For those interested in or even needing to learn more about the subject, many of today’s books about death and dying can really provide great help and perspective. One of life’s most difficult facts to face is the proposition that we really are mortal and that our time here does expire. To make planning for and handling this formidable matter easier and clearer, many such books about dying can be found that cover all sorts of matters of concern within this often tense subject.

Books about death and dying can help one to not only come to terms with their own mortality but also that of their friends and loved ones. No matter your religion or individual beliefs, there is a book about death and dying that is well suited to your needs out there. To help narrow this terrifically large field of literature, here are the top 30 most helpful books about death and dying today.

The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead

David Shields



Author David Shields was taken with a profound interest when his father’s living years reached a total of 97. What exactly is vitality, and how does it affect us all so differently? What are the terms of this mortal, flesh-and-blood existence in which we exist? This book regarding death combines many elements of anecdotal thought, philosophy, and cultural critique laced with a notably humorous, personal take on the family.

A Grief Observed

C.S. Lewis


A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis’ unique and insightful take on the specific feeling of overwhelming, heavy grief. This death and dying book first gives weight to the gravity of such loss and the absolutely debilitating grief that follows. From there, the reader is given a dose of helpful insights on how to view such grief, how to outlast it, and how to eventually come to terms with it. A final, accepting nod is given to the fact that despite overcoming, pain can still revisit.

Assisted Death: A Study in Ethics and Law

L. W. Sumner


Of the many books about death, Assisted Death: A Study in Ethics and Law by L.W. Sumner provides one of the most practical breakdowns of the world of assisted death, also known as assisted suicide. The first part of Sumner’s journey takes the reader through the ethical questions that dominate this subject of great contention. Next, Sumner goes on to address the established legalities that pertain to the concept. Finally, some valuable insights on these matters sum it all up quite well.

Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses

Bess Lovejoy


Depending on your palette, Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses could be viewed as a macabre curiosity or a brilliant homage to the noteworthy who have passed before us. In this novel look at the celebrity deceased, writer Bess Lovejoy explores the many facts that surround a number of celebrity corpses. Odd travels, strange tales, and unlikely occurrences show that not all physical remains are left to rest in peace or in place.

Coming Home: A Guide to Dying at Home with Dignity

Deborah Duda


Not all books about death can really be seen as “guides”. Deborah Duda breaks that trend with a very real and helpful guide on the specific subject of dying at home. What are the legalities faced here? How does one administrate this wish and do so in ultimate comfort and dignity? Who do you talk to and what do you do? Duda outlines everything you need to know in this insightful guidebook about death at home.


Mary Roach


In this book, Mary Roach provides us with New York Times Bestseller food for thought. For those specifically curious about the life of a body after death, this is the revealing account for you. This book on the subject of death explores the often bizarre travels of the human corpse and parts therein. Fantastic humor and gross intrigue come together in quite the harmony in this bestselling account of the dubious lives of the “stiff”.

Death Becomes Them

Alex Straus


Virginia Woolf, Kurt Cobain, and Ernest Hemingway – what do these big names have in common? Death Becomes Them is the telling exploration of the suicides and untimely deaths of brilliant minds and notable personalities of the past. Why did they do it and how? What are some of the common threads found in the suicide notes left by such minds? Dive head-first into the intrigue of the unfortunate demises of some very fruitful minds.

The Dying Time: Practical Wisdom for the Dying & Their Caregivers

Joan Furman


In this highly resourceful book about death and the smooth transition to it, Furman and McNabb show us the ethical and legal sides to assisted suicide as well as natural death. At home or in-facility, this guide helps caretakers and the dying to make the journey as comfortable as possible. Additional yields of help for the taxed caregiver, the concerned ailing, and all others affected are enclosed in the pages of this helpful book about death and dying.

Lifetimes: A Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children

Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen


Unfortunately, death is a subject that does directly touch children from time to time. Mellonie and Ingpen’s Lifetimes: A Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children provides some very useful guidance when it comes to explaining death to children in a truthful yet child-compatible way. This is an illustrated children’s book that can either be read directly to the child or used separately to aid in discussing the subject of death with the child. A nod to nature’s way of life and death in all of the plant and animal world helps to soften the subject being communicated.

Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt

Todd Harra and Kenneth McKenzie


In this eye-opening expedition by writers Todd Harra and Kenneth McKenzie, the reader is taken on a peculiar and notably poignant journey through the real lives of the world’s undertakers and caretakers of the dead. The work and lives of many professionals that work with the dead are revealed without censorship here. At burial, at body preparation, within transport, burial, private happenings, art and science endeavors, and all other corpse curtsyings, there are professionals at work. These are those tales.

Recognizing Spiritual Needs in People Who Are Dying

Rachel Stanworth


Seasoned nurse and Doctor of Pastoral Theology, Rachel Stanworth provides us with this book as an in-depth aid to helping and ultimately advocating for the spiritual needs of those encountering impending expiration. Whether the individual needs a deeper level of assistance here or just some basic, complimentary religious comforts, this book tells us how to go about handling it all. Stanworth’s compelling experience is on display for all in this spiritual aid for the transitioning.

Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics

Peter Singer


Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics gives a revitalizing new look into death and dying by more modern standards and approaches. For those interested in traditional ideas on death and dying versus the more new and modern ones of today, this book covers just that. Ethics, law, and cultural sentiments are explored through times of change in this more modernistic take on life’s great ending point.


Christopher Hitchens


The predicament of death is one that perilously and unceasingly stares us all down. Christopher Hitchens takes a brave step here toward explaining this predicament that is death. This is a story of one individual’s journey to face the inevitable demise and do so with grace and an enlightened perspective. Mortality is equally applicable to those facing impending death as well as the friends and loved ones of these advancing people.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Caitlin Doughty


Sheer humor and unadulterated morbidity come together in perfect union in this telling tale by Caitlin Doughty. Here, readers are exposed to the much unknown world of crematory service as well as some of the author’s most personal and eye-opening experiences in the matter. The book was written with Doughty’s six years of experience in the funeral industry at the time in addition to her impeccable sense of applied humor to the subject. For a humorous yet very real take from the crematory, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes whimsically covers the usually unspeakable.

Being Mortal

Atul Gawande


In this very helpful piece, author Atul Gawande puts to use his many years of medical world experience and breaks down the idea of death, life, and mortality. Deeply touching, Gawande’s take is one that proposes that the medical community as well as loved ones really should handle the transition from life to death in a more relative light. This one is widely acclaimed as one of the more moving looks at the concept of death in medicine.

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson

Mitch Albom


Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson is an uplifting and advice-laden tale of a relationship rekindled and the death that eventually transforms its meaning. End-of-life conversations from a place of great confidence and at the edge of expiration await the reader in this real-life, moving tale of student and professor for the ages. Prepare to emotionally experience and grow.

The American Way of Death Revisited

Jessica Mitford


In this current-state-of-things report, Jessica Mitford provides readers with an intriguing look at the generality of death as handled and viewed by western culture specifically. What exactly is the “American way” when it comes to death? Explore legality, judicial opinions, cultural trends, and even the industries that depend on and profit exclusively from death in western society. For better or worse, this is the ultimate breakdown of death as it is handled in the West.

The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America

Ann Neumann


Another look at the specifics of death and dying in western civilization, The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America is Ann Neumann’s in-depth look into this interesting subject. From wakes and funerals, to dying wishes and their fruition, America is decidedly unique when it comes to the world of traditions applied to death. Is death actually better here, and if so, why? Exploration of queries like these await the reader.

Final Exit

Derek Humphry


Final Exit is Derek Humphry’s updated and controversial guide for the subject of suicide and assisted suicide. Learn about the laws that affect this topic, whether you are the sufferer, a family member, or an overseeing physician. Outside of legalities, one will also explore the situations of unbearable pain and torturous existences that bring people to such self-termination decisions. The what, when, how, why, and where of such decisions is carefully laid out here.

The Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion


The International Bestseller, The Year of Magical Thinking shows readers a greater perspective when it comes to the untimely death of a close family member. The ultimate theme here is that of a particular year of growth experienced by the loss-sufferer, as well as where that left them, in a personal, psychological sense, at the end. Prepare to learn a lot from someone else that had to do the same in this heart-rending story of growth spurred by death.

