Healthcare is a global hot-button issue and recent political discussions in the United States have brought the topic front and center in the national dialog. A whole slew of books have looked at the complex issues surrounding mortality and care: when to intervene, when to not, what does quality of life mean, and the importance of a life well lived without prolonging suffering. The ones we feature in this blog will give you plenty of food for thought, and angles to discuss if you're part of a book club. The topic of health might often be weighty but how better to address it than with your friends and family as part of a broader life discussion and through the accessible avenue of books!

This list features six nonfiction recommendations, but there are plenty more in this genre (Will Schwalbe's The End of Your Life Book Club comes readily to mind) and a wealth of fiction to make this a topic you can revisit repeatedly.


Being Mortal Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Paperback Sep 2017. Also in hardcover & ebook. 304 pages
Published by Picador

One of the medical profession's most respected players points out that, somewhere along the way, medicine has lost sight of the end goal. In the aim of prolonging life, doctors have ignored quality of life. This riveting book anchored in sound research shows that there are ways life can be lived with dignity right up to the very end and equally important, explains how families can bring up such discussions without feeling like they have compromised on the care of a loved one.
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When Breath Becomes Air When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Hardcover & ebook Jan 2016. 256 pages
Published by Random House

This neurosurgeon in training was just 36 when he was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer. About to launch into a successful career with a baby along the way, Dr. Kalanithi's future was jarringly rebooted when faced with a terminal diagnosis. In this brilliant and moving memoir, filled with grace, he comes to terms with his new situation and focuses on the meaning of a life where living in the moment takes on an entirely new connotation. A BookBrowse Favorite.
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Do No Harm Book Jacket Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

Paperback Jun 2016. Also in hardcover & ebook. 288 pages
Published by Picador

Those of us on the other side of the scalpel believe--and even hope--that those wielding the critical instruments that slice and dice into the brain are calm, collected individuals who know what they're doing. And while they do, they're also human, capable of letting their day's circumstances percolate into the surgery theater. This informative book describes the working life of a talented brain surgeon. While his triumphs are uplifting, equally revealing are the errors of judgment, one of which left a young cyclist paralyzed.
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The Best Care Possible Book Jacket The Best Care Possible: A Physician's Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life by Ira Byock

Paperback Mar 2013. Also in hardcover & ebook. 336 pages
Published by Avery

Dr. Byock knows what he speaks of: he is a palliative care specialist and worries that the medical system has done little to meaningfully address end-of-life issues. New doctors receive inadequate training in it because the goal is to save lives and often, because of the rise of a whole host of sub-specialties, doctors (and their families who go along for the ride) just don't know when to let go. Filled with heartwarming examples of patients who have addressed their care with the full picture in mind, this book will strike a chord with many.
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Happier Endings: A Meditation on Life and Death by Erica Brown

Paperback Apr 2014. Also in hardcover & ebook. 416 pages
Published by Simon & Schuster

It's the elephant in the room, a topic that most of us are uncomfortable talking about. Yet it's the one thing in life that is certain: death. This book brings a necessary dose of empathy to the table and plenty of wisdom borrowed from the spiritual traditions of the world. By narrating the stories of individuals who are working to demystify death, Brown brings the readers along on an accessible journey about an all-important and necessary discussion.
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The Year of Magical Thinking The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Paperback Feb 2007. Also in hardcover & ebook. 214 pages
Published by Vintage

Caring for loved ones is like being on a roller coaster with small rays of hope punctuating some not-so-happy news. For a while Joan Didion was relieved to at least have her husband of forty years by her side as their daughter battled septic shock after what looked like the flu. But that partnership crumpled in a heartbeat as Didion's long-time support suffered a fatal coronary incident. Didion, who won a National Book Award for this touching memoir, is at the height of her powers here, as she copes with loss on a nearly unimaginable scale.
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