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serenityNOW's avatar

What are some good books for someone who is going to die soon (See Details)?

Asked by serenityNOW (3636points) February 1st, 2016

This is regarding my Mom. She is a retired librarian and has a voracious appetite for novels and the occasional non-fiction book. I am looking for books that will perhaps ease her mind a bit. I’m not sure she’s necessarily scared of dying. She’s just scared of what she’ll be leaving behind. I want her to be able to read something and say – “Okay, they’re going to be all right.” Something soothing. I’ve given her some Dalai Lama books, but anything too deep into Buddhism will be lost on her. I also got her a copy of Oliver Sacks’ Gratitude. (It’s wonderful.)

I head on down to the library at least three or four times a week for her. We’ve been sticking to bestsellers, so its mostly been fiction. (The library has a collection of “Bygone Bestsellers”. We’re waiting for them to add the 2015 Bestsellers – We’ve basically hit the wall from 2014 and prior! Also, the Bygone Bestsellers are only Fiction at my library. I’m not sure why!) Oh, and she’s bed-ridden, with no Internet access. I just revived her Kindle so hopefully she can start browsing the web herself, but right now its been just trial and error.

I can start assembling a list of some more books she’s enjoyed, but I’d like to see if anyone has some decent suggestions. Thanks!

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16 Answers

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Can you just clarify, do you want books that will help her to feel better about dying and leaving her loved ones behind, whether the books are non-fiction or fiction? Or do you want books she might enjoy just because they’re good books and perhaps positive and uplifting?

If you’re looking for books that fit the first brief, the first one that came to mind for me was Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.

By the same author The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

Another is Things I want my daughters to know by Elizabeth Nobel.

However, if you’d just like to find a range of books she’d enjoy reading does she like any particular genres? Romance, crime etc. Also, how broadminded is your mum? Would some bad language offend her or sex scenes bother her?

Have you thought of getting some audio books? If she’s unwell she may not feel like reading. I’m not sure if she’s going through any treatment, but perhaps just being able to listen to some books might be soothing and allow her to escape a little.

I’m sorry you’re losing your mum @serenityNOW. My impression of you is that you are a sweet, sensitive man. I’m sure you’ll ensure her last days are filled with love.

Judi's avatar

My all time favorite for contemplating eternity and the afterlife is C.S. Lewis’ The a great Divorce. It’s a quick read and although he’s famous for being a Christian author this book doesn’t seem to promote any one religion. It’s a story that always seems to come back to me since I first read it in 1978.
I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It’s so hard to lose your mother.
It sounds like you are talking. I hope you will be able to leave nothing unsaid. When my mom died it was a beautiful sacred moment. It was as magical as a birth. She had a good death because she was prepared and prepared us. We were there to midwife her into her next place.
My hope for you is that your mom has a good death as well. I guess that’s all any of us can really hope for when our time comes.

Buttonstc's avatar

I would highly recommend :

“The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch

It’s an expansion of his well-known talk given at Carnegie Melon University where he was a computer sciences professor.

You can read the background here:

I’m also going to put in a link from YouTube of the original talk recorded and posted by the University.

If she does eventually get Internet access, it’s wonderful to hear him. He’s so vivacious as well as a tinge of humor and being down to earth about the whole thing. You might enjoy it as well.

There’s also a TED talk which he gave but I can’t find a link.

I think both you and she will find him inspiring. So far from maudlin.

Stinley's avatar

I read a lot (and I am a librarian!) so here is a list of books I really enjoyed last year.
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
The Secrets We Keep by Stephanie Butland
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier (this was recommended by a fellow Jelly and I can’t speak highly enough of it)
Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Greyhound by Steffan Piper
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

janbb's avatar

Kent Haruf novels are lovely. She might especially like the most recent one Our Souls at Night.

Jessamyn West Friendly Persuasion

Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice is a pleasure to reread

Housekeeping or Gilead by Marilyn Robinson

The World from Rough Stones by Malcolm McDonald

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Inspector Gamache mysteries by Louise Penny. Not light but great characters.

She might enjoy the Harry Potter novels if she hasn’t read them.

I’m a librarian too.

You are a wonderful loving son for doing this.

cazzie's avatar

If she is an oliver sacks fan his bio is out now. Called On the move. Our science Friday group is reading it. I haven’t got it yet.

janbb's avatar

@cazzie I have it home now. I love him.

AdventureElephants's avatar

I immediately thought of Five People You Meet in Heaven also.

Cruiser's avatar

The Art of Racing in the Rain. It is my all time fav book and is a families story about life and death as seen through the eyes of an adorable family dog named Enzo.

janbb's avatar

@Cruiser I adored that book too!

