Books About Mortality

BookSummaryClub Blog Books About Mortality
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It’s very human and morbid to dwell on the fear of dying. It’s easier not to think about it when you’re healthy or young, but the anxious question remains – How & when will it all end? What will happen when I’m gone?

Over the years, philosophical and religious texts have tried countless times to ease the journey. Many meditations on human mortality are written by not so wise philosophers or individuals who are experts in the funeral or medical field or someone grieving a loss.

Most of these books are just clumsy exhortations to the reader to use the time they have left. Life may be rough, terrible, and short – it is also sublime.

The significant writing about dying and death captures both the beautiful and the terrible, the profound and the trifling, in service of confused human truths.

Instead of coaxing you into reading everything you can now, these books listed in this article will help you live full lives and accept good death.

Books On Mortality

1. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? By Chast Roz.

Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir
  • Chast, Roz (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 228 Pages – 09/13/2016 (Publication Date) – Bloomsbury USA (Publisher)

This graphic memoir sketches out the final years in the lives of George and Elizabeth, her nonagenarian parents. Roz Chast is known for her characterizations of respectable mouth-breathers trying to make their way in the world.

She carefully attacks similarly quotidian and more personal topics here, like ‘the detritus of decades, the outrageous price of assisted living facilities and the burden of cremated remains.

But the juxtaposition of her caricatures and merciless prose – Elizabeth is designed like a small fire hydrant (a geyser of intense feeling), George a daydreamer and a worrywart perfectly communicates how our petty grievances, neurosis, and lost opportunities shape us whether we like it or not.

The outcome is a tender description of the experience of being orphaned that doubles as a wry assessment of the metaphorical and literal dust that gathers over the years, laying the cleaning work to an end.

2. Mortality By Christopher Hitchens.

  • Audible Audiobook
  • Christopher Hitchens (Author) – Simon Prebble (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 09/04/2012 (Publication Date) – Hachette Audio (Publisher)

As a way of facing cancer head-on, Christopher Hitchens writes how it changes his perspective on death and life. The book ‘mortality’ was published posthumously nine months after he died.

3. The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead By David Shields.

The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead
  • Audible Audiobook
  • David Shields (Author) – Don Leslie (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 02/05/2008 (Publication Date) – Random House Audio (Publisher)

This book is a New York Times International bestseller. It was inspired by the vitality of David’s 97-year-old father. This inspiring story invites you to consider your strength and, in turn, mortality.

The journey takes intriguing turns and twists through philosophy and biology and is also seasoned with personal stories.

4. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs By Caitlin Doughty.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Caitlin Doughty (Author) – Caitlin Doughty (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 09/10/2019 (Publication Date) – Recorded Books (Publisher)

The author is a mortician & a firm believer that everyone should be more upfront and direct with death. In this book, she replies to real questions children have asked her about death, dead bodies, and decomposition (you can trust children to be more honest).

5. It’s Okay That You’re Not Okay (Meeting Grief And Loss In A Culture That Doesn’t Understand) By Megan Devine.

It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Megan Devine (Author) – Megan Devine (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 10/01/2017 (Publication Date) – Sounds True (Publisher)

This book is recommended for someone experiencing grief through the loss of a loved one, mainly if the loss is through an accident as opposed to a disease or long-standing illness.

The author touchingly shares her journey and tragedy to allow readers to experience and understand how it goes beyond the grief the reader may be feeling.

This excellent book dispels the belief that grief is something anyone can move through or get over. It comes with logical tips on enduring mechanisms without giving long-winded timelines or platitudes by which the reader should feel.

This modern classic book will help you move through daily life alongside feelings of loss and sadness.

6. Gone From My Sight (The Dying Experience) By Barbara Karnes.

Gone from My Sight: The Dying Experience
  • Death and Dying
  • Karnes RN, Barbara (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 14 Pages – 12/04/2023 (Publication Date) – Barbara Karnes Publishing (Publisher)

This beautifully written book is also affectionately called “The Little Blue Book” by people who have read it. It is a short, quick, but powerful book.

