If you search online for “books about death and dying” you very quickly realize how many times and ways this subject has been explored and from a seemingly endless number of perspectives. And when you scan the overall landscape of books about death and dying, you reach an inescapable conclusion: these are really books about life and living. Let’s consider some of these books:
Goodreads.com is good resource to find books in certain categories – books that have been read, rated and recommended by avid readers. And because Goodreads has a large online community and topical relevancy, it is near the top of results when searching for “books about death and dying”. (Amazon ranks highly, too, of course, but you must change search parameters within the site to get to the best rated books on the subject).
Goodreads yields a fascinating spectrum of book about death and dying. These books include everything from classics like As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner and On Death and Dying by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross to more modern teen and young adult titles like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
Here are some other titles we found interesting on the Goodreads list as described on the site:
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is set during WWII. It is described by Goodreads as the “story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich… [who] scratches out a meager existence… by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books.” The narrator of the book is Death, and mortality is a central theme. Written for teen audiences, but with appeal to adults as well, The Book Thief poignantly captures the fragility and beauty of life and death.
- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom recounts his life-altering discussions with his college professor and mentor Morrie Schwartz. Reconnecting after decades apart, but only as the older man’s life is coming to an end, Mitch learns important lessons about living from a man who is dying.
- The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is the story of Pausch’s final lecture as a Carnegie Mellon University professor. As he coped with the prospect of dying from pancreatic cancer, Pausch was able to bring life-changing perspective to living in a way that inspired millions.
- The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion is described by Goodreads as “a stunning book of electric honesty and passion… [that] 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.” The book chronicles the illness and short-term recovery of Didion’s daughter and the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne. The book won the National Book Award for Non-fiction; and Didion later adapted it into a Broadway play.
- The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is told from the perspective of a dog named Enzo, described by Goodreads as being “different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs) … [who] has educated himself by watching television… [and following] the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.” The bestseller is described as “a heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope.”
Each of these books about death and dying takes a unique view of death – and ultimately life itself. And they remind us that even in death, it is life and living that matter most of all.