Cruiser's avatar

—@janbb It was the first book in a long time that I read cover to cover without putting it down.

msh's avatar

If she hasn’t expressed an interest herself, your ‘helping’ may be misconstrued or hurtfull.
Many in her situation are very, very well aware of themselves and their situation.
You would risk her feeling like she wasn’t wanted, or worth ‘being’, or even being a burden?
Your best intentions may not be.
If she is reading fiction, might it be an ‘escape’ from what is?
I do that.
Many are the same.
It’s not really your call.
Is it?
Have a care before jumping into something that needn’t nor shouldn’t happen.
Good luck.

serenityNOW's avatar

Hi All,

Thanks for the wonderful selections. I’m grateful that I’ve gotten so many awesome reccomendations. I will definitely do some homework and check some of those out for her. Also, thanks for the well-wishes. Things are rough and if there’s anything I can do to ease the burden – even if it’s only driving ten minutes to get to the library – then it’s the least I can do.

@msh – Care to elaborate?

serenityNOW's avatar

@janbb – Yeah, she loved her job. Awesome profession. I’ve thought about going back to school for Library Science.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Give her a blank book in order that she may write her own thoughts to hand down to her family.

msh's avatar

Sure- as long as you take a breath and and just open to some ideas from a different perspective.
You are making a decision for reading material for another. You have discussed certain good reads. Novels and a few non-fiction selections. That is what she selected out of all.
Who made the decision on giving her books about death? Did she ask for such?
Those who are surrounded by fate and the thoughts of their life experiences are extraordinarily aware of the inevitable. You can’t get out of this world alive- unless you are an astronaut. But the astronauts return. If something is an enjoyable and life-long love, why would you try to force a subject in one of her areas of freedom from what is- by bringing the subject of death up in her form of escapism and pleasure? Because you decided what she should feel, face and accept? And Now?
Why don’t you have someone come over to speak with her, personally? If she wishes to talk, or deal with the subject, it is still her call – not yours.
Reading is a form of self-preservation, a saving grace, a way to see a world that the author has created. There is no better gift, for some. I, not knowing the woman, am guessing that she viewed reading materials in the same way. I love books, so I chose to work in a public library for a bit to see what it held. What could be better? Xanadu!
However, if I were cataloging in ‘new reads’ , or walking the isles shelving, I pick what I fancy to glance at, thumb through, etc. That is the beauty of it all. She doesn’t have the ability to even do this beloved task for herself anymore.
Now. Let’s say that a person is following her around while she was choosing some new reading materials. This person walks up and starts to decide what she can/cannot, should/should not pick to read. (That would be disappointing having to stop doing so yourself , but you are grateful to receive your beloved books, however it may occur.) Then this person helping suddenly says what materials subject matter should be included, because it would be of “benefit” her? Why would they insist that she read a book on subjects that she either has absolutely no interest in, or others which she does not care to read? A book on statistics or on pruning Bonsai Trees may be all that for some…. but not all.
So many assume they know what is best. It is a nice kind gesture to do for her. Instead of what she would love goes to what ‘should be done’, etc.. It happens more as you age or grow ill. But this one area? Why so?
If you wish to learn about death, how to accept it, how it will feel, where you will go or stop, or how does it feel when you go through the steps of what happens after someone passes- then You read it. Why force it upon her in one of her favorite pastimes? Can she have no quarter left to enjoy without the subject intruding in on that also?
She is facing something that is on her mind 24/7. It even fills the dreams; a failing body, loss of eyesight, losing hearing, a vigorous stamina that helped get one going every day of their life, is fading. A great question lies ahead. She’s aware of it. Trust me.
You come and help, but the minute you walk back out that door and get into your car- you are already thinking of other things. In your life. What’s for dinner. Gotta pay this bill. I’m exhausted, perhaps a nap before fixing… and so on. That’s human nature.
But you left someone who doesn’t leave, or have other things going on. They are still in it. The end is coming- no matter how they feel. She’s not going to worry about what she is leaving behind. Other things come up at the end. It’s her. Everyone has their own.
So why make her face something now that again, you feel she should be reading? To prepare herself for facing? She’s facing it now. On her terms. She’s there.
A sweet, possibly the best in the world-work of words, will not fix what is happening.
Let her have her beloved escape without what you want tied in.
If the message you want gets scrambled- what if she believes that you are tired of the extra effort? Or that she is a burden? They do that sometimes. “Are they waiting for me to die- or want me to hurry it up?” You don’t know if what the message you believe that you should be sending out will be received and perceived as you wish.
Please let her have her lifelong passion to go on with materials that she asked for- not what is deemed as appropriate for her for facing her own life.
A different perspective.
Food for thought.
You do what is best for your beloved.

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