There is an unspoken dark side of American medicine--keeping patients alive at any price. Two thirds of Americans die in healthcare institutions tethered to machines and tubes at bankrupting costs, even though research shows that most prefer to die at home in comfort, surrounded by loved ones.

Dr. Angelo E. Volandes believes that a life well lived deserves a good ending. Through the stories of seven patients and seven very different end-of-life experiences, he demonstrates that what people with a serious illness, who are approaching the end of their lives, need most is not new technologies but one simple thing: The Conversation. He argues for a radical re-envisioning of the patient-doctor relationship and offers ways for patients and their families to talk about this difficult issue to ensure that patients will be at the center and in charge of their medical care.

It might be the most important conversation you ever have.

Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death by Katy ButlerWhen doctors refused to disable the pacemaker that enabled her 84-year-old father’s heart to outlive his debilitating stroke and dementia, journalist Katy Butler embarked on a quest to understand why modern medicine was depriving him of a humane and timely death. “Every day across the country,” she writes, “family caregivers find themselves pondering a medical procedure that may save the life of someone beloved and grown frail.” But, when is it time to stop intervening and let nature take its course? When is it time to say to a doctor, “Let my loved one go?” With a reporter’s skill, a poet’s eye, and a daughter’s love, Butler points the way to a new art of dying for our biotechnological age. – from the Cincinnati Library’s ‘Hot Titles’ list, August 11, 2013

Being Mortal:  Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande: In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.

Jane Brody’s Guide to the Great Beyond: A Practical Primer to Help You and Your Loved Ones: "In her inimitably straightforward, informative and intelligent manner, New York Times health columnist Brody (Jane Brody’s Good Food Book) gives pragmatic direction to a concerned yet reluctant readership in this essential travel guide for the journey toward the inevitable. In pointing out that there is a difference between sensibly learning to accept death and surrendering, she reminds us that our attitude about living colors our approach to death. Thoroughly outlining all attendant demands and details for facing one’s end, Brody provides facts and support for families and patients, and makes it appear entirely possible to “go with grace.” With bulleted lists itemizing what needs to be done and how to do it, short portraits and anecdotes throughout, Brody covers the importance of preparation; the necessity of an advance directive and why a living will is not enough; funeral plans; living with a bad prognosis and dealing with uncertainty; caregiving; hospice; communicating with doctors; assisted dying; organ donation and autopsy; and legacies. An instructive, inspiring and reassuring work full of compassion and humor (along with several cartoons from various New Yorker illustrators), this volume belongs on every family’s bookshelf. (Jan.)"–Publisher's Weekly

Aging as a spiritual practice: A contemplative guide to growing older and wiser by Lewis Richmond: Aging as a Spiritual Practice is a wise, compassionate book that guides readers through the four key stages of aging—such as “Lightning Strikes” (the moment we wake up to our aging)—as well as the processes of adapting to change, embracing who we are, and appreciating our unique life chapters. Unlike many philosophical works on aging this one incorporates illuminating facts from scientific researchers, doctors, and psychologists as well as contemplative practices and guided meditations. Breath by breath, moment by moment, Richmond’s teachings inspire limitless opportunities for a joy that transcends age.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran’s masterpiece, The Prophet, is one of the most beloved classics of our time. Published in 1923, it has been translated into more than twenty languages, and the American editions alone have sold more than nine million copies. The Prophet is a collection of poetic essays that are philosophical, spiritual, and, above all, inspirational. Gibran’s musings are divided into twenty-eight chapters covering such sprawling topics as love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, housing, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death.

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

What would it be like to free yourself from limitations and soar beyond your boundaries? What can you do each day to discover inner peace and serenity? The Untethered Soul-now a New York Times bestseller-offers simple yet profound answers to these questions. Whether this is your first exploration of inner space, or you've devoted your life to the inward journey, this book will transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you. You'll discover what you can do to put an end to the habitual thoughts and emotions that limit your consciousness.
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.

The Untethered Soul begins by walking you through your relationship with your thoughts and emotions, helping you uncover the source and fluctuations of your inner energy. It then delves into what you can do to free yourself from the habitual thoughts, emotions, and energy patterns that limit your consciousness. Finally, with perfect clarity, this book opens the door to a life lived in the freedom of your innermost being.

The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo

Philosopher-poet and cancer survivor, Mark Nepo opens a new season of freedom and joy--an escape from deadening, asleep-at-the wheel sameness--that is both profound and clarifying. His spiritual daybook is a summons to reclaim aliveness, liberate the self, take each day one at a time, and to savor the beauty offered by life's unfolding. Reading his poetic prose is like being given second sight, exposing the reader to life's multiple dimensions, each one drawn with awe and affection. The Book of Awakening is the result of his journey of the soul and will inspire others to embark on their own. Nepo speaks of spirit and friendship, urging readers to stay vital and in love with this life, no matter the hardships. Encompassing many traditions and voices, Nepo's words offer insight on pain, wonder, and love. Each entry is accompanied by an exercise that will surprise and delight the reader in its mind-waking ability.

Prepare Medically, Legally, and Emotionally for the End of Life by Jane Brody.

How We Die: Reflections of Life's Final Chapter, Sherwin B. Nuland: A runaway bestseller and National Book Award winner, Sherwin Nuland's How We Die has become the definitive text on perhaps the single most universal human concern: death.  This new edition includes an all-embracing and incisive afterword that examines the current state of health care and our relationship with life as it approaches its terminus.  It also discusses how we can take control of our own final days and those of our loved ones.