Peaceful Dying: The Step-by-step Guide To Preserving Your Dignity, Your Choice, And Your Inner Peace At The End Of Life

Daniel R. Tobin


If the concept of death can be broken down into a manageable, almost ordinary life activity, this would likely be the definitive step-by-step how-to guide on the subject. Author Daniel R. Tobin takes a very organized approach here in guiding the reader through this process that is death. For caretakers and those preparing for death, this compassionate and caring compass provides a comforting and logical path in approach.

Things I’ve Learned from Dying: A Book About Life

David R. Dow


The legal system has a lot to say and do with death and dying. As a tenured worker in the legal system, David R. Dow put his experience and thoughts to paper in this telling piece. From state-administered executions, to matters of will and intestate law, Dow gives readers a valuable glimpse at how it can all play out in the legal system. The author eventually ponders; is any death really an easy or “better” one than the next?

In the Slender Margin: The Intimate Strangeness of Death and Dying

Eve Joseph


Courtesy of the deep-thinking Eve Joseph, In the Slender Margin: The Intimate Strangeness of Death and Dying is a psychological dive. Prepare to look death straight in the eyes with this direct and thoughtful dissection of human expiration. What can we glean from this inevitable act, and how should we prepare? Joseph answers many questions and philosophical contentions with unabated honesty within these pages.

The Long Goodbye

Meghan O’Rourke


The Long Goodbye is a very personal and touching memoir that guides the reader through the darkness that is death via the warmth that truly is life. Travel the warmth, bonds, and love that is life, and find an ultimate peace or sanctity with the idea of coming death. Take a deeper look at fun times, anniversaries, gatherings, and more of life’s bounties before death. This is the premise of Megan O’Rourke’s emotional confessions and fruitful guidance to be found herein.

When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi


Author Paul Kalanithi has a very emotional and lesson-filled story to tell. This book about the proposition of death takes us through his stunning experience. Imagine training for a decade to become a world-leading neurosurgeon, only to find out in the end that you have advanced lung cancer and not long to go. This is a story of refusal to bow to death’s knock despite emotional tolls and weights that can become attached to us along the way.

The Good Death: The New American Search to Reshape the End of Life

Marilyn Webb


For those interested in a more joyful and enthused approach to that inevitable end to life, Marilyn Webb’s The Good Death: The New American Search to Reshape the End of Life provides just that sort of approach to this trying transition. Along with a more cheerful disposition, Webb takes us on a telling tour the the state of the American legal system when it comes to death and dying. What is legally important to know and what isn’t? Learn about the state of legal affairs of death through Webbs telling voice.

On Death & Dying

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross


This is the book publication that made the five stages of death, set forth by Dr. Kübler-Ross, famous. Here, the renowned doctor enlightens the reader with an outline of the five stages of death. Respectively, these important phases are denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. There is a lot to learn here when an honest and direct approach to death and dying is most desired.

Death’s Summer Coat: What the History of Death and Dying Teaches Us About Life and Living

Brandy Schillace


This insightful piece takes a wide and general view as well as in-depth close-up considerations where it relates to dying. Individual stories shed light and provide perspective while a more wide, philosophical assessment resounds throughout. Brandy Schillace describes her work here as a sort of counter effort of the common approach in western death-dealings to simply avoid death and not worry about it until it’s too late.

The Art of Dying: The Only Book for Persons Facing Their Own Death

Patricia Weenolsen


In this one, author Patricia Weenolsen weeds out all other side topics and distractions and gets right to the point of discussing the facing of one’s own, impending death. How does one cope with the fear and anxiety of this transition while also preparing logistically for the event? This can be a lot for anyone to manage, but with a little help from this piece, Weenolsen would have you take comfort and find solid directive in what you are facing.

Intending Death: The Ethics of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

Tom L Beauchamp


Author Tom L Beauchamp offers us another telling piece on the act that is assisted suicide, mercy killing, or euthanasia. Specifically, Beauchamp discusses the ethical debates that are found surrounding this subject at every twist and turn. This is not a self-help guide for approaching death per se, but rather a deep analysis of ethics in the realm self-termination. Those wanting to understand history and current affairs with regard to this particular matter are well served by this, one of several of beauchamp’s insightful books about death, ethics, and the medical world.

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