Memoirs, Narrative Nonfiction and a Smattering of Ficiton

The Blood of the Lamb

The Blood of the Lamb by Peter De Vries (2005) Fiction. The most poignant of all of De Vries’s novels, this is a thinly veiled fictional account of his young daughter’s death from cancer. [NHCPL]

 The End of Your Life Book Club

*** The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (2012) The author and his mother spent many, many hours in waiting rooms as she was treated for cancer. They began, mostly to pass the time, to share what they were reading and swap their favorites. Touching and intellectually stimulating at the same time. For people who love to read. [NHCPL]

 Final Exam A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality

Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality by Pauline W. Chen (2007) A brilliant transplant surgeon brings compassion and narrative drama to the fearful reality that every doctor must face: the inevitability of mortality. [NHCPL]

It Shouldn’t Be This Way The Failure of Long-Term Care

It Shouldn’t Be This Way: The Failure of Long-Term Care by Robert L. Kane, M.D. and Joan C. West (2005) Part memoir, part practical guide, part prescription for change, the authors recount the story of their mother’s long decline and share the lessons they learned along the way.

Last Lecture 

*** Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (2008) A computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon was asked to give his “last lecture” shortly after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Here he reflects on what is really important in life. [NHCPL]

 The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke (2011) O’Rourke’s story is one of a life gone off the rails, of how watching her mother’s illness – and separating from her husband – left her fundamentally altered. [NHCPL]

 The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002) Fiction. “When we first meet Susie Salmon, she is already in heaven. As she looks down from this strange new place, she tells us, in the fresh and spirited voice of a fourteen-year-old girl, a tale that is both haunting and full of hope. [NHCPL]

 Making the Rounds with Oscar the Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat

Making the Rounds with Oscar: the Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa (2010) The story of a nursing home cat who instinctively knows when a patient is about to die. Heartfelt, inspiring, and full of humor and pathos, this book allows readers to take a walk into a world rarely seen from the outside, a world we often misunderstand. [NHCPL]

 No More Words A Journal of My Mother, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

*** No More Words: A Journal of My Mother, Anne Morrow Lindbergh by Reeve Lindbergh (2001) This is a tender tribute from a daughter to a mother, from one writer to another who was her model and mentor. A poignant work, rich with insight into life’s final stage. [NHCPL]

 Not Fade Away A Short Life Well Lived

Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton (2003) Peter’s story addresses universal hopes and fears, and redefines the quietly heroic tasks of seeking clarity in the midst of pain, of breaking through to personal faith, and of achieving peace after bold and sincere questioning.

 Still Alice

Still Alice by Lisa Genova (2009) Fiction. At once beautiful and terrifying, this novel describes a Harvard professor’s descent into early onset Alzheimer’s. [NHCPL]

 Swimming in a Sea of Death A Son’s Memoir

Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son’s Memoir by David Rieff (2008) Susan Sontag’s son chronicles the last nine months of her life in this intensely personal work that becomes a meditation on what it means to confront death in our culture. [NHCPL]

 Too soon to say goodbye

*** Too Soon to Say Goodbye by Art Buchwald (2006) When the doctors told Art Buchwald that his kidneys were kaput, the humorist declined dialysis and checked himself into a Washington, D.C. hospice. This one is about accepting the inevitable and living life to the fullest with frankness, dignity, and humor. [NHCPL]

 Tuesdays With Morie

Tuesdays With Morie by Mitch Albom (1997) Án old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson. Made into a TV movie. See also his Five People You Meet in Heaven. [NHCPL]

 When I Die

When I Die by Philip Gould (2013) Written during the last few months of his life, this memoir describes the journey the author took with his illness, leaving to readers what he calls his “lessons from the death zone.” [NHCPL]


*** A Widow’s Story by Joyce Carol Oates (2011) On a February morning in 2008, Joyce drove her husband to the emergency room with pneumonia. They thought he’d be released in a day or two. But in less than a week he died from a virulent hospital-acquired infection, and Joyce was suddenly faced – totally unprepared – with the stunning reality of widowhood. [NHCPL]

 The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2007) Didion’s husband died suddenly of a heart attack after visiting their daughter who was in a coma in the hospital. This memoir describes in unflinching detail the pain, fury, alienation, and disorientation that engrossed her during the first year of bereavement. [NHCPL]

*** Books I personally think are exceptional either in content or readability or both. Worth buying.

This bibliography was prepared by Rebecca Taylor, Funeral Consumers Alliance – Costal Carolina. Notation of “NHCPL” means the New Hanover County Public Library.

Please check your local public library, or request titles by Interlibrary Loan. Virtually all titles are also available from online bookstores, like, often in “used” and other inexpensive editions.,


Questions or for more copies contact:
Rebecca Taylor, President
Funeral Consumers Alliance Coastal Carolina
P.O. Box 4262
Wilmington, NC 28406