Originally published in: 2018
What it’s about: A woman’s first year living with stage IV, incurable cancer and the insidious aphorisms she has always told herself that she now must confront – like the book title.
What made me pick it up: I was scrolling through Twitter and saw her TED talk. So I watched it and then I googled and learned about this book.
My favorite parts: In the vein of other books which I have loved, like When Breath Becomes Air and The Bright Hour, this is a beautiful examination of life, and figuring out the important parts, and learning how to go forward even though you won’t necessarily live to see the grown up dreams from the seeds you’ve planted. Unlike those other two books, this isn’t about someone who is dying – at least not yet. It is about someone who is living with a disease that will likely end her life sooner than she ever expected, but maybe not as soon as she thinks. You will cry along with Bowler as she lives for two months at a time, between scans, and as she decides what legacies to start building for her young son and beloved husband. More than anything it will remind you to live more fully in the present since it is truly all the precious time we are guaranteed.
Who it’s great for: Anyone, especially those looking for truth after a difficult diagnosis.
Originally published in: 2017
What it’s about: The author’s experience dying from stage 4, metastatic breast cancer.
What made me pick it up: I loved When Breath Becomes Air, and then I saw this story about how his widow and the widower of this author met and fell in love. It’s so bittersweet and unexpected I had to pick up this book.
My favorite parts: This is like an evening with your best friend and a couple bottles of wine. You want to keep chatting, even though what you’re chatting about is her terminal diagnosis and how she deals with it. It’s hopeful and exquisitely painful. It will make you want to solve breast cancer once and for all and hug your loved ones close the next time you can, every time you can. And you will grieve for this newfound friend that is already lost to you. I am still crying over the sweet sadness of this memoir.
Who it’s great for: Lovers of excellent memoirs, especially fans of When Breath Becomes Air. Anyone who is losing or has lost someone from a terminal illness.
Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: As a medical resident Kalanithi discovers he’s got terminal cancer, and details the decisions he makes as a result and all the thoughts that come with that diagnosis.
What made me pick it up: It was short. And I’d heard it was powerful.
My favorite things: This book is stunning. It will make your heart break into pieces. Every time I thought it was done I’d turn the page and get hit with another scene so heart-wrenching I could hardly bear it. But you do because the story is so gripping. Kalanithi writes as he’s dying – writes about medicine, which is his life’s passion; writes about his wife, who is his great love; writes about meaning. His writing was hard enough but the end was the even more difficult. The final third of the book isn’t written by him. It’s written by his wife, after he’s gone. The bittersweetness of it all will stay with you. This book will haunt you in the best way.
Who it’s great for: Teens. Adults. Anyone who has witnessed a family member slowly fade from terminal illness. Those who like happy/sad books.