It goes through how the human body functions and the dying process; it is an excellent guide to understanding what happens physically to the body when a loved one dies.

This book describes what occurs during active dying from hours to minutes before death. It is written in plain language, making it easy to understand. Also, it uses non-medical terminologies.

7. Advice For Future Corpses And Those Who Love Them: A Practical View On Dying And Death By Sallie Tisdale.

Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Sallie Tisdale (Author) – Gabra Zackman (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 06/12/2018 (Publication Date) – HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books (Publisher)

Sallie uses humor and her experience as a nurse in palliative care. This exciting book is for anyone facing death, anyone interested in what may or may not happen when death comes knocking, and anyone who works in any healthcare facility where deaths might occur daily.

This book provides insight into what you, your loved ones, or family members may need, want, or even think about regarding death. The author touches on many versatile topics within dying of grief and demise, what to expect physically, and communication.

Sallie discusses various taboo topics with grace and humor. It is undoubtedly a book worth reading for all future corpses.

8. How We Die (Reflections Of Life’s Final Chapter) By Sherwin B. Nuland.

How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter, New Edition (National Book Award Winner)
  • Nuland, Sherwin B. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 278 Pages – 01/15/1995 (Publication Date) – Vintage (Publisher)

Nuland uses a unique gift of storytelling to write this book. He talks about dying and death through stories of his patients and personal stories from one family’s struggle.

Nuland discusses the distinct ways humans die; these include cancer (stage IV lung cancer, breast cancer, brain cancer, etc.), old age, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, AIDS, heart disease, and accidents. With the heart of a storyteller and a clinician’s insight, this book looks at various ways people die and provides compassion.

9. The Plain Guide To Grief By Dr John Wilson.

The Plain Guide to Grief
  • Wilson PhD, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 211 Pages – 12/09/2020 (Publication Date) – Book ISBN UK (Publisher)

This beautifully written book tells you how to manage grief after a life-changing loss. It tells you what to expect in the following days, weeks, months, and years.

Grief is unique, and no one can grieve just like you; this guide will support you in your journey. This book will help you with difficult losses – loss of health, friendship, intimate relationships, or job loss. Remember, loved ones also refers to your pets

Grief makes it hard to concentrate, so this book uses short sentences, simple words, and not many words on a page. The simple and plain language of this book makes life worth living, especially if the loss is new.

Dr. John Wilson supports hundreds of grieving people and continues to research how people grieve. The stories in this book are based on real-life experiences of grieving individuals.

10. The Year Of Magical Thinking By Joan Didion.

The Year of Magical Thinking
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Joan Didion (Author) – Barbara Caruso (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 09/30/2005 (Publication Date) – HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books (Publisher)

This book is from the table of one of America’s iconic writers. It is a stunning book of passion and honesty. Joan Didion explores a universal yet intensely personal experience.

It is a portrait of life and marriage, good times and bad, that will speak to individuals who have lost a child, wife, or husband.

11. The Bright Hour(A Memoir Of Living And Dying) By Nina Riggs.

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Nina Riggs (Author) – Cassandra Campbell, Kirby Heyborne (Narrators)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 06/06/2017 (Publication Date) – Simon & Schuster Audio (Publisher)

It is a beautiful memoir about how to love and live daily with death in the room. The author, Nina Riggs, is a poet and a mother of two young sons and the direct offspring of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

12. Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor.

Dying: A Memoir
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Cory Taylor (Author) – Larissa Gallagher (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 08/01/2017 (Publication Date) – HighBridge, a Division of Recorded Books (Publisher)

Cory Taylor wrote this exquisitely observed memoir in a few weeks. This book clearly explains what dying and death have taught Cory.

On A Final Note;

Numerous books cover mortality. This list is not exhaustive; nonetheless, if you’re looking for books on mortality, this list is a great start.

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