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End of Life Memoirs

Posted 06/14/21 by Anne K

Authors who write memoirs in the last stages of their life have a uniquely powerful perspective, surprisingly positive and reflective.  I will never forget reading The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch because it contained so much optimism and insight that it profoundly affected my outlook on life.  If you are looking for a similar inspiring experience, try one of the following end of life memoirs.

Cover of The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture
By Randy Pausch; with Jeffrey Zaslow

Book on CD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook   |   Large Print

Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. In his last lecture to his students entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” he discussed helping others achieve their dreams, overcoming obstacles and living every minute like it’s your last. This book may look small, but it packs so many years of wisdom and life lessons that every reader will come away with a new outlook on life.

Cover of When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air
By Paul Kalanithi

Book on CD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook   |   Large Print

Paul Kalanithi trained for ten years to become a neurosurgeon and was approaching completion when he was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Facing his mortality, he approached his impending death as both a patient and medical doctor while struggling to find answers to questions such as: “What makes life worth living in the face of death?” Unfortunately, Paul passed away while working on this book.

Cover of Gratitude

Gratitude
By Oliver Sacks

eAudiobook   |   eBook

Oliver Sacks was a neurologist and author who wrote four essays in the months before his death that reflected how he wished to live his last days. Instead of focusing upon his illness, Sacks concentrated on achieving peace within oneself. He managed to convey his message in an uplifting tone that leaves the reader with a sense of tranquility and appreciation.

Cover of The End of Your Life Book Club

The End of Your Life Book Club
By Will Schwalbe

Book on CD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook   |   Large Print

Will Schwalbe recounts the book related conversations he had with his mother after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. While attending doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy sessions and overnight hospital trips, they discussed the books they had been reading which provided comfort to his mother during her failing health. Reading provided an outlet for them to connect and provide a sense of stability as they navigated the illness together.

Cover of The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After

The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After
By Julie Yip-Williams

eAudiobook   |   Large Print

Julie Yip-Williams was born blind in Vietnam then narrowly escaped death before arriving in America. She flourished as a lawyer, regained her eyesight, got married and started a family. Then at the age of 37, she was diagnosed with terminal metastatic colon cancer. This book grew from a blog she wrote where she reflected upon her extraordinary life with an unimaginable diagnosis.

Cover of Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved
By Kate Bowler

eAudiobook   |   eBook

Duke University divinity professor Kate Bowler was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer after having a baby at 35 years old. In her memoir she pulls the reader into her story with her hilarious candor and recounts stories of her faith, family and friendships. Her courage will inspire readers to not take life for granted.

Cover of The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying
By Nina Riggs

eAudiobook   |   eBook

Nina Riggs, mother of two young sons and a descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was 37 years old when she learned she had terminal breast cancer. She tries to answer the question, “what makes a meaningful life with limited time?” During her hours of uncertainty, she encouraged everyone to love all their days and make every day meaningful.

Cover of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed
By Lori Gottlieb

Book on CD   |   eBook   |   Large Print

Gottlieb is a psychotherapist who explores her patients’ lives including a newlywed diagnosed with terminal cancer, a woman who wants to end her life on her next birthday and a woman who wants to spend her last days working at Trader Joe’s rather than her university job. She discusses how futures are taken away and how people deal with the present when it all falls apart.

Cover of Death Be Not Proud: A Memoir

Death Be Not Proud: A Memoir
By John Gunther

John Gunther writes about the tragedy befalling his son Johnny in this classic. The book traces Johnny’s diagnosis of a brain tumor and the journey of operations and various therapies to battle the brain cancer. Gunther discusses his son’s bravery and fight to graduate with his senior class, his passion for science and realization of his death.

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