date about how to maintain life, purpose, and meaning, even at the very ends of life, and even as our options are shrinking.  AMAZING.  

Death A Foe To Be Conquered? - by Anthea Gellie, et al

Published in the Journal of Age and Ageing, the authors explore how society has come to view death as something to wage war against, rather than the natural cycle of human life.  Thought provoking, to say the least.  

Final Exam - by Pauline W. Chen

Written by transplant surgeon Dr. Pualine Chen, this book provides a moving, insightful, and deeply thought provoking look into the mysterious land occupied by those nearly mythical creatures we call "Doctor".

How We Die - by Sherwin B. Nuland

If I were King of the Universe I would make everyone on the planet read this book.  It offers a straightforward discussion of the exact ways in which our bodies shut down and expire.  While this book may not be feel-good reading, Dr. Nuland does more to remove the shroud of mystery surrounding our final days and hours than any other work I've ever encountered.  A hands down favorite.

The Last Lecture - by Randy Pausch

An expansion and explanation of what inspired Mr. Pausch's real-life final lecture.  I list it here because I was (and continue to be) impressed with Mr. Pausch's attitude as he rocketed toward his own untimely death.

What Really Matters at The End of Life - by BJ Miller

I confess to having a small hero-worship complex going on with regard to Mr. Miller, perhaps because he says everything I wish I could say but so much better.  Watch his TedTalk and you'll see what I mean.

When Breath Becomes Air - by Paul Kalanithi

Written by a neurosurgeon dying from lung cancer at the age of 36, it manages to be both approachable and yet unwaveringly unsentimental.  Favorite quote:  "In the end, it cannot be doubted that each of us can see only a part of the picture.  The doctor sees one, the patient another....  Human knowledge is never contained in one person.  It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete."  

Everything Else

Clarity - by Jamie Smart

This is one of those books that describes a stunningly simple idea you've heard before but in a way that bears repeating--namely that our perception is our reality--an especially important concept as we approach the topics of old age and dying.  Brace yourself because it's admittedly clunky and repetitious, but the basic principle can change the way you think.  

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why - by Laurence Gonzales

A case is made for why some people survive the unsurvivable while others don’t. Excellent data and a dose of cautionary advice, if you’re inclined to take it.

East of the Mountains - by David Guterson

A work of fiction that manages to feel authentic as it follows an elderly physician intent on achieving his own death.  Favorite quote:  "And this was how a person aged.  Suffering in astonishment the progress of the days.  One moment puffed up by a blustery denial [of death], the next drowsing in blessed well lit places in which he forgot because his work or love or the mere light distracted him from the truth."

Here If You Need Me - by Kate Braestrup

The best kind of memoire, Ms. Braestrup shows us what it can look like to really live after the death of a spouse.

The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher - by Lewis Thomas

Stumbled across this oldie at an estate sale, and from the title you’d think it would be all biology, all the time. And yet it came as a welcome surprise that Mr. Thomas was instead a shrewd observer of mankind. A thought provoking and brilliant collection of approachable